Figuring out what I wanna be when I grow up.
Oop..I AM grown up...

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Creature of Habit

How flexible are YOU?

If someone phoned you up and said, "hey, want to go shopping with me TONIGHT?" how would you feel?  If you agree to go out for dinner and a drink with friends instead of staying home and watching your usual Thursday night TV show, how do you feel?  Does it discombobulate you at all?  Throw you off rhythm?  Make you feel all wound up after?  Do you actually feel stressed out the whole day anticipating this change in schedule? 

Are we all CREATURES OF HABIT?  What does this expression mean?  It means that we have certain rituals and routines we need to follow all the time in order to feel secure in our own setting. 

I need to have my cup of coffee every morning, that I have brewed.  I never want to go out for coffee in the morning, and if I do happen to be out drinking another coffee, somehow it's just not the same.  I don't even really want to go out in the morning.  I don't like to go out for dinner, drinks, or coffee very much in the evening, but if I do go out, I enjoy it once I'm there.  However, all day at home it will hang over my head to the point of feeling restless, and hand-wringingly nervous, and afterward I will feel completely exhausted.  I don't like doctor's appointments disrupting my routine, and if I have more than one medical appointment within the same week, I find I have a difficult time dealing with the schedule upset. 

When I eat Mini Wheats, I have to make sure they're all turned frosting-side up before I eat them. 

No matter how hungry I am in the morning, I can not eat breakfast until I've finished my morning ritual:  wake up, have a handful of raw nuts and raisins, consume my two natural thyroid boosting supplements, a Vitamin D, and an Omega supplement.  If I don't have any almonds, it nags at me.  Then I have to get washed first, put on makeup, and finally do some yoga.  If I have no time to do yoga, I just feel disappointed with the whole ritual.  I would like to sometimes do yoga first, then get washed, but that's out of order.  I would like to get breakfast and coffee out of the way first, sometimes, but I almost can't eat breakfast before 10:30.  I can't eat breakfast until I've started making the coffee.  And I have to have coffee in my snowman mug, or else it's just not right.  I can't consider what I want to do in the afternoon (particularly if it's the weekend) until after I've had my coffee. 

During the day, I have to obsessively perform my three-part ritual on the computer:  check hotmail, then facebook, then my blog.  I do this so much during the day that I get sick of it--especially facebook.  I check it so often there usually isn't an appreciable amount of new updates, so I end up reading that someone's "going out for dinner" a zillion times.  After the kids go to bed, I immediately have to go on the computer and repeat my ritual.  This is also interspersed with reading interesting articles, googling various things, and playing online word games. 

This whole computer ritual thing makes it a little difficult to get other things done.  I am distracted, and find I can't focus on any one task for long.  This means I will fill the sink up with hot soapy water to wash the dishes, then I'll go on the computer.  Then I'll wash a couple of dishes, then I'll get sidetracked by making lunches or snacks.  Then the water will get cool and I'll add more hot water.  Then I'll be back on the computer.  Then after I've blogged something, the water will be cold, and I'll have to dump the whole thing out and start again.  Or, I'll fill a laundry basket up with dirty clothes before breakfast in the morning, but not throw it in to the washing machine until late afternoon. 

Funnily enough, this computer ritual didn't become a real problem until my Mom died.  I didn't realise it, but the ritual was soothing.  The escapism was soothing. 

Here's an article about the importance of routine for children:

"Routines and Schedules for Children

by Rexanne Mancini

Children need and crave routine. Routine helps establish security and peace in a child’s life. A bedtime routine will establish good sleeping patterns. A dinnertime routine establishes the importance of family interaction, homework schedules will help your child get their homework done on time and with little fuss.

Routines are an ideal way to keep your family and children calm, secure and at ease with life’s variables.

Children will thrive with schedules that are easy to understand and accomplish, yet flexible enough to change if circumstances warrant. We do not want to rule our families with an iron fist, adhering to “the schedule” without compromise; however, good routines will keep your family organized and will establish an environment of tranquility for all family members.

Babies especially thrive on routine. They will become secure and happy with strict adherence to their daily feeding and sleeping schedules, which are, ultimately, their most important routines.

Little children need routines and schedules in order to learn how to manage their time and attention. When they know what we expect of them, they learn to comply with the rules without question. This allows children to feel more confident by understanding their roles in the family."

for the rest of the article, please see "Routines and Schedules For Children"

So it makes sense:  we learn from an early age that routines make us feel secure.  The death of my Mom created a great hole in my world of routine, and perhaps that is why other rituals emerged with greater strength.  This could also be why I don't like to leave my house now.  I feel a lot of comfort in doing the same thing day after day, and these activities are completed within these walls.  However, the conundrum with this is that doing the same thing over and over again is tedious, and becomes boring. 

Speaking of routines and habits, if you know a child who is on the Autistm Spectrum, you know that routine is EVERYTHING to them.  If their routines are disrupted, they become extremely anxious, and nearly unable to cope.  This anxiety presents itself as behaviour we consider "bad;" screaming, tantrums, physical aggression.  I learned very early on, without even really realising just why, that my Jack needed a very rigid routine.  If he was going to watch Baby Einstein, I would put it on at the same time every day, and never before breakfast.  So, on the weekends when little toddler Jack wanted to watch a video, and Daddy would try to be nice and say "sure," rather than placate Jack, it would make him rangy and difficult to deal with.  I had to get The Man "on board," and follow the same schedule I followed during the work week, while he was at the office. 

If I ever need to pop into the grocery store to get an item I'm out of, I almost had to have a conference with Jack in the past to do so.  Actually, when he was 3, it was impossible, unless I wanted to listen to him wailing and sobbing, pleading to go home as he sat in his car seat.  Then as he got a little older, I had to negotiate with him for ages.  Now that he's six, he's very reasonable, and while he doesn't love that we have to go to the store, he sighs, is resigned, and says; "oh, alright."  Still, I have to say that I almost never try to coerce him to come to the store with me, and just wait till someone else is around to stay with him.  Also, he can never deviate from his morning routine.  Sometimes, out of convenience, I've wanted him to brush his teeth and hair before getting dressed, but nothing doing. 

Nursery school was good, because their routine was very rigid. This is a little boring for Ella, but it was very good and reassuring for Jack.  He always knew what was coming.  Jack is always worried about "what's next," since he started grade 1.  During his first week of school, I wrote up a week day schedule for him, which immediately made him feel calmer and more secure. He enjoys reading it out loud often.

So we might say; "wow, it's so difficult to live with Autism," and yet, stop and think about what daily rituals you go through, and what schedules you have to maintain in order to deal with the stresses the adult world provides. 

image reference


  1. Ryan is similar with routine. It's gotten better, but we would listen to the same 3 songs in the car on the way to school every single day. We always had to take Adam to school first, then Ryan to daycare, never the opposite way. 10 kisses and 10 hugs goodbye. When they'd move around the classrooms, he'd lose it. It had to be the same wave goodbye every day, the same words said.

    He's a bit better with it now that he's older. But I still need to tell him how a change benefits him before he'll be on board with it.

  2. yes, it's funny right how rigid kids can be...does he suffer from anxiety?

  3. Phone me up and I will run away anywhere anytime.

    Does not bother me at all.
    Everyday I start my day differently. No day is the same.

    And yet I hate being interupted. I find any appointment very disturbing and I hate being on someone elses time schedule....Like school for example. One reason the kids were homeschooled was to release me from someon else's routine. Weird I know.

  4. hm, not weird...I would love to be entirely on my own routine.

    I want to run away too, but usually all by myself :)

    Oh well, good for you--at least you're not shackled to obsessive compulsive little rituals!

  5. Again, an awesome pic to go along with your entry! Your routine comments make a lot of sense, but I find that I am still open to some spontenaity (sp?), though I am often 'burnt out' at night following work shift then parenting shift. And I am often needing to follow the habits of the morning before my brain wakes up somewhere along the way. Since I tend to be a nighthawk, that is when I find I am the most flexible to disruptions in the routine.

    And Miniwheats simply MUST be eaten sugar side up. I think it's in the instructions somewhere. Nothing to do with routine, they just taste better that way! :)

    Since you have brought up the parallels, Karen, I believe that my memory says you have always always always favoured the predictable and the routine - even to your own misery if the routine was depressing or not a happy environment. Does that make any sense? You were never fond of spontaneous 'drop bys' etc., or comfortable with things outside of your timetable. hmm. Never thought about that before now. Hopefully none of this musing is offensive at all. You are, after all, an inspiration to me. :)

  6. Wow great post Karen!
    I do my grocery shopping every Friday and i look forward to it. Yes i'm strange i love grocery shopping . If i have for some reason i cannot go it throws everything off!
    Don't even talk about appts. oh the dentist one really bugs me that one ruins my day even if it is first thing.
    I do the same things every morning too and the computer? OMG can't stop going on FB even though i get annoyed at things and the blog? Ray is always saying I'm addicted!
    I have to add this dog! Every Friday she goes on a 2hr training hike with a pack of dogs and her trainer. I swear to god she knows its Friday! She keeps going to the door and looking out the window waiting for the trainer! And yes I walk all the other days in between but she knows when its Friday. The trainer said the other dogs are the same way!
    And what about cats? Mine knows like clock work when dinner is!

  7. Matt, that wasn't offensive at all. It's always interesting when someone offers up some insight on one's personal self. Very interesting, and you know, you are right. I'm trapped between needing the routine, but being utterly sick of it. I wish I were much better with the drop-bys :( Seriously!

  8. oh, and Matt, I liked that pic I found too. Often I make up my own "art" just so's I'm not always ripping someone else off.

  9. Pam, that's very, very interesting about your pets. Sure, they always know when their owners are coming home from work. So, this makes me ponder the whole concept of time, and what it means to us, even aside from how we've constructed it with clocks and calendars.
    Good to see you're a creature of habit too. After I read Melissa's response, I was thinking; Oh man, why can't I just be like that????

  10. Matt, I forgot to mention...I'm an inspiration to you? Good lord,, thank you. That was a lovely thing to say, even if unfathomable. Har har har.

  11. Melissa is the queen of impulse...gotta love that! I get stressed thinking about it..maybe its the thought of having to make a quick "decision" that stresses me out lol !!

  12. Actually Karen... I think what you're suffering is OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER and it MUST BE TREATED ACCORDINGLY. hehehehe. Yeah, I'm one to talk.

    I don't mind something thrown in my way during the day... so long as it's no where NEAR Charlotte's nap... and if it's something for the kids SIGN ME UP!!!!!! But after 6:30p.m. I am not so interested. If asked early on to go out at that time... hmmm. Maybe. And it does hang over my head all day. If someone phones me up AT that time and wants to do something in the moment... forget about it! After we have dinner it's VERY difficult for me to go anywhere... I almost physically can't leave the house after that time because I HAVE to clean up the day's mess... and I HAVE TO HAVE TO have the kitchen in mint condition and it MUST be done BEFORE 8p.m. And when the children go to bed at 8p.m. it's hard for me to do anything because I SIMPLY MUST veg out large. Sometimes I might go shopping after 6:30p.m. but that's only if Dave PROMISES that he'll clean the kitchen and do a proper job of it and he mostly does, so kudos to him.

    So maybe I'm the one with the o.c.d. haaha

  13. Hi Karen,

    If you feeling particularly devilish one day, break the routine with attitude. It's amazing how liberating it can be. I'm a habit guy but have always chalked it up to OCD, it sounds like you've got great morning habits, the FB thing can really get in your way. Try Clicky for site analytics, it's real time so you can spend the whole day there watching people on your

    Good post, nice to hear we're not alone.


  14. oh, we are not alone--let's band together, but never leave the house or alter our schedules to do it! Hooray! Thanks for stopping by for a read. It's always nice to see new faces. And Billy, thanks for giving me more reasons to be on the computer (re; Clicky). It just makes me happy.

  15. I just think white is timeless. I remember in 1987 Ikea had white kitchens...

    White never seems to leave. BUT I am so with you on these DARK DARK colours. Remember the 70's people??? Who hates walking into a 70's house or apartment? DARK DARK DARK....oh,some of these things they are making and doing now are a repeat of the 70's..YUCK

  16. Pamela
    The queen of impulse? Maybe I am like that because I cannot remember any appointment or there of, so I operate on impulse....I forget to look at the calendar to see if I have appointments...LOL

  17. bah--if you're forgetting those appointments, they couldn't possibly be interesting eh?

    And yes, I'm not a fan of dark, dark decor, no matter how sophisticated it's supposed to look.

  18. salegI have the opposite problem...i am living life by the seat of my pants...and if I have a planned appointment...I stress over seems to bore me to no end. I am most happy when I (or we, DH and I) just decide to do something...and then I am even awaiting the next adventure. I cant seem to sit still.
    My mornings...different every day. same background stuff, get the kids ready for school and such, but never the in same order. Strangely enough, my favorite ngiht of the week is the one night that there is complete structure. Tuesdays! DS has dance so I get home from work, we eat, we go to dance, coem home, DD has a bath then DS has a bath, DS gets tucked into bed, DD goes to bed...and I get to watch my shows while reading a book. LOVE it!
    It funny that Aim adn I have been friends for so long, adn we are such different creatures! :) I do admire her differences. I have to say:)

  19. Who the hell is DH?

    Oh, I'm all up for fun though! If I could cram tons of fun in a day I feel MEGA HAPPY!!!!!!!!! I just have to make sure that certain times of the day are NOT messed with. i.e. 6:30-8p.m. hehe

    And Step on me .... by living life by the seat of your pants you were always so disorganised and made me late constantly for school to the point that I had to speak to the vice principal whereby I was FORCED to blame YOU. hehehehehe

  20. girls, you are both hilarious, but the contrasts are very interesting. And yes, who is DH??? Har har.

    Seriously though, it's fascinating the way we construct our lives day by day isn't it?

  21. DH=dear husband
    DD=dear daughter
    DS=dear son

    better then typing out their names;)
    Just to be clear, me being late all the time was not due to my living life by the seat of my pants...that was me being young hahaha...however my time management skills are MUCH better these days! But I still hate planning...I do respect those who live their lives by it much easier?

  22. lives by it easier...maybe not; you still have to get the same sh*t done, but it's less stressful.

  23. I am not a creature of habit. I love people dropping in unexpectedly, I will drop anything if someone calls and asks me to go out(unless I have concrete plans), and I never shop on the same day or do certain chores on the same day (laundry on Mondays, floors on Tuesdays, etc.) My children have some sort of routine, but it is not set in stone. They get to bed on time, kind of...and thier homework gets done. They seem to be ok. Everything seems to get done. My house is clean and my laundry is always done. Many have told me that I fly by the seat of my pants....and I love it. I never know whats going to happen next, its always a surprise and it makes me happy.

    Thats me!!

  24. hm...interesting...maybe I'm wild and crazy too, because I never do the laundry on the same day! Yes!!! No...wait...I always start it on Wednesday. Sigh. OH well, so much for that.

  25. And for the record... One might think that "creatures of habit" are dull, predictable people... I'm here to say that is simply NOT true. Take my sister for example... sure, she may LURVE her routine... but she is absolutely, positively THEE most fun person to hang out with. Smart! Funny! Super fun!

  26. Sniff Sniff! I am feeling the sisterly love:)
    I have had a few days to think about this...I am not an organized person ( please dont tell my boss this!) and I do not have any kind of habits...I guess I was not built that way...does this make me more fun? No. Infact, I think it has bothered more people in my life then not. AND I seem to get bothered by people who are moer like me...strange eh? I think there is alot to be said about peeps who are "Creatures of Habit". It makes the world more fun and interesting. We can learn more from each other. I had tried time and time agian to get a nice little routine going.Never last long. Are we born this way? or do we learn this behavior at young age? Or does expereinces mold this?

  27. Good points Steph. I think a lot of it is how we're born. It's so difficult to fight our innate nature. If I had better coping skills, perhaps I'd be less inclined to anxiety, and then not have to come up with so many kooky rules and regulations for myself.
    And as for not liking to hang around with someone like you, well, opposites attract right?

  28. it has been pointed out to me twice today that I have a "pinch" of craziness in me. Har har! I love it! Two people very dear to me both used the term "pinch."
    Funny, I thought I just was a creature of habit. Little did I know I'm kind of an obsessive compulsive nutbar. Yay me! And when I say 'nut bar,' I'm referring to myself, so don't get your panties in a bunch anyone.


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