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" http://www.rexanne.com/routine.html
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: http://www.fulfilleddestiny-s3.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/creatures-of-habits.jpg