Three big yellow pills. And three little green ones. And one white one. It's not that bad, I tell myself, as I gulp down the horse-size vitamins, spirulina tablets, and probiotic. All the youtubers are doing it. Jennifer Aniston's probably doing it right this minute. The hot lemon water burns the back of my throat a little, being the first thing to cut through my sleepy mouth this morning, and the pills slowly march their way down the back of my throat making their trudge known at every centimeter. I can't deny that as I get older, the vim and vigor that used to accompany getting out of bed is no longer with me. The knees that used to practically spring out of bed - even with a hangover from a night out dancing - are replaced by a creaking sound, and sudden jolts of stability lost for no reason at all in those first few steps. I still wear my pubescent retainer from early teen braces, it's just framed in light smile lines now. And now the zing of the lemon water doesn't feel refreshing and enlivening; it feels a bit cruel, a soft punch to the face first thing in the morning. It doesn't seem to do enough for my 'digestive system', the reason I started this whole morning routine.
Every morning I’ve been waking up to the same schtick, the vitamins with the water, making my french press coffee, sneaking in a quick Dualingo language lesson (Spanish and French. Ambitious.) and off to meditate for exactly 15 minutes while the coffee steeps in it’s clear, glass pot across the room. Then I take the pot, it's mug, and the newly calmed mind to the desk and start working. Reassuring, reliable; as steady and grounding as a thick metal anchor on an ocean cove seabed. A routine is supposed to ground a person, from what I've understood. To instill in me a sense of clarity and enthusiasm, and once I have figured out 'my morning routine' - something all mine, something definitive and deeply personal, like all the millionaires and fitness models have of their own - all I have to do is follow it to the T every single morning. That's it. That morning routine is said to start the day off 'right' and get every thing in line from the get-go. But as I stand here, half a cup of murky hot juice water in my hand, anxiously thinking of reasons to excuse myself from language lessons altogether, I realize: "this isn't working for me anymore." I shouldn't have to work for it, or through it. It should work for me.
You might recognize the intrinsic flaws and shortcomings of this particular routine known in the hours that follow. I feel it in the tenseness that lingers in my writing. I see it in the lack of focus. When I snap at someone later on in the day, I know I’m not acting from the stillness of the seabed. Instead I’m lapping with the waves, tossing and turning with the currents rather than staying steadfast. We have outgrown each other, this routine and I, and though it held me safely and pampered me delicately in the morning hours before, it no longer does so.
In younger years I would have blamed it on myself. I would have said it's just because I'm not meditating hard enough, deep enough. I'd have said it's because I didn't sleep well, because I'm not doing the whole routine early enough in the morning and would change tomorrow's alarm by 15 minutes. But now I know it's the routine, not me, that needs to change. Thanks much to the post-Weinstein era, I no longer assume in every circumstance of my life that it's me that needs to change or that I'm the one doing something wrong. But, then, what makes a routine, well, routine? What makes it work, what keeps it's clock ticking, vigilantly without exhaustion? Without the ritualistic intention, is a routine meaningless? The problem is two-fold: that the rituals in this routine are ineffective for emotional reasons, and that the very belief of 'figuring it out' in your 30's doesn't allow for evolution in minor and major ways. Thirties are a time when I'm to have gotten this routine down, figured life out, and be sticking to my routine diligently. It's just not so.
The habitualness of a ritual is only as important as it’s symbolism and it’s symbolism is only as important as it’s intention. A ritual enacted once a year, or every single morning, can be easily rendered either utterly meaningless or soul-tremblingly impactful through our own intentionality, through the emotions and intention associated it with. Though I want to tether myself to the timetable of my morning habits to feel more productive (as if the morning is 'done'), I cannot. If I'm not present in the acts, and if I don't complete the acts with love and joy and gratitude, they are useless and often tedious. The vitamins might still work, sure, but what good is it to start off the day in a habit I don't like? If it doesn't center me in a feeling that helps me bypass my own anxiety, if it doesn't make me happy enough to want to be a good damn person - good to myself and others - what's the damn point? Why are productivity and the simple feeling of joy not more closely linked? I no longer want one without the other.
And lastly, why wouldn't we be growing in this decade, our 30's, hopefully a third of the way through our lives when some of our biggest changes are underway like getting married, buying home, even getting wrinkles? Why don't we allow routines to change even on a day-to-day basis?
It’s not that the rituals and symbolism no longer matter; it’s that I’ve outgrown them. Any ritual that no longer calls our interest, that no longer beckons us when we are apart from it, that cultivates in us a feeling of being understood, nurtured, and expressed is one we will quickly fall out of love with just as I have. There should be no fault in falling out of love when there is no fault in falling in love. Every moment of life a constantly moving and evolving motion, not a stagnation, as are we. This is not an opportunity to grow in patience and tolerance by keeping the routine going simply because it's 'my thing', but instead an opportunity rejoice in the new and exciting rituals waiting to be discovered and experienced.
Bodies change shape, brows sink in with wrinkles, leaves turn colors and fall off completely, fads pass in time. What would life be without evolution, without change? Even the stubbornness of an anchor down on the bottom of the ocean will eventually cause it to rust and rot away within itself.
So the next day, I let go of having to do a certain habit in a certain way by a certain time. I skip the vitamins altogether (I'll take them before bed, I decide), and just take my coffee straight to the desk, watching it stew and steam with excitement. I think fondly upon this feeling of untetheredness, of freedom, imagining the need for it in a few years when it's hungry toddlers crawling into my bed that wake me instead of an alarm, and bowls of cheerios I'm prioritizing for them over my own hot lemon water. It's not the sensual, laissez-faire french girl attitude of needless beauty I'm after. It's just a sense of being ok without so much order, structure, and self-defining.
Yet again, it's important to become comfortable with discomfort, and the lack of something to rely on. Rituals feign to serve us well, then abandon us on our own whims. I can't know just yet, this morning like a child getting ready for the first day at a new school, what might change or what new habits my body, mind, and soul need. It might mean adding more - gym first, then coffee? It might mean taking away - just take the vitamins at night, before bed, with regular water, damn it. I must let myself be lifted from what I used to anchor myself to, float a bit in the current, and let the ocean and nature to tell me where to set my anchor. As always, it’s imperative to become comfortable with the discomfort
Where am I experiencing apathy or a lack of enthusiasm in my routines and rituals?
If I'm not excited about it, happy to do it, energized by it, is it really so essential I do this ritual this way? Can I change it in a way that brings me more joy? What would it take to see this as an opportunity to try something new rather than a reason I am failing or as a way in which I am essentially punished?
Where can I open myself to a new way of behaving that could better set me up to be the kind of person I want to be?
Is it the habit or the mindset that needs to change?
In what areas of my life might 'letting go' serve me to feel more joy and ease?
Might it be before bed, when I usually stress about the day to come? Might it be upon first waking up, stressed to complete all my morning to-do's? Might it be in the dead center of the day, when my soul simply needs a chance to breathe and not think at all?
Are my everyday rituals and routines based on the idea of making myself happy?
Or are they based on other emotions and obligations such as productivity or accolades? If they are based in the idea of making me healthy, does that health bring me happiness, or do I need to change my definition of health to include a more easy and accessible joy to it?
Have a routine or habit that centers you and brings you joy? Have a mantra you utilize when things get tough? Be sure to share.