A condition of survival

Big Ben and Parliament seem the quintessential symbols of orderly British discipline and punctuality.  August, 2005

Big Ben and Parliament, quintessential symbols of orderly British discipline and punctuality.  August, 2005

“If you do the same thing every day at the same time for the same length of time, you’ll save yourself from many a sink. Routine is a condition of survival.”
Flannery O’Connor

One of the most insidiously risky aspects of dealing with chronic illness and frequent hospital trips is the disruption to routine.  Since I’m a person who has never much liked the idea of routine, nor been as disciplined about maintaining a set schedule as Jeff is, I had thought maybe this disadvantage would affect him more than it does me.

But I should have realized that he is far better at creating his own internal routine than I am.   I’m still floundering a bit, feeling overwhelmed and vaguely anxious.  I aspire to the wildly popular British maxim someone unearthed from an old, mostly uncirculated World War II motivational poster: “Keep calm and carry on.”  Unfortunately, I have a hard time answering the question: “Carry on…with what exactly?”

It’s not that there is no time available, it’s that I’m unfocused when I do have time, not certain which of many backlogged tasks should be prioritized.  Life has been unpredictable lately, and the continual adjustments to our schedule leave me feeling disoriented and tired even when I have little to show for the day.

For now I’m just riding the waves, trying to take it easy on myself and hoping things will stabilize soon.  But I’ve learned to have a whole new respect for the value of routine in our lives. Perhaps I’m kidding myself, but I imagine that if and when our lives return to some semblance of normalcy, I will be eager to embrace the structure that has been so intrinsic to Jeff’s life for as long as I’ve known him.

What are your reactions to O’Connor’s quote above?  Do you find routine to be boring or beneficial?  Exhausting or energizing?  Does getting up early make structure and discipline easier?  Or are high achievers just naturally morning people who make it look easier for them than it really is?  Feel free to offer up any handy hints or life hacks that might help me get back on track.

One year ago today:

Govern the clock

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Good morning, Julia! Yes, my morning routine got me through Covid, even before I added morning swims to the routine.
    I got up at the same time, and always washed my face and dressed before heading to the kitchen for breakfast before heading to my home office to work. I’m convinced I’d be floundering if I hadn’t committed to that, right away.

    • Susan, I think your years of self-directing your work as an engineer (as opposed to staying in one place on a set salary for years on end) probably taught you to structure your own time better than most. So many people lack that skill, and I have to stay on myself continually to keep my time (and brain) organized and functioning. Watching Jeff for 38 years taught me that routines, though some may find them boring, are healthy and beneficial.

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