Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Journey to Me-Dom

Organization…  What is it about getting organized that makes it a never ending process?  I mean, doesn’t the idea of being organized inherently mean that you have some type of routine in place?  So why is it that as soon as a routine is set something comes along to change it?  Is it having too many interests?  Is it part of adapting to life’s failures?  Are we overly scheduled and stimulated to the point that we can’t settle into any sort of normalcy?  Are we too lazy to maintain the routines we set for ourselves?  Are the routines too extensive to begin with?  Are routines too boring for some of us to have as a way of life?  It is something I have been thinking about lately.

I have read more than a few times in the past that people that maintain a daily routine tend to live the longest.  Apparently being married helps as well, but the idea is that psychologically speaking, always having something you need to do even if it just checking the mail drives a person to continue living (just as having someone to live for does.)  It’s why many times you hear of someone retiring from years of work and not knowing what to do with themselves and then passing away soon after.  It is the process of always needing to move onto the next task and being focused on the future that supposedly keeps them kicking long after the body would have normally given up.  It is also why many psychologists will tell you not to live a sedentary lifestyle and to always challenge the mind with puzzles even if you can’t get around much.

I once knew a man who had been married at a young age to his wife and they were married for over 70 years.  (After their 69th wedding anniversary I lost count.)  He lived what I imagined to be a very VERY boring life, but he lived it for a very Very VERY long time.  If you drove past his house at a specific time every morning he would be out walking his property picking up small pieces of trash from the grass.  I imagined he did that after eating the same breakfast he ate every day before and reading the paper with coffee and would be done in time to eat the same lunch he ate every day before.  His wife prior to that 69th wedding anniversary had suffered from some severe health problems and required his care and personal maintenance which I’m sure at one point was a change to his routine, but I imagined helping her with the normal care we all take for granted like bathing just worked itself into his routine and changing her clothes was no different than changing his own on the list of tasks that he moved through every day.  Eventually though her health required more extensive care and she had to be moved into a nursing home.  That was a big adjustment for him I’m sure.  The person you have spent 70+ years with no longer being right in the midst of your normal routine has to be as strange as finding your way through a maze blindfolded, but he adjusted as well as anyone could and went on with his normal routine alone for quite some time.  Eventually though a fall from a ladder caused an injury that had to be cared for and the healing process required that he give up his independence and that was the start of what would eventually lead to his death.  This was a man who needed his routine.  He needed to have something to be responsible for.  It was part of his pride and what to him defined him as a man.  Once he was laid up in a bed with nothing that required his supervision it was as if he couldn’t come up with a reason why he was living and with no reason to live he just stopped doing it.  He could survive the loneliness, he could survive the fall, but the loss of the pride driving his daily routine proved to be too much.  He needed to have something that had to be done to drive him to keep breathing.

So I wonder… in a world where chaotic schedules and exhaustion are in a head to head competition with lethargy and electronics how do we find that routine that keeps us kicking well into our 90s and beyond?  How do we unlearn multitasking and relearn a long and focused attention span?  How do we make the mundane important and satisfying in our world?  I don’t have the answers, but for now I’m taking a lesson from one of the oldest people I’ve ever known and am trying to find a routine.  I may fail at it over and overagain, but trying is a part of my journey.  This is my journey to me-dom.

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