November 12, 2012

We’re entering Week 3 after Hurricane Sandy and I am finding that even my relatively unscathed life has been upended. There’s no going back. I am in search of a routine in the new normal.

Even though I suffered no property damage and only lost power for four days, I am frickin’ exhausted. The first week was a mess of dealing with electrical outages, blocked roads and a constant onslaught of bad news. This past week was all about recovery, a snow storm, plus a general election for our nation. Wow.

Anyways, this week brought a return to some sense of normal in my house. I cleaned out the fridge and restocked the groceries. Four bins of accumulated bottles and cans went out curbside for recycling. I’m caught up on bills. My living room still has a growing pile of clothes, pots and pans and other items from the attic and basement that will eventually be given away as donations for those in need. But at least I have put put away the new flashlights, snow shovels and car ice scrapers that I bought between Sandy and our mid-week snow storm.

Yesterday finally felt normal for a lot of reasons. It was my day off. At last, the weather and my schedule were settled enough to go for a real walk with the dog (instead of just letting Rosebud out in the yard). The pool reopened at the gym and paddling around there in my snorkel mask yesterday afternoon was so comforting. Pre-Sandy, I went for half-hour swims two or three times a week. Being back in the chlorinated water womb restored me. It was good to float and not have to think.

As I drove home afterwards, I realized how important my routines are to me.

Four reasons why we need a routine

Reason 1: Structure creates a safety net. The scariest feeling in the emergency was not knowing what to do next. My days no longer started and ended in the way I was used to. Even after power came back, familiar roads were still impassable, etc., etc. One person who held me steady was our village mayor, who fell into a routine of sending out email updates each morning and night, which filled us in on where the utility crews were working, how many home were back on the grid and other news. His emails became part of our recovering routine. They have stopped now but it taught me that even temporary routines are very helpful.

Reason 2: Good habits offer hope of accomplishment.  My mornings are returning to their old selves. I wake up, do my morning affirmations (which you can read about here), feed the cats and Rosebud, change the litter boxes. At some point, I read The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal in print format, have a hot breakfast, shower, get dressed, put on my makeup, walk the dog. After that, I feel sufficiently organized to face the day with a smile.

Reason 3: Routines make it easier to see where changes need to be made. For years, I kept a small locked, steel box in my bedroom dresser. It contains our passports and other critical ID papers.  But with all the falling tree issues that came up with the storm, I just moved the box to a room on the other side of the house where there are no trees. God forbid but if a tree ever fell on my house, those documents need to be reachable. Come to think of it, I am going to put more items in the box, like the house deed and maybe my will.

Reason 4: New routines help keep us growing. That’s the power of a routine — the ability to make changes. Yesterday, while I was back to cleaning the house after a two-week haitus, I dropped one of the vacuum cleaner attachments on my right foot. Ouch! After spending a solid half hour feeling sorry for myself, I realized that I need to create a getaway schedule. Every quarter of the year must have at least one or two days when I can vacate work and home life. My new routine for 2013 must include designated time to escape the routine. Haha, it will keep me fresh.  :)


Whatever you’re doing today, I hope you take some time to appreciate the life you’ve created for yourself. Bet there are things you do out of habit that come so naturally that you don’t even define them as “routine.” But they are blessed moments that hold us all steady.

P.S. — Here’s a shot of me at the pool yesterday. I’m still at the endurance-building stage, and not quite there yet with coordinating that whole swimming-breathing thing. In the meantime, I use a snorkel. As part of my routine, I always hang it on a hook near the front door, for easy grab and go.  I know I look ridiculous but figured you could all use a giggle.  :)