My routine’s been a bit irregular of late simply because of life being life and the calendar being the calendar. As a result, I’m feeling a bit “adrift” today, not sure what day it was or what time it might be. Sort of like jet lag on a big scale.
I understand all of the reasons that have gone into it. The Wings Over Camarillo airshow last weekend meant four or five days in a row where the universe played 52-pickup with my regular routine. Some job search activity this week required a re-shuffle of some of my weekly routine activities. College football started this weekend with games on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and tonight (I think today is Monday) where the last of the pre-season NFL games were all on Thursday. Given that normally it’s college football games on Saturday and pro games on Sunday, my “football-based circadian rhythm” is askew.† Then they threw in this holiday which means that the Long Suffering Wife is home an extra day, which is a good thing, but not according to the “normal” schedule.
I’m sure there are many folks out there in the world who still have chaotic, random schedules to a much greater degree than the rest of us. For example, in my college days my schedule was almost completely random with only some large-scale order to be seen. In the big picture, there were the three quarters of classes and tests along with the summer break. Most classes had some sort of regular schedule for meeting. But beyond that, between projects, papers, assignments, and most of all, my random swing-shift and graveyard-shift job to keep the bills paid, it was seriously non-linear. On a day-by-day basis I was trying to figure out on the fly when I would sleep or eat, because it was different most days from the days previous and the days following. Looking back on it, it’s a wonder that I survived (relatively) sane.
Now I’m used to the same type of schedule that most of us have. Many of us (not all, I understand) have work schedules that are predictable and repeatable. For most of us, there are significant parts of our lives that are tied to a routine weekly or monthly schedule. Even if it’s not our favorite television shows on at the same time every week (well, except for those on Fox) it might be school schedules for our kids, PTA meetings, soccer practices, AA meetings, whatever. As a society, we smooth the rough edges of coping with it all by having a bit of routine that allows us to plan ahead and lean into the turns, as it were.
Additionally, when we do something that completely throws our personal schedule out the window, such as going on a vacation, we generally know when it’s coming and can plan for it. We expect it. It doesn’t catch us by surprise. And it only disrupts our personal schedule, but the schedule of society (television, sports, church) goes on like clockwork. We’re more thrown off when a disruption catches us just a bit by surprise. If that surprise is a major disruption or catastrophe (family illness or crisis, earthquake, blizzard, flood, Kardashian sighting) then we don’t so much notice the change or absence of routine because we’re so caught up in the immediate moment while we’re in the jaws of the crisis.
It has made me think today about how our ancestors dealt with this. Ancient agrarian cultures would still have dealt with the movement of the seasons to know when to sow and when to harvest. The seven-day week goes back over 2600 years and apparently was common to many cultures independently. Western culture has it codified in large part by the Biblical book of Genesis and the Judeo-Christian creation story. Apparently the Soviets tried to change to a more “efficient” five-day week after the Russian revolution, but changed back after only about ten years. Still, it was a schedule.
But without clocks or watches, for much of recorded human history the average person knew only approximately the times of sunrise, noon, and sunset. Some might be aware of the lunar cycle. But a sense of time as we see it didn’t come by until fairly recently, in the last couple hundred years.
Which way of living is more “natural” or “correct”? I suspect it’s both, and neither. We try to get back to that when we go camping or on a retreat, but that assumes that we can turn off our cell phones and not be checking the internet every five minutes. It is nice to not have that feeling of being slaved to a schedule, but most of us don’t get to live that way for long periods, and most of don’t want to. It’s fun for a week or even a month, but then we start longing for the comfort and predictability of that routine.
Tomorrow it will continue — I’ll have to remind myself several times that it’s Tuesday, not Monday, because it will “feel” like Monday with most folks going back to work and school. Then it will be a “short” week and the weekend will be coming at us sooner than expected (never a bad thing) before we finally settle down (we hope) into a month or two of day-in, day-out routine.
Boring, but comforting. It’s all a matter of balance.
This weekend, I guess I’ve felt out of balance in that sense. Yet off in the distance of time, I can hear someone like Benjamin Franklin laughing his ass off at me for that, and beyond him I can hear some Babylonian laborer shouting that we’re all freakin’ crazy. They’re no doubt all correct.
Especially if I start talking to old Ben or that Babylonian in public!
†(Lest you think I’m obsessed with football and base my entire weekend around it for half the year — I’m not and I don’t. I’ll make a point to watch or listen to my beloved KC Chiefs play, but other than that, it’s interesting noise. While I’m doing something else, like writing, doing something on the computer, or putting up Christmas lights, I’ll have the game on. When everyone screams, I’ll watch a replay. I do the same thing during the spring and summer with baseball. I get bent out of shape very rarely if I have to miss a specific game, but it’s a comforting, ambient sound that I can pay more or less attention to as my time and other activities warrant.)