“As long as habit and routine dictate the pattern of living, new dimensions of the soul will not emerge.”
— Henry Van Dyke
I’ve been doing a weird thing lately, in that I’ve actually been following a sort of routine.
To put this in context, I have never in my life followed any sort of regular schedule. I have always done the zen Buddha “eat when you’re hungry, sleep when you’re tired” thing. Not really to the actual concept of the message, but rather to the letter of the phrase.
I’ve always liked it that way. I’ve never been remorseful about my choice to do whatever, whenever. I looked at it as an inspired thing, to allow yourself the room to follow whatever desire or train of thought you were working on, no matter the time. But I’ve also wondered if having a game plan for the day would make me feel better, or perform better, or actually (rather counter-intuitively) give me more time to do things.
Recently, this is the way my life has been going, in a very simplified manner:
- 11p-7a: work
- 7a-10a: play
- 10a-6p: sleep
- 6p-11p: play
Of course, this is barring the travel times to and from my job, various activities I do to get ready for work, and meals. Those have their own place, but are much less concrete. (Sometimes I leave early for work so I can stop by my friend’s job and get food, and sometimes I take 10 minutes to get ready for work instead of 90. Food happens on a rather inconsistent basis.)
The most significant change has come in the development of a bedtime routine. For my entire life, I have been one of those people who just goes to bed when they’re tired. No pretense, just fall into bed and sleep. Now, I’ve started making a process of going to bed. And it started with washing my bedding a couple of weeks ago.
I’ve never been one to make my bed, always under the rationalization that I’m just going to get back in it and mess it up again. The only time it was ever made was when I put on fresh sheets. Now, since I washed my bedding last, I’ve kept it made, and I think it’s actually helping me sleep better. (As a bonus, it also seems that my sheets aren’t as cold as they used to be, perhaps because air cannot actively circulate over them.)
Since having my bed made every day has helped me sleep better, I figured that having a pre-sleep ritual might also help. That has come mostly in the form of skincare. I am guilty of the sin of sleeping in my makeup more often than I care to admit, and since colder weather means I can and do often wear a full face of makeup, from primer to powder, this has been quite a bit more product than usual. Fortunately, my skin is amazingly self-regulatory, and doing this doesn’t often cause me any extra breakouts, but I know it’s still doing me more harm than good. (The one thing I do take off religiously is lipstick, because not doing so is tantamount to ruining pillowcases.) So, I’ve been trying to make a point of washing my face in my usual four-step process: removing makeup, cleanser, toner, and moisturizer. Then I brush my teeth and my hair, and if I need it, spray in dry shampoo. (Leaving it in overnight gives it more time to do its thing – and I usually add a bit more before I leave the house.) Then lip balm and hand cream and sleep. I’m going to try to implement sleeping masks (of the skincare variety) twice a week, if I can stay on this skincare horse. I’ve slipped a few times.
On the small scale, I can’t imagine that routine is a bad thing, but I am still worried the large-scale outlining of my day is going to hurt me, or cause some sort of rift in my ability to function with the outside world. My job already makes it difficult for me to have any kind of social circle, and when few places in town open before 9am, it is sometimes hard to get even minor tasks accomplished. Is holding myself to a 10-6 sleep schedule going to wreck that even further? I suppose time will tell.