Oatmeal


Routine is the trap.

One of the most frustrating challenges of adulthood is finding a way to make things work regularly. Financially, emotionally, logistically -- if you want to avoid major stresses or financial problems or whatever it seems like a smart idea to identify and adhere to some sort of "system" that enables your day to happen.

Wake up at this time. Do these things to get ready for the day. Leave the house by this time to avoid traffic. Dig through your emails when you first get in to make sure nothing's an emergency. Tackle projects in order of due date and difficulty. Take breaks and try to get up and stretch your legs during the day. Try to leave by this time in order to avoid traffic. Get dinner done before a certain time so there's extra time for homework help. Get to bed by this time so you can at least to try to get enough sleep. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Hard routines for the weekdays, general guidelines for the weekends.

Especially with kids, if you can get into a rhythm, it helps make things easier. Keep things too loose and it becomes a fight just to get them motivated.  But the simple fact is that there's a razor's edge between a working routine and a getting into a rut. To get into a place where you feel like the days are just burning by and all you're really doing is finding a way to get through them.

Sometimes that's good. Maybe you're recovering from a health problem, or you're trying to fix a problem. Kids grades are slipping -- make time for more homework help and make sure he gets enough sleep. Fewer video games and TV.

Structure. Process. Discipline.

I don't know if this is just me, or a function of the fact that my kid is old enough that a lot of the routines we've worked to build he's fairly ingrained with -- but lately I find myself with a lot of nights where I think to myself, "I could be doing a lot more with my time."

If I didn't have to do this, I could dedicate more time to that. 

And it's not that I lament the time put in parenting. Not at all. My son is the reason for everything.

But I want balance.

I have ambitions. I have desires.I really want to play music on stages again. I'm super happy that I'm writing again, but finding/making time for it has proven challenging.

At the beginning of the year when I went back to work after the holidays, things were kinda dead. Work hadn't quite kicked back in yet -- so I found myself with lots of free time. I had room to scrub off the rust, work through drafts.

But by the middle of last week, my schedule had filled back up. Deadlines were stacked again. Expecting this to happen, I had resolved to start writing at night so that I wouldn't lose the momentum I had gotten going. But then I'd fight traffic to go home, make dinner, help with homework and junk, and then try to get a little time winding down before getting everybody to bed so we could wake up and get out the door on time, and the next thing you know -- time to write seemed scant.

If I didn't already have a new idea to work through, finding one seemed like just one more thing to do in a week that felt overfilled already.

But then I saw a conversation crop up on Twitter between movie directors James Gunn and Joe Carnahan. A fan had asked Gunn about how he deals with writer's block and Gunn had a blunt, yet perfect response.


Of course, if you've looked you can tell that I haven't updated the blog in a few days. Work got busy, and even though I had wanted to do my writing at night, the last week I'd just come home tired.

I'd hit all the big milestones in my routine with dinner, homework, and bedtimes. The laundry got folded and the dishes got done -- but especially after my health issues last year, when I get tired anymore it really hits me hard.

If I oversleep, the whole routine gets scattered. Kid gets to school late, maybe even dozes off in class. Can't have that.

Something's gotta take the hit.

I mean, it's not like I'm honor-bound to update this site every single day. But at the same time missing one day easily turns into missing two -- then work gets busy, and then it's been a week, and then the next thing you know we're right back in a drought and I don't think about at all until the next big holiday break when I'm bored at work and get the itch to fill the day with writing again.

Routines have to be flexible.

Every time I've tried to dive into a diet or whatever to lose weight, one of the things that always ends up killing it for me is the lack of variety of the foods. On the one hand, I need to break bad habits, so it only makes sense to bring oatmeal to work instead of grabbing a donut or whatever on the way in.

Those daily stops were killing me, but as anyone knows you get a few weeks in on eating only oatmeal, or salad, or whatever -- and you'd pretty much kill for a fucking donut.

And while passing those challenges is what makes or breaks any diet or effort at self-improvement, they're also in my experience what tends to kill it.

Let's say eating this mush helps me drop 20 pounds. Does that mean I can finally stop eating it?

I think we both know that answer is no.

I don't know -- maybe this middle-aged corporate job divorced dad existence and the routines that I've developed around it to keep it going smoothly are simply antithetical to the spontaneity and second life as a gigging musician that I really crave. Maybe there isn't enough room or energy in my day anymore to balance all of this stuff like I used to.

But I still want there to be. It's not like I've lost the spark, or forgotten the desire.

I'm just feeling a little stuck in the trap right now -- and I need to find a way out.



[Now Playing:  KNOWER "The Government Knows" ]

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