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When Does a Routine Become a Rut?

We’re holding onto this idea that we need structure in our lives in order for things to ‘work’. And while it is true that stability and balance are necessary, we seem to have become complacent with the idea that, no matter how rigid, our work is what keeps everything going. Perhaps the very definition of work is interpretive; after all, Jessica and I have, in many ways, dispelled the standard idea of school and it’s traditional associations, yet our children continue to thrive each day.

In searching for an educational approach that suits our balance and the strengths of our kiddos, we have come to realize that a routine should be carefully crafted, with adaptations stacked to the brim. The partnership, in this instance is crucial and while structure is important, it doesn’t quite prepare us for the hiccups that will inevitably ensue.

For instance, if we’re used to taking one week of vacation every year from our job, we’re excited, but swimming in uncharted waters; we are embarking on a temporary journey as Captain Fun: Vacation Guide. We wrestle with the travel arrangements, while some parental duties, grown foreign to us, are now full-on, full-time and we often apply an over-extended amount of pressure to create a memorable experience for them and, somehow, for us. We do just fine, but by the end of our trip, some of us are oddly eager to get back to work, without ever fully embracing our temporary role as Captain Fun.


It is often difficult for us to rationalize our process, our role, so we lean (heavily) on the monolith of tradition. When circumstances become difficult, we rely on our previous experiences, exposure and responses to adversity. We are each unique, but the plasm of our collective routine seems to be chugging along through a singular vein in our collective consciousness, year after year. Collectively, we can do better. Individually, we are responsible for these routines and the impact they have on our progress as a civilization.


For most of us, the routine involves morning rituals: getting ourselves/our kids out of bed in the morning, getting dressed, having breakfast and parting on our separate ways: parents off to work and kiddos off to school… a generational re-cycling or re-imagining of worker bees priming the hive, in time. Marching to the beat of a tune played far too long ago, we accept the terms that are provided to us. And too often do we acquiesce to the twisted symphony of the system. Tradition plays a dark and domineering role in this, nature’s opera.


We’ve all heard the term “free-play” and we all possess varying interpretations of what this means, as it pertains to our children; but when and where does “free-play” end? Kindergarten? 4th grade? Never(land)? I contest that it should never end, but that’s the Peter Pan side of me. Through our children and through nature, we are able to re-learn and re-live the things we may have overlooked during our own upbringing. Wine becomes better with age, why can’t we?

The more familiarity you possess about your tribe and/or yourself, the better equipped you will be to develop a personalized system: by this I mean a set of values, rather than a set of appointments or time blocks. If we are in tune with ourselves and our loved ones, there should be no arguments over “who’s ready to go where?”; if we understand one another, we can wake up nearly ever day without fear or worry, with a clean slate and and a clean conscience.


If your system is truly effective and everyone feels great, you are over-achieving by American standards and should continue doing everything you’re doing. In every case, your experience is never singular and if it is, it shall be completely without purpose. We are all connected and, for the greater good, should act accordingly.


However, if happiness is a complicated issue; if you feel like you’re in too many places playing too many parts; if you find yourself longing to have something different, even if you’re not sure what that looks like, then you may have gassed your routine into a rut. It is shockingly easy to do, mainly because of the limited options we perceive as being available to us on a daily basis.


Real or metaphorical, often the most challenging part of a rut is how difficult it can be to finagle our way out of it. Yet, when entrenched we must understand that there are tools in the trunk that be can utilized to help dig ourselves out. We also must understand how these tools/skills can be implemented. And we must further be able to comprehend Option C.


As we’ve often stated, it is most important to figure out why we may have reason to believe our routine has spun into a rut before we can begin to process the steps needed in order to enact positive change for ourselves and, by extension, our loved ones; and, by further extension, our communities. The people you have chosen to be closest with throughout your own journey need to know where you’re coming from.


If you’re not certain about your doubts or your emotions, that is why you’ve chosen your partner, your best friends and your mentors. Some of our most intense and initial fears may arise because we are afraid of an admission that something is off, that we haven’t been doing as well as we’d hoped or that we’ve failed. Get over this notion quickly and together, for there is no sense in dwelling on what we may think is a colossal mistake. There should be no blame; store this in your past and continue on in the present.

Once we’ve obtained at least a general sense of what’s wrong with our picture, we can step back, breathe deeply, and say “alright, I won’t be going down that road again” (at least not without 4-wheel drive…or a military tank). Negative reinforcement can be very powerful. Our identities and beliefs are so often shaped by concepts, people and experiences that we find abhorrent. Just like a child who burns their hand on a hot stove, we find that life is an ongoing set of lessons learned, often served to us on a piping hot platter that seems to simmer beyond our set of senses and capabilities. But we slowly learn how not to burn ourselves again.


The more we face up to these challenges, assert ourselves and move forward, the more we are able to expand our scope and grow as a species. None of this is easy, yet it is also not as difficult as we so often make it out to be. Just check the trunk- there will always be an Option C in there. If you can’t find it, call us.

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