As dancers, we tend to love routines. Plie, tendu, degagge. Warm-up, progressions, combo. Pre-show rituals. Post-performance commemorations – mine was always a cheeseburger and Coke! Routines are necessary to our dance training and can make performances special. But in our daily lives, routines can easily become stifling.
With my son rapidly approaching his first birthday, I feel like we are finally setting in our own daily routine. Our simple but well-practiced morning pattern helps to keep both of us grounded as we start what often becomes a crazy day together. I find myself holding fast to the timing and order of the morning: playtime, walk, breakfast, bath, nap. The simplicity and predictability provides roots from which the rest of the day can grow. But occasionally something gets in the way – we sleep in or (more often) he wakes up early, I have to take a conference call on “East Coast Time,” or the weather isn’t conducive to our walk and playground time. The first few times something like this came up, I was shocked by how much anxiety it caused for me. I had a very difficult time being off our routine, and the effects lasted throughout the entire day.
When being out of my normal pattern leads to an anxious feeling, I try to reframe my thinking about the entire concept of routine. Yes, as a dancer I crave routine. But I also love the teacher who can shake things up a bit, to knock me out of my habits and make me think about my approach to dancing. The same can be true in life. When something causes us to fall out of our patterns, we can choose to look at it as a blessing – a way to see outside of ourselves and engage differently with the world around us. Instead of getting ourselves locked into a routine that stifles our lives, we can choose to find a rhythm that enhances them. I can still embrace our walk, our playtime, our breakfast, and his morning nap, but I don’t need to feel stuck into the exactitudes of each. We may walk at 6:45 or 7:15, we may play for 10 minutes or an hour, we may bathe first and eat later, the nap may draw out for 2 hours or may pass in a blink of an eye – but the rhythm of the day still remains. And just like a good, upside down approach to class that can be extremely refreshing now and again, getting out of a strict routine in life can help awaken ourselves to find more joy and contentment in our lives.