Joel’s Journal – July 11, 2016

After a week here, getting back to routine didn’t seem so bad.


In this post: I recently returned back to work from over a week of vacation spent reading, drinking and all around just cutting loose and relaxing. Work, which is always top of mind for me, was forgotten, and now back at the grind, it’s made all the difference.

I remember the first time I was smashed in the gut by a story. It was the first time I really became aware of the power that simple words on a page can have.

It was the first time I read “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gillman. The story has a character sliding deeper and deeper into psychosis after locking herself into a room. She starts to believe she is seeing people creeping behind the pattern on the room’s yellow wallpaper. After a while, she starts to believe she is one of them. She continuously crawls in circles around the room, over and over until her shoulder rubs a rut into the drywall from her repeated passings.

“So I don’t lose my way,” the woman writes in her final journal entry.

The story has several interpretations, many of them dealing with feminist ideaologies and the role of woman during that time period.

For me, the story absolutely terrified me the first time I read it in high school. I remember looking up from the page with a sinking feeling in my stomach, like I’d swallowed a ball of steel wool. Almost like that fading feeling of fight-or-flight you get after a serious jump-scare in a horror movie.

The reason I bring it up now, is that I want to make a point about routines.

All of you who follow this blog know that I’m a very routined person. I like to be able to get up early in the morning to write, I read before I got to bed. I try to keep things in as much order as I can. My work life is organized on spreadsheets, my emails kept (mostly) in order and daily tasks are managed on to-do lists and hours are tracked in my Moleskine planner.

However, these devices used over and over again to keep me on track, can sometimes be the shoulder grinding that rut further into the drywall.

Now, mind you, they aren’t making me lose my mind, nor am I seeing people creeping in the walls of my house or anything like that, but they can have an impact on the brain.

After a week away, spent mostly sitting on a dock, book and beer in hand, I’m seeing things a little bit differently.

The cobwebs that had started to form on those mental binders used to keep my daily activities aligned have been brushed clean and the pages edited.

For example, I know that my early morning writing is essential. I stayed away from the computer screen to give my eyes and brain a break and waking up early to write on my first day back had me springing out of bed faster than if someone had slid a snake under the sheets.

I also didn’t realize how much I missed reading. I finished The Cuckoos Calling, one of Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike detective novels (for those uninformed RG is actually the one and only J.K. Rowling writing under a psyudonym) and then I went onto the novel by debut author David Joy entitled Where All Light Tends to Go. I finished the book in under 24-hours. Honestly one of the best books I’ve read in quite a while. It’s a short read, only a few hundred pages, but my god it’s good.

Now, back home and back to work, I’m hoping to carve out a few more hours, possibly during the day to read. It’s moving its way up the list to an essential to-do on a daily basis (apart from reading to fall asleep at night).

Here are a couple more reasons to break those stuffy routines.

1. Change of pace

It helps to switch things up sometimes. As much as having your days boiled down to a science can be helpful, changing things up once in a while can allow you to see things differently, and keep you from looking like a total freak to your friends.

2. Helps deal with change

The unintentional breaking of a routine can be a big buzzkill. You think you have things all figured out then out of the blue, an interview gets cancelled, you get a flat tire, or you accidentally sleep through your third alarm. Whatever the reason, if you sometimes break your routines by choice, it makes it easier for you to adjust and adapt without kicking your own ass too much when something comes up down the road.

3. You feel better getting back into rhythm

After a nice break, whether it be a week or more, you’ll feel a lot better getting back int rhythm if you forget about your routines for a while and let your body detox. Don’t worry, you won’t forget how to respond to emails or snooze your alarm multiple times on a Monday morning after a few times of not doing it.

I want to go back to The Yellow Wallpaper for a minute and the character’s parting words, that her shoulder rut, or “smooch” as she calls it, in the wall, helps so she doesn’t lose her way.

Well, for me, I think it helps to get a little lost sometimes.

Thanks for reading,