off the cuff

Routines and the rhythm of life

In the quiet folds of this routine lives the beautiful undiscovered truth of life

Sudha Subramanian,Special to Gulf News
16:43 October 12, 2017

My friend posted on Facebook, “Just got back from vacation. Now, should deal with the boring routine! Phew!” I paused after reading. I know the feeling. I used to hate routine too — setting up alarm clocks, getting up from the bed aware that, I cannot snooze the clock — it can be annoying on a cold winter morning.

Routine work is mechanical. It is the knowledge of knowing what follows a certain action. It is dull and it provides no food for thought. Back in the days, I always used to remark, “I know what happens exactly for the next one month or even one year!” I thought I knew, how my life would pan out for the next many days to come. “It is always the unknown that is exciting. No wonder she finds the routine dreary”, I sighed reading the post again.

Random thoughts criss-crossed my head. The problem of knowing what life has to offer is — there are no surprises hiding in its folds. It also means, that certain tasks are inevitable and should be followed through to its logical end. Making breakfast/lunch or cleaning the dining table, carrying the garbage bag are some of those dull, mechanical jobs that we involve in. Naturally, I, like so many in this world used to detest these mundane jobs. But I did it anyway because, it is an essential part of life. Then, like always, the unexpected happened.

Ever since, I heard about my diagnosis from the doctor on a cold February morning in 2014, I have begun to accept routine. In the darkest hour, when I hit rock bottom, I saw the other side of routine. Those dull and dreary tasks helped me forge ahead. In my inability to think straight, the run of the mill — knowing what has to be done next — came in useful. No thought process involved — just pure mechanics. In a life that is two thirds filled with the dull processes, routines helped me forget the harsh realities.

At times, when reality bothered me, I impressed upon myself to delve deeper into my every day rigmarole of life. I dusted, cleaned, cooked and just got busy. I knew all my days tallied in exact precision, making them look almost identical. I hated it, but knowing what tomorrow had in store helped me in the strangest of ways. It helped me to not dwell in the present and instead engross myself in the mechanics of the daily rituals.

Today, as I involve myself with more routine work, I realise what they offer. They are one of the highly underrated aspects of life. These daily rituals help folks like me and others go on in life and look for better things. They help us lose ourselves in the mundaneness of life and offer strength to look forward to a better tomorrow. In making those meals and cleaning the jars, I have got a glimpse of life that previously I believed existed in the pages of fiction. Today, I see them as a promising tomorrow when, these very mundane things will offer a reason for me to revel in.

And the power of routine? When we complain about the dull rhythm of life, it can only mean that, everything is going well for us. It means, we have nothing else to complain about and that, life’s dull beat is getting on to us. Sometimes, I wonder why I never appreciated this? It was all too good that I had instead taken to insulting the mundaneness of life till I hit the brakes. Perhaps, now is a good time. Perhaps it is time to aspire for nothing but routine. Because, in the quiet folds of this routine lives the beautiful undiscovered truth of life. And, as for my friend, I am now certain that all is well at her end and this is precisely why I am so happy for her.

Sudha Subramanian is an author and freelance writer based in Dubai.