I love my #autistic routine – but sometimes I need to change it up

picture of a bridge leading out to the sea at sunrise, with a bubble in the foreground enlarging and flipping a section of the bridge upside-down
picture of a bridge leading out to the sea at sunrise, with a bubble in the foreground enlarging and flipping a section of the bridge upside-down

I woke at the usual time, this morning – around 6:45. I rolled over and noted my sleep time in my sleep journal – a predictable 7.25 hours. It’s Saturday, but I am still on schedule.

I’ve had my morning exercise, 20 minutes of riding the exercise bike while checking Twitter, followed by some light stretching and juggling to loosen up my upper body. I lifted weights yesterday, so I want to give myself a break to let my body catch up.

I had my breakfast — a single egg whipped into a froth, then poured into a small non-stick pan and covered for about 10 minutes till it rose like a mini soufflé. I also made myself a cup of coffee while the egg was cooking, making only half a cup because too much caffeine triggers migraines with me, and I already have a bit of a headache this morning. When the egg was ready to eat, I sprinkled some salt and pepper on it and ate my little puffy cake in a meditative state. Somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd bite, I downed a few vitamins — B-Complex to keep my system stabile, and D3 to keep my levels up.

After I eat my egg, I usually just put the dishes in the sink and clean them up later. My partner’s not all that happy about that little habit, but I’m usually deep in thought by the time my little breakfast is done, and I have other things to do than wash and rinse dishes. This morning, though, I cleaned up after myself.

I need to change up  my routine. I love my routine. It keeps me going. But I need to change it up today. So, I gathered some stuff I need to work on today and brought it downstairs from my upstairs study where I was storing it. Some of the things I’ve needed to do for over a year and a half — like setting up a new computer for my partner, who needs to do some audio production and has to use the old Mac that’s served us well, but never seems to have enough space on the drive and needs continuous care to not crash in the middle of a recording session. Those crashes are mini-catastrophes, sometimes wiping out 50 minutes of work, when she just needs another 10 minutes — 10 minutes! — to be done.

My partner does her audio work in the wee hours of the morning, when the world is quiet and she won’t be interrupted. So, there have been times when I’ve been woken up by great wailing and gnashing of teeth at 3 a.m.

And that’s never good. Not for her. Not for me. Not for her projects.

So, this weekend, I’m going to fix that.

I’m also fixing up my study, which has been a kind of “holding pen” for the duration of the past fall… winter… spring. It’s summer, now. Time to get back in there and rearrange things. Set things up. Clear away the piles and piles of research and reading and various interesting gadget acquisitions that seemed like a good idea at the time. I’m a compulsive reader and researcher, and with all the new work being done on autism and various neuro-chemical-biological subjects… I get carried away. Especially with the autism stuff.

I’ve got a whole lot of books I’ve acquired over the past year — all of them deeply interesting to me. But I haven’t had time to read them. I’m now in a situation where my study is more like a formal library than anything else. And like the neighborhood library, I haven’t read most of the books on the shelves. But I want to. And it’s my intention to start. Actually, I’ve already started, so I’m making good on my intention. That’s good. I need that.

Truth be told, my routine sometimes stops me from living my life the best I possibly can. It keeps me from doing things I want and need to do because, well, they’re not part of my routine. It keeps me from doing common-sensical things like:

  • Shopping at an early hour in the day, before the crowds all show up.
  • Cleaning my house on a regular basis.
  • Keeping my study organized.
  • Running extra errands that need to be done right away (not months later).
  • Setting up a top-of-the-line computer (a digital audio production workstation, really) as soon as I buy it, and getting that running.
  • Sewing torn clothing.
  • Keeping my garage clear of clutter.
  • Etc.

You get the point. I have my morning routine: rise, exercise, eat, sit down to write for a while… then get on with the day. On weekdays, I’ll often get on a conference call at 8:00 or 9:00 a.m. (after I’m done writing) and then get going to work around 9:30 or so, arrive at the office around 10, then stay till 5:30 or 6:00 or 6:30, when I’ve finished up for the day and/or the traffic has calmed down. On weekends, I’ll write all morning, maybe take a walk, have a little lunch, run the trash to the dump or do some shopping, take a nap, and get up to putter around the house or read some more. Then it’s time to make supper, and my partner and I will have our “dinner and a movie” in front of the t.v.

All of this keeps me moving forward predicatably. But sometimes it also blocks me, and I have to change things up. Sometimes I need to do more than the usual. Sometimes I need to do something very different from the routine. And I think I need to break things up a bit more, actually.

Like last weekend, my partner and I went to visit a friend in the hospital. We ended up having a really good day of it, and we had a nice little take-out dinner from a cool little cafe we found a few months ago. Unfortunately, I had a bad reaction to the food, and it’s taken me all week to tame down my system and get feeling relatively normal again, but it was really fun while it lasted.

Like for the past few weeks, I’ve been getting an earlier start than usual, getting in to the office around 8:30 or 9:00, instead of 10:00 or 10:30. It really makes a difference in how much I can get done, having those extra couple of hours in the day at the office (instead of at home). Of course, I’m completely . wiped . out . after the full week, so I pay a price.

Like, last night, instead of sitting down to read and write, I proverbially put my head down and “made a run at” my study, rearranging and removing stuff and getting the books on the shelves and the notebooks into a box (that’s more appropriate for my notebooks). I was amazed to see just how broadly I’ve been spreading my interests and efforts, over the years. I get fixated on certain ideas that I think will be great — just great! — but I tend to fixate on too many at the same time, so none of them actually ever come to fruition. That’s a habit I need to change, and looking through all my old notebooks was a great wake-up call for me, last night.

I made good progress, last evening. And it was good. Dinner was late, and I got to bed later than I should have. But still. It was a really productive time, and now I can go back in my study without triggering a panic attack and feeling like a total loser and waste of space. Not managing my own space has a really negative impact on my self-esteem. I actually have a study of my own, packed full of all the stuff I love the most. After growing up in a crowded house where I had no space that was all my own, where we kids were “stacked” on top of each other, and there was literally just a square meter-and-a-half in the middle of my shared bedroom to move around in… after several years of living with a partner who was controlling in the extreme and demanded silence and total obedience… after living in one space after another that was smallish and didn’t always have a door on my workspace and certainly didn’t have the amazing view of the back yard and wildlife that I have now… it’s not something to take for granted.

I don’t take that for granted. At all. I just haven’t done a very exemplary job of stewarding my space, my time, my energies. I mean, I’ve managed. But making the most of it all? That, I have not done.

I’m not being irrationally hard on myself.  I know I have executive function issues. And I get so tired… But I’m also a grown-up who knows how to handle problematic situations when they arise. And my routine has become a problem.

So, I’m doing something about it. I’ll finish this blog post, then head out to run errands that need to be done. Or maybe I’ll crack open the box of that computer and — after 18 months of sitting idle — boot it up, at last. I know the 1-year warranty has lapsed, and I don’t know what kind of support I can get for it, but if I get in a jam, I’ll just check online. Or give someone a call.

Whatever I choose to do first, I’m going to do it. And get moving. Get into the day. Give myself a running start and settle unfinished business. It’s important. To me. To those who depend on me. And I haven’t been doing a great job of keeping up with the variety of things I need to do. I’ll move past the embarrassment about this, move past the dismay that such “simple” things tend to be so challenging for me, just shrug my shoulders at the fact that I’ve let so many important things slide. And do what I can.

Because I can.

And I should.

And I shall.

I do love my routine. But it doesn’t always love me back the way it should.

One thought on “I love my #autistic routine – but sometimes I need to change it up

  1. Agreed! I’m the same way. Occasionally, a comfortable routine becomes a confining rut, and I just need to break free a little bit. Or for a little while. Or something. Excellent post! I am one of those who only do my grocery shopping early on Saturday lol 😉💞🌷

    Liked by 1 person

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