Psychologists say that people with high anxiety levels benefit from a daily calendar and morning routines.
So, for years, I’ve tried to wake up early and make sure that I schedule all types of stuff on my calendar: sleep, breakfast, writing, email, running, pilates, mindfulness, cross-training, water breaks, afternoon snacks, micro-naps, and even accountability meetings where I sit down with myself and go over the wins and losses of the day.
That kind of rigid, hyper-scheduled life really sucks.
I don’t like to be busy, even if I’m busy with “good stuff.” Scheduling my life doesn’t necessarily make me feel more in control. Being in control is what makes me feel in control.
If I’m busy with anything — wellness, the internet, errands — I’m still busy. I’m not the boss of me, even if I pretend like that calendar represents a contract with myself. And scheduling my life means that I often miss those small and quiet opportunities to make connections, dream up silly ideas, or solve problems that are bothering me.
Should I schedule in some quiet time for reflection? Hell no. My new plan is just to live my life.
So now I wake up and lay in bed listening to NPR for twenty minutes. Waking up slowly is the best. Then I drink some coffee, putter around the house, and I pay attention to my cats for as long as that feels good.
I could do that for hours, believe me, but I don’t. Despite what psychologists and life coaches have told me over the years, I have the internal capacity to keep an eye on the clock and not waste too much of my life in my bathrobe.
But sometimes wasting time is good. Today I looked at my front yard for twenty minutes and wondered what the hell I should do with my crepe myrtles. I don’t want to cut them back aggressively, but they’re starting to look spindly. Didn’t we just have them serviced a few years ago? Bah, they’re not the right trees in my front yard, but I don’t care enough to replace them. And, oh, look! Birds!
I always have plenty of time to look at birds.
And I won’t pretend that scheduling my life removes anxiety. Nothing removes anxiety and stress from my life. In fact, it haunts me when I try to beat it back into submission and calendarize my moods. The only thing that makes anxiety better for me is to see this part of my personality as a companion. Preferably, a friend in a bathrobe who likes to listen to NPR.
Maybe I’ll never be the CEO who creates a billion-dollar unicorn. Maybe I won’t sit on corporate boards and solve our nation’s pay equality issues. But I’ll live the life I was meant to live, which is one that is useful to some and wasteful to others.
And I’ll have plenty of time to read the new George Saunders novel, next week. Funny how priorities are a priority whether you have a daily routine, a morning ritual or a calendar or not.