The Unexpected Journey
Chapter 10

A "Routine" Person

In the past, I was a person who enjoyed multi-tasking.  I enjoyed the challenges of multi-tasking.  Having several things going at once was not a distraction.  I could start a task, of necessity stop it, and pick the task up “where I left it off” without having to engage in a review of what I had done.  That was not something I had learned.  It was “just the way you should do things.”  For a long time I did not realize that many did not do things that way. 

For example, I would begin writing a book “as I had time.”  Of necessity, writing a book was a stop-and-go project for me.  Only if I did not write on the manuscript for several months would it be necessary to review what I had done.  If the “not being able to write interval” was only a matter of days, I found it simple to begin writing where I had stopped.  The thought I was writing would come back with very little reflection. 

Because of this ability, I always did several things in the same time period.  Numerous times I would be asked, “How do you do that?” or “Teach me how to do that.”  To me, it was not something to be taught—a person just did it.  It was these inquiries that made me realize that many did not “just do it.


The Importance of Routine

How things have changed!  The person who enjoyed multi-tasking now has a “one track” mind.  Now, to have several things going at the same time is a distraction to me.  While a project’s finish always has been important to me, now I usually do not work on a project unless I “can see” that I have time to complete it.  Whereas before I did not need to know the completion date, now my motto is “start-continue-finish.”  I must complete one project before beginning another.

If I do not follow a routine, I become frustrated and unproductive.  In the past, a project would be completed, but it could wait or be stopped as necessary.  Now one project must be completed before I go to another.  Adherence to routine increases my productivity and makes good utilization of my time. 

Now I wonder how I did what was in my past “normal” for me.  For certain, I cannot do it now!  I cannot do what I “just did” before.  Would you believe now I would be one of those persons who asked, “How do you do that?”

That is one of the reasons that this writing is such a challenge.  I must wait until the unknown happens before I write.  Of necessity that means this must be a stop-and-go project with no specific completion date in my mind.  That is not how I write now! 

I had to read Section I twice before beginning Section II.  I had to complete a revision of the first three chapters of Section I before beginning Section II because I did not like how those three chapters “fit together.”  In the past, I would have continued writing and “fit” the chapters together after I finished writing.

I simply could not do it as I did it in the past!


My Present Routin

In the past, my schedule determined what I did and when I did it.  When the unexpected happened (and the unexpected often occurred!), I just absorbed the unexpected, met the unscheduled situation, and continued my work.  It was not unusual for me to work thirteen-hour days.  Rarely did I fail to work three to four hours after supper.

Now I truly regret that I did not take more time to be involved in my children’s lives and more time to help Joyce.  The “why” is a long story.  The very condensed version: I knew much more about how to work than I knew about the “hows” of being a good parent.  I do not mean I did not try, but how one tries is often critically important.

Now I am genuinely a morning person.  Every day but Saturday, my morning begins at 5:45.  Monday through Friday, I am at the gym by 6:20 a.m..  I work out for about 40-55 minutes, and return home to prepare for work.  I try to arrive at my office around 9:00 a.m.  Now, my most productive work time is from arrival to noon.

I try to take part of my lunch hour to rest in a recliner.  I typically work until about 3:30 or 4:00 p.m.  Now, when I go home I am exhausted.  All I have to do to go to sleep is to sit down.  My evenings tend to be totally unproductive.

Mondays I am driven to write my bulletin article.  Tuesdays I teach a men’s class.  Wednesday evenings I teach a congregational class.  Friday afternoon is errands time.  Most of the rest of the time I write—articles, study lessons, books, etc. 

The use of my time has changed radically since my diagnosis.  Not being able to project has greatly reduced the time I used to spend in public speaking (which included preparation to speak).  I no longer make guidance appointments—people who are unaccustomed to my voice strain to understand me, and trying to communicate verbally exhausts me.  For obvious reasons, there are no premarital guidance sessions, no weddings, no funerals, no grief adjustment sessions, and no “addressing a personal problem or a relationship” sessions.  With a weakened resistance, because of potential exposure to germs and viruses, I no longer visit hospitals and nursing homes.

I have been a “people person” all of my life.  I enjoy associating with people.  I enjoy helping people.  People who share my values are a source of blessing to me in so many ways.  A huge adjustment for me expresses itself in the numerous ways I continually withdraw from people.

It has become obvious to me that, when I retire, I must establish a routine, I must adhere to that routine, and that routine must include association with people.


Why Do You Withdraw?

At this point, there are several reasons for my withdrawing.  Before I enumerate them, may I stress that they are all the result of personal trends, not because anyone makes me feel uncomfortable or unwanted.  People continue to be quite kind to me.  What I share has to do with how I feel, and not how I am treated by others. 

I am within four months of being 70.  I do not feel like I am 70, and I am often told I do not look like I am 70.  When I told my neurologist that I was retiring, she looked at me with a puzzled expression, asked me if I was old enough to retire, and looked at my file to confirm my age.  At the same time, I walk like I am 80.  Look at me sitting, not walking! 

The first reason for withdrawing that I would list is necessity.  Before my basic problem manifested itself, I was an outgoing person.  I much enjoyed being a part of conversations, learning from verbal sharing, exchanging insights, and laughing with others.  Being with people added to being alive and provided me with valuable insights.  I truly enjoyed relating to and connecting with people who were unlike me. 

After my basic problem manifested itself, I increasingly could not do what I did verbally.  Joyce was the first to recognize the change.  Long ago I heard her say (after my diagnosis) that she was not prepared for me to become such a quiet person.  I increasingly found it difficult to “normally” be a part of conversations.  Increasingly, people had to strain to understand what I said.  All my sense of speaking rhythm and conversational timing disappeared—my focus had to be almost 100% on saying what I wanted to say.  I feel like what I say often is more of an interruption than a contribution. 

The second reason I would list is self-consciousness.  I did not and do not like to call attention to myself.  I continually increase in a conscious desire not to do that.  I “second guess” what I say a lot.  I often think again about something I said.  It is not unusual for me to say silently to myself, “You should not have said that!  You need to just keep your mouth shut!”   

The consequence of that kind of thinking is that I talk less and less.  When this consequence is combined with another situation, silence becomes a self-imposed mandate.  Earlier I said I enjoyed understanding people and being relevant to people and situations.  As the problem grows, I feel less and less relevant.  Now I struggle conversationally with talking and with wondering if what I say should be said. 

The third reason would be what I would call embarrassment.  Increasingly the problem makes (to me) a striking separation between my body and “the me” who lives in the body.  In the past, my body and “me” formed a unit that functioned in cooperation with each other.  That is no longer the situation.  My body now has a “mind of its own.”  To make the situation worse, I rarely know what the body is going to do until it has done it.

Consider some examples.  I rarely eat anything that my nose does not start running a clear, watery liquid.  Since getting my handkerchief is not a quick, smooth motion, what should I do?  When I chew, occasionally I think my lips are closed when they are not.  More than once, chewed food has fallen from my mouth.  If I put too much liquid in my mouth (which in the past was not an excessive amount), I begin coughing violently.  There are times I choke for no discernable reason.  

Those situations produce numerous consequences.  If I am in a group, I am extremely self-conscious.  Success is not being full and enjoying the food. Success is not dropping food from my mouth, not calling attention to my nose, not coughing, and not choking. 

If I have a choice, I usually eat alone rather than in a group.  I do not wish to embarrass myself.  Nor do I wish to cause others to be embarrassed.  While I likely would enjoy being with the group, the joy I would experience is not worth the risk of creating an embarrassing situation.

The overall result is there must be a routine even in eating—how much you put in your mouth, when do you drink, conversation and eating, etc.  Once I learn the routine, I do not dare run the risk of not observing the routine regardless of the situation.  If I do not observe the routine, I risk the consequences—always.  The problems do not ignore the situations!


The Result

Everything from getting dressed to eating involves a routine.  Nothing makes the routine unnecessary.  Spontaneous actions are history.  Everything from being on vacation to daily life must respect the routine.  No matter how wearisome following the routine becomes, the routine is essential.  Remember the routine, or endure the consequences.

Copyright 2010

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