Ruts, Routines & Rituals: Part 1
rut /rət/ (noun)
1. a habit or pattern of behavior that has become dull and unproductive but is hard to change.
Synonyms: boring routine, humdrum existence, routine job, same old round, groove, grind, daily grind, treadmill, dead end, assembly line
rou·tine /ro͞oˈtēn/ (noun)
1. a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.
Synonyms: procedure, practice, pattern, drill, regime, regimen, groove
rit·u·al /ˈriCH(o͞o)əl/ (noun)
1. series of actions or type of behavior regularly and invariably followed by someone.
Synonyms: ceremony, rite, ceremonial, observance
Each of these words describes behaviors of habit and repetition. In the definition above there is a distinct negative tone associated with rut. I don’t want to oversimplify things by saying ruts are bad - they just happen, they may serve a purpose, and they pass (sort of like feelings). While no one wants to be stuck in a rut, it seems like there is a fine line between rut and routine. While researching and reflecting on this topic I realized there is way too much to cover in one post. I want to take the time and do it justice, and I think a series will accomplish that better. I have formed my own definitions for the 3 Rs based on how I experience them in my mind and body. I will dig deeper into ruts and routines in this post.
Okay, now that you know what to expect - let’s dig in!
There are tasks I have to complete everyday to ensure my survival and Evie’s survival - I would consider these routines. These are things I don’t have to think much about - wake up, shower (somedays), get ready for work, take care of the doggo, do the corporate thang, go home, feed myself, do the side hustle thang, watch a little Netflix, get ready for bed, and go to sleep. The routine of my days has a rhythm and groove. It’s simple and it’s good. Now, if those were the only things I was doing everyday, or if a disruption to that rhythm threw me into a tailspin, I would consider that a rut.
For a long time that set list of things was my life (Netflix and numb is real) - I couldn’t deviate because I didn’t have the energy to and honestly I didn’t care enough to. Hello, rut! Looking back, I now associate the rut with depression, and my rut didn’t have room for anyone or anything outside of it. I had just enough energy to perform the bare minimum each day, and as soon as I could I’d put on comfy clothes and numb myself with a screen. There was rarely anything remarkable about my days, and half the time I couldn’t even remember if I had actually done basic things (like putting on deodorant or eating lunch). I was totally checked out, basically functioning on muscle memory, and 100% going through the motions of a life - not even a fulfilling one.
You can have a routine without it being a rut.
Routines can bring structure and order to our day-to-day lives, but if a routine transforms into something inflexible or burdensome, it’s a sign that things need a good shake up. Unfortunately, I can’t simply say that the rut was how things use to be for me. When things get tough, I find myself falling into that default, but because I have spent time exploring the rut, I can identify the warning signs pretty quickly. If I am walking out the door to work and I can’t remember brushing my teeth, or 3:00 rolls around and I can’t remember what I had for lunch or if I even ate lunch, I know I need to stop immediately and make a shift. The shift is where rituals (usually as acts of self-care) come into play.
I am going to leave it at that for now. Nothing like ending on a teaser for next week when I will explore getting out of a rut and how to keep routines from crossing into rut territory by introducing rituals.
I want to hear about what that looks like for you. How does it feel in your mind and body? Identifying something by putting words to it is powerful - share your experience in the comments.