Patterns and practices

I have a routine in the morning and like any routine, it’s good because it prevents me from forgetting things. (In 12 years at my job, I’ve forgotten my badge exactly 3 times.) The problem with a routine is that if you break it in even the slightest way, it can lead to trouble.

This time of year, my routine in the morning goes something like this: 5:55 AM, turn off the alarm (I usually wake up before it goes off), turn on the light. Get dressed, make the bed. Turn off and unplug the space-heater. Turn the light off. Open the blinds in my bedroom, and in the reading room. Lights on in the kitchen, grab the keys, jacket on, open the blinds in the living room, and then outside to warm up the car. Back inside, jacket off, and into the bathroom. Use bathroom, brush teeth and check email and news while brushing. Done brushing, back to the kitchen, grab lunch out of the fridge and put it in my backpack. Feed the cat, lights out in the reading room. Jacket on, badge on, grab phone and money and keys. Lights off in the kitchen, say goodbye to the cat, lights off in the living room and 6:10 AM out the door. Like clockwork.

I mention this because this morning, I altered my pattern slightly. As soon as I got up, I went into the kitchen for some reason that I can’t remember. Then back to the bedroom. Pretty much everything else was the same. Pretty much.

All day long, however, I had this nagging feeling, this anxiety riding just below the surface. In an early afternoon meeting, I finally realized what it was that was bothering me: I think I forgot to turn off the space-heater. And of course, for the rest of the day I worried that I’d return to a pile of ashes where my house once sat. The worry was silly. I have one of those space heaters with a safety shutoff. And besides, I leave the thing on all weekend and there is never any problem. But I don’t like leaving it on when I am not home. All afternoon, therefore, I was anxious to get home and see if I had left the darn thing on. And of course, I had meetings scheduled until 5 PM.

When I finally did get home, close to 6 PM, the house was still standing, despite the fact that I did leave the space-heater on.

And all because I altered my routine in the morning ever so slightly. Those who think that traveling back in time wouldn’t wreak havoc with the present should have their heads examined!