Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 7/29/2010 [Archive]

Martha's Big Adventure - A Routine Life

Martha's Big Adventure -- A Routine Life

By Martha Randolph Carr

This week I was fine on Monday and really sick on Tuesday with a virus, which meant the doctors could only treat the symptoms and I'd have to wait it all out on my couch with a large box of tissues. That threw off an entire week that was already filled to the brim. I had to reschedule and ask for help and then let the rest go. Any kind of illness is always a great reminder of humility and powerlessness over anything.

However, when it's going well, there is nothing better than a routine that's working out on a day to day basis. The day is neatly laid out with things to do and there's a sense of control and order to the events. There is a purpose to our lives that we constructed from scratch.

That can give us the opposite feeling that we're in charge and as a rule, human beings love that because then, maybe we won't have to do anything we didn't really want to be doing.

There's an uncomfortable queasiness that comes along with stepping into uncharted territories, which is exactly why so many of us find it difficult to take big risks and change our patterns, our routines on a deeper level.

Besides, when things appear to be running smoothly there's really no pressing reason to change anything. We think we can predict our days and at least prevent the big hiccups.

In those moments I'm most likely to settle for what I already have because I'm happy and would rather keep that than risk it on some bigger dream that I can't see yet.

It's unfortunate that it's all just a man-made construct that goes kablooey at the slightest jiggle of change, big or small.

For example, we may decide one day that we want the family to eat together as a group and for awhile there is everyone's smiling face and we think, at last, I have accomplished something.

Then the spouse has to work late or Junior makes the varsity team and we have to adjust. The question becomes whether or not we can work with the new details and find different ways to include everyone or instead complain loudly that nothing is working out. A shorthand for that is, we try to fix, manage and control and then no one is happy or we let go and realize it's not about us.

This is where it helps to have a certain amount of general faith to let go and step outside of what we already know will work and become willing to risk loss or failure. That's when my life really starts to change in ways I couldn't have predicted but I'm always so glad that it did.

When I moved from a small Southern city, Richmond, Virginia to one of the biggest cities in the world, New York it took a lot of faith that somehow I'd be alright. Every day I'd set out to explore with only an address that I'd show to the clerk down deep in the subway without the slightest fear that they'd ever steer me wrong. Okay, I ended up in Queens a couple of times but that only happened when I got a little cocky and decided to try it my way. Even then it was still alright.

It was like being ten years old again and full of optimism about what was around every new corner. But then the Great Recession came along and made it necessary to rethink things and I ended up in Chicago, another great city that's less than half the cost of New York. I started over again. At first it was difficult because I had some expectations but as I let go and started to just appreciate what was right in front of me I started to have fun.

This is the city of summer festivals and up and coming bands with an accompaniment of a lot of bratwurst and beer. There's also a large park two blocks from where I live and a large library and a main street that resembles something from a movie set. Twice a week during the warmer months there's a farmer's market and even more local bands.

In order to get to this expanded happy spot I had to be willing to let go of what I knew and trust that everything would work out alright. All of the routines got thrown out the window and my attachment to controlling the outcome went with them. Just like this past week when I was too sick to do anything but watch the soaps and I was reminded that routines are artificial and put in place by me but can be opened up to include new ideas at a moment's notice. More adventures to follow.

Martha's latest book is the memoir, A Place to Call Home. Email Martha at:

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