Every night, after a day’s worth of pumping milk for my baby, my husband takes the pump from my hands and washes it out in the sink with the special brush.

He shakes it dry, clean, ready for the next day. He says it’s one of the ways he can help with this job that is so much mine. It’s our routine. I pump, he cleans it up. We tuck into bed.

Every morning, after I drop the baby at daycare, I exercise. First things first. I take care of my body. Leo and I walk down the sidewalks by the park and we buzz into the daycare center. I smile and wave at him and he babbles at the daycare ladies. Morning, baby, daycare, exercise.

It’s the routine.

On the weekends, we try to make a stew in the Fall on Sundays. Leo is currently napping, I’m in flannel, writing, and Alex is in the kitchen, chopping up vegetables for a fall stew. We got one creuset deep pot at our wedding as a gift from one of Alex’s mentors, and the blue pot has been filled with stews and soups and creamy vegetables more times than we can count. We fill the pot with a stew and eat out of it as the week goes by. It feeds us and it fuels us.

We enjoy the variation and we sink into the routine.

A routine is a sequence of actions, regularly followed. It can be a routine that you follow in a dance (like a tap routine), or a series of steps you perform as part of a program. It’s often done on the regular, rather than as a special occasion.

“He settled down into his routine of writing and work.” 

“She got into the daily routine of exercise.” 

The word comes from “route,” or a regular, carved-into-the-earth way of getting there. Roads are carved from steady use and repetition. The road becomes a regular way of being.

We carve out our routines, and then our routines provide space for our craft to expand.

My little one loves having a routine. He’s out of the newborn phase (although still a baby), and thrives when he’s given regular naps and feedings. A day of good naps can be the difference between a smiley, content baby, and my fussy, crying-and-wiggling baby. Both are the same kid, on different routines.

Designed well, a routine lets me get more of what I want. I am as many words as I make space to sit down and write. If I spend all of my time thinking about what I’m going to do and when I’m going to do it, I’ve spent my time thinking, not doing. The routine lets me forget the path and get into the substance.

A routine is a way of being. How do you show up in the world? What are the patterns of your life, of your work, of your being?

More than an intention for a day, or a desire for the week, is the importance of setting up good habits. A routine is the invisible structure that lets us dig into what we want to do. Rather than rely on motivation or inspiration — we can settle into the gold that is habit formation.
This Fall, I’ve been craving routine more than anything.

Putting on and choosing (or not choosing) your clothing is a routine. In our household, we’re eliminating most of our clothing (my husband and I share a closet together — one closet, and we each have half of a dresser). We stick to a few basic outfits to stay simple. Why? Because we want to choose ideas and creativity in our work over thinking about year’s worth of clothing choices.

I exercise at the same time every day as part of a routine.

A pattern for the day, a pattern for the work, a system of organization, a structure that provides clarity — and freedom. A cadre, or a frame, can be more freeing than the idea of unlimited freedom.

By creating a routine, I can expand.

What’s your routine? What are your habits and ways of being? This post is part of the Monthly Writing Prompts — check out October’s theme, here.
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Also published on Medium.