S TAC H E
I’ d like to think that routine—the insistent sequence of doing things a certain way—is where order comes from, or at least a semblance of it.
had so deluded myself into thinking I had a disorder that the thought of consulting persons, any persons, normal persons, if they shared it so scared me that I kept my mouth shut, kept the knowledge of the disorder to myself the way humiliated cancer patients keep theirs. Here are a few other examples of how my routines manifest: There is for example the systematic way with which I take a bath, and it goes something like this: I stand beneath the spray for a good minute or two, wash my hair, condition my hair, soap my body, scrub my body, wash my face, towel off. Each time I shower that is exactly how it goes. There is for example the systematic way with which I brush my teeth: I start across my front teeth, then clockwise, then brush the inside of my cheeks, then the roof, then scrape my tongue, then scrub my lips, and then finally gargle mouthwash for exactly thirty seconds. There is for example the systematic way with which I eat my food, go to bed, write. I can’t exactly remember when these routines began for me, or whether or not they had been erected about my life even before I become aware of my following them, but I can see the appeal, understand why they have lasted. Of course it does not always work. Things do not always go according to plan: some mornings there would be no coffee, no tea, not even hot chocolate; and some Sundays I would skip lunch and would not take a bath at all. But I think that is one of the reasons why routines exist in the first place, at least for me: Whether or not I chose to follow it is irrelevant; the purpose it serves for me is to have a general narrative of my daily life. The idea is to have again the script I had mislaid, to have in my mind the idea that certain things are not part of the plan, so when I am finally forced to follow the script I know where to pick up where I last left off. Without routine I would sit in front of the television playing video games for hours on end. Without routine I forget that my body needs feeding, washing. Without routine I go to bed at night mad at myself for not having done anything.
Life without routine is spontaneous, and because I am not the kind of person who gets off on the unknown, the kind of person who is thrilled with the prospect of improvisation, routine has become more or less my comfort zone. In it I feel secure. In it I know what is needed of me, what I need to do. “Water is important to people who do not have it,” Joan Didion once said, “the same is true of control.” And I suppose it applies to order—the arrangement of things according to a particular sequence or pattern or method—all the same. One of the reasons why I had begun writing in the first place was simply because I wanted to arrange words and create beautiful sentences; I began writing not because I had wanted to write a novel nor because I felt compelled to put my thoughts on paper by way of catharsis. (I did, some time later, try that, but it didn’t have the effect I had been led to believe it yielded.) I began writing because I am inarticulate and wanted to command words the only way I knew how. Writing is my way of forcing my disorganized mind to think more clearly. And writing is, in one way or another, a manifestation of routine. You sit down at your computer, you force yourself to come up with material that makes sense, you polish it. It’s a process. Perhaps you’re one of the many writers who are unable to write without first having a cup of coffee or a glass of bourbon or a few sticks of menthol cigarettes. That’s a system. Do it ten hours a day, five times a week, then you’ll have a routine. I’d like to think that routine—the insistent sequence of doing things a certain way—is where order comes from, or at least a semblance of it. I suspect that if you have most aspects of your life order, sooner or later the rest will follow suit. I have yet to prove whether or not this is true, but I am not exactly in a hurry to find out. You see, I have yet to put it in any of my routines.
Published on Oct 26, 2013
Fashion issue with fashion illustrator Daryl Feril on the cover. Also featuring Sunny Gu, Karolina Debosz, articles on routines, introspecti...