Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sweet Monotony

Today's challenge prompt from WEGOHealth is to free write on any topic.

I've been so preoccupied this week with family issues, life upheaval, etc, that I think this will suit me perfectly. I've been thinking of one word all weekend:


...the importance of routine to good health
...the way toddlers (and my pets) thrive on it
...the monotony of routine
...going through the motions in the midst of crisis or grief

I chose a career path where every day has been slightly different. I might have scheduled music lessons from 3-5 one day, the next day teach a children's choir, the next day work in a retail shop, the next day teach from 9-5, the next day sing for church services, etc.

Thus was my existence for most of my early adulthood. It made me feel flexible and in demand, but it severely impeded my ability to control my diabetes. When no two days are the same, how do you adjust your insulin dosages - those unforgivingly temperamental basal rates - to reflect your actual needs?

My routine now is fairly straightforward...and I have to credit being at home with my toddler.

Toddlers THRIVE on routine for their mental health. They find security in understanding the expectations - such as Daddy leaving for work after breakfast or that you take a bath before night-night, which is always 8pm. They will bring you a book and ask for the same story to be read aloud again and again. They throw their sippy cup to the floor from the highchair to see if it will fall every time. And to see if you'll pick it up.

In creating a predictable set of expectations for my 14 month old daughter, I find that my mealtimes and blood sugar testing times happen along a predictable routine now, which helps my blood sugar management. When my 2pm alarm goes off, the whole house rushes with anticipation. It's the alarm that says (a) pets get fed, (b) coffee gets brewed, and (c) Mommy tests her post-lunch blood sugar. At 4pm, another alarm sounds; students come and go, Sweetie gets a snack, and Mommy tests her blood sugar. Mommy and Daddy eat dinner at 7, so that bath time can happen by 7:15 and bedtime is a pretty firm 8:00.

These additional afternoon testing times help me with a huge chunk of my daily diabetes care because I spent many years going from lunch to dinner with no blood sugar feedback. That's potentially a third of my day with no data to show for it, no corrections for highs, no heads-up for lows. Combine that with the third of my day I spent sleeping and it's no wonder my A1c was unnaturally high. And even in more recent years, dinner was never consistently at the same time. Now, because I have a hungry child by 6:45, the routine is in place to dictate my own meal time.

The downside of routine is certainly that feeling of sameness though. That dry, monotonous laundry list of tasks that you check your way through each day. I'm always experimenting with ways to keep it fresh while still keeping it ordered. I don't know why I fight the sameness. What am I afraid of?

When life is out of whack for whatever reason, I have to admit that I simultaneously find comfort and emptiness in the routine.

Comfort in the familiarity, security, clarity. I may be sick with a sinus infection and my husband may be out of town all week and we have nowhere to be, but we're still up at 7am, bustling about the house as though we're shuffling him out the door to work. My daughter doesn't have the concept of Saturday. She just knows we get up with the sun and start doing the tasks that make up our morning.

Emptiness though in how hollow it can feel when you're just going through the motions and you can't pinpoint why you're doing it. Like when your head is pounding and your husband is out of town and you're stressed about something and lacing up your shoes when you know you're not leaving the house all day feels like the most inane waste of your limited energy.

A change in circumstances is potentially coming for our family, and routine is going to be my only ally. Routine is going to be the tool by which I comfort everyone I love. The familiarity, security, clarity. I'm banking on it. I'm putting my eggs in that Easter basket. I'm hoping that it's the magic ribbon that's going to keep us all tied together.

And my blood sugars will probably thank me for it, too.

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