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Bored with same old same old? Trust me, tedium is not so bad

I never know, until they break, how much of my life is built around routines.

For most of my 20s, my sense of adulthood hinged on buying the cheapest flowers at the supermarket, delicately pinching their cellophane wrapping so as not to smudge the colour I selected at the dingy nail salon I attended like Sunday Mass.

I wrote my first novel during lockdown, observing inflexible office hours and my loveable moron protagonist as she screwed up all over the page, the one cafe coffee I allowed myself per week going cold in my KeepCup as hyperfocus took over.

At 9am on office days, my work spouse and I have a built-in bitch session as we wander Little Lonsdale Street looking to feed my dirty little patisserie habit.

In every pastel dawn, my dog and I cross particular streets on autopilot to avoid our neighbours’ vicious pomeranian guard dogs’ threatening screams.

Like self-destructive clockwork, the second day of my ovulation window finds me compelled to send a row of emojis heavy with obscene subtext to my favourite emotionally unavailable thirty-something.

If nuclear war kicked off outside my front door, I would still diligently follow my skincare regimen. At least, I’d never have to ask the god of collagen for absolution.


On and on it goes, the chugging machine of habitual behaviour. With chronic anxiety and a procrastination hair trigger, every bolt and screw must be accounted for, or my life risks clanging into a pile of scrap metal.

Now and then, don’t you too find yourself seized by the urge to pick up your life and shake it like a snow globe? To rattle around everything you can count on until you’re covered in glitter and vaguely nauseous? Holly Golightly calls that the mean reds, and I have spent longer than I care to admit chasing the novelty of the new.

Routine often gets confused for its unappealing cousin, rut. The mundanity of everyday life and the exhaustion of the familiar are something to rally against. We whine about it. We get therapists for the ennui of same old, same old. Commutes are a death march, pizza Fridays a punishment, the predictability of someone’s unrelenting affection an inconvenience. New and different and strange and exciting, all these antagonists of familiarity.


So when does “new and exciting” become “overwhelming and terrifying”? When there’s no going back.

My dog passed away a few weeks ago, and in either irrational grief or the most poorly timed career change on record, I resigned from a job I had had for five years. The routine machine screeched to a halt. My whole world just became a junkyard. Suddenly, there is nothing I wouldn’t give for the cloying comfort of the known.

How easy it is to begrudge an icy morning walk when you know there will be another one tomorrow. How appealing an interaction with your neediest stakeholder is over an audience with a hiring panel.

In moments of crisis, in the desperate search for comfort, those old routines have become rituals. What few tediums remain have been tinted sacrosanct.

I peel the foil lid off a pot of yoghurt and hold it out for my dog to enjoy, just like I did before he became a ghost. Four o’clock comes and I am gripped with urgency, unconsciously braced for the impatient nudge of a wet nose on my knee. “Are we hungry?” I ask nobody, high-pitched and excitable. “Do we want some dinner?” (Don’t worry, my therapist has signed off on all of this.)


Episodes of Only Murders in the Building have become something to plan my life around. I hold genuine fear for this season’s finale, after which the friends I’ve found in these characters will disappear and leave Tuesday nights a little lonelier than before.

All I can think as I go looking for new routines – should I go wild and do my grocery shopping on Thursday nights instead of Tuesday? Might I be a Pilates person? Will I swap croissants for bagels? No. That’s too far – is how much I miss the old ones.

When I find myself offering an empty pot of Chobani to the blank space beside me, when my saucy texts go unanswered, when the absence of an alarm clock stops being relaxing and starts robbing me of half my daylight hours, when the irises on my kitchen table wilt and my grip on life follows suit, suddenly, the humdrum of the familiar isn’t quite so suffocating. All at once, my ruts have started looking romantic. Doesn’t Joni Mitchell have a song about this?

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