“Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
I can’t find anything.
We’re in a new house. With new light switches. And no place for my keys. And different cupboards. And a microwave with strange new buttons. And unmapped nooks and crannies. And boxes still taped up, holding answers, I’m sure, to many of the questions I’m asking. And all things are slightly different, which taken separately are pretty insignificant but when taken together amount to standing in the middle of the room, bewildered.
And for crying out loud, where is the toilet paper?
We’re in a new town. I’ve lived here before, but two decades will change anything, and where is the ATM, and which stores contain which groceries, and who provides phone service around here, and what time does the Walmart close because those screws I thought weren’t very important turn out to have been really important, and what are the rhythms of this place and how do we fall into them as quickly as possible?
We’re in a new routine. Actually, we’re in no routine. And, I think, only four days in, I’m ready for a routine again. I’m ready for regularity and order. I’m ready for normal and typical and mundane and boring. Not because I’m tired of adventure.
Because routine is the birthplace for adventure.
Is constant adventure possible?
We’ve romanticized adventure.
Of course we have.
Adventure is a good thing, even a great thing. It holds endless possibility. It stirs our hopes and dreams. It gives us room to be transformed. It gives us space to work out our redemption. It brings new things and some of them may be painful, but many of them are likely to be brilliant, too. Adventure is gutsy, and courage makes us feel a little more alive. Adventure can reveal to us who we are and who we want to be. It can point us back to the best things inside of us and around us.
Adventure is worth romanticizing.
But continuous, relentless adventure is ultimately unsustainable for limited, finite human beings. Our nervous system can handle only so much excitement before a constant state of fight-or-flight makes us sick. Adventure as a lifestyle is Hollywood sexy, but it just doesn’t work very well in real life.
And we romanticize adventure at the risk of devaluing that which makes healthy adventure possible: routine. All those boring little things we do over and over again, the same way every time. All those parts of life that feel a little dull, like a steady and stable marriage or the same route to the grocery store or the friend who always shows up or paying the bills at the first of every month.
Adventure isn’t a way of life; adventures are the moments made possible by the way we live.
Adventure is made possible by the boring.
Is routine as bad as we make it out to be?
Three days into our big move, a million loose ends still dangling from the edges of our life, and I spend a whole day setting up my home office. With so much spiraling and chaotic around us, I’m not sure if it’s the wisest use of time.
But something inside of me is hungering for a space I can count on.
And the next morning, when the alarm goes off at 5:30am, as it does every morning I write, and I get up and pour myself a cup of coffee with the same amount of cream and sugar as any other morning, and I sit down to write my first blog post in two weeks at a desk that has been replanted from the home where I wrote for the last four years, I realize it’s the best decision I’ve made all week. I realize the regularity and order of the space make it possible to jump headlong into the adventure of words.
I want to be violent and original in my art, which means the rest of my life around that adventure needs to be a little boring, a little routine. I need to know where to hang my keys and where to find the toilet paper, and I need to know that Walmart is open around the clock and that the rhythm of this place is simple to find as long as you’re willing to stop and breathe and look around for a little while.
What looks boring is what makes possible all the wild words I want to write.
What if we quit lamenting the repetitive routines in our lives and began to embrace them, not as a barrier to the adventure we want to live, but as the container for the adventure we are dying to live?
Is there an adventure waiting inside of your routines?
The truth is, every single one of us is an adventurer—we have unmapped territories within ourselves to explore. Every single one of us is an artist—we all have something we want to create, something good we want to birth from the center of us. Every single one of us has a voice whispering at the edge of our heart, beckoning us into something new and risky and probably breathtakingly beautiful.
The question isn’t, should we leap? The question is, will we leap? And will we let the boring repetition of our daily lives be the stable platform from which we jump?
Your adventure awaits you.
No need to make a big splash.
It’s enough just to learn how to swim.
In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.
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Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.