Holiday Repeat: Memorial Day 2008
LGBT Elders Contemplate Marriage

Routine and Old Age

category_bug_journal2.gif Is routine, I wonder, more important as we get older? It has always played a part in my life, but now I am discovering that routine is crucial to maintaining my energy level and accomplishing what I’ve planned. And what’s more, I like it that way.

“They” tell us that the world is divided into larks and owls – that some of us jump out of bed rarin’ to go (larks), while others of us drag around until well past noon before we can get moving with the day’s plans (owls). I’m a lark. I always have been and if it (whatever “it” is) isn’t done by about 3PM, it won’t happen. By then, I’m fatigued and stupid.

When I have evening plans, it is essential that I pace myself during the day and perhaps even have a nap so not to fade before the entrée is served. I gave up going to evening movies years ago; no matter how compelling (or loud) the film is, I fall asleep.

The simplest tasks are impossible late in the day. Organizing a sink of dirty dishes feels like a feat equal to climbing Mt. Everest. In the morning, it takes five minutes while simultaneously starting the coffee, feeding the cat, watering the plants, absorbing the days’ headlines on TV news and making notes for the next blog post I want to write.

I plan for interruptions to my routine. When houseguests are expected, I write several evergreen blog posts to publish while they are here so I’m not stuck at the computer during their stay. I sort my day differently when I have meetings away from home or errands that are out of the ordinary.

Careful organization might appear boring to many, but it keeps me moving. I alternate brain and physical tasks during the nine or ten hours a day that I’m capable of functioning well and I don’t often vary my routine. Claude Covo-Farchi of Blogging in Paris has a reverse routine from mine:

"I'm getting more and more of a spinster in that way,” wrote Claude in an email. “I don't want my daily life to be any different than it is.

“Quite differently from you, I don't have a routine, so visitors sometimes intrude insofar as I can't change my mind about what I'm going to do seventy times a day. This is probably the reason why I can't find time for everything!"

I like Claude’s “spinster” reference to our different kinds of routine. The word feels right for the way I order my days, and my apparent need to keep it that way most of the time. Like Claude, there are many things I can’t fit in to the schedule each day, but I’m always optimistic about the list (yes, I make a list and enjoy ticking off items when they are done) and no matter how far into the future some items get pushed, eventually I get there.

Even as a lifelong lark, during the 46 years I was a member of workforce, I looked forward to the day, in old age, when I wouldn’t be required to rush out of the house first thing in the morning. And I happily don’t do that now – unless I want to.

But I keep that daily list and I still feel compelled to get everything important done by 3PM. When, on the rare occasion I ignore the list and the routine, the day is lost to idleness and lethargy, and I am more tired by evening than when I am more disciplined.

Routine works for me and I have no idea if it is my nature or somehow connected with age.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Linda gives us a modern-day O. Henry story, Stumbling Blocks.]


Once again I smile as you share.
You can see by the time that I am a lark also. Almost 5:00 AM in Nashville.
I wake up running (most of the time) but after lunch my energy goes down quickly.
I always have a list and write down everything or I may forget. I am constantly teased about being so organized. It is the only way I can function.
I am super excited this morning as I am headed for the garden of my past home to pick out some things for my new garden.
I will leave at dawn.
I truly do not like going out in the evening. I love being home with my books at that time.
I will meet someone for lunch but I am getting where I do not even like to do that but occasionally.
I may sound rather dull to some but I am truly enjoying my life and at peace more then ever.
It has been a long time coming.

I am an old fireman. I wake up ready to go ! :-)

Greetings, fellow Lark! I, too, need a routine. I still arise between 4 and 5 a.m. and go to bed about 9, even nine years after retirement. Is it aging or just my nature? Mostly the latter, I think.

Of course the comments you're going to get, Ronnie, at this time of the morning are going to be all from larks. Maybe around 3 p.m. the owls will chime in. The only difference in our routines is that I have to have my nap in the afternoon so I can even stay awake during the ten o'clock news. My routine reminds me of the movie, "My Dinner with Andre."
A seemingly boring man relates his pleasure to his well-traveled and adventuresome friend in the simplest of daily doings, such as photo-copying and other mundane tasks.

So nice to know I'm among so many others. Love my mornings. However, I also stay up rather late enjoying that quiet, down time alone. Can't read late at nite so I bless modern technology & my cable TV. Incidentally, I've been watching American Experience (I think that's the name) on PBS. Saw FDR series (2) & finished last nite with Truman. So rewarding & interesting to see that some things in our country never change. Also amazing to be reminded that while both men were leaders in their own way, they were full of misgivings & shortcomings.

Off now to complete my early morning routine. Dee

We are also larks. Our cats are our alarm clocks and they haven't got reset buttons. By 5 am they demand to be fed and by 5:30 they are. We are in bed by 9:30 or 10pm. We don't even stay up for the late news if we have a movie that goes to 10. We have some set routines--morning coffee from 5:30 to whenever we finish the pot. Then we are at our computers until breakfast. I generally have an idea of what I am going to do during the day but I am not overly put out if I don't get all of it done. Most of what I have to do has no timetable or deadline. Evenings are for entertainment--reading or watching tv. I can vary the time spent at the computer or other tasks but I found several years ago that, if any element is missing, I feel disjointed and disgruntled all day.

"Larkness" turns out to be a condition that can be cured. After nearly 40 years of marriage to an owl, I find that my inner lark has pretty much gone south permanently.

I'm still the first one up almost every morning (and the first to fall asleep at night) but over the years my body clock has shifted two or three hours. My wife's hasn't changed a second.

The 3 pm factor is interesting in its own right. A few years ago I conducted a series of day-long computer training seminars. The seminars ran until 4 pm, but it was an open secret that nobody learning anything after 3 pm. Owls may start the day later and catch a second wind in the evening, but just about everybody is brain dead at 3 pm.

I am a lark now but was born an owl. The change came when I had babies and probably was impacted earlier than that when I married a lark. One of my children was born a lark and the other an owl. That was interesting. Now a perfect summer day for me is going to bed with the light and rising with it.

Many of my neighbors who are (even) older than I get up as early as 4:30 and are in bed by 8:00 p.m.
I live in Hawaii, ie in the tropics, and the sun regulates sleeping and waking periods for me. There is not much difference between winter and summer; I tend to get up at sunrise and wind down at sunset. I eat my main meal at mid-day (I'm a much better cook early on than in the evening), nap and relax during the hot part of the day and am re-activated in the evening.
Best of both worlds, so to speak.
I do notice a real drop in my energy level over what it was a few years ago, however, and there are occasional entire days when I can't do much at all but need to recuperate from stressful activities.

It's a running joke in my family that I was always an owl. My husband used to tell the children, "Don't speak to your mother until she has had her second cup of coffee." After becoming a widow I suddenly became a lark. I was awake at 4 or 5 am and had my work done by 9 am. Now I am no longer an owl or a lark. I am only good for a few hours in the middle of the day. ;)

I have always been an owl, but lately, I go to bed late and wake up really early. Am I getting to be a mixture of both? Anyway, I sometimes manage a short nap in the afternoon, which does me a world of good. But one thing is sure, I am not a woman of habits

Like Rain, I was born an owl but motherhood - i.e. the 6:00 am breast feed - introduced me to larkdom. I'd scarcely ever seen a sunrise till then, (unless I'd been out partying). After a while I found that I loved those early mornings. By the time both my kids were weaned I had become a happy lark and have been one ever since. (Except when I get stuck into a really good book and find it hard to put that down at 10 pm and go to bed). And I have SO much more energy and creativity in the mornings. So like you, Ronni, my routine is built around that.

I have always been an owl, but lately, I go to bed late and wake up really early. Am I getting to be a mixture of both? Anyway, I sometimes manage a short nap in the afternoon, which does me a world of good. But one thing is sure, I am not a woman of habits

I am a Gemini, and whether you buy into any kind of horoscope definitions or not, I am quite true to the ascribed nature of the Twins - Mercurical.

Some days a Lark, some days an Owl. And some days an Owlish Lark: get up early, go to bed late.

Though, I admit, routine feels nice when I can manage it! (Which is quite contrary to my younger nature of No Plan Pattie!)

I used to be an owl, but, for the past several years, have become a lark out of necessity.
I remember wondering how people could go to bed so early. I think I used to say something to the effect that they’re sleeping half of their lives away. Well, guess who’s sleeping half her life away now?

Hmm, I've always identified more with the eagles and hawks, just kiting around in the afternoon breezes, making it all look so easy. ;^)

This is so interesting! I come from a long line of larks and myself felt I had been dropped (by the stork) into the wrong family - being an owl. I am now a lark - even when I don't need to be - I am up - the body is a strange mechanism and likes to get up when it likes to get up! I was cheered to see that others had had similar transformations. I feel wider awake now for reading this! Alas - no not really - it is almost 5PM in Pasadena...

"It is what it is", my father used to say, and I'm finding that that statement fits pretty much everything. It seems to me that the body has a lot to say about sleeping or not sleeping and I'm usually much better off when I listen to it.

Somehow my info. got left off of that last post. :-)

Routine is more important to me now because of exactly what you said. Making sure that the energy level is there to accomplish the necessary stuff has become something I have to consider. I don't know if I like it this way or not. It didn't come naturally. But it is what it is.

I like routines for certain things; such as breakfast and bedtime, but in between those times I can vary it quite a bit. I am finding that as I get older, I resent any intrusion on my usual routines. If I am the one who varies it - it's fine, but woe unto anyone else who does it....LOL

I am an owl, and have been since childhood, although for most of my life I've had to be up before 7am. I never hit my real energy level til noon, and I always get a second wind about 9pm. I'm married to a lark. We only have a few hours when we're both fully awake at the same time. After fighting it for decades, we've finally accepted our differences. Together we can truly work 24/7!

Owl, here, as you can tell by the time I'm posting this comment. I had to get up early (for me) all those years I was teaching and got there right at the time we had to be but would always stay an hour or two later in the afternoon grading papers and planning. Now that I'm retired I can be in my natural rhythm and go to bed around 1 or 2 and get up around 9 or 9:30. I try not to make any appointments until late morning or early afternoon. It's not always possible, though, which means I'd better get to bed because I have to get up early at 7:45 in order to take my mother to the dentist in Nashville for her appointment at 10:00. It's an hour's drive.

'Night all! Wow! Most of you have been asleep for 4 or 5 hours by now. I'm sleeping really well when you get up. My mother is a lark and always told me I was missing the best part of the day (sunrises). I told her to tape them for me. She laughed.

I'm on Central time, so it's an hour earlier here than it says on the comment. I've stayed up that late but prefer not to.

Interesting post and timely for me Ronni, because I have a question in this regard for you and your loyal readers.

How old were you when you felt your energy level go down, if that has happened to you at all?

I ask because I am wondering if a chronic health problem I have is affecting my energy, or, if it is common to feel a drop of oomph at my age.

I also ask because anyone who reads about John McCain and his daily activities can see the man has an extraordinary amount of energy for his age.

I could not handle his schedule and I am 26 years younger than he is!

I'm usually up by eight and turn out the light 'round midnight I sometimes nap in the afternoon when it's past 90 deg. We do what we think we can.

This is going to be a defining moment for our aging boomer society. Are we going to be trapped by routine or consumption type activities that will put us all to sleep by 3:00 P.M. on a daily basis; OR will we have the courage and forsight to change our lifestyle to become more productive and creative in our daily activities, which will enable us generally to have more balanced energy levels leading to a more meaningful life. So what are you going to do when you turn 60 years old? Will you be a sleeper or a keeper? i.e. a Rip Van Winkle or say more like McCain, Carter, etc.

My life has had various periods of being a lark for some years, an owl for others. Later years had me living an owl life to have private personal time, while simultaneously actual having lark early waking hours. When my husband died I realized establishing organization of my personal time, surprisingly to me, became challenging. I had been somewhat locked into routines of others for so long, the opportunity to be open to more spontaneity was a pleasing change.

This coincided with my increasing involvement in the blogosphere, adding other activities, which may or may not have complicated my personal organization issue -- not sure. Perhaps I should have been trying to simplify my life, or maybe all the extra activities served to help me weather those months.

I have gradually evolved into more routine. Enjoy the flexibility of "owling" at times, "larking" at others -- circumstances prescribe -- sometimes regretting the next day having done one or the other, but not enough of an issue to establish one pattern or the other.

I think spontaneity is what helps keep life interesting; too much routine is stifling. I think this speaks well for my ability to adapt to dictates of a situation. Others might assess it differently.

The past year I have become aware that about 2 p.m. or so, whether at home or work, I start to feel sleepy. Sometimes I have indulged the impulse and slept, but this generally upsets getting to sleep at night, be it 10 p.m. or l a.m. Couldn't begin to predict what my schedule might be like a year from now.

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