Thursday, October 05, 2006

Tin Can Tyranny*

Well. So some of you may not know about the routine. I had a routine and it went like this:

wake up
read the paper while eating breakfast
do the crossword puzzle
write 3 free-form pages (morning pages, for those of you acquainted with the Artist's Way)
read the Book of Mormon for 1/2 hour (and this involves a very intricate method that I could detail for you if you are interested)
listen to 3 songs on iPod
read a poem aloud
clean for 20 minutes (or for an hour, once a week)
do errands/billpaying, etc. for 40 minutes (or two hours, once a week)
study, do whatever one does during a day, etc.
15 minutes of genealogy
27-item throw away

And at night:
Do the dishes
change cats' food and water
scoop litter
brush Isis and maybe Mr. Burkett if she'll let me
play ribbon with Isis and maybe Mr. Burkett if she's in the mood
brush my teeth
wash face
wash feet
learn some Hindi
read and sing a hymn in German
read 15 minutes of for-fun book
read three pages of the Old Testament out loud
go to bed

So this is how it would go on the best of days. The problem was that I would get bored with the routine and rebel against it (generally these rebellions taking the form of watching Dr. Phil). And the other problem was that all of these extra things take up WAY TOO MUCH TIME and a graduate student should not be allowed to live such a fancy leisurely life. I should wake up and study study study and not take time to sing German hymns and regale my poor cats with poetry. And another problem was that I thought I had to do all morning things before I could study. Obviously this is kind of crazy and OCD and would often keep me from studying at all.

But then I remembered my love of the random and came up with the tin can. I typed a list of all of the components of my various routines in 36-point Garamond, printed it out, and cut the list up into strips. Included on the list were such things as International Organizations: 2 hours; India: 1 hour; Incompletes: 2 hours; and PDPM: 1 hour. These are my my school duties.

So I put all these slips of paper into an old crushed tomatoes can and when I'd wake up in the morning I'd pick something out of the can and that's what I'd do. It was rather jolly and fun the first few days...who knew what I'd do next? I'd go from reading about Bilbo Baggins conversing with Smaug to reading about why neoliberal institutionalism really IS a separate theory from realism, from doing old-lady aerobics (chosen from a separate group of papers with different exercise routines written on them) to scanning in my India kids' lovely photos into my computer. And I really was getting more important school stuff done, because I didn't have to get all of my hobby stuff done beforehand.

But now I've become very disturbed by all of this. Why can't I just make decisions and prioritize?! Why must my day come out of a tin can! I may as well be measuring out my life in coffee spoons, right? Can we be in agreement that all of this is a tad absurd?

*This post is sort of inspired by FMH's Day in the Life series. Read my cousin's beautiful installment here.


At October 05, 2006 10:25 PM, Blogger lily said...

It's not a tyranny at all Lolly... I think it a wonderfully creative way to keep your life alive and interesting. I am not sure I could leave my life up to chance like that, though... I say if it works for you then do it!

P.S. I absolutely LOVED reading all you do in a day-- you are definitely more structured than I will ever be in a million years. Thanks for sharing with us!

Love you!

At October 06, 2006 2:11 PM, Anonymous EmilyS said...


I personally love the tin can idea, and may steal it from you, because I think it has the potential excitement I need to shake me out of my paralyzation.

I'm going to think on the way home about what strips I'll put in--and how productive I'll feel!...I accomplish those things!

I've always found you to be an innovator, and you're so freakin' coo' that I just have to copy you. I hope you don't mind... but I think you know already know that you've been enormously influential in my life. So quit calling yourself absurd. You're not. At all. You're wonderful.

Come to the party. B and T are coming too!

PS - thanks for the link!

At October 08, 2006 12:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

my grandpa had a routine that he'd do every morning he said, and it seemed kind of boring. but it was, once i thought about it, useful. Of course i didnt want to do this, so i made a routineof what i think u should do...
wake up and see what i feel like doing, if its follwing ur routine, go ahead. if u feel running a marathon, do it. it's not like the world will come to an end if u read then eat or something like that. so why follow a schedule?

ur favorite CT nephew

At November 03, 2006 11:20 AM, Blogger browncreeper said...

DO you love the tin can? When the tin can divulges a task you abhor do you loathe it? Do you see the scuffed, glinty surface of the can in your dreams?

"Should I eat out or stay in?"
-The can replies: CLEAN THE LITTEROX

"Should I fly home for the holidays"
-Can: 15 minutes of genealogy

"Save the Hubble, or is it too dangerous?"
-Can: Brush Isis and maybe Mr. Burkett if she'll let me.

"Flu Shots?"
-Can: Exercise

Ok, clearly the can can can have too much influence. Don't forget to consult the bottle. But don't tell the can that you're under the influence of another container. Jealous can, indeed.

At November 14, 2006 7:59 AM, Blogger mb said...

Hi Laura. This sounds like a great routine. I can't believe I read your blog instead of talking to you now. I hope all is well. By the way, this is Martha. I love your Blog.


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