Routine vs Rhythm: Slow Living by Season
Late summer is its own kind of lifestyle.
The heavy air of August nudges us into an easy pace, the sun moving us toward shelter and shade. Vacation is over, pool parties attended, fireworks watched. The frenzy of summer activities that felt so right- perfect, even- in June, has now faded into the background drone of cicadas. Slow living comes naturally this time of year. Or does it?
We move with the seasons. This is true of all creation, yet we humans sometimes forget we’re connected to weather and warmth, light and darkness. Electric light pushes back nightfall, air-conditioning insulates us from uncomfortable temperatures, and stoves that we turn on instead of build fires in mean food is on demand. We think we’ve outsmarted the natural world with our innovation, but have we really outgrown natural instinct as humanity has progressed?
Anyone can see the danger in removing our connection with the natural rhythms of the tide, or planting and harvest. You don’t respect the tide and it pulls you out to sea. If planting and harvesting don’t occur at the proper times, no one eats. It’s so orderly and “right” that it surprises me how we feel we’ve out-sophisticated these principles in our individual lives. As fall approaches the disconnect becomes more obvious. The school year looms ahead. And we already feel behind.
You can see it in the faces of stressed-out parents in the school supplies aisle. You can feel it in traffic as school roads clog with silver SUV’s during drop-off. For those of you who are, like me, kid-free, you know you still feel the shift. That pressure to over-organize your schedule to pack it all in. To over-commit to new, unnecessary responsibilities and programs. To over-stuff your closet with a whole new fall wardrobe and rebrand the consumerism as preparation.
While back-to-school requires a bit more scheduling, it is by no means time to flip the switch to a different life. Gentle reminder- it’s AUGUST, you guys. As in, a full month of summer. 92 degrees in the shade. It’s just not time for routine, regardless of when back-to-school happens. The cognitive dissonance of manmade structure warring with the seasonal order is a grinding of the gears. But submitting to the order of creation is peace. Falling in line with the masses is soul-killing, but getting swept up in the rhythm of seasons gives life.
Parents, kids, empty-nesters, even teachers- when you change your perspective and maybe your priorities, you can transition with ease, and experience a mindful, instinctual pace. Here’s how.
Switch from ROUTINE to RHYTHM.
I like to think of it musically. For example, let’s take the classic graduation song, “Pomp and Circumstance”. Think about the beat. Feel how even, straight, and relentless it is. Even though this is a fine song for a procession, it steadily marches onward until it becomes almost mindless. This is ROUTINE.
Routine has its place, such as short bursts of pursuing big goals, or when used as a tool to make necessary responsibilities seem effortless (like a morning routine of teeth brushing, making the bed, etc.). But routine as a lifestyle is unsustainably robotic. Steady strikes and endless repeats can compose a song, but not a life. Again, we are natural creatures, even when deeply developed. Just because the school calendar demands certain commitments doesn’t mean your entire lifestyle needs to become regimented!
Contrast the feel of “Pomp and Circumstance” with Michael Bublé’s version of “Sway”. The beat is all about give-and-take, silence, then spin. Turn on your Bluetooth speaker and play “Sway” and watch what your kids do. Watch your spouse. Their shoulders start to shift side-to-side with the tempo, heads tilt back-and-forth, maybe there’s even dancing. “Sway” is RHYTHM.
Rhythm inspires incredible movement, and also effective stillness or rest. It incorporates syncopation and shuffle, a quickening pulse then a thoughtful pause. There’s room to move forward in sweeping confidence and also space for small, unnoticed actions to still add fullness or energy. It’s all enough and it’s all good because the over-arching movement is toward a triumphant finale. Every sound contributes to the song’s completion. Rhythm isn’t aimless drift, it’s an intentional, flexible way of moving through your week. Every week.
While both routine and rhythm are technically intentional living, routine can become a tool for mindless efficiency, marching onward with no thought to if the course is still worthwhile. Rhythm is orderly and you can depend on it, yet because of its organic shaping you must pay attention. Moving with rhythm is mentally and emotionally engaging, so mindful pivot occurs exactly when the need arises. Although it “feels” right, it is not living by feelings.
Are we lost in theory and philosophy right now? Let’s get practical! What does practicing rhythm instead of routine look like in everyday life?
Rhythm and Food
ROUTINE says that if you want to have a smooth week you should craft a regular weekly meal plan, schedule meal prep on Sunday afternoon, and pack the next day’s lunches the night before. And maybe it’s time to start Keto, too, while you’re scheduling for success anyway.
RHYTHM says give yourself a dependable cornerstone by picking three or four efficient dinners per week. Establish a daily nutrition-dense breakfast for you and your kids. Savor seasonal foods as they come into market, letting the season be your health guide instead of a diet. And eat outside, because even bread-and-butter feels luxurious under a canopy of trees and string lights.
Rhythm in Your Morning
ROUTINE says, now that fall is almost here you need at least a 10-step morning system to be efficient, improve yourself, and win your day. All the skincare, all the workouts, all the meditation and journaling and reading… how will you be a productive, age-proof, contributory superwoman without a killer morning routine? (Noticing all the scarcity mindset yet? Routine wields it like a light saber.)
RHYTHM says set the alarm twenty minutes earlier to enjoy a slow cup of coffee before the day cranks up. Stretch a bit, gather your thoughts, spend some time in prayer or an inspiring book, and welcome the day instead of trying to win it.
Rhythm in Your Kids’ Sports & Activities
ROUTINE says now that school is in you should enroll the kids in football, cheerleading, band, soccer, dance, and pottery classes. Occupy every moment of their time with organized activities and you’ll ensure their athletic prowess, social acceptance, college scholarships, and success as adults.
RHTHYM says let your child choose the activity they love and encourage commitment to their choice, thereby building skills and experience that doesn’t develop in the short term. Switch gears only after that activity has been given a fair chance, and if it doesn’t end up being a good fit it’s then ok to find a new thing to try! Then use unscheduled time to stay active outside as a family; going on bike rides, nature walks, or playing in the pool.
The Rhythm of Interruptions
ROUTINE says the schedule is king. No matter what opportunity comes up or what person stops to chat, you have to achieve the entire list for the day. If you stop to engage with people or shift to an unplanned activity, you’ll fall further behind than you already are.
RHYTHM says choose important over urgent, making sure your values have priority. Be clear on the items on your schedule that aren’t truly necessary, so if a meaningful opportunity comes up, or a special person needs some time with you, the schedule can be adjusted to accommodate. Moving unnecessary things to another day while staying committed to your important, values-aligned commitments gives you the freedom to say a wholehearted “yes!” to good surprises.
See how these are all simple shifts that anyone can make? At first it might feel challenging, like working a muscle, this choosing slow above over-structured, rhythm above routine. Any movement counterculture is against great resistance. But the beautiful thing is that eventually the muscle strengthens- because of the resistance. It’s worth the effort to build this strength, and not just for the start of the school year. The natural pace of rhythm over routine is the healthiest way to transition into any season.
August is melting quietly down, friends. It’s time to take a step towards a simpler life by elevating the natural calendar above the routines. Savor the end of summer wholeheartedly in the way YOU find most fulfilling!
Don’t forget- I want to see how you savor! Tag me on Instagram @giles_south to show me what you’re making, doing, or pursing in your simple lifestyle! If nourishing food sounds good right now, you may want to hop over to my Coconut Tres Leches Cake post. Find fulfillment in outdoor activities? Get some inspiration here! Need a bit of chill time? Get lost on the backroads with me here!
Thank you for spending some of your margin time here with me! I appreciate you!
*As usual, this post is not sponsored or affiliated.
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