Pacifico Reflections - Happy Mail
by: Mike McGough
It was a rainy, cold, and windy afternoon. It had been three days since my last jog. I had been out of town at a conference, the opportunity for a jog just hadn’t present itself, so I was anxious to get one in. Baring a nor’easter of epic proportions, I was going for a run. A daily jog had become part of my routine many years ago, and I’m thankful that it still can be.
By the end of my jog, my feet were soaked, my knees and hips were ready for a rest, my face was chilled, and all four layers of the clothes that I was wearing were either soaked with sweat from the inside or drenched with rain from the outside. In either case, the rain and the sweat had met somewhere between layers two and three. Nonetheless, it felt good to be out plodding along, and I was pleased to be back at it after a brief absence. For me there is something comfortable about routines, and jogging had long ago become an enjoyable part of mine.
I’ve talked to many former joggers who said that they had tried it, found that they didn’t like it, and quit. I’ve also talked to joggers who have stuck with it, even though they don’t like it. For these folks, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine that running, jogging, or just plodding along (my current pace), is not part of a positive routine, but is instead part of a dismal rut that is, at best, supported by a tolerable ambivalence.
Some years ago, I learned the unique distinction between routines and ruts. It’s a subtle distinction at best, and for some I suppose it’s a distinction without much of a difference. For me a rut is continuing to do something over and over for an extended period of time that is not enjoyable, has no significant benefit, and is done with little optimistic feeling or emotion. I’ve come to learn that the last element of this definition, the positive feeling and emotion, may well be the most significant difference.
As a jogger, you’re always watching traffic. At least you should be, particularly if you’re a road runner. Having jogged the same general route at about the same time over a period of time, I anticipate seeing certain folks. As I’m going about one part of my daily routine, I see folks going about a piece of theirs. Since we are both moving, and often in opposite directions, there is seldom time for conversation. It’s generally a wave or a nod at most. However, not all waves and nods are the same.
At the end of my jog, I like to do a brief walk-off to cool down. At the end of the cold, rainy run mentioned above, our local postwoman pulled up beside me. Over the years we have exchanged more of those waves and nods than either of us could count. This day, because of where we crossed paths, where our routines intersected on that day, there was time for a brief chat. We exchanged some small talk about the weather and jogging in the rain.
Before we each continued on our appointed rounds for the day, I felt the need to share a casual, and at least to me, a meaningful observation with her. I couldn’t recall a time when we had passed over the years that she hadn’t taken the time for a wave, a smile and/or a quick kind word. Clearly she has a very set and well-established routine that has to be followed. Both senders and receivers depend on her on a daily basis. And like everyone else, she too faces the challenges, annoyances and time crunches of daily life. Notwithstanding, in her routine, there appears to be a constant, and that constant is an upbeat kindness and a willingness to be friendly. And my guess is that her routine will never become a rut, because she has a positive emotional connection to it. On her route, she delivers more than letters, she delivers a little kindness along the way too!
Regardless of the profession, vocation, or job you have, there are associated routines. Those routines, the mundane, every-day, repetitive aspects of our pursuits can easily turn into ruts. The joy of the job, the pleasures of the profession, and the personal value of the vocation can quickly be diminished and even lost, if daily routines are no longer addressed with some positive feelings and some pleasant emotional expressions along the way. When the routine has become so dull and humdrum that it has deteriorated to little more than an emotionless, all-but-automatic, daily exercise, you’re headed for a rut or you’re already in one.
Thank you Diane!