It seems that as long as I have remembered I have been learning about highly successful people and their rigid routines that helped them to be so productive during their lives. One formidable figure took a walk a certain time through Heidelberg every day. Another one would write at least 1000 words a day from their flat in LA. One would work out two hours every morning after taking a taxi to the gym in New York. Every morning. No matter what.
When I was first experiencing suicidal ideation in my late 20’s, I was of course terrified. I read all sorts of books and articles about suicide prevention. One thing that I learned was that a solid routine was really important. Getting out of the house at a reliable time every day to make a contribution, no matter how small, was really important. Interacting with certain people was really important. Oh and also, don’t forget to be outdoors!
Then there was the regimented diet. Finding spirituality was no longer an intrinsically driven task but was medically prescribed. Everything that could have been meaningful was imposed from the outside and thereby became exhausting. But I followed all of these rules and I credit them with my staying alive. I did all of the things that “normal,” “healthy” minds do naturally when it felt unnatural, and gradually, with the help of medicine and therapy (the latter of which was not always effective and was at times detrimental), loving relationships (for the most part), and work (even though I wasn’t the best at it), I started to live the normal life I was initially only faking.
However, now I can say that there comes a time when – thanks be to God! – it is time to maintain the good habits one relies on for health, and to morph them into something more flexible.
My mind runs on a lot of tracks throughout the day. And when embedded in one aspect of my life, I forget the others. I finally made a chart of all the plates I have spinning, and there are 50 items! I have been fighting this aspect of myself for years, trying to be normal. But I still have the mind of schizophrenia in this aspect of myself, and I am learning that that is okay:
I substitute teach, run a business, am a student, a wife, a friend, a minister, a major donor at several institutions, studying to be a foster parent, someone who shares her home with people in need, someone who travels, a writer, a mentor, sometimes I volunteer…. the list goes on and on. I have been trying to consolidate and to live by a simple rule of life like a monk with a fixed schedule. Mainly so I could have the authority and austerity to write a book about it.
But I don’t think simplicity and I go together. And I’m finally realizing that that’s okay.
The point: I think that a lot of “normal” people try to make neuroatypical people like them. Really, to us, maybe health is being okay with who we were meant to be, taking medicine to stay sane when needed, living a balanced life if possible. But some of the most brilliant people lived very unhealthy lives. Their contributions to the human story have been profound. I strive for healthfulness, and I hope you will too. But if you have a calling and sometimes health goes by the wayside… maybe that it’s okay too. Flexibility, to me, is the ultimate sign of health. But I am now striving for flexible routines and am setting up my life on a day to day basis.
But that’s my calling. Maybe yours is different.
What’s your calling? Or better: what’s your calling for today?