I’m not very good at planning ahead, considering consequences of my actions. I exist in the present and the past; the future is too abstract to engage with. This is an executive function deficit. I am poor at planning and organizing my life, and cope with this by relying on routines. Running round the same circles day after day.
Μή μου τοὺς κύκλους τάραττε! — Ἀρχιμήδης
(Do not disturb my circles! — Archimedes, popularly supposed to be his last words)
This works well enough under normal circumstances, but a recent change in my life — gender transition — has disturbed my circles, my routines. The old familiar sequences I used for years as a male to get ready for work in the morning are no longer completely applicable to me as a female.
When I don’t have an established routine in place it takes me a long time to complete a task. I spend more time thinking about the various steps I need to complete than I do actually completing them — like I said I’m not good at planning. Every step along the way between getting out of bed and leaving home to go to work must be consciously considered and executed.
More than that there is a feeling of unease, of insecurity. Having no routine to rely on means I constantly view it as an unfamiliar situation, and the unfamiliar makes me anxious. Anxiety makes it more difficult to think clearly about what I am doing, makes it harder to plan what steps I must take.
When I have a routine I do not need to think about what I am doing: force of habit guides me through the sequence of steps effortlessly. I refer to it as being “on autopilot”. And like an autopilot I am unable to handle the unexpected: changes. Those times when the pilot must step in and take manual control.
For over two months now I have been struggling to establish new routines to replace the old ones. It is a slow process, requiring a patient, incremental approach. But I am getting there. The components that will build my morning routine are becoming established, steps are being aggregated into short sequences. I am now at the stage where I can start to join these components into a seamless whole.
It still took me over two hours to get ready this morning, with about an hour of that being spent thinking through what my next moves should be: this is progress. I believe that within another few weeks I will have learned my new routine and will no longer have to think about what I am doing every morning. I will be able to cope again.
My new circles are close to completion. I hope nothing disturbs them.