The Pleasures of Routine

“Be regular and orderly in your life…so that you may be violent and original in your work.” – Gustave Flaubert

The rentrée used to make me jittery. Perhaps counterintuitively, August has always been my favorite month, not despite, but because of how it changes the face of the city: shops close, streets empty, Parisians flee to the countryside for month-long vacations. Left in the wake is more space, a slower pace and time to properly indulge.

EVERYTHING gets in on the rentree action, including...artificial plants?

EVERYTHING gets in on the rentree action, including…artificial plants?

When everyone comes pouring back in September, the flurry of activity after the calm of summer jolts me. The very air brims with nervous energy on overdrive. The start of school, the return to work, signups for everything under the sun from gym memberships to classes through the mairie.

This year, though, I truly joined in the spirit of the rentrée. I’ve realized that it spells renewal and opportunity. Setting new intentions. Creating a new schedule. Really, the rentrée is more important than New Year’s for making resolutions.

I'm even styling up my wardrobe with a new Chanel bag! Actually, this is an adorable gift I won from the concept store "Gab & Jo" at Prete-Moi Paris' 5 year blogiversary party.  (Get it? A cat is a "chat" and you don't pronounce the "t" in French. So voila! Cha - nel!) Photo courtesy of Lost in Cheeseland.

I’m even styling up my wardrobe with a new Chanel bag! Actually, this is an adorable gift I won from the concept store “Gab & Jo” at Prete-Moi Paris’ 5 year blogiversary party. (Get it? A cat is a “chat” and you don’t pronounce the “t” in French. So voila! Cha – nel!) Photo courtesy of Lost in Cheeseland.

As often happens with resolutions, initially my ambitions ran high. Dance classes, piano lessons, writing workshops, volunteering – I wanted to do it all. Lots of people manage to juggle all that, but I was ruthless in my goal: balance. I want to relax after work, get out of the house just enough so I don’t go batty, and boost my energy, not drain it.

And so, I have a new, revised routine that’s not overloaded, but offers enough structure to please, not pressure. 2 dance classes and a writing workshop are the weekly evening activities leaving the other nights for seeing my beau, creative projects and the occasional party.

It’s had the bonus effect of increasing my productivity. Freelancing at home, I can technically work any crazy hours I’d like and have done just that in the past. I’m only a couple months in, but the routine has been so helpful so far. Flexibility remains one of the best parts of working at home, but having boundaries forces me to focus. Discipline does not come naturally to me otherwise.

It seems it almost doesn’t matter what exactly I’m doing, just that I commit to specific time slots. To whit: when I saw a “portes ouvertes” sign at a studio in my neighborhood in early September, I decided to try it out (free often gets me in the door). Though I was looking for modern dance, the studio specializes in Latin dances – salsa, bachata, and the like. They did have a few outliers, however, and outlier that I am, I gravitated to those.

That’s how I ended up in “street jazz latino.” Basically, it’s hip-hop with a Latin flavor. The teacher reminds me a little of myself when I first arrived in Paris. (Well, not entirely: she’s Chilean and has appeared in music videos!) But she came for vacation, fell for the city (and from what I gather, maybe a man, too) and is now leading classes even though she barely speaks French. The classes are a mix of Spanish, English, and français, recalling my own mangled mix-up teaching Pilates many moons ago. (My other class is more traditional, lead by a lovely French woman and incorporating lots of classical moves like pirouettes and pas de bourrées.)

Street jazz latino is really the most random class I could have imagined, but it’s fun. The actual studio space isn’t the most ideal, either, but it’s a reasonable walk from home and reasonably priced and it gets me off my bum after sitting behind the computer all day. So, you know. Just do it.

The other amazing development is my writing workshop, led by another new arrival, Shannon Cain. Only here since mid-June, she’s already lit up Paris’ anglophone literary scene with her racy readings (she writes a lot about sex) and appearances on TV. In a matter of months she’s created a community of serious writers that I hadn’t been able to find for 8 years.

I’m not sure how long I’ll remain smitten with this regular routine. I wonder if part of the attraction is the chance to settle comfortably after several months of traveling. I loved my adventures this year (from residencies to Mardi Gras to the beautiful island of Guadeloupe). But boy did getting back home feel great!

I think even more, it’s a sense of finally starting to belong. Those of you who have been on this Paris ride with me for a long time, know it’s been a rollercoaster. Ups and downs will always continue – that is the nature of life, yes? – but I’m feeling more content than I can ever remember feeling here. Paris has so often made me feel awkward, foreign, frustrated, even as its strong charm always kept me captive to her. To finally feel like I have a real place here is a revelation. I am so very grateful.light therapy

The true test begins now, though. France just turned back its clocks this past weekend so darkness will now fall impossibly early. The lack of light and the long winters are what always do me in here.

So as soon as the time change occurred (which I had completely forgetten about – willful amnesia?), I went online and ordered one of those light therapy lamps. It’s an early birthday present to myself and a gesture toward trying to maintain the positive energy.

And you? Do you have a routine (or ritual) that keeps you going?

11 Responses to “The Pleasures of Routine”

  1. 1 buffyschilling October 28, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    Sounds like you have found a truly happy life in Paris. I wish I could have a routine. I too wanted to take dance lessons. I long to learn the Argentine tango and many other ballroom dancing steps I see on dancing with the stars, but my schedule doesn’t permit it. Having a revolving 24 hr shift is great unless you want to take a class of any kind. So I just daydream about it, or be happy dancing to my WIi. My routine consists of getting up for work, letting the dog out and feeding him. I get my food from the fridge, pack my stuff in the car and head off to another day of work. Maybe one day I can slow down a bit and have a routine. A good one I dream about, of activities similar to yours, dance classes and writing workshops. Don’t let the winter get you down, embrace it. That’s what is great about the change of seasons. It’s something new, a time of change for yourself.

    Take care.



    • 2 paris (im)perfect October 28, 2014 at 2:59 pm

      Hi Buffy! I know happiness (like any emotion) is ephemeral, but I’m certainly enjoying it while I can. Also, you’ve been one of my dedicated readers from the early days – you know it’s taken me YEARS to carve out something like this (the other caveat, of course, is that what I have going at the moment could change AT ANY TIME. The nature of freelancing. It does sound less brutal than a revolving 24-hour shift, though. Wow!)

      Great advice about the changing seasons. Yes, I should just remember it’s a time for me to change, too, even as the outside light wanes. Inner light grows brighter? 😉


  2. 4 I Say Oui October 29, 2014 at 1:21 am

    Your caption to the plant picture made me laugh.

    Glad your routine is doing you good! I recently started volunteering once a week and taking Spanish classes. I like having a mix of structured activities and free time too.


  3. 8 Piaf Vintage French November 2, 2014 at 11:37 am

    It sounds like you’ve got a great routine. This makes me want to lay down habits and routines for myself as well, but teaching full time, plus juggling multiple creative project and the occasional freelance job means a constantly changing schedule. I’m always feeling drained but I think adding some physical acitivity like dancing (which sounds like great fun) might help boost my energy. Thanks for sharing your routine and I’m happy to hear you’re growing roots in Paris, not a small feat!


    • 9 paris (im)perfect November 2, 2014 at 1:56 pm

      Hello! Oh, I know. It is truly difficult to set up a routine when the schedule is constantly changing. Believe me, I know! I’ve gone through so many different set-ups and projects. My situation is only possible at the moment because (knock on wood), I now have a pretty regular freelance gig. Otherwise, yes, it’s so hard when new things are constantly being thrown your way. But I think the idea of the time slots can help, no matter what you’re doing. The projects you’re working on may change, but not *when* you’re working on them. (What I’m writing changes, for example, but not when I’m writing).

      But the biggest tip for me really is the exercise. OMG, no matter how drained or scattered I’m feeling, I ALWAYS feel a million times better after dance class. Even when I don’t think I have the time to go, I make myself…and it magically seems to GIVE me time back because it grounds me and refocuses me. So, definitely give it a try!

      And thank you so much. I am growing roots in Paris and it feels great. I wholeheartedly agree: not an easy feat! It’s been a very long process (which is still continuing, of course), but it helps to pause a moment and recognize how far I’ve come.

      It looks like you’re on a wonderful journey, too. Just stopped by your blog (and shop) – how lovely! I’ve never been to Grenoble and would like to go. So much to see and do in this world, eh? (We have to get out our routines to explore, too 🙂 )


  4. 10 sweetmaddy November 4, 2014 at 1:42 am

    I have been contemplating buying a fake-sun lamp for years too! Keep us updated on whether it works please!

    I always relish my weekly choir rehearsals. Lots of breathing plus the community and great music make it really fun! We have a concert this month – Bernstein Chichester Psalms and the Fauré Requiem ( – shameless marketing plug!) I just bought tix to an opera and subscribed to la Philharmonie de Paris so I am guaranteed some good music-listening this year. I’m also in complete agreement about exercise, although lately I’ve only been able to fit in walks and some light yoga. But even the tiniest amount is great!

    Your dance classes sound lovely – I have no rhythm.


    • 11 paris (im)perfect November 4, 2014 at 11:39 am

      I am sitting here with the fake sun lamp for the FIRST TIME as I type this. The blast of blue light certainly woke me up – will be interesting to see how it works over the long run.

      Your choir sounds lovely. I’ve always wanted to be able to sing. So, you sing for me, I’ll dance for you 😉

      Light yoga and walking sounds super. Another good thing about living in such a walkable city is getting exercise even just running errands. I love it!

      Thanks so much for stopping by!


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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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