The Rockwood Files: Life on repeat

By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

There’s a framed saying at the top of our stairway that we see each time we reach the top step. In typewriter font, it reads “Wake up. Work hard. Have fun. Be kind. Repeat.”

When I saw it at a home décor store a few years ago, I bought it because I liked how simple it was – a basic to-do list for how to live life. But my favorite part of the instruction is the last one – “repeat.”

Maybe this makes me weird, but I love a good repeat. When Tom and I go out to eat, he already knows my order because I get the same thing nearly every time. I like to re-watch movies while folding laundry, and sometimes I re-read favorite books. There are a few old sitcoms with episodes I’ve watched so many times I can say some of the lines. I put favorite songs on repeat. And I often have the same lunch three or four days during the week.

So either I’m super boring (which is possible) or maybe there’s something in the human brain that finds comfort in the familiar. We gravitate to it, like Chick-fil-A tea and waffle fries.

An article on the Psychology Today website says that “from an evolutionary perspective, it makes sense that familiarity breeds liking. Generally speaking, things that are familiar are likely to be safer than things that are not. If something is familiar, we have clearly survived exposure to it, and our brain, recognizing this, steers us toward it.”

But when our brains aren’t steering us toward things that won’t kill us, they also like to take a walk on the wild side. There’s no denying how fascinated humans are with the “new and shiny.” Novelty turns heads and sparks interest.

It’s one of the reasons social media took off the way it did. It’s a great place to report on all things new and exciting – new haircuts, new accomplishments, and vacations to new places. But it’s also why so many people feel bad about their own lives after scrolling through Facebook. It’s easy to feel resentment when you see Facebook friends cruising the Caribbean while you cruise the bread aisle at Walmart – again.

But there’s nothing wrong with routine. Some of the most beautiful things I’ve seen happen every year, like the tree on my street that turns a vibrant gold in autumn. Or the tulips in my neighbor’s flowerbed bursting up through barren ground in the spring. It’s proof that even God loves a little healthy repetition. Sometimes we find serenity in the sameness of life.

Perhaps the best formula for living involves a combination of the two extremes – exposure to new things as well as the relaxation of a routine. It’s like the feeling people describe when they say they’re happy to get “back to normal” after the hectic holidays.

Sometimes the fun part of life is something we’ve never seen or done before. And sometimes it’s our favorite movie showing for the umpteenth time on cable TV.

Speaking of fun, soon we’re taking our kids to Colorado to see their uncle and aunt and to go snowmobiling on a new trail in a new place. I can hardly wait to see the view from the mountains. But when we get home, we’ll go back to basics like the ones listed at the top of our stairs: Wake up. Work hard. Have fun. Be kind. Repeat.

And I do love a good repeat.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here.