Thursday, January 07, 2010


Before civilization, humans lived to two basic rhythms, day and night, and the seasons. Civilization, especially technological civilization, has changed that dramatically. We aren’t tied to the sun anymore, nor to the soil. Our lives have taken on different rhythms.

For most of my life, I’ve lived to the rhythm of school, first as a student, then as a teacher. Most folks finished their schooling and moved into the relatively standard five day a week, 52 week a year rhythm. I never did. I became part of a sub-tribe within the population, the school tribe.

The other day, Lana and I were going to town and she told me to avoid taking a specific road because it was around 3:00 and the school kids would be getting out. I had to remind her that school was out for Christmas. She works at the library, and though they certainly don’t have the same workload every day of the year, their loads are much more regular than those the school tribe deals with.

For roughly the past three weeks, the school tribe’s rhythm has slowed way down. In some cases it probably came to a standstill. I did a very little school work over the Christmas break, but only because of the Human Subjects committee that I chair. Other than that, I got up when I wanted, went to bed when I wanted, and worked only on personal choices, like my writing.

Then came yesterday. For the school tribe, our rhythm often goes from zero to sixty in one day. Yesterday, we started our semester. Classes won’t be in session until next week, but we faculty started yesterday, and today is registration. As an analogy, it feels like I pulled out of my nice country driveway onto the interstate and had to be at 70 MPH when my wheels touched the pavement. Except for a few blips for such things as Mardi Gras and Easter, we’ll be at that speed most of the way through until May, when things will drop to zero again.

I like the school rhythm. I’m used to it. I’ve adjusted my writing around it. I suppose if I lived to a different rhythm I would have adjusted. But it’s not easy to imagine just how that would have played out.

Do you ever think of the rhythm you live to? Would another rhythm be better? Or worse?

Here's a video about Rhythm: From the Scorpions!
Rhythm of Love


Laurie Powers said...

I'm used to going about 90 mph and working under pressure, but I'm not sure I like it. But then once things fall off to a more reasonable pace, I find myself wandering around the house wondering what to do.

Paul R. McNamee said...

I'm definitely caught in my weekday rhythm(s). I often find myself doing daily chores (cat tending, etc.) immediately on weekend mornings or else I forget to do them entirely because of the routine change.

Charles Gramlich said...

Laurie, fortunately, I have a book handy everywhere for the moments when it quietens.

Paul, I do that too. I appreciate a routine because it helps me remember such things.

Anonymous said...

Charles, I completely understand the school rhythm. This will be offically my 11th year of university. I'm going to be finishing my 3rd degree in July. I'm already contemplating applying for another program after I'm finished this one.

I just don't know what to do with myself when I don't have the added pressures of school to keep me busy--even when I have 3 or 4 books on the go.

Vesper said...

I have a rhythm imposed by work and family and my desire for writing. It's incredibly fast-paced but I like to think I've adapted to it.
It's interesting that during the holidays, away from work, I settled very quickly into a completely different rhythm. Too bad it couldn't last longer... :-)

laughingwolf said...

[sorry charles, video doesn't work for me :( ]

as for rhythm, i prefer to follow the circadian... in my dotage ;)

Scott D. Parker said...

I, too, have had a lifelong school rhythm. I attended school from age 5 to age 30. Even in those years before my son started school, the 'school year' was around me. Frankly, I enjoy it.

Bernita said...

I found it difficult to adjust to a non-school rhythm when the kids had finished school.

Barrie said...

By nature I'm a night owl. But...I have children who get up early and have to be taken to school, etc. I'm constantly trying to readjust, but am often tired. :)

ArtSparker said...

I make my own hours, so it's more a matter of keeping to discipline.

I'm intrigued by the Overlordish name of the committee you chair.

Natasha Fondren said...

I'm trying to adjust to a new, non-school rhythm. It's not working well. Yet. But I guess, give it time.

Charles Gramlich said...

Christine Purcell, well you have the energy for it. Get it while you’re young!

Vesper, It takes me about two to three days to completely alter my rhythm for school or holiday.

laughingwolf, hum, I couldn’t figure out how to imbed it. I like the sleep rhythm myself.

Scott Parker, I do too. I especially like it these days when I can take summers off. I couldn’t when my son was young and now I can get so much writing done in the summer time.

Bernita, I wonder what it’ll be like for me when I retire. Well, that’s a ways off yet.

Barrie, I’m a night owl as well. In the summers or on vacation, I often stay up till at least 3 and sleep in the morning and then again in the afternoon. During work times I’m often tired for sure.

ArtSparker, I don’t mind keeping the hours I impose on myself. I’m good at that. The Human subjects committee is also called the IRB, and oversees all research using human participants at Xavier. It’s a busy committee.

Charles Gramlich said...

Natasha, it'll come in time, I'm sure.

G. B. Miller said...

Interesting post.

I think I got three distinct rhythms going.

1) Work during payweek. I usually have a whacked out 4 day period that stretches from payday Thursday to Tuesday, that requires me to enter/audit about 600 timesheets, so we start frazzled and finish frazzled.

2) Work during non-payweek. The other 6 days I spend bored out of mind because all my work is done from those previous 4 days. This is where I get into trouble for doing things like writing.

3) Weekends. Weekends are about the only time I can act like a real normal person, just like everyone else here (for those who don't know, I work in state government, thus you have to suck up to the general public 9 hours a day/5 days a week). I can goof off and move at my own abnormal speed.

ivan said...

I.M. Maudlin says,

Rhythms and rhythms.

I too was a teacher at different universities.
Loved the rhythms you describe.

But comes a time of tumult. Snapped continuity.

And oh, how hard it is then to make the crooked straight. To tape the film back together. To try to restore the rhythm.

Steve Malley said...

Oddly enough, I've just been introducing a newcomer to the rhythms of our tattooing tribe:

1. Weekends, we work. Socializing with friends and family who work 'straight' jobs is a thing of the past.

2. We don't start til 11. Many of us sleep in. (I write.)

3. Weekdays, when you're off, it's like having the town to yourself.

4. Income is seasonal. Bills get paid in the summer, belts tightened in the winter.

There's more, but I don't want to bore you. Basically, our new artist needs to get used to living out of synch with much of the rest of the world.

Me, though, I wouldn't trade it for anything!

nephite blood spartan heart said...

All my rhythum's amount to chaos. What little order exist's ironically is dictated by the kids schedule.

BernardL said...

I think we all share the 0 to 70 blips from time to time in whatever we do. Most of life is like the old story of the boy hitting himself in the head with a hammer. When his Mom walks in and asks him why he's doing it, the kid says, 'because it feels so good when I stop'. :)

laughingwolf said...

i like my sleep, but i also have an 8-month-old pup ;) lol

Travis Cody said...

Hmmmm...I've never categorized my life this way, but it makes sense.

I'm part of that 40hr week tribe. We're coming off our busiest time in my mini-tribe of operations as we finish the end of one fiscal year and begin a new one. So that gets us going 1000mph downhill with no breaks for awhile.

But then we taper off some. We still move in the go-fast lane, but at least we're not flashing our brights at some ijit who won't get out of the way.

Cloudia said...

Sometimes I feel guilty being a spoiled writer-house wife. I worked from a young age and feel like a bum sometimes.

Aloha, Friend!

Comfort Spiral

jodi said...

Charles, I have always found adjusting to changing rhythms a challenge, be it a new baby, swing shifts, etc. I guess I am rather adaptable. But while on vacation, I sometimes miss the rhythm of my regular routine...Oh, I also avoid my street at 2:30 p.m. when the high school gets out. Now that they have a closed campus, lunch hours are not so crazy!

Charles Gramlich said...

G, that is a kind of twisted schedule. I like mine better.

ivan, There is no rhythm quite like a broken rhythm.

Steve Malley, A nice thing about the school rhythm is the time off during weekdays when others are working. And I like to take those times to hit the restaurants or go to the Quarter.

David J. West, I remember when my son’s schedule dictated my own. It’s been quite a few years since then.
BernardL, I think the 0 to 70 blips are more predictable for school rhythms because you know the first and last of the semesters will be hell. But all jobs certainly have their feasts and famines

laughingwolf, man, that makes me sleepy just thinking of the sleep you’re missing.

Travis, I was thinking that accountants would be having a serious 0 to 60 about now. Even for the 40 hour a week tribe.

Cloudia, I feel a bit like that in the summer at times, since up until the last few years I always taught in the summer

Jodi, yes, when school is in session there are definitely some escape and avoidance strategies needed.

Lana Gramlich said...

After many years of life at 90mph, I must say that I much prefer my current life of 2mph. I do miss making special occasions out of seasonal changes, however. Perhaps I should get back into that again.

Gary Dobbs/Jack Martin said...

As always great post and check out the Archive for your award -

the walking man said...

10 years ago I was working 18 hour days, two jobs and making some serious cash. Then that ended and it took me a few years to adapt to this new rhythm of nothing to do that I don't want to do.

The drag is having the wife working PT and having her week broke up enough where there is no mini road trips that we are able to take because as soon as we get there we'd have to turn around for her to be at work.

Of the two I prefer the former the most, not for the money as much as the work, being able to do more, repair more, and find a way to do it better than them who swam in the same pond.

G. B. Miller said...

Yeah, I know, it's twisted. Been like that for the past 3 1/2 years. And with the way the economy is here in this state, it's gonna be like that for the foreseeable future.

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana Gramlich, not a lot of seasonal changes here my sweets.

ARCHAVIST (Gary), whoa, cool. I'm off to look.

Mark, I was thinking this morning how much I do appreciate my job, although I often complain. But I wouldn't trade it.

G, A lot of folks are living to strange rhythms these days, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Mmmm... I have worked to different rhythms as a shift-worker, including night shifts as a midwife, which have a very special rhythm of their own. In fact I have a draft post which I never posted for a theme thursday theme of rhythm:


Night Duty


She stirred to that incessant noise. Peering at her alarm clock she noted that it was just gone mid-day. Groaning inwardly, her body a dead-weight, she listened to the rhythmic sound that woke her:


Her bored son, waiting for mum to wake, marking the seconds with the pounding of his basketball. Closing her eyes, allowing the beat to meld with her thoughts, she remembered the rhythms of the night's work just gone:

monitors bleeping,
clocks ticking,
wombs contracting,
newborns suckling
and the sweet syncopation of babies breathing.

Sleep stolen, her own biorhythms screaming at their disruption, she shook off the bedcovers and rose to embrace the

bap, bap, bap, bap, bap, bap


perhaps I'll post it one of these days!

Merisi said...

I have often thought about the rhythm of school and academia. Those so-called breaks, Christmas, spring, summer, could do a world of good to other professionals too. What would happen if everybody would be free for a few weeks during the year to develop some other interests, discover and explore creative sides, other intellectual pursuits?

Charles Gramlich said...

Cinammon, I like that post. I think it could work.

Merisi, I agree. We all need some more creative time.

Voidwalker said...

I used to live to a rhythm, I'm a virgo afterall.... BUT, now with the introduction of my fiancee' and her 4 children, I ascribe to chaos.

Akasha Savage. said...

I, too, work in a school, and I love the rhythm of my days. I like the fact that every few weeks there is a break to catch up with life...and my writing!

Randy Johnson said...

I'm familiar with the concept. I ran into it years ago. I had worked for many years during the day.

Then I moved to working at night.

It was a whole new world. sleeping hours were different. In getting out and about taking care of business, everywhere I went, I saw other people than I was used to. All my friends and relationships were built up over the course of my years of daylight hours.

I was lost for awhile until I adjusted to this completely odd world.

Rick said...

Life rhythms sounds like a great title for a new book by you, Charles. It has that "instant bestseller" sound!

Unknown said...

I'm taking atavistic pleasure in being unemployed and alone most days. Foraging, napping on and off. Rhythm is non existent. So is rat race.

Charles Gramlich said...

Voidwalker, children equal chaos. Notice that the words start with the same letter.

Akasha Savage, yes, now that I'm not longer an administrator I can really enjoy those breaks and get my own work done.

Randy Johnson, I worked a couple of summers on the night shift. I didn't mind so much at 18 but I bet it would kill me now. But I also had buddies working the same shift as I did at the time. Lana had a very similar experience to yours when she used to work nights.

Tag, When I get a break it doesn't take long for me to fall out of my usual routine.

Charles Gramlich said...

Rick, given my writing and reading habits, "Death Rhythm" might be a better title.

Lisa said...

I never thought of it that way but how true that is, we are living to a rhythm.

I think who you dance your rhythm with that counts.

Mary Witzl said...

Our semester break started just yesterday. I swear to God, if it had been a week later, I'm not sure I'd have made it.

The first job I ever got was working as a file clerk in Miami. I'll never forget the horror of realizing that people who worked didn't get off a couple of weeks for Christmas, just a couple of days. I'm a lot more comfortable with the school rhythm, even if that does mean putting up with school BS.

Charles Gramlich said...

Ocean Girl, that makes a big difference. Lana sure makes my rhythm easier.

Mary Witzl, yes, we have our crosses to bear, but there are some nice advantages. Back when I was chair of the dept I seldom actually got off for holidays much, but as a faculty member I'm much more free.

Michelle's Spell said...

Hey Charles,
I haven't taught in about a year and I'm still caught up thinking of time in semesters. I'm not sure what kind of pattern will eventually replace it -- things have been pretty scattershot lately, but I'm guessing I've been in school for so long, I'll always kind of think of things that way. And I'm a creature of routine in a big way -- I started making schedules for myself at five years old so you can see the evil started early. Some horror novel child in a movie like She Came With A Day Planner . . .

Erik Donald France said...

Rhythms indeed, complete with rituals and tribal totems. One of the oddest things about most US schools: starting in the late summer, ending in the spring; seems opposite of agricultural rhythms. I hope we move away from factory rhythyms dedicated to the time clock. We're going digital!

Charles Gramlich said...

Michelle, I imagine it's in your blood by now. Not going to be easy to shed that skin.

Eric, I actually heard some talk about that recently among some educators, especially about K through 12. About how we don't need summers off for agricultural purposes anymore. I still hope they don't take away long breaks though. As a kid I personally learned a lot and got a lot of reading done during breaks.

Tom Bailey said...

The less than ultra conservative side of me does like the scorps. thanks for sharing that.

When you use tribes in this concept it reminds me very much of the book tribes.

The school rhythm works for you stay with it. It does not work for me for a variety of reasons.

Best regards,
Tom Bailey

Chris Benjamin said...

My rhythm has been thrown upsidedown by a 13.5 month old morning man.

j said...

I wouldn't change the rhythm of my life for anything. I dance to the beat that my kids set with their schooling and activities. It's interesting that you use the description of rhythm... from the hours of 7am until 3:15, my life has a definite free flow. Until they walk through the door. Then I do the Momma dance again :)

pattinase (abbott) said...

Always having been married to a teacher, my year goes September to September.

sage said...

interesting thoughts--life is about rhythm--not only day and night, but the seasons and even the tides, rhythm allows for an ebb and flow, activity and rest

Charles Gramlich said...

Tom Bailey, the very inconsistency of the school rhythm can be hard on some. I've adjusted and like it but I can see why some wouldn't.

benjibopper, children and chaos. They go together!

jennifer, with kids in school but you not working in the school, you have an almost reverse school rhythm.

pattinase, indeed. Even seeing it in print gives me comfort. ;)

Charles Gramlich said...

Sage, the season Rhythms are different here in Louisiana but we still have them.

Steven said...

I've always liked the idea of being tied to the rhythm of nature like a lot of the ancient North American tribes. There's something spiritual in that.

writtenwyrdd said...

I have worked to three different rythms during my life: military rythm, shiftwork rythm, and wage-slave five-day work week rythm.

I liked shiftwork because there was never a predictable pattern to my life; and the downside was also that there was no predictable pattern to my life. (It also takes, on average, five years off your life.)

I was forced to the conclusion that the diurnal pattern we used to follow as farmers or hunter/gatherers is the best one for our function.

Now, about the stress level of our modern life...? :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Steven, I'm a fan of that too. I just am so much of a nature boy.

Writtenwyrd, Lana has done swing shift and man it does take a toll from what she says. I've done it only a couple of summers. I like my rhythm now, though.

cs harris said...

I've been out of the workaday world for so long that I think if I had to get up, go to work, and be around people everyday, all day, I'd need some kind of medication. Even a busy week is a strain.

Charles Gramlich said...

Candy, I go through this every summer. I'm off in the summer and become a near hermit. Then I go back to school and the lights are so bright and the noise so loud. It takes some adjustment.