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What I Learned This Week: Why Normal is a Necessity

11/10/2014 11:18 EST | Updated 01/10/2015 05:59 EST

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Just got back from a thoroughly enjoyable long weekend in New York. Saw two plays (The River, with Hugh Jackman, and the spectacular A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) and a musical (Beautiful, the Carole King Musical). Did some shopping and ate very, very well. Stayed at the historic Algonquin Hotel. Met up with some new friends and was invited to the opening of YouTube's east coast Creator's Space. Even fit in a couple of business meetings.

The recipe for an ideal weekend, right?

Well, kind of.

Because as much as I enjoyed my time away, something felt weird.

I was away from my "normal."

My "normal" weekend is an almost ritualistic routine.

On Saturdays, I wake up, walk the dogs and enjoy an extended breakfast with the weekend Gazette. Then I conduct "my messages," which usually consists of a visit to the pharmacy, the dry-cleaners and other somewhat mundane destinations. I spend about 15-20 minutes on a Lumosity brain-training session, and a few hours reading a slew of magazines on my iPad. I write this blog post. To close out, I enjoy an evening out with friends and/or family.

Sunday, it's dog-walking again, followed by a lengthy early-morn visit to the gym. Family brunch usually comes next, and then whatever I didn't get done Saturday is then completed by Sunday eve. These days, the weekend usually closes with a cozy "movie night" at home, but come January, it'll be filled with rehearsals for a play I'm directing.

What makes this more obsessive is that the "normal" weekend is not merely a bunch of events experienced at random; the order of said events is equally as important. For example, because of a friend's mother's funeral a few weeks ago, my morning gym visit was pushed to the afternoon, which screwed up my entire Sunday.

If people talk about a "comfort zone," this one is mine.

That's why even when I'm loving what I'm doing elsewhere, I miss it.

One may think that given the whirlwind professional life I've led for 37 years (and continue to, by the way) that this type of adhesion to pedestrian routine is strange.

Yet when I discuss this phenomenon with colleagues and friends, I discover that I am not alone in my hold of the humdrum. Examples are many, but perhaps my favourite is that of my long-time neo-brother and business partner Gilbert Rozon. His life is so exponentially accelerated it makes mine look like that of a cement-encased monk, but he gets his dose of "normal" by rummaging through the many aisles of Canadian Tire.

So where's the attraction?

I'm no psychologist, but in a society where so much import is put on "authenticity," taking an anonymous stroll through the everyday makes increases one's human feel, and shows that no matter how puffed up one's day job is, once you're in Shopper's Drug Mart or Canadian Tire, you stand in line like everyone else.

The beauty of a "normal" is that there is no "norm" to it; I have my staid weekend as my personal baseline, but yours may be gardening, or carpentry, or cooking, or ironing, or hiking...or a combo thereof.

Point here is to have some sort of "normal" to call your own, a lesson that should be instinctive, but often has to be forcefully re-learned.

Trust me, I love the concept of taking risks and breaking out of one's comfort zone (something I always push, or am pushed, to do).

But to break out of one means establishing one first.