Structure to the Max!

Embracing the Paradox of Freedom Within Structure

I think it strange that I find a lack of structure to be confining and the imposition of order to be freeing. Yet, as I observe my pets, I see that they, too, thrive on the organization of time, limits of space, and regularity of care.

Take my big, black “kitten,” for example. Now ten months old, Onyx Leo Gato started out life as a stray. He had all the freedom in the world, to go wherever he wanted to go and do whatever he wanted to do. Unfortunately–or fortunately, depending on your viewpoint–he was found wandering in traffic and was brought by two kind ladies to a vet whom the rescuers hoped would take him in. The vet directed the women to drop him off at the local shelter, but I felt sure the scrawny little creature would be put to sleep, and that simply would not do. So, I took him home, bathed him, fed him, and watched him grow into the enormous, burly boy that he is now. The “freedom” of being a stray would have meant hunger and possible death for Onyx, whereas the structure of regular meals, monthly meds for fleas and worms, and neutering mean health and life for him.

My little dachshund, too, has responded beautifully to the regularity of her schedule. Babylove knows that I will take her for a walk right after breakfast. She waits for me, ready to don her harness and leash to set out for her morning constitution. She knows that I will toss her a homemade peanut butter biscuit as soon as we get home, too. She counts on it. At 3:00 p.m., she knows that I will sit cross-legged on the floor to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and she follows me to my place, so that she can cuddle up in my lap while I pray. Before I adopted Babylove, they told me that she would never sit in anyone’s lap, and when I first got her, she would not come that close. My husband suspected that she might have been abused in her younger years. But Babylove has lived with me for almost three years now, and somewhere along the way, she came to understand that I would be constantly loving toward her and never harm her. And one day, she decided that she trusted me and climbed into my lap. The regularity of care and the constancy of my love drew her in.

Of course, limitations of space are a must for my goldfish and my hamster! Without a fish tank to hold the water he swims in, Jack would literally “drown” in air! Similarly, without his wire cage and released to the great outdoors, Chito would quickly become owl chow!

My need for structure parallels that of my pets, yet goes beyond it. Without structure in my day, I didn’t sleep regularly or enough. Without structure, I don’t eat right or exercise adequately. Without structure, I don’t align my day’s activities with my priorities. Without structure, I struggle to accomplish the goals I truly want to achieve.

Today, however, is different! Today I have determined that my writing time will be from 1:45 to 3:00 every day, except Sunday…and maybe even on Sunday! As of today, that is the schedule. That is the structure, so that during this hour and a quarter each day, I am free to write!

~ Kathleen Alford

4 thoughts on “Structure to the Max!

  1. So very true! The days I sleep in are days spent doing a lot of nothing. Days when I get up and begin my day with structure, like going to daily Mass, are so much more rewarding. I don’t do well without organization and schedule. Thank you because I know what I need to do now…set up specific times for specific activities that will keep me productive throughout the day. Not every hour of every day of course, but for those things that need prioritized! Write on!


    1. Thanks, Melanie! I’m so delighted that we are friends on Facebook, so that we can keep up with each other! I am no longer a member of the Legion of Mary. My decision to leave the group was confirmed by three priests, so I am at peace about it. I now serve as a sacristan at St. Peter’s, and I am a member of the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary. I have also become a “Spiritual Mother” through the Foundation of Prayer for Priests, which gives me great joy!


  2. Thanks, Marci! You’d be amazed how planned my day has become! The only flexible blocks of time I have left are from 9:15-11:00 a.m. and 3:15-6:00 p.m., but it is the absolute best for me! If you would be interested in seeing my “Basic Schedule”, I’d be happy to share it with you!


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