Creatures of habit

Jan 7, 2017

The other day, I watched our Jack Russell fidget impatiently by the bedroom door, waiting for someone to let him into the hallway. Directly behind him was an alternate path that led through the bath to the living area on the other side of the house. Because he’s in a new home, he never considered exiting via this route. After I released him from his self-imposed trap, I began thinking about how I, too, am a creature of habit locked into boundaries established only my mind.

I go out to eat and order old favorites every time. I leave the house for my daily walk and travel the same direction so often I may establish ruts as deep as those on the Oregon Trail. I visit the same shelves in our library and select books by favorite authors. I push a cart down the grocery aisle and fill it with familiar brand names and products. I pick music by either the same artists or genres every time I listen to Pandora or a CD. I use old recipes to make our favorite foods. I open my closet and wear the same pair of jeans and sweater until they are threadbare. This list goes on interminably, telling me I need to shake life up.

Some people think altering existence means making a major change like a new job, home, or spouse. That isn’t what I’m talking about. While those adjustments alter life dramatically, they can’t be undone, so those choosing such a path better be sure they’re ready for serious readjustment. I’m thinking more subtle changes will freshen my perspective.

After observing little Buster waiting for me to let him out when he could easily have left on his own,  I think little   modifications might help me consider possibilities I previously haven’t. I’ll start with changes in food, walking paths, books, music, and maybe wardrobe.

To start, I’ll try a new restaurant or a new dish. An easy switch might involve a different brand of coffee. Maybe I could experiment for a week or two with drinking tea as my morning pick-me-up. I tend to follow the same recipes meal after meal, so I might explore new ingredients or spices. Who knows how differently I’ll see cooking and eating? 

My next adventure involves exploring new routes. This is difficult in a small community, but taking a different direction each time I walk will help me see my world differently. Boredom dulls senses and attention to detail. Perhaps this minor change will intensify my awareness of what I see, hear, and smell as I pass familiar territory season after season.

Exploring new tastes in books, music, and clothing are going to require discipline on my part. Unless forced, I prefer to read mysteries and non-fiction. When I branch out because of a book club or class assignment, I’m relieved to close that novel and return to my comfort zone. I feel the same way about musicians and fashion. I want to listen to the old hymns in church or familiar rhythms on the radio. It’s hard to listen to grating tunes or wear an uncomfortable clothing.

I have to remember that like my old pooch I need to consider options. Living life the same way all the time creates obstacles that might have easy solutions. Anyone want to join me in a cup of rooibos tea?