I keep hearing about the positive benefits of building routines and regular habits. It’ll save you time, because you’re not always thinking about minutiae. It provides regularity, stability. And I eat these messages up – regularity? Stability? Free-brain-time? Gimme some of that!
But even when I manage to make it through the mythologized 66 days to establish a new habit, well, I tweak it. I change it. I’m drawn, constantly, to trying something new. As a prairie girl, I’m used to watching the world extend in from of me for miles and miles and miles. But put me in front of a hill, and I can’t resist, I’ll climb it. What could be on the other side? Ask me to walk past that same hill every day, keep to the same routine…no, no way.
At times, I can appreciate that even the things we call “same” are never truly the same twice, and try to embrace the small daily changes rather than lusting for larger ones. Like the tall tree that caught my eye on the way home a few weeks ago, standing just off to the side from the other trees. I made it my mission to notice it every day while walking to and from work.
It stood majestically in front of an apartment building that often blasted Joan Jett, and held onto its leaves longer than the other trees. Among spiny, desperate November arms, it was a glowing sunny giant. The next day, its foliage began to thin, and the sidewalk was lightly speckled with fallen yellow leaves. The day after that, it was a little thinner, and in the afternoon the wind picked up. On the fourth day it was bare, and the sea of yellow leaves on the ground below went up past my ankles as I kicked through them gleefully. On the fifth day the leaves were raked and my commute was uninterrupted sidewalk. Blah.
So that was a fun game, noticing the tree. But now it’s over, well, in hibernation at least. I started turning down a different street on my walk home, looking for more things to catch my eye and inspire my walking time.
I wonder if the best habit I’ve ever developed is that of avoiding habits, disrupting routine. Every time I’m one step away from the cusp of boredom I’ll change the path, even just slightly, to make sure that as I’m moving along, the world still feels exciting and new.