My Cousin Suggests, Brush Your Teeth with the Opposite Hand

Sometimes that can be a messy effort, but it’s still a good change for my brain–it eliminates a rut. For the whim of it, switch your watch to your opposite hand and see how it feels for a day. I change it up by taking the opportunity to drive a different street or move my home office around. Again.

We get into ruts, routines, habits. Sometimes this is good; habits improve efficiency and give us boundaries. Efficiency leads us to get better at that thing we’re habitually doing. And boundaries? They give us something to occasionally shatter.

Habits, for me, are good for at least the little things.

In the big things, though, in my overall picture of life, small ruts to others are massive chasms to me.

I want rid of the guest bed dominating a large space in my office. When I announced this to Alex, he balked, “But we have to have a guest bed.”

“Why? We’ve had eight guests in seven years and only one of them stayed more than one night.”
“Because it’s unconventional not to have a guest bed.”
“Fine, then we’ll move it into your office.”
“Ah, how about a day bed?”

Yes, I want our guests to be comfortable when they come. But do I feel the need to have this bed take up space that could otherwise be used more efficiently? No. It’s a convention I don’t need to conform to.

Leave a rut--take a new road
Winding Wyoming roads

Travel Stops Ruts

Even as a kid, I liked going new places, seeing new things, overcoming fears or preconceived ideas. Learning history or seeing unusual places gives me joy. Frequently, I learn about the people who lived there or who inhabit those spaces now. As I age, the places become more and more about the people.

Trips gave us the chances to discover Madrid, Amsterdam, Lyon, Prague, Italy, and several cities in Germany. I speak kindergarten Deutsch, but no Czech at all. Americans traveling abroad are spoiled because English is the language of business. It’s the common denominator between countries. Because we aren’t bilingual, we are taken out of our ruts by being surrounded with people speaking, laughing, and communicating in languages we don’t understand. We learn words, begin to understand cultural differences and appreciate the things that are different from home. The immersion becomes comfortable and becomes the norm. 

Trying foods we’ve never tasted before, we come home with ideas of new dishes to create in the kitchen. We hope we leave a positive impression of Americans with these people who are kind enough to spend time with us.

That new normal becomes easy to get around in. We relax and get into a new rhythm.

Our ruts are inverted and become hills that we enjoy climbing.

Growing Up in the US

In the United States, unless you are in a major city—one much larger than Pittsburgh—you don’t grow up knowing how to use public transportation. I was in my forties until I rode a train for the first time. In Europe, trains are as simple to use as walking or bike riding. Trains become such an easy form of transportation that I could live without ever driving a car again. 

When my sister and I travel, we find ourselves immersed in daily conversations with strangers. Sharing gin and tonics, we became great friends with the woman whose cottage we rented in Saundersfoot. We spent an hour with the former mayor of Tenby, Pembrokeshire as he gave us an impromptu tour. At the start of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, we discuss the universe with a man we just met. In those snippets we learn things we couldn’t have known if we never left home.

In Our House Once More

Home again, I’ve rearranged the living room and the kitchen, shuffled things in my office and decided to keep the double bed after all. I’ve altered my perspective by moving the furniture, after moving myself around first.

Travel, changing furniture, these are ways to keep us out of ruts. I’m flipping things around to make sure that I keep seeing life in a new light.

Changing big and little things keeps us out of ruts. What do you do to keep some new hills in front of you?