Every time I go in for meetings at the record label I use their restrooms. I walk in. Check all the stalls for cleanliness. And then, despite the outcome of my observations, I always pee in stall number two. Always. Why?
I have no freaking idea. I just do. The same reason I walk into church and sit on the same aisle week after week. The same reason I have taken to glaring at the new man in my Starbucks who insists on sitting in my seat. The same reason I eat the same bowl of cereal each morning and pick the same elliptical machine at the gym. The same reason I use the same inflections in my voice as I read well-worn books to Annie each night.
I've been reading to my daughter, Annie, the same books since she was a little baby. So almost four years now. Green Eggs and Ham, Are you My Mother?, Good Night Moon, God Made You Special and Runaway Bunny, just to name a few. Each book's most memorable lines are now a part of our every day vocabulary, etched into our memory banks with their sing-songy rhythms. I have the books memorized, complete with different voices for different characters, and a whole slew of inflections to match the most magical part's of each story. So when Annie recently asked me to "read it different" I was totally taken back.
"Like with different voices or slower or faster?" I asked her puzzled.
"Let's just do the whole thing different," she said with excitement.
And I embarked on a dreadfully different version of Green Eggs and Ham where the vocal punches on "Sam I am!" sounded so awkward and forced that it was sheer torture for the drama-student in me to read. We got to the end of the book and she smiled. She liked it the first way better, she said.
Whew. Thank you Lord. Close call. I almost had to change how I did things.
I almost had to change how I did things. I couldn't believe I had just thought that, but I did. It echoed around a few hundred times in my heart and it dawned on me-
I am so built on routine (me- the free-spirited, care-free, routine-less woman) That I don't even read books differently anymore
Just a tiny moment shared with my daughter but it had the power to send my heart and soul into a tizzy. Was my life really that routine? That structured? That monotonous? That I read the same books with the same character's voices in the same exact way, day-in and day-out? I picked the same cardio machine? Sat on the same aisle Sunday after Sunday?
Had I really never peed in stall number three?!?!?
Routine is not bad. All the experts who know the *real* way to properly parent the children of the world tell you that structure and routine are pivotal to a child's development. I get that. But what about adults? It seems like there should be a book that reminds you in the aftermath of all that structure to change things up a little bit or risk loosing site of the beauty found in the diversity of life outside your own standard mode of operation.
Truth be told, I don't even realize I am making these decisions. It's not like I am making a conscious effort to only use one toilet stall or only sit in one particular seat. As if I am a germ-a-phobe or I cling to tradition with such fierce dedication that I scoff at the stranger-toilet who tries to beckon me to its stall.
It's less a matter of thinking through a decision and more a matter of not thinking at all.
Living, day-in and day-out, without giving life much thought is dangerous.
It's like getting across town and suddenly realizing you don't remember turning, taking the bridge or entering the freeway. You realize you have no idea how you ended up where you're at except for the sheer, rote habit that got you there.
Sheer rote habit, while incredibly useful and practical at times, can rob us of the beauty, whimsy and random delight that comes with reading Green Eggs and Ham like you are "Elmo's alien cousin who speaks Spanish like Dora."
Sheer rote habit, while incredibly useful and practical at times, can rob us of the beauty, whimsy and random delight that comes with changing it up a bit and seeing what it feels like to do something in a new, fresh way. It means doing things in a way that we feel ourselves pushing up against the old and brushing against something new. That we are forced to think. That we must create. That we must act on the impulses and challenge the status quo and change it up a bit for the sake of our soul. It is the work of those who are trying to live fully...
to drive a new way home fix your kids a truly bizarre afternoon snack stay in a hostel instead of the Ritz or the Ritz instead of a hostel pray in a way that makes you uncomfortable greet a stranger with a kiss listen, don't talk talk, don't listen try a new aisle brush your teeth in a different room buy an album from an unknown artist
pee in stall number three
It doesn't have to be earth-shattering There is no need to give-up routine and tradition all together
But there is beauty and life-giving joy in re-discovering that there is more than one way, in fact there are millions of different ways, to go about the act of daily living.
*Go ahead! Try something you do on a daily basis in a new or different way and tell me about it. I have spent the past month forcing myself to read books to Annie with different inflections, pauses, voices and rhythm. It is hard. It is brain exercise. But I walk away engaged, smiling, thinking and wondering with a hint of awe and excitement- how will I do it tomorrow?- and I feel a little more alive*