In a Cage

•July 31, 2009 • Leave a Comment
IN A CAGE - Prince Joseph Arbado Javier - acrylic

Prince Joseph Arbado Javier

Rattle the Cage

•July 31, 2009 • Leave a Comment

“NOO…I CAN’T eat that!!!!!!!!!”

So shrieked 9-year old Kirk, arms crossed and poised to defend himself, while seated at my dinner table before eight adults. His frantic response caused two women and one man to shoot out of their seats and scurry about to remove a plate, stroke a cheek, and produce a bag of crisps to stave off the emergency. A few minutes later, there was a worried silence while everyone settled down to resume their eating, and calm their nerves.

This is not about a young boy’s ability to control his environment through his eating habits, or about the pros and cons of an exclusive diet of chicken nuggets and potato chips. This is not even a story about Kirk. This is, instead, a rumination about CHANGE.
Kirk normally ate the same thing every day, and now that he was a house guest in my home, his polite parents had decided to break from his normal routine and subject him to something different. I have described Kirk’s response to this change, and his reaction made me think of the different ways any one of us responds to change, or simply stepping out of a routine. Think about it: how do you respond to change? How does a difference in routine make you feel?

On the tail of this, a colleague of mine challenged me to spend a Saturday doing things in reverse. (She suggested Saturday as presumably being a “safe” day to try something so daring, since it allowed for throwing myself into bed should the challenge become too taxing).

The challenge went something like this: whatever you would normally do that day, do it differently. If you normally get up early, stay in bed an extra hour. If you start your day in motion and communicating on email or phone or face to face, spend an hour staying completely still and quiet. If you normally watch TV, turn it off. If you normally run errands, wait until the afternoon. And so on. It sounded interesting, albeit trivial perhaps, and I was willing to give it a try.

I hadn’t quite counted on how challenging it was going to be – and sometimes even downright hard. I like to get out of bed slowly on Saturdays, and potter around the house doing pottering-type things. Instead I had scheduled myself to get out of bed one hour earlier, get dressed immediately, and sit down in a comfortable spot on the porch to read a good book for 60 minutes. Not exactly arduous, or bad for me. Yet my mind wandered…and the skill of rationalization (which I believe I have perfected for myself over the years) kicked in and I found myself thinking of all sorts of reasons why it would make much more sense to do what I normally do. From a wandering and rationalizing mind, anxiety then set in. Bad enough not to potter around, but what about the rigidly scheduled list of tasks I normally complete on a Saturday afternoon? I did not scream like Kirk, but I felt restless and a decided unease started to spread in my chest.

Why is getting out of one’s routine so hard? There is habit of course, of an almost reflexive nature, like Pavlov’s dog. There is the discomfort of veering away from the comfort of known, safe parameters. There is a fundamental fear factor: Of the unknown. Of being exposed. Of losing control. Of failing. And probably dozens more…

On the other hand (I asked myself as I threw caution, and dignity, to the wind while forcing myself to body surf) what on earth am I giving myself out of a day with no challenges, with no learning, with no awareness? How am I supporting myself by staying in my mindless comfort zone where nothing new or noticeable happens? What will I remember or learn from such a day, in this wonderful life I so often take for granted?

So I pushed myself that Saturday, and I had a day of several firsts, most of them making tiny changes, but all of them meaningful to me. I body surfed very badly – but boldly. I tried writing poetry and ended up with limericks that, at least, made me laugh (and I’m pretty good at limericks I’ve just realized). I did not complete my scheduled tasks, and realized some of them could wait until Sunday, and still others could just wait permanently, as they weren’t that important anyway. And after 25 years of wearing black mostly, and white occasionally, I wore FUSCHIA.

Since then I have made a promise to myself to shake things up a bit every week by doing one small thing differently, even if just once. The point for me is not to permanently change everything I do, but to rattle the cage, shake the tree, shift perspective – to both see and feel how rich in meaning the simplest thing can be.

What’s your relationship to change?

•July 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Stay Tuned!

•July 27, 2009 • 1 Comment

This blog will commence the first week of August 2009. Meantime, check out some video talks on the pages to the right.