Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Re-Routing My Brain by Not Walking This Way

Shaking Up the Same Old, Same Old

Walk this way no longer.
Eighteen years of stepping out the door onto the deck end abruptly when the deck no longer exists. The weathered, beaten, and bleak-looking deck is being replaced. The manly guys living here spent hours wrestling with crowbars and ripping out the past-their-prime planks in preparation for the new, improved version.
During the first several hours of deck nonexistence, I still walked through the kitchen toward the deck door. As soon as the planks came up, I had wisely locked it, knowing that old habits die hard. During the daylight, it was easier to avoid the door because it’s easy to see through the glass that there is no deck. At night, well, it’s good the door is locked. It’s been three days since the planks were removed, and I’m more accustomed to the lack of a deck. However, the first few days were hard. My brain had eighteen years of practice, so its memory pathways from the kitchen to the deck are well worn and on autopilot. No longer. The deck will be completed in a week or so, but in the meantime, I have re-routed the part of my brain that says “out the kitchen door and onto the deck.”

Out the kitchen door and onto the deck is no longer an option.
It is an interesting experience. I feel like part of my brain is reawakened. Instead of walking on autopilot out the door, I had to think—to pay attention—the first few days. The French door is most often used to take out the trash and recycling, so I had to reconsider what door to use.
Coordination has never been a characteristic of mine, so it’s unfortunate that my only key is to the deck door. I have been playing balance beam walker to get to the door without falling onto the ground between the support beams and gouging myself on extraneous nails. I am locking the doors less and less as I leave the house.
One habit that likely won’t change over the next week is where we put the recycling. We are so accustomed to putting it near the door that we continue to place recyclables on the same counter we’ve used for years and years. It’s fine as long as no one decides to take said recycling out the same way we have for years and years.
The recyling will go out, but not through this door.
Having to give some attention to where and how I walk has made me consider how much of what I do is on autopilot and how often I don’t think about what I do, where I go, how I get there, where I step. Like most people, I take the same route to the store, where I buy the same things I usually buy, I walk the same pathway to the mailbox, I drive the same way to the beach, I go to the same beach. Most of my daily life involves little thinking, little planning, little plotting. I don’t think that’s such a good thing.
Going a different route, tasting a new food, taking the long way to the beach, and even going to a different beach will shake up those neurons and forge new pathways in my brain. That doesn’t mean I’ll take a route other than I-95 when I drive back to Florida in early September, but it does mean that I just might stop when I near those places I have always sped past on the highway. (I will not, however, stop at South of the Border.) It means I just might pull into one of those rustic-looking restaurants on U.S. 1 on the drive from Sebastian to Melbourne. It means I might read a book outside my preferred genres—maybe one on history. Waking up and watching my step also means taking some new, different steps.

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