Sunday, March 14, 2010

When Your Life Is Flat

The ordinary does not inspire. The extraordinary does. Yet most live lives entrenched in the quiet, bland and somewhat mechanical grind of daily living. Why is that? Do we really expect to find inspiration living dull, repetitive lives? What's going on here?

I'm going to blame the brain--that pattern machine designed to create efficiency so we can free our mind to think about other things. Why else would we consistently brush our teeth starting with the upper left incisors before working around to the lower right side or always pull on our stocks with the left foot before the right? Why is it that we have to wash the dishes our way and even get a little testy when someone suggests otherwise? This, despite there being at least fifty different ways to clean a pot. The brain is to blame. The brain nudges us into autopilot to free up thinking room for more important tasks, like wondering whether we will ever achieve world peace or why Tiger can't keep his balls in his bag.

I mean, can you imagine having to continually monitor your breathing or to keep thinking "I have to lift, thrust and plant my right foot and then my left one" every step you take? How crazy would that be! The brain gets you on with your daily life without burning up every brain cell in the ol' bread basket. We can all celebrate that. It's miraculous...except when it's not.

Sometimes this incredible brain and its need to perpetuate patterns begins to dominate. Repetitive, ordinary and bland--but efficient--ways to accomplish everyday tasks start to take over our lives. We wake up at 5:58 AM every morning even without the alarm, shower for eight minutes, dress in ten, work all day with two fifteen minute breaks, eat in thirty minutes, drink our 64 ounces, read the paper from front to back, complete the 42 question crossword puzzle and then go to bed at 10:15 sharp. Most of this done with little or no attention to the task at hand. Let's face it, our pattern obsessive brain has taken over and our life feels flat.

Sometimes this "flatness" goes on for years before you address it. What should you do about it? I believe I have the answer.

Disrupt your life.

I mean it. Intentionally disrupt the patterns a bit. Begin to create new ruts. Start easy. Take a new route to the grocery store. Then up the anti. Go to a different grocery store. Buy something you never bought before. Plan an entirely new recipe. Become a vegetarian. That will disrupt things. That's just the beginning. Redo your hair, rearrange your house, join a cult. Just kidding. It would be far better to start a cult! Okay, don't get carried away. You may, though, want to join a new organization or pursue a hobby.

While you're at it, change your thinking too. Notice how repetitive your thoughts have become. When your mother calls to say, "Uncle Harry is at it again. He's wearing Polka-dot suspenders with his swimming trunks, and flashing the peace sign at every republican he passes," don't shake your head and ask, as you usually do, if Uncle Harry is related to Pee-Wee Herman. Say something different. Tell your mom that you're going to buy your uncle some grip tight trunks guaranteed to keep him from exposing more flab than a pregnant rhinoceros. Tell your mother that you admire Uncle Harry's chutzpa, you just wished his suspenders were ruby red.

Oh yeah, the brain will be confused for a bit, but then, just when you got it on the ropes, go in for the sucker punch. Look for something beyond ordinary, something extraordinary, magnificent, or even holy. We've all heard about the "weird guy down the street" who flew off to India to seek a guru or about the gal who abandoned her family for one of the Chippendale's, or about the guy who emptied his IRA account to buy a Lamborghini. These folks are seeking inspiration. They probably don't realize yet that the real breath-taking wonder they want lies all around them and that there are more marvelous, not to mention less destructive, ways to bring depth, texture and color back into their life. They just want the blandness to go away. Who can blame them.

So when your life needs a little inspiration, make a change. Disrupt the patterns and look for the extraordinary, whatever that is to you. Your brain will be glad for the disruption, eventually. Your spirit will be aroused and possibly ecstatic. Best of all, your flat life will be enriched with a few mountain views.

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