*This was supposed to post at six a.m. I was so with it when I scheduled it, that I scheduled for next DECEMBER 1st. Sigh.*
Humans are creatures of ritual. It is perhaps a function of being social animals. Rituals, whether they be religious or just “this is the way we do things” help bind roving bands after all. You’re not going to run off with the band next door, even if they do get more mammoth meat per head. You know they don’t even celebrate the solstice the way it’s supposed to, and what would you want to do with barbarians like that? Why THEY don’t hang the mammoth fur at the cave entrance to scare away the spirits of the mammoth killed during the year.
Once, when younger son was very young and I was trying to figure out what was wrong with him (turned out nothing much. Apparently selective mutism is not unusual in upper IQ kids, particularly boys, and some sensory issues, which apparently are not unusual for large-headed boys.) Because his pre-school teacher was convinced he was autistic, I read a lot of books on autism. Like most books on education, kids’ problems and such, there were so truly bizarre hints and advice. One of them was that your child might be autistic if he/she wanted things done the same way every day.
Now, I don’t know about you guys, but up till about age six, every child I’ve known wanted things done in exactly the same way. If they sat at a place at table, once, they must sit at the same place everyday for the rest of the time you spend in that house. It’s just in the nature of the kid. Having learned something, they decide that this way they learned is “the proper way.”
Of course, it’s entirely possible every child I ever saw, growing up, was autistic. (Rolls eyes.)
I remember a feeling of shock at the most stupid things as a kid, when I went over to friends’ houses. Like, they cut their bread slantwise, or they heated the water for tea in a kettle not a pot.
Adults aren’t much better. Not even adults like me who theoretically hate routine so much they are unfit for the sort of repetitive honest work mostly people do. Okay, not unfit, I can do it. I just hate it with a purple passion, which is why I’ve always been attracted to the sort of job where everyday is at least slightly different: translating, teaching, writing.
But within the difference, there is a frame work of “same.” I tend to wake at a certain time, exercise, have the same thing for breakfast (soft boiled egg and tea) write this blog, then deal with correspondence, then write. If my day is thrown off because I wake up late, or because I have to get a kid out of the house exceptionally early or alternately, because husband and kids are all home all day, it will throw the whole writing thing off, too.
It is because we’re creatures of habit that things like New Years matter so much. My mom, when she was feeling exceptionally grumpy and not like doing anything on new year’s eve, would grumble that it was just a day and it was just the number on the year that changed.
Of course that’s right. The sun comes up the same way and goes down the same way in the new year and we, alas, are still us.
But it is because of that that this inflection point is important. Because, you see, it gives us an excuse.
It’s very hard to change suddenly. It’s even very hard to change rapidly. Things tend to change very slowly, as the song goes, if they ever change at all.
I’m a big believer in inflection points, for change I’m trying to make. So I believe in using things like my birthday, or new years to say “I will do things differently after this.” And try to stick to it. Does it work? With varying success. It helps if I also do something physical to my surroundings, to make things different.
The most successful inflection points are, for instance, when I move to a new house. Because I have no habits associated with that room, the way the light slants through that window, that sofa in that place, I can change everything and start anew.
But sometimes just turning my office around, changing the bookcases or their contents, adding a desk for self publishing is enough to make me have the will power to resist habit.
This year I haven’t had the time (or perhaps the will power?) to change the entire office. It needs it, but when I go through I’m going to cull books out into storage or sale, and such, and well… I’m not ready for it yet.
I did however clean the room and clear all the accumulated old piles of paper. More might happen – or not – tomorrow.
Truth is, this year, I’m not trying for any great changes. It’s not “I’m going to stop writing x” (or, “I’m going to stop writing”.) It’s not “I’m going to try to do y less or more.”
This year, I’d like to be able to concentrate more, but that might take an office with an actual door. For now, I’m going to try to read blogs and news on a different computer, so I’m not tempted to stray over there during the day. And I’m going to try to do all my publishing on alternate weekends, so I can spend the other weekend vegging. I don’t know if I can veg, but I remember being a teen and waking up and having nothing to do all day. I don’t know if I can recapture that (and it was never every day) but I’m willing to give it a spin. Maybe then I’ll get sick less. Who knows?
Happy New Year, and may all your changes be for the best.