When I was a kid, I remember reading a book called A Happy Day. It was part of a series of early, start preschool readers developed by educators in the mid ‘60s to help young children to recognize and read a number of common one or two syllable words. My mom, a teacher and pack rat kept them all and bestowed them upon me to share with James.
It’s not that the books weren’t good – I learned to read and take an interest in reading because of them. However, when I looked closer at my favorite A Happy Day, I realized that this book was not just a cute story about an everyday situation. It was about conforming to socially accepted behaviors.
It said to children, when you do these things, in this order, you will have a happy day – get up, get dressed, get breakfast, get wet, go to school on time, come home, eat dinner, get tired, go to bed. And then you get to do it all over again. How uninspiring!
What if doing the same things over and over again made you unhappy? What if the girl in the book announced to her mom that she was going to do everything in a different way?
Instead of getting dressed, she wore her pajamas to school. Instead of eating cereal for breakfast, she ate a cheeseburger. Instead of walking to school, she skipped to school. You get the idea. There’s more than one way to do something.
We all have our to-do lists, routines and comfort zones. Maybe you take the same route to work every day, always shop at the same store, avoid wearing horizontal stripes because you think it makes you look fat, drink Starbucks every morning, listen to Glenn Beck, answer the phone without smiling, or eat dinner sitting down at the table.
Do you ever find yourself uptight, grumpy and unfulfilled? What if you changed things up and did something you’ve never done before – just for one day?
It’s not easy. The other day, I decided to take a different route to work. I was so happy enjoying the ride through the park that I took a wrong turn and headed the opposite way. As I began to chastise myself for being an idiot, I realized that being negative about a slight error wasn’t improving my mood. So what? I made a mistake. All I had to do was turn around and head south. I still made it to work despite my miscalibration. It was a minor detour on a fabulous, sunny morning.
Here’s a challenge for you: do something different today. If you screw up, let it go. Drop me a note and let me know how it worked for you. Oh, and try to have a happy day!
This essay continues to haunt me! Each day I think about your challenge to try a different route, literally or figuratively. Imagine my dismay when I realized that I much more a creature of habit than a completely spontaneous being. Turns out I have to be quite mindful of doing something in a different way, oh–and I have to allow for some free time in which to experiment! Though these may seem like small things, they represent something different for me. This past weekend I immediately went to the used book section of the store rather than believing I had to be the first one to crack the spine of the book. What a bargain! I am a dairy fiend, and enjoy my daily 2 shots of espresso with steamed milk (never skimmed!) Though not a convert after 2 days, I am working on enjoying different types of loose brewed tea in lieu of the cappucino. Less fat might be a start to trimming the small “muffin top” that has made its menopausal appearance.
I know there are more heady variations in routine, more significant additions to be made, myriad bad habits to replace, but I will allow myself some time to set those in motion. Now, it’s time to boil water for herbal tea!