My partner Jodi works in a large office building surrounded by a small parking lot. The organization for which she works has created a number of alternatives for people who don’t want to spend a fortune to park in the limited available spots, but convenience has always been our preference. We’ve paid the extra money so that she could be guaranteed a parking space close to her office. When she came home from work recently, though, she said she’d decided to start carpooling. In my fear of disrupting the status quo, I was skeptical. In her always-open-minded way, she was not. She had been paired with someone who lives near us, they can still park nearby, the new parking pass is less expensive, and ride sharing reduces her footprint. A win for everyone, but not a huge transition.
Still, when her first carpooling day rolled around, we were both kind of giddy. I went out front with her to meet her new driving companion and she texted me when she got to work to say how much she’d enjoyed the ride. “I don’t know why,” she wrote, “but this just makes me very happy.” I felt exactly the same way. Granted, being on someone else’s schedule does mean that she has to leave a tiny bit sooner in the mornings, but she’ll get home a little earlier as well. When I thought about it during the day, it occurred to me that what I like about this new plan is that it’s a change. It’s certainly not some life-changing transformation, but it shakes things up a little.
I see how lovely it is to look at things from a new angle, in a new room, with different neighbors to wave to on a morning run.
By the time the first day was over and we were having dinner, we were both talking about creative ideas we’d had during the day. None were directly related to ride sharing, but the tiny shift in that arena had obviously inspired each of us to think about ways we could do other things differently. What’s significant about this is that, on some level, I want things to stay the same forever. The anxious part of me seeks a perfect method for taking care of each of my responsibilities and then I don’t have to think about them again. It’s the step right before simply going through the motions of life unconsciously. And truthfully, though that might be soothing in some way, no one really wants to spend her energy in that kind of daze.
Last summer, when we spent some time in Europe, we came home and started making coffee with a French press as we'd done there. Again, only a tiny slice of our lives, but it feels like it restructures the molecules in a way that makes me see things from a different perspective. In the case of the coffee, it takes longer than using the Keurig we’d gotten used to. Usually, I dismiss something that requires more time because I’ve convinced myself I need to do things quickly and efficiently. But now, as I wait for the water to boil and the coffee to steep, I watch the dogs in the backyard exploring after breakfast. I enjoy the pattern the early morning light makes on the side of the house. The process slows me down in a way I probably didn’t realize I needed. One tiny change in how we make the morning’s hot beverage has had an impact on setting the tone for the day.
We experienced a huge change last year when we moved, and the ripple effect of so many variations on the way we do everything has been good for us. It’s been stressful, too, just asking ourselves to change. At first, part of me longed to be back in our old house, doing everything the way we’d been doing it for a decade. But gradually, I see how lovely it is to look at things from a new angle, in a new room, with different neighbors to wave to on a morning run.
I feel as if I’ve spent a lot of time in my life trying not to change—focusing on finding the best way to do things and then gripping that method with all of my might. It makes practical sense to do that, yet I can’t help but see how much lies below the surface of proficiency. I’m enjoying trying some new ways to live my life these days, even though they may seem silly and unimportant. But I’m convinced that one change really does spark another and another and then, before I know it, I’ve discovered some part of myself that feels more like the person I really want to be.