Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Unraveling patterns

It is said you never realize what you truly have until you've lost it. That's not necessarily true. I knew even before I took my laptop in to be fixed what I was about to lose and the least of it was just the computer. It was the familiarity and the comfortable feel of the keyboard, the weight of it on my lap, the heat from the CPU on my left leg just above the knee and knowing where everything is. It's smaller than the loaner and some of the decals are worn away from all the typing I do, but it's mine.

I crave change -- shaking up the ant farm as my ex-husband would say -- and am not comfortable doing the same things the same way and at the same time every day, and yet I am a creature of habit like everyone else. I fall asleep reading a book in bed and wake up in the middle of the night, still half asleep, to turn off the light, sometimes still dressed. There is something almost alien about getting into a bed that is made that makes me feel like I'm a guest in someone else's house. I don't wear my contacts unless I'm going somewhere. If I'm going out, I wait until a couple hours before I have to leave to take a shower. I go barefoot most of the time but will put on shoes and socks to go downstairs to check the mail. I live alone so there's no one else to accommodate but the reluctance to shake up the ant farm and move away from the comfortable and familiar is obvious because it imparts a sense of being in the right place, and it's amazing how even the most difficult and uncomfortable situations can feel safe and familiar.

Take prisoners who have been incarcerated for a long time. Once the routines that define their limited lives is gone prisoners feel lost and out of place. It's hard to establish a new routine and many freed prisoners will find a way to either get back inside or develop relationships with controlling people in order to get back to some semblance of what they consider order. Even captives fall into this same mind set called the Helsinki syndrome, but it's just a human need for familiarity.

The reason this is on my mind this morning is because of a pattern I recognized and talked about with Beanie yesterday. She shares the same pattern and for the same reasons, and all this was stirred up by a post written by one of my LJ denizens. If I were in therapy, this would be called a breakthrough. I begin to see that therapy is a directed probe designed to spotlight patterns so they can be changed if they're destructive and reinforced if they're positive. Writing and talking with others is my therapy and I see all kinds of things to change, enhance and accept.

Breaking out of the pattern, shaking up the ant farm, is a good thing, sort of like spring cleaning when you move all the furniture, take down the curtains and drapes to wash them and dust the woodwork they've hidden, clean out closets and throw away anything that's not useful or doesn't fit, dust the ceiling fan blades and root out the cobwebs wherever they are.

Yesterday, I broke out of my pattern and stopped downtown at Poor Richard's. As I walked up the street I recognized someone coming from Poor Richard's, Tommy from Mountain Mama's deli. "I know you," I said as we walked closer to each other. "Yes, you do," he said.

"I have something for you and Robin."

He told me he had forgotten when I said I was coming in on Tuesday that he was off that day, so what a pleasant surprise to find him when I had the books I was loaning him and Robin in the car. We walked back to the car and I gave him two of the books, showed him my address label inside and told him he could swap the books with Robin when he was finished and give them back when I came into the store. He was pleased with the books and I'm glad I could share them. When I got to Mountain Mama's I gave the other book to Robin and told her I had seen Tommy downtown and explained about the books, and all because I changed my pattern.

The beginning of the month I pick up the ham club newsletter at the printers, park near a mailbox, put on the labels, stamps and mailing disks and put them in the mailbox, drop off a few copies at Mike's house, go to Mountain Mama's to pick up a few things, to the grocery story to shop and then home to put everything away. Yesterday, I went from the mailbox to pick up my laptop then downtown and then to Mountain Mama's, but the changes didn't stop there. I did not go to the grocery store and I stopped off to get a bacon cheeseburger for a change of pace before I went home. It seems like a small change, but any change is a good one if it clears the cobwebs.

Even though my life little resembles a rut, I can get stuck in patterns that don't seem like patterns from the outside. They are still patterns, but at least I know they're there and can change them when I exert myself, something I am often unwilling to do since the familiar feels comfortable and safe. Just like forgetting where the delete button is on my laptop and reaching for where the delete button is on the loaner that I had to use for a month, it's easy to get into a rut, form a habit even in such a short time as four weeks. It will take a few days before I no longer have to stop myself reaching for the wrong key to delete something and the old pattern settles back into place. Learning to type without looking at the keys or stopping to think where a certain letter is on the keyboard is a pattern, one that has been reinforced daily for nearly forty years, like the 20+ years I spent keypunching on machines where the numbers were in a certain sequence and using the keypad on computer keyboard that is upside down. I have to stop and remember (just for a nanosecond) that the 1-2-3 is at the bottom and not the top before hitting the keys, overlaying muscle memory developed by decades of daily use. It slows me down and I am not comfortable at slow speeds, at least not where typing and keying are concerned -- or even reading.

Most of the books I review are fluff and I receive very few literary novels. A literary novel forces me to slow down to savor the dense imagery and word play when I am more used to racing through the pages and writing my review shortly afterward. What usually takes a few hours or even a day becomes a whole week with a literary novel. It's like wading through mud as opposed to skimming over a hard-packed, well traveled trail and can be daunting, the difference between literary and fluff posing as literary patently obvious. I enjoy a good literary novel but I am glad to get back to the familiar fluff when I'm finished because I don't have to work as hard or think as much, and I'm not sure that's a good pattern yet. Maybe I need more fiber in my diet and fewer literary calories taken from junk food books, and yet the junk food tastes so good.

That is all. Disperse.

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