Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Grooves and ruts

"I'm in a groove now, or is it a rut?" -- "Face Up," Neil Peart (Rush)

The simple fact is that we are creatures of habit. That's good when we can get ourselves "in the groove," but it's something else when we're in a rut and we can't seem to get out of it. The standard advice--and it's good advice, as far as it goes--is that we break bad habits not by resisting them directly but by replacing them with new habits.

Into this, add the experience of being an educator. One of the realities of being an educator is that we live on a peculiar calendar that we share with kids but not with most other adults (except, tangentially, parents). It's hard, of course, to overstate the positives of a 2 or 3 month summer vacation, not to mention up to a week at Thanksgiving (some schools, of course, have only a few days), 2-3 weeks at Christmas, 1-3 weeks in the spring... the vacations are nice. From the perspective of habits, these breaks can be blessings and curses. Throughout the years, I've found breaks to sometimes be just what I needed to break out of a rut.

Right now, though, I'm feeling the way that a vacation can break up good habits. During the fall, I formed some good habits in terms of diet and exercise. Not only has this winter vacation thrown off those habits, but the fact that we moved is going to make it more difficult to reestablish good habits. The primary way this manifests comes from our new distance from school. Formerly, we lived on the edge of campus. I could walk/jog to the gym when I woke in the morning and I could easily go home for lunch. When we start back to school, the routines are going to be different: we live a mere 2-ish miles from school now, but that will mean driving in the winter, and while I may bike to school in warmer weather, that too will be a very different schedule. If I drive in to work out in the morning, do I just stay on campus after my workout, showering and dressing there? In that case, I have to figure out a different approach to breakfast, and we'll be driving two vehicles to get Lauren in to work too. If I drive in and then drive back home, the timing will almost certainly be different. I already arrive more or less when the gym is opening, so I can't go earlier... will I need to shorten my workouts in order to get back in time to shower, eat, dress (in whatever order) and get back to work?

And then there's lunch. Do I go home for lunch, driving two ways (and risk losing my parking space)? Do I plan ahead in a different way to just take my lunch along with me? Eat more meals in the dining hall? With a little planning, I might manage some kind of hybrid plan, bringing some portions of my meal and foraging the rest at the dining hall. The new situation, I suppose, presents opportunities, but in some ways I'd rather just stick with what I already know works!

How are you seeing grooves and ruts playing out in your own life in the new year and the old?

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