I held the fork in my hand. Where does this go again? I’ve been living here for a couple of months now and for a second I stood there in the kitchen—paused. You know those moments when you don’t have to think to put the dishes away? In fact, you can even think of something else, while you put the dishes away. It’s automatic. Your body knows where everything goes and it just does that while you preoccupy yourself with plans for later in the day, or something else.
In the past 18 months I don’t know how many places I have lived in—all temporary as I continue my book tour here in North America. Each home has its own set of rules. Maybe you aren’t aware of the rules you have in your home. It’s just what everyone does who lives there: leave your shoes at the door, or not; dishes done after the meal or at the end of the day, by hand or by machine, by an organised schedule or whoever didn’t cook or anyone; say grace or not; have a set table or sit with your plate on your lap in the living room; animals on tables and counters or not; specific chairs have owners or not; regular scheduled times for meals or not.
And specific places for each dish and the cutlery!
When I initially arrive in a new home, staying with friends or friends of friends, I spend time sussing out the rules, so I can harmonise with my environment and be an easy and welcome guest. This isn’t always easy particularly around recycling and composting. In New Zealand, I was quite radical and nothing was “thrown out” if it could be re-used, re-purposed, burned or composted. Sometimes I didn’t fill my rubbish bag for months.
Here in North America, the cities infrastructures are all different ranging from no recycling system to the desire for an appearance of being ‘sustainable.’ This is where the city has all the bins available: recycling, compost and rubbish. But no one is really clear about what goes in each of these so everything ends up being mixed up anyway. Maybe I’m being harsh but this is what it looks like so far. Or maybe I’m a garbage snob!
Did I have rules at my place? Yep. That’s what hurts regarding the recycling. Hanging on to my rules and having to abide by rules I don’t like, is painful. All the other rules like shoes, dishes and meals? I’ve forgotten what I used to do.
In these current moments, the habits come and they go…come and go…
I don’t know how many times, in the middle of the night when I get up to go pee, that my groggy hand reaches to the left for the toilet paper—where I used to have it at my place in New Zealand. Finding nothing, my hand gropes to the right, where it was in the last place I stayed—still no luck, only to have to open my eyes to locate where it is in this moment.
I think all of this is a good sign. I really can’t take anything for granted or get stuck in a rut. I’m not anywhere long enough to create a rut! It means that I have to be present. When I am present, I am listening to and awake to my environment and all my senses. I feel alive and free.
Today I was driving back from the gym to where I’m living, without Georgia—that’s my GPS. I have always taken the same way home as I’m still learning where all the streets are. But today, I had a strong feeling to try out a new route and without analysing my new choice I took it. I didn’t even know if the streets were connected to the ones I needed to find. Everything worked out fine and as I approached the familiar intersection taking me to the house where I am living, the fire truck and police were there. They were directing everyone down my street even if they didn’t want to go that way.
The street I normally would have taken was completely blocked off. An electrical cable dangled dangerously from one of the poles. That street would be closed for hours as they fixed it.
Smiling I drove the short distance to my place, loving the feeling of being in the right place at the right time. I’m glad I was listening.
As much as the breaking up of old habits can be uncomfortable sometimes, it is so powerful and helpful. It has forced me to become more present and to more consciously access my own inner wisdom as to what the next step is…rather than automatically following a habit.