tradition is a locked room

"This is how we've always done things" is a curse.

It keeps the world small and dark for those who adopt it as their mantra. We cling to tradition because it seems easier, but it's lazy. I'm no exception, but I'd like to take this space to use my own behavioral experimentation to show you how easy it can be to have a better day.

Scenario A (The Habit)

I sit in the waiting room of my mechanic, knowing it will be hours before the car is even in the garage. I study the decor, and begin to hate it. I shuffle in my chair, feeling the springs wrestle my bony ass for control of the situation. The desk jockey's breathing begins to annoy me. I start finding problems with his face. I run or of things to do on my phone, which is absurd given its capabilities and the scope of my imagination when I'm not lazy. I am bored to death and dreading the rest of the wait already, anxious it be an all day affair. It has been ten minutes.

Then I try something else.

Scenario B (The Experiment)

I sit cross legged outside, on an electrical box so the ants don't come near me. I set my phone timer for 27 minutes and try to calm down. I allow my mind to wander a little and begin imagining an app to facilitate meditation in situations like these. I go back to breathing and slip into a mild trance. My eyelids flutter on their own for a minute and when I open them the colors are vibrant and cloud cover has cooled the breeze. A stray dog and I share a glance. I feel better.

Christine calls at the 23 minute mark to ask how it's going. I let her know the futility of waiting and we make plans for her to pick me up. I get restless and inspired so I start walking home. Certainly not the whole way, but with an eye toward finding a place to have a cup of coffee and a greasy breakfast and write while I wait.

I text her my plan and she enjoys it. We send each other photos so it's like we're hanging out. I bypass the dead sidewalks and walk around construction and through piles of dried monsoon mud full of swirling patterns. I notice dozens, maybe hundreds of things I don't see when I'm driving. It's good to be reminded of how much there is outside our little tunnels.

I walk into the shade of an underpass and my phone tells me that my destination is closed. I call and confirm it, but I am not disappointed because I am smack dab in the middle of downtown and better options are walkable now.

I give up my little daydream of a diner in favor of a fresh food and smoothie cafe over and realize that a better choice was made for me. My body is grateful that habit was not served today and my mind agrees.

I update my wife and suck down the big cup of awesome I've ordered. I sit in the shade on the cobblestone sidewalk and begin half meditating and half people watching, and then I begin to write this piece.

The shopkeeper comes out and insists I sit in the cool air. I say I don't want to hog his limited space and he insists I am welcome so I take him up on it. I'm still waiting, but the feeling is the opposite of the one I began with. The curse is reversed.

The findings of this experiment, at least in my subjective experience, are clear. I'm 180 degrees from where I started and it took barely more effort than staying in that crappy chair would have. I encourage you to do your own experiments and find your own truth.

Misery is a weed that grows out of bad habits and lazy choices. Take chances and you open doors. Make the effort to try these little shifts. The difference is like changing planets. This is the everyday alchemy all of us can do. I've never done an experiment like this and wound up wishing I'd just done it "like I always do."

This whole world's made from other people's locks. Find your own keys, in your own mind.