It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks. Old habits die hard. Change yourself and your work will seem different. There are are a lot of ways to describe the tendency we humans have to stay in a rut until we are forced, sometimes bodily, in to new ruts. The deepest ones are those we refer to as "tradition."
Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of traditions. I'm a regular Tevye when it comes to endless repetition of some activity or ritual. It assures me of a front row seat, for one thing. This holiday season found me humming right along: stuffing the turkey, putting up the Christmas lights, running my ten-K race. Then there were some bumps in the road, and I was tossed out of my rut.
It was deemed appropriate and about time to try something a little different for New Year's Eve. Our traditional fort in the living room will be given a respectful rest as we attempt to brave the last night of the year at a (shudder) party. This was a challenge for me, specifically from the standpoint that I had adopted the tradition of making a fort in the living room precisely because the idea of going to a party on New Year's Eve creeped me out. Not that I don't like parties. I'm just not terrifically fond of New Year's parties. We'll just say that it has not been my favorite occasion in year's past. Erecting a fort in our living room with all the furniture and blankets and strings of lights has helped exorcise those demons.
But now that my son is convinced that everyone rings in the New Year by turning the couch on its side and pinning sheets together to form a tent in front of the television, maybe it's time to take a step outside the box I have created. And then there's the matter of the Winter Assembly at my school. This year's class has been, to put it mildly, a challenge. For the past several years, I have been the "cool teacher" who takes his kids up on stage and brings down the house by rapping along with Run DMC's "Christmas in Hollis". We won't be making a return engagement this year. We just couldn't get a rehearsal together. There was always something far more interesting or annoying to attend to in those very few spare moments at the end of the day. Many of my students, as well as their teacher, were very sad to have our shot at stardom taken away.
I made peanut brittle. The teachers are still coming over to my house before we all scatter for two weeks of rest and recuperation. We'll still have our Christmas morning of lolling about on the bed as we pore over the contents of our stockings. There will still be great comfort in the sameness of it all. But there will also be part of me that is secretly anxious about the things that are different. At least now it won't be a secret.