recently i read a recent study about how the human brain seeks patterns. it’s constantly looking for coherence, structure and order. when we feel like we don’t have command of our fate, our brains often invent patterns that offer a sense of control.
our innate need for order explains why we gravitate toward routines. rituals ground us. provide comfort. establish a sense of predictability. but there is also a flipside.
remember the old adage made famous by the spastic, 80s fitness fanatic, susan powter: “the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
routines are great. but they can also put us into a comfort zone—where we are safe, stable, but perhaps a little stagnant?
a couple weeks ago, we were in the midst of one of our favorite routines: shopping at whole foods. packed to the gills with groceries, we set off on our way, zipping through the parking lot until…(queue up the sad trombone sound effect)…we turned the corner and scraped the side of our car on a guidepost. go figure, despite the expansive footprint of their glorious flagship store, their parking lot is built for minis and smart cars, and not grocery grabbing SUVs.
buzz kill firmly in place, next up was an appointment to assess the damage. we booked an appointment for a repair shop north of the city. getting there would be an epic task of mobilizing the kids, dropping one off at school, hiking up lakeshore drive during morning rush hour traffic, and getting back downtown to my office—all before 8:30am to start the work day. needless to say i was not looking forward to the morning.
with the clock ticking and my mind mired in dollar signs, shady mechanics, meeting requests and emails, we hit the road. gridlock. tickety tock. i could feel the blood pressure rising. i’d driven this stretch of lakeshore drive a million times, but rarely ever ventured this far north. luckily, as we got further from the city, the traffic started to ease up.
we finally got to our exit at the foster avenue underpass. we merged onto the off-ramp and took a left. as soon as we turned the corner, i saw it. radiant. sparkling. glittering against the grey concrete canvas. it was a gorgeous mosaic that spanned the entire length of this quiet, unassuming underpass. and it came out of nowhere.
for that moment, all the minutiae fell away.
“stop the car!”
i hopped out, iphone in hand, eye candy in sight. hundreds of ceramic and mirror tiles, paintings and photographs were assembled with love by local artists.
a skateboarder glides down the shimmering black mane of woman who hugs a sphere of seven circles.
a radiant eagle spreads its wings.
a lone ballerina twirls.
and the beaming faces of children from the local community peek out of a rainbow of red and blue. it was beautiful, random, and yet, totally relevant.
i set out, on a typical day, with too much to do and too little time. the scratch on the car was a catalyst to take a new route—but the discovery on this day was a gift. we never would’ve seen it had we not ventured past the usual boundaries.
we’ll always need routines and rituals. it’s how we live and organize our days. but perhaps we should build in a little time to get lost, meander off the beaten path, find a new perspective. you never know what might be waiting around the corner…