This was my first Memorial Day weekend in Miami. It had me completely off tilt. Having spent most of my life in the North and my childhood years on military bases, Memorial Day weekend involved flags, the day off from school, picnics, and if we were lucky a trip to the pool. A day to take a moment and remember those who have died for our country followed by a celebration for the beginning of summer. It was a clear shift to summer, the pool was now open and wearing white pants and white shoes was now allowed.
Here in South Florida, the pools and the ocean are always open and the only change in wardrobe I have witnessed is that if it drops below 70 degrees, winter coats, sweaters and boots are worn. It has felt like summer since we moved here last August.
This year, the friends who hosted the barbecue I’ve attended for the last few years were too far away. Nothing felt the same. I would not be going to the barbecue to hear Noah’s band play as I had done for the last few years. My plans and the people I would be sharing it with were all going to be different.
The degree to which I was out of sorts allowed me to really notice and examine the situation. Holidays are special and provide a clear distinction of what I was doing last time the Holiday rolled around. My plan for the day would need to be different this year.
As I thought about this more, I realized that I am not alone. There are many others who are experiencing dramatic changes in their lives. I began to think of others who would not be celebrating with the same people they had in the past, due to death, divorce, illness, or a move. Activities that had been part of their ritual would not be taking place. This meant they would be doing something new, and probably had to make decisions about what that was going to be.
I recently went to a workshop on the brain, learning that only 10% of our brain operates in the conscious frontal lobe where we are making decisions. The other 90% is in our subconscious and unconscious brain where, thanks to habits and rituals we are able to function with much less effort. I am a big habit and ritual person. I find comfort in routines and balance in my day to day life.
This is possibly one reason that I also feel out-of-sorts more than most when my routines and habits are altered. A couple of things that have been working for me so far is to remind myself to give it time. “Give it a year” was the advice a friend gave me when I went back to full-time work in an office after having been at home for 15 years. She was right, it didn’t take a year to feel comfortable with going into an office everyday but saying that certainly helped. It helps for me to be aware of how many times my routines have changed and remember that at some point the new routine became comfortable. Going off to college, leaving college, getting married, moving, having children, children going to school – all of these have required new routines and eventually I got used to all of them.
So this weekend, I got to jump in the waves with my niece and nephew visiting from Michigan. James did not remember the ocean and it was fun to be with him as he splashed in the surf. We also ate ice cream, because we always eat ice cream with my sister Stephanie, but this year Clara found the spot thanks to Yelp and her new phone.
Our lives are constantly changing, and we are adapting to those changes with new routines. The more deliberate or life altering changes will feel more out of place than simple routines. However it is reassuring to know that we are all changing and that eventually we will find comfort in our new surroundings and routines.