Out of the Rut

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A distinct theme ran through this week of celebrations, on the way to my 62nd birthday in January.” Get out of the rut”, the activities commanded. “Do familiar things in new ways.”

I love fresh experiences. And there are benefits that accompany changing routines and trying different things. Switching things up helps to:

  • overcome fear
  • deepen self understanding
  • raise awareness
  • create new pathways in the brain
  • boost memory and cognitive abilities
  • stimulate creativity

I’m grateful for activities that push me out of the rut. That “deep track” forms from repeated patterns of behavior that create dullness after a while. The longer I stay in a rut, the more difficult it is to step out of it.

Read this post, for an overview of the birthday game I am playing. And then check out the rut busting activities below.

Out of the Rut title meme

Week Four Celebrations

As a reminder, I wrote 62 activities on slips of paper. I folded those papers up and dropped them into a jar. Every morning I draw out an activity and do what is written on the paper. I love this game, trusting that the activity I randomly select is the perfect one for that particular day. This is a game that I play frequently, for various reasons. My trust and playfulness have deepened greatly as a result.

Out of the Rut

I love how this week’s activities illuminated ways that I’ve followed the same routines for too long.

Decorate My Norfolk Pine Tree for Christmas

I’ve always decorated freshly cut Fraser Fir trees for Christmas. I love the scent that fills my home and plugging in the strands of white Christmas lights, after the tree is decorated. Those lights remain lit until early January, when I undecorate the tree and haul it out of the house.

What if? I wondered as I wrote out activities for this game. What if I used the living Norfolk Pine that graces my home? That evergreen grew from a tiny eight inch tall tree to its current height of about four feet. I purchased the miniature potted Christmas tree years ago, to give to a hospitalized friend. She went home though the same day I bought the tree, so I kept it.

Over the years I’ve strung mini lights on the Norfolk Pine and hung tiny glass balls on the branches. However, the tree remained tucked into a bedroom or office. It’s never been center stage, until now.

One strand of white lights adorns the tree, perched merrily atop a table in the living room. A few of my heart ornaments that I’ve collected hang on the branches. The rest lay grouped in a shallow white bowl next to the tree. A fun Christmas sweater that I wore a few years ago serves as a tree skirt.

If I was a bit unsure initially about the outcome of this activity, I’m not now. I love my little living Christmas tree. And surprisingly, that change set off a chain reaction of changes throughout the house.

Out of the Rut - Christmas Tree
Out of the Rut – Different Christmas Tree
Out of the Rut - App
Kindle App

Download a New App

I ended up with a part one and part two during this activity. When I selected it from the jar, I immediately thought of the Kindle app because of a recent conversation with my daughter. She informed me that thousands of ebooks are available for downloaded from Amazon Prime, with the Kindle app. How exciting. (Get Amazon Prime for a free trial, to download books.)

A few days later, perhaps because of my increased awareness of apps, I discovered that Duolingo, a free app already present on my iPhone, released a new language to learn. Duolingo teaches languages in a fun way via games, vocabulary, audio re-enforcement and goal setting. I’ve briefly played with the app, picking up a smattering of Italian and Portuguese.

I don’t consider myself a auditory learner, meaning it is difficult for me, I tell myself, to learn languages. I require stronger motivation apparently. The new language that Duolingo just released is Gaelic Scottish! You can imagine my delight. I’m having so much fun, going beyond my own perceived limitations and learning Gaelic.

Download the mobile app to check out this ancient language. I don’t see it yet on the website.

Out of the Rut Gaelic
Out of the Rut – Duolingo App

Create a Fresh Christmas Vignette

Swapping out a cut tree for my Norfolk Pine unexpectedly set a trend for Christmas decorating. Inspired by the success of that change created the desire to really shake things up. Therefore, drawing out this activity just a couple of days later seemed perfect.

For several years I’ve been gradually using more and more everyday items in my holiday decor. This creates less packing away and stashing of the usual items that fill my home and it’s fun to blend Christmas with vintage family pieces.

This year I packed away very few of the day-to-day decor. Instead, I found new ways to incorporate those pieces into Christmas vignettes. This proved fun and challenging at the same time! I love this type of puttering around the house as I try out different arrangements.

My favorite technique this season is layering as I mix Christmas with everyday items. Check out the simple vignette on my vintage wooden chair below.

Out of the Rut - Christmas Vignette
Out of the Rut – Fresh Christmas Vignette

Plan a Ten Day Trip to a Country NOT on My Travel Wish List

You know how much I love to travel and explore new countries. So which country not on my current travel wish list to choose? For this activity, I decided to continue with the randomness that is a major component of this game. Did you know that there is a random country generator online? I allowed it to select a country for me to plan an imaginary trip to.

Amazingly, the generator selected Saint Barthelemy, also known as St. Barts, an island country in the Caribbean where French is the primary language. St. Barts is known for white sand beaches, designer shops, harbors full of yachts and high end restaurants. There are historical attractions as well, such as Wall House, whose exhibits highlight the island’s Swedish Colonial era.

While I love being around water, I much prefer a river winding through woods or a deep lake in an expansive valley over beaches with views of the ocean. St. Bart’s main points of interest are ALL beaches. How fun for me, feeling completely out of my element, to research this little country and plan ten days of visiting beach after beach after beach.

An extraordinary thing happened as I studied the photos of turquoise water and sandy beaches. I began to catch the scent of salty sea air and feel warm breezes on my face. An empty hammock slung between two palm trees invited me to rest. And a deep sigh escaped. I could enjoy ten days in such a paradise with nothing to do beyond exploring coves and tiny towns, pausing often to listen to the ocean’s serenade.

Guess what country is now on my travel wish list? Yes. Saint Barthelemy.

Out of the Rut Plan a Trip
Out of the Rut – St Barts

Compliment a Stranger

While not totally out of the ordinary for me, this activity did not go the way I expected it to. I envisioned chatting to someone while waiting in line at the grocery store or complimenting a waitress for a job well done at a restaurant. As it turned out, the only stranger I talked to on this particular day was a real estate appraiser on the phone.

These activities are providing excellent lessons on releasing expectations. The appraiser was kind and helpful as we chatted on the phone and my compliments to him genuine and intentional. Did the appraisal go the way I wanted it to? No. But that’s another lesson in trust and letting go.

Compliment a Stranger
Giving a compliment over the phone.

Brush My Teeth While Standing on One Leg

This activity seemed the easiest to carry out, of the 62. However, it proved surprisingly difficult to remain on one leg while brushing my teeth. Doing so required intense concentration, with continual small adjustments to keep my balance.

With all my focus on remaining upright on my right leg, I suddenly realized something. The toothpaste tasted different, in a pleasant way. I checked. It was my usual brand and yet the taste was distinctively “other” than usual.

Curious, I’m researching this phenomenon. Is it possible that intense concentration can alter the senses, including taste? I’m still looking for an explanation. Beyond a scientific answer I can offer this conjecture. Perhaps performing old routines in fresh ways unlocks new physical responses.

Out of the Rut Brushing Teeth on One Leg
Unexpected benefits brushing my teeth while standing on one leg.

Meditate for One Hour

I’ve practiced meditation for many years. It is a wonderful way to quiet the mind, relax the body and connect with the Divine. Although I’ve experienced longer periods of meditation, I typically spend a few minutes remaining still and centered, focused on breathing.

The challenge with long meditations is the tendency for the mind to assert itself and wander into the past or future, creating stories. Or, conversely, I can go so deep into stillness that I fall asleep.

The latter created the challenge last night. After a very long day, I began the meditation at almost midnight. The Christmas decorating complete, I lit candles throughout the house for the first time this season. My darkened bedroom provided a peaceful sanctuary. The flickering candlelight created a soothing atmosphere perfect for meditating. Or sleeping.

I counted last night’s activity a failure, as I barely lasted ten minutes before succumbing to sleep. However when I awoke this morning, I changed my verdict. I slept deeply. I felt rested. Ten minutes can feel like an hour…or deepen into eight hours of blissful sleep.

To hold myself accountable, I’ll spend a full hour meditating this weekend. I’m okay with the way last night’s meditation went.

The Power of Meditation
Meditation as a prelude to sleep. Sorry for the grainy photo. Candlelight is to blame.

Out of the Rut and Onto New Paths

I see distinct themes for the different weeks of activities. Week One provided learning opportunities. Challenges filled Week Two, creating growth. And Week Three featured playful creativity.

I love this journey. And I am loving these life lessons disguised as a game.

Bring on Week Four!

Out of the Rut Week Four Activities


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42 Replies to “Out of the Rut”

  1. Congratulations Cindy on making these rut-breaking changes. Love it. Having passed you in the years, love the jar of daily things, love being pushed for the change, and love the complimenting strangers. Somehow it seems that we have lost of art of conversation – so I have challenged myself to start new conversations with folks I don’t know. Its been fun and rewarding….pretty sure I am benefiting more than they are! Thanks.

  2. I feel like I’ve been in a rut for the past three months and your suggestion of planning a trip to a random country not on my bucket list will jolt me right out of my comfort zone. Sounds like 2020 is going to be fun!

  3. I love this series. How interesting about standing on one leg and the toothpaste. I would like to know if there is some science on this. Wow! I love your tree and St. Barts I have heard is fantastic.

    1. I’ve been doing research about the taste changing. There are some studies that support concentration changing taste. So fascinating!

  4. Last holiday season I scrapped my ‘normal’ fake christmas tree for a slim one and decided to add two more in different heights to make it look like a ‘forest’ of sorts….this year I may add birch trees!

  5. Love the tree!!!!! When our first son was born, just a few days before Christmas, we elected to have a tree just like yours. It was a big “sacrifice” on my part because I had grown up with 12 foot fresh cut trees so a small one sitting on a table top seemed somehow sad. But it was a wise choice to not overwhelm ourselves with a newborn baby. And, just today when I was telling our son (who will be 13 in a few days) about that tree, it brought back nothing but fond memories and sweet thoughts.

    1. Awww I love your story! I may go back to my regular cut tree next year. Or this might be my new tradition…at least for a while!

  6. For one, you look younger than 62! Loved reading this post especially learning that “getting out of a rut” creates new pathways in the brain, boosts memory and cognitive abilities! Will be trying the slips of paper in 2020. Maybe one for every month. Thanks for a great idea!

    1. Thank you! I think the plant based diet I switched to 3 1/2 years ago has “de-aged” me a bit! And I hope you will enjoy playing this game. 😊

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