My wife has hit the 6 month no-kids-at-home-anymore-and-I-need-something-to-do-with-my-time-now phase of her life, so she has decided to rearrange the kitchen. I mean rearrange everything that is not nailed down. Nothing is where it has been for the last three years and everyone in the family is lost whenever we walking into the place.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for better ergonomics and traffic patterns. It makes sense to put the cereal bowls in the same cupboard as the cereal and to put all of that in the cupboard closest to the refrigerator where the milk is kept. Its all a great idea but it takes a heck of lot of work to remember where everything now lives.
Probably the most significant change has been the relocation of the kitchen trash. Again, it is in a much better spot now. Out in open next to the kitchen sink… makes perfect sense now that our dog is gone and he won’t be digging through it while we’re out of the house. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked ALLLLL THEEEEE WAYYYYY over to the other side of the kitchen where it use to live, only to find it missing and then remember, “Oh yeah. It’s moved to the other side of the kitchen… The side I just walked past…”
Learning new things once they have been established as habits in our lives is one of the hardest things to do. Actually, unlearning is the hardest part. I’m not a stupid person. In fact I think I’m as smart as the next guy. But, when I’m on auto pilot and not actually thinking about what I’m doing I end up going to the same empty cupboard and trying to throw things away.
When dealing with addictions or addictive behaviors most addicts know what they should do. They know where the trashcan has been moved to. But when they are in an addictive cycle, they are not thinking. They are on autopilot. They are just doing what they’ve always done. Their body is doing the thinking, not their minds.
So, how do we unlearn things? For me to unlearn where the trash is I’ve had to work harder. I’ve had to turn on my brain and think… remember… work at telling myself, “The trash is next to the sink.” Its hard work to have to remember stuff that has normally been automatic. It feels like work. It takes more energy. It can’t be done passively. I have to be engaged in the remembering process.
Also, as I’ve been in the unlearning process, I’ve had to become okay with the fact that I keep going back to the same cupboard. I’m not going to be perfect. I’m going to make mistakes. They frustrate me. I think that I’m dumb and stupid and not capable of learning every time I open that cupboard just to remember that its moved. I’ve got to give myself time and grace to move along the learning curve. And, lo and behold, I’m finding out that I now more frequently unconsciously remember that the trash can has a new home and I drift in that direction automatically.
Old dogs can be taught new tricks.