For most people, “Learning” is what happens, or happened, in the course of formal education. School, classes, memorization, papers, mountains of reading, drilling French verb conjugations. sitting still through boring lectures — that is learning. No wonder so many people are eager and relieved to be done with it!
I grew up knowing that the learning in school was only one aspect of learning. My parents instilled in me the desire to learn — to learn about anything and everything that captured my interest. The pastor of the church I attended during high school wrote me a lovely note just before I went off to college. The most memorable line said, “Don’t let your education get in the way of your learning.”
It seems inevitable that I would become a teacher. These days, I love teaching people how to be able to learn on their own. The practice and process of experimentation, exploration, observation, and reflection is something that seems far away from the learning we all had to do in school, yet so satisfying. Sometimes, you need a guide to help you to reconnect with your ability to learn things, important things, on your own. There is nothing quite like the feeling after a light bulb goes on, a penny drops, dots are connected.
My dear departed vocal mentor, Dr. Thomas Houser, was known for saying, “Learn something new every day, or something old in a new way.” We do learn something every day, whether we realize it or not. It’s never too late to learn. new things, new ways of being, new attitudes, new habits.
As I write this afternoon, I am seated in the sunny kitchen of a beautiful home in York, PA. It is a day away from home, and a day that is far from my routine.
Life is full of disruption! Yesterday was a travel day. Up WAAAAAAYYYYY early to get to the airport. My exercise for the day consisted of schlepping my suitcase and backpack through Houston Hobby, DFW, and BWI airports. Too much sitting to fly, and then to drive, I can tell that I need to MOVE. There is a treadmill in the upstairs bedroom, which I will use later. I’m planning a walk in the neighborhood after dinner. It is what I can do, and it’s the best I can do — so that is the solution for today, and probably for the next few days.
Sleep is disrupted as well. I function best on 7.5 hours of sleep each night. My internal alarm clock is reliable. However, two short nights — the night before travel, and then the long settling in process last night in a different bed — and I can tell I am under-slept. Since I am on vacation, there’s the tantalizing possibility of a nap later in the afternoon. I’ll get to bed at a reasonable hour tonight, and perhaps that will hit the internal “reset” button and tomorrow will be better.
Since I started following the Eat to Live plan eleven months ago, I have been able to create a food environment at home that is supportive of my health goals. Since I don’t travel for a living, I don’t really have routines and systems set up so that I can eat constructively when I do travel. However, so far I have been able to stick with the plan while I am at my cousin’s home. I had a glass of wine (or two) last night while visiting, and that was my splurge. We’re going out for a family dinner tomorrow after my aunt’s memorial service, and I will probably have another small splurge — a glass of wine, or a bite of dessert. It helps me to tell myself, “It is easy and convenient to stay on this plan, even when I travel. It is easy to make good choices 90% of the time.” If I instead told myself, “This is so hard! How will I ever do it? There are so many temptations!” I would be completely focused on what I don’t want, instead of what I DO want.
It is not my intention to say, “Am I not amazing? Look how resilient I am!” However, perhaps people would feel better, stronger, and more in-control of their lives if they would say that to themselves. Humans have survived as a species because we are adaptable to a wide variety of circumstances and environments. Our internal regulatory systems strive to bring us back into balance — homeostasis — so that life systems can continue. Emotional shocks, or threats to the comfortable and familiar, are sometimes less easy to take in stride. Moshe Feldenkrais spoke and wrote extensively about the various adaptations, positive and negative, that individuals devise to “get through” particular situations. To do the best you can with what you have to work with in any moment — that’s the best you can do. Surely, when I remind myself that I do have the capacity for resilience, and I do have the resourcefulness to adapt, each day can be enjoyed for what it is: a gift of opportunity and possibility.