Same Old, Same Old

By Erika Hoffman

I must be insane. Albert Einstein, one of the most brilliant humans of all time, stated, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” How many times have I nagged my husband about picking up his messes, to no avail? Or complained about folks who disappoint me over and over again doing the same things they always have done and will continue to do? What about the plans I make that never work out because I give up when the going gets rough?

Lots of famous people have had a lot to say about starting over. One of the most well- known maxims on this subject was uttered by that oft-quoted sage Anonymous, who said, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” This obvious observation embodies the tacit understanding that a person can change his ways. One can dramatically shift one’s course. Yet, there’s a caveat Ian K. Smith acknowledged when he said: “People try to change too much at once and it becomes overwhelming, and they end up falling off the program. So gradually changing bad habits makes much more of a difference than trying to change them all at once.”

When Dad passed away, I tallied up the amount of my life I’d spent raising my children and caring for him: 31 years. Until his death, I hadn’t been an empty nester. Before those decades, I worked. When confined caring for children, the sick, or the elderly, you ponder the fantastic things you’ll accomplish when you have long expanses of time to do them. While I cared for Dad, I developed my writing habit which sustained me, but suddenly, after his death, I didn’t have another live voice in the house until late in the evening when my weary husband returned from a long day of work. The din of the TV substitutes for human interaction for only a while. I turned next to the computer and found that Facebook and e-mailing are unfulfilling fill-ins for real face time. Social media curbs loneliness; yet still you are alone. What to do?

I looked around at my higgledy-piggledy home and felt overwhelmed and depressed. So, I joined a group called Flylady where missives about de-cluttering arrive in my inbox several times a day. The lady who runs the site advocates working at organizing piles for fifteen minutes per diem. She advises putting on shoes and tying them up so one doesn’t schlep around in bathrobe and slippers all day long. I began setting my timer, shining my sink, and tackling my accumulated messes. Surprisingly, taking it one step at a time – works.

Then, I remembered a neighborhood Bible Study I had attended a few years back but had given up because of elder care. Two weeks after Dad’s funeral, I made myself attend even though I didn’t feel like it. The ladies welcomed me back. I felt a sense of belonging. I decided I’d continue this once-a-week habit.

My son needed someone to keep his dogs for a few months. I worried over my Oriental rugs and hesitated to agree to it. I felt I should resist slipping into that caregiving yoke, again. On the other hand, I knew he needed my help. And, it made me feel useful to do something for an adult son. The dachshunds, as all dogs do, showered me with unconditional love and helped fill this empty nester’s abode and heart.

For me, it’s difficult to exercise for the sake of exercising or walk for the sake of losing weight; however, if my little canine pals are leading me by their leashes, I have a purpose and enjoy perambulating.

I have neighbors I barely know. Rather than expect them to ask me over or wait for some grand occasion, I invited them for a glass of wine and some cheese. I go by the KISS philosophy: Keep it Simple, Stupid. We don’t dress up; we dress down. The party I nicknamed our “Whine and Cheesy Get –Together.” It caught on. The original five couples take turns randomly hosting it and randomly inviting other folks to join. It’s two hours on a Friday night: Not every week but when the whim hits! This has provided a means to connect and renew acquaintances after a long void.

Old buddies approached me about buying season tickets to musicals that come to Durham every month. Instead of offering an excuse for why I don’t need to do this, I answered, “Why not?”

I volunteered my services to an assisted living center to help elderly folks record their memories and create a memoir for their children and grandchildren. Receptive staff members will set the schedule up; I’ll embark on this endeavor soon.

I joined another writing group.

I returned to Sunday services after a long absence.

Now, I purge my closet of old clothes and never-used belongings and donate them to the PTA Thrift Shop because someone else might need them, and the schools can make a little profit.

I’m buying myself a new wardrobe. I’m using my good china and stemware on days that are not holidays.

My husband and I go on movie dates and dinner dates and dates where we can just concentrate on each other instead of talking about all the romance-robbing discussions that long-married parents launch into.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream,” Charles Darwin said. When I was young, I would not have bought into his statement, but now I understand its truth. I live it. Another quotation that inspires me each day was coined by Martin Luther King, Jr.: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

To reboot your life you must take that wee, itsy bitsy step not knowing where it will lead but simply trusting that you are on your way to something better, more rewarding, and meant to be.

About this writer

  • Erika Hoffman

    Erika Hoffman

    Erika Hoffman is a wife to one, a best friend to about six or seven, a past teacher to hundreds, a mother to four, a mother-in-law to three, a grandma to four under four, and a writer to thousands – hopefully!

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4 Responses to “Same Old, Same Old”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    So many nuggets of wisdom in your essay, Erica. Life changes can either motivate us or hold us back. So glad you are out and about.

  2. Rose Ann says:

    Erika, this is a wonderful essay. I’ve been trying to change “bad” habits for a while. For me, cleaning up the kitchen after dinner (completely!) seemed impossible. Now it’s a game. I won’t let myself leave the area until it is done. One down and many more habits to break. You’ve given us a great step by step, “you can do it” pep-talk. I just might tackle another one tomorrow!

  3. Aileen says:

    Really enjoyed this, Erika. I work with businesses and individuals who are striving to make changes. So many want a “big-bang” approach but as you demonstrate so well it is an accumulation of small changes that stick best

  4. Jane W says:

    Thank you for sharing your stories with us. Whether seriousness or comedic, Erika’s writing is on point. I always have a clear understanding of her writings. So good.

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