This isn’t a New Year’s piece, one of those typical treatises about renewal, setting goals, making resolutions and having “This is the year I’m going to …” aspirations. It’s simply something that occurred to me Sunday as I was putting on my pants. (Bear with me.)
We’ve all heard the term, “They put their pants on one leg at a time, just like we do” or some reasonable derivation of it. And it refers to people we have elevated to celebrity status (in sports, entertainment, politics or using some other societal metrics). And it’s true, with some rare—and I might add odd--exceptions, we all do put our pants on one leg at a time and will continue to do so (whether we’re celebrities or just average folks) until our pants-wearing days have ended.
But let’s take that simple everyday activity one step (or stumble, as was the case for me Sunday) further. Sunday, I put my left leg in my pants first, and nearly fell down. I hopped and staggered, reeling across the room like I’d never put on my own pants before, or maybe, like I’d never even worn pants. But after steadying myself and making several tries, I succeeded and moved onto placing my right leg in its proper place, and I was able to get on with my day.
“Is this common, Dave?” you may ask. “Do you often have trouble getting dressed? Do you need to see a doctor?” All are great questions, the answers to which are (in the order they were hypothetically asked), “No,” “No” and “Maybe, but not because I have trouble putting on my pants.”
See, for some reason on Sunday morning, I thought about how I always—and I mean always—start the “pants-putting-on” procedure with my right leg because in a world where absolutes are rare, I believe the leg order in putting on one’s pants is one.
Think about it: what leg do you start with, and do you ever deviate? I’d doubt it, but maybe I’m dead wrong about this; I’m simply basing my conclusion on the difficulty I had when I switched up the order. Also, I don’t—for more reasons than I can think of--make a habit of observing or tracking the “pants-putting-on” process of others. (I think we can all count ourselves lucky for that.)
Anyway, after considering this routine, one I execute to perfection every day (not bragging, but I don’t believe I’ve ever left the house without wearing pants or reasonable facsimiles thereof), I wondered what would happen if I changed the order of things and started on the left side.
What I got was a near-miss on a concussion … and a lesson.
The first thing that became brutally obvious to me is that my balance is better on one side of my body than the other. Or maybe I should say my balance is worse on one side than the other (because let’s face it, I’m not sure my balance is great on either side). That might be true for you as well. That said, it made me think, “I should work on my balance and stability, especially as I get older.”
But that wasn’t the real moral of this “brotherhood of the challenging pants” story. What this one-person social experiment really taught me was this: If I want to make my life better, it’s probably not going to come from finding the next “big thing” or “magic bullet” that will change my world. Rather, it’s going to come by exploring, celebrating, struggling through and laughing at myself as I do the things I already do … differently.
So often, we tell ourselves we’re going to do new and different things: to spice up our lives, to make us thinner, more thoughtful, wiser, more likable or “better” in some way. “But what if,” I thought as I stood there with my pants in my hand, waiting for us--myself and the pants--to do the “same-old/same-old,” our typical “right-leg-first” routine), “instead of making sweeping changes in the what, we start with the how?”
Instead of changing our behaviors, maybe we can find fulfillment and derive a sense of happiness and satisfaction by simply exploring different, creative or more productive ways to do what we're already doing.
For me, that means looking inward to determine how I can make small changes in my everyday life to become funnier, more thoughtful, more patient (with myself and others), more open-minded, loving and respectful, more humble and kind, to simplify my life, to continue to push boundaries (where it benefits me and the world around me), to be a better listener, to improve my balance (both physically and emotionally) and in general, to just be a better, more grounded person.
And while I hope I’m already doing things to improve in all those areas (and more), it’s probably time to evaluate and explore, to look inside my own bag of tricks and see how I can improve just a little bit in each area; not just in during January or throughout 2024, but for the rest of my “pants-wearing” days.
Is changing the “leg order” of putting on my pants going to improve my life? Likely not, and in all probability--as evidenced by the difficulty I endured Sunday—it could in the short-term cause me great physical harm.
But what that innocent (I’d also accept “insignificant” or “stupid” as appropriate answers) activity taught me is that I need to continue to find different ways, little things, that can make me more aware of myself and the world around me, to change things up even if they’re difficult (and maybe insignificant) at first, to take cues from those little changes in behavior and to learn from them.
And if I start with what I’m already doing rather than piling on a bunch of new things that I’ll either fail to finish (or even start), maybe I can get better results—and a better life--for myself, even if I have to struggle a bit at first.
And at the end of the day, I can confidently tell myself no matter who we are or what we’ve accomplished, we all put on our pants one leg at a time, but maybe the secret is in how we do it. Happy New Year.
(OK, I guess this was a New Year’s piece.)
© 2024 David R. Haznaw