Changing Gears

A Gentleman Fallen on Hard Times by Grace BurrowesYesterday, it was my happy privilege to assist at the therapeutic riding facility when some younger clients came in for a group lesson. The morning was hot, busy, and a little on the hectic side. These were not seasoned riders, and keeping everybody safe and happy–horses, volunteers, and riders–took some serious coordination and good will.

And a lot of reminders to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

I used to spend much of my day around little people, and court days in particular were hectic, with this case being heard while that one was in recess, then the recessed case being re-called, until the judge declared a comfort break or some child had a meltdown right there in the courtroom…

I had about a 30-minute commute at the end of a court day, which helped me change gears, so what happened in court didn’t haunt me all through the night (though some of those cases still haunt me). I also made it a point to get out of my courtroom attire as soon as I walked in the door at home. No putting the kettle on, starting dinner, no nothing, until I’d donned my comfy clothes. In winter, building a fire in the wood stove helped–a simple, comforting, little chore that made the house cozy and got the A Gentleman of Dubious Reputation by Grace Burrowespotpourri steaming.

At the therapeutic riding barn, I’m not an old hand, but I’m not a complete beginner either. I’m a little of both, so the time spent there doesn’t qualify as relaxing (yet). I experience both confidence and anxiety in any given five minutes. Every little thing I do wrong-ish bothers me A LOT, and just being around new people is also an effort (though they seem to be wonderful people).

So it occurred to me that I need to reinstate, or maybe reinvent, those changing-gears rituals. To put in place some punctuation marks that end the barn sessions, and launch the “you’re home now” business. I need some little symbols on the page of my day that signal a scene change.

Yesterday, I did shuck out of my riding clothes, I checked the mail, I walked around the property collecting my flopped over gladiolus for a bouquet, I played Wordle (held out as long as I could), I did a couple jig saw puzzles. I’m not sure that’s the right A Gentleman in Challenging Circumstances by Grace Burrowescombination of re-orienting activities, because too much of that list is what I do at the end of a writing session. The barn time is a different sort of challenge.

But it’s early days. Maybe stopping for a cold root beer slushie will make the list, or maybe I’ll stumble onto something else that works even better (hard to imagine). How do you shift gears, or put a challenge away until the next time it comes around on the schedule?

PS Lord Julian’s first three books finally got their covers, and I love them!

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11 comments on “Changing Gears

  1. I have LOTS of little rituals throughout the day. Most of them are quiet recentering things. I, too, find that clothing changes are a great cue to change my mental gears.
    Other things, like putting on a particular playlist or setting items out on the counter, are triggers for me to shift gears.
    Good for you to figuring out the barn mind-change, Grace!

  2. It depends a bit on what my day was like.
    With a physically demanding day, it might be changing into my jammies and doing a crossword or reading.
    With a day spent with emotional or intellectual demands, potentially cleaning then reading and hanging with my kitties.
    But, jammies and reading is the one “go to”!
    If it’s all three, add peanut butter in any form! 🙂 Breathing and not doing anything too challenging is generally in order.

  3. When I was working, I immediately changed out of my work clothes as soon as I got home (or at the very least, I removed my shoes and bra). Now, I do the same thing when I get home from a doctor’s appointment, though that’s as much left over from the COVID recommendations as anything. But I wear loose dresses in the house these days (when I first bought them they were for work) and I feel more comfortable as they don’t have waists that constrict. Also, it makes me feel relaxed since I know I’m home to stay for a while and that’s my favorite place to be.
    I highly recommend the cold root beer slushie or even better, a root beer float!

  4. Well, our dog and five cats do a fine job of helping me make the transition to mornings and getting home after work, as they all require greeting, feeding and attention. And on the way home, I usually have to stop at the store. My son and husband go through a lot of milk and iced tea. Then I enjoy my current 30 minute commute where I listen to audiobooks.

    I do a few games before I go to bed every night. Wordle is one of them, as well as Bubble Buster and a Word Find game. I would love to put together puzzles again, but that will wait until one day I have a dedicated table in a cat-free room. Somehow, I doubt that will ever happen, and I’m all right with that.

  5. We all seem to change clothes as soon as possible, especially anything restricting or uncomfortable or heavy. I take off shoes immediately and put on my cozy slippers or my flipflops. The ritual for the absolute end of the day is a bubble bath, soaking for at least 30 minutes, with a glass of wine on the shelf and a comfort read book to read a chapter or two while I’m in the tub. Then I can go to sleep.

  6. I too use removal of restrictive clothing, reading, wordle or spelling bee, and a cup of tea/ water with a little snack as transition activities. If the weather is nice, sitting outside looking at the green is a lovely reset. My schedule is such that I’m not necessarily leaving or entering the house as a role shifts, and I find that harder to demarcate, but still a clothing change can help, why? I don’t know. Even putting my hair up somehow means I am to focus more and down means leisure. I wonder if leaving the house for a short walk or to run an errand would help as a cue. The playlist idea is definitely worth trying.

  7. I’m really relating to these comments. Changing clothes after work had always been a shedding of my work persona, and a resumption of the me that is more relaxed and unguarded.
    A long drive to and from work provided me the opportunity to reflect on the possible tasks of the day, and a time and space to process the course of the day.

    Some current transitional actions are washing my hands and face,or combing my hair. Changing clothes. Setting out items to prepare for what activity comes next, mentally going through the steps.

    There’s a common thread to the replies here that is intriguing.

    I’m really looking forward to Lord Julian, since Lady Violet was such an enjoyable series.

  8. I love hearing how you visualize emotional rituals in metaphors, as that is something I do too! Changing gears, indeed. Sometimes it’s a staring or doodling session. Often it’s snacking on something and consuming a bit of content that gives my brain a break, like a romance or Twitter. Sometimes it’s movement music and a bit of dance. When I feel I need a reset from something exhausting, a nap is usually best: 45 min or so later I feel like it’s a new day!

  9. I just reread your Damson County Sweetest Kisses trilogy and found the first chapter of a novella, a kiss for luck, at the end. Now I am trying to find it. Help! You got me hooked on Sadie and the dog, Baby, and her English investigator new friend.

    I get the need for a transition from away from home to back in my nest. I also have rituals to get in my barn frame of mind, to be present with my horse and barn friends.