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Everyone has heard about running on the hamster wheel, but, after visiting my father-in-law a year or so ago, I coined another hamster-related phrase–running in the Habitrail. Elite hamsters get those colorful habitats made up of red and green and yellow, maybe blue, tubes, where they can follow different paths to get to the same place, their safe, comfortable cage complete with hamster wheel. They probably think their lives are rich and that they’re really getting out into the world, but they’re following the same set of paths each day. I realized on our visit that my father-in-law had become the same way. He takes the same road to work, he eats out at the same places, he shops at the same places, and, when we visit, he’s hesitant to come with us to new places. When we returned home I began to see my own Habitrail and wondered how much of the Habitrail is constructed by comfort, how much by fear, how much by age. Whatever the case, I have one and I now acknowledge that I’m reluctant to leave it, even though I know that, when I do, I usually enjoy myself.

I guess I was always this way. Sleepovers sounded great until it was time to actually go. Now it’s conferences or even vacations if I have to travel alone, sometimes when I’m not traveling alone.

Yesterday I met a friend for a drink and, on my way, I realized how stressful it is for me to have that kind of an appt. breaking up my day. I like to look at my day and see only my regular activities. Regular activities can include the not-so-regular, like going to a movie, but the movie theater is still well within my Habitrail.

The Habitrail concerns me because I’m middle-aged (just), so, if I’m this insular now, what will I be like when I’m 80? Will I be like my grandfathers, who saw little reason to leave the house? I have traveled all over Europe on my own while pregnant with no reservations and only a vague outline of a plan–and before cell phones (gasp)! Will I consent to my own confinement within the Habitrail? I suspect I will. Like my new zen outlook, my love of the world and of seeing new places will take maintenance and work, I fear. I will have to push myself to maintain and build new relationships. I’m thinking of moving into a retirement community with programs and golf carts, like Jerry Seinfeld’ parents moved into. But, wait. Maybe the golf cart will only travel within a new Habitrail. I guess I’ll just have to watch for multi-colored tubes and try to keep stepping beyond them.

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