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Friday night at the Fillmore -- checking out something really different

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Wednesday, March 24th, 2004 — Our son, John, called recently to say that a band he plays with would be one of the opening acts at the Fillmore Auditorium. I was thrilled for him. Of course we'd be there!

But I wondered how I would make it through the evening. The Fillmore isn't exactly a regular venue for us. In fact, I had never been there.

I imagined the glances we'd get as we waited in line. I might as well tattoo "mom" on my forehead.

Yet we went. I thought I'd be clever and said to the guy at the door, "We're with the band." I got a weak grin: "Yeah, right." So we moved along with the crowd and settled in for the evening.

Big surprise -- we loved it! We were two of very few people over 30, but we had just as much fun as anyone. I chuckled to myself as I checked out the hip crowd. My own fashion statement was a pair of shoes I could stand in for three hours, and the "layered look" that would allow me to survive hot flashes with dignity.

The whole experience left my husband, Pat, and me feeling pretty silly about the predictable lives we lead. Getting out of our routine sparked a sense of adventure. We came away with the kind of energy and enthusiasm one might expect from a revival meeting.

I had announced ahead of time I would crawl into the back seat of the car and sleep on the way home -- nothing doing. Instead we raved about the evening all the way home. We felt pretty cool.

A few days later we had dinner with friends. They told us they had recently decided, on a whim, to go to a rock concert. They had a great time. "It made me feel like a kid again!" one said. What could be better?

We reminisced about where we were so many eons ago and how our lives had changed. We agreed we could afford to lighten up on the highbrow, intellectually stimulating "entertainment" in favor of letting our hair down and doing something completely off the wall.

Not only is variety the spice of life, it is critical to feeling alive. It's so easy to get into the rut of habit. When everything is familiar, we are comfortably in control. But it can get dull. Sometimes I get so tired of my own cooking I wish I could leave the grocery store with someone else's cart.

Doing something unfamiliar opens us to surprise. It can help us see and enjoy parts of life we otherwise miss, even to see new sides of ourselves. When we begin to feel like one day is just like all the rest -- a la one of my favorite movies, Groundhog Day -- we can either settle for boring or decide to do something about it.

I don't have to hijack a grocery cart, but would the family suffer if I came home with Pop Tarts instead of low-fat granola, just this once? Sometimes, keeping an open mind is exactly what it takes for us to be able to laugh at ourselves. Seeing how we cling to such trivial expectations ought to be a heads-up that we are taking ourselves too seriously.

My husband and I have started playing bridge again after I had avoided it with a vengeance for many years. I am shocked at how much fun this has been. The real payoff came at a family gathering. Everyone -- even those who usually come late and leave early -- rotated in and out of the game. There was more laughing and kibitzing than I can remember. It was new for all of us. It had us feeling silly at our incompetence. It had us feeling like kids.

So we've decided to regularly try something different -- just for the fun of it. Those other times -- the ones that require us to be responsible and sensible -- will always be waiting in the wings.