By: Patrick McNerthney

Have you ever tried to break a long-standing habit, or walk away from a rut? It’s pretty hard to do by yourself. It’s like getting stuck in the snow (which I may or may not have done more times than I’d like to admit) – you need some help to lever yourself out of there. Here is yet another example from my personal life that may involve some general buffoonery (sigh) while making this relevant. 

During junior high school it seemed like the cool people skied so of course I wanted to ski. Fortunately, Washington State has lots of big mountains, many of which are covered with snow in the winter, so my becoming cool appeared inevitable.  

I remember standing in a cloud of fresh diesel smoke as the mountain-bound ski bus warmed up on a cold, dark January morning, wondering if this indeed was a good idea because suddenly it sure didn’t seem like it. After my first five or so ski lessons I realized I didn’t like to go fast or be cold so this hobby would be short-lived. But what really stood out about skiing was how hard it was to break out of the established path made by other skiers. Being stuck in a rut made seemingly simple things quite difficult.

(No one told me about this part.)


Take walking, for example. When walking in ski boots in high- traffic areas, one cannot help but to step into the hole made by someone else’s boot. The problem is your foot lands in this bottomless well and it’s easy to get stuck. Or worse, the sides of this cavern tend to ice-up, forming a ridge you sort of trip over at the knee, typically accompanied by a grunt or squeal as you face plant because your hands are full of your gear. I may have done this on my first day of ski lessons. And every day thereafter.   

(Some things are inevitable.)

Or take the actual skiing part. The path through a series of moguls on a ski hill consists of previously carved tracks that get steeper and deeper each time a skier passes through. Once you’re in that mogul field, no matter how much you panic and seek shelter in the oh-so-soft looking powder off to the side, you’re stuck on the existing track because it’s too hard to break out. So you go barreling down the hill screaming while looking decidedly uncool, which does not increase one’s popularity in junior high school.   

And that’s the problem with established paths and existing tracks – we follow them once, then we tend to follow them again and again, often because it’s the easiest option in the moment, far easier than breaking through the walls we, or others, have created through repetition. This begets a whole host of problems because we know the easiest option frequently has no correlation to the best option, the option that helps those we seek to serve. The result of all this is habits we can’t walk away from, i.e. ruts. 

It’s incredibly hard to break out of ruts. But a community of supportive, like-minded peers seeking to make positive change can help. That’s where Fine Art Miracles comes in. If you find yourself slipping back into the very things that exhaust you in the course of caring for your residents or your loved ones, please look at our resources and consider that they may offer you a chance to carve a fresh new track. Our Art Therapy Sessions and ART2GO packages create dynamic opportunities to foster a sense of connection for those under your care, which is particularly important during this time of increased social isolation. 

As caregivers, if you can provide an activity that solicits an emotional response or a shared experience for your residents, it’s a huge win. But it’s hard to come up with everything on your own. That’s why you should contact us with any questions or simply to let us know how we can help. If you’re not familiar with FAM, we’re a nonprofit 501c3 organization with a  mission to bring the cognitive, social and emotional benefits of Creative Art Therapies and Social Robotics to underserved populations, including seniors, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and children with challenges. 

For the record, I attempted to ski all the way through high school. During my last outing, my binding broke at the summit of Crystal Mountain and I had to walk down. I figured that was the voice of destiny (or maybe my mom who thought I’d end up buried in an avalanche)telling me to take up tennis. Which is another story altogether…  


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