Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Creature of Habit (7.14.07)


1. an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary: the habit of looking both ways before crossing the street.
2. customary practice or use: Daily bathing is an American habit.
3. a particular practice, custom, or usage: the habit of shaking hands.
4. a dominant or regular disposition or tendency; prevailing character or quality

My phone rang this morning, too early it seemed. I groggily fumbled for it and instantly woke up to my friend, Julie asking, "Glynis, where are you?" That was easy, I was curled up in bed getting some much needed, stress-relieving shuteye. Where I was supposed to be was completely different. I had totally and utterly forgotten that she was expecting me to meet her at her favorite new running location at 7am. It was 7:20 and she'd finally decided she'd better call and find out why I wasn't at the agreed upon starting point.

We had made this plan last Saturday, but it had slipped my mind faster than a greased hog at the county fair. My cranial cavity had been so overloaded with the chaotic week that I had gone to bed telling myself that a 9am run in the graveyard was in order. After all, that was my habit since Julie hadn't been able to run with me much since she had some health problems last year. She hadn't called to remind me about our plan for this morning, so my body just expected to sleep in until 8am. I'd gotten accustomed to the habit of running alone on Saturdays, just as it had once been habitual to meet Julie at 7am.

There was no way that I could get ready and drive out to where she was, so after filling her in on my crazed week and getting her feedback on the doctor my dad was seeing, I fell back asleep for another 1/2 hour. When I got up, all I could think of was getting to the graveyard to run - but that I needed to make Dirt Cake for 25 for today's community picnic that our church was holding.

Instead of my habitual protein shake, I reached for some cold Lake Tong Ting Chicken in the fridge. That stuff is delicious - chicken in a light white sauce (kind of like the sauce for Moo Goo Gai Pan) and cooked with snow pea pods, broccoli, baby corn, carrots, celery and water chestnuts.

I decided that before I headed out for that run, I'd better make the Dirt Cake. Sure enough, the only milk in the house was sour -- no one really drinks milk here and I forgot to buy milk when I bought the other ingredients. (Mind you, I felt baaaad about the stuff in my cart when I went shopping for Dirt Cake ingredients. Four packages of reduced-fat Oreos, a bag of confectioner's sugar, 2 packages vanilla pudding mix, gummy worms, Cool-whip, light cream cheese. That's probably why buying fresh milk slipped my mind, my conscience was winching at the crap my cart was overloaded with and I just wanted to get out of the grocery store!)

There went my morning run. Every bit of time was gone. I had to get dressed, look presentable, get milk, make the Dirt Cake, start some laundry, etc, etc, until it was suddenly 10:30 and I had to be up at the church by 11 for skit practice.

Meanwhile, I hadn't drunk my habitual morning protein shake and felt miserable without it. So at 10:30, I whipped out the blender, gathered my whey, flaxseed and other ingredients and made myself the proper meal I needed.

Samuel Johnson once said, "The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken." This got me to thinking about just how many things have become habits in my life. From brushing and flossing, right down to how I fold the towels, I am most definitely a creature of habit.

For the most part, I have developed lots of very good habits over the course of my lifetime. Daily exercise, healthy eating habits, all those nice hygenic things that make a person a bit more pleasant to be around :) Of course, there are the habits that we develop which are more like idiosyncracies; for instance, I alternate two pairs of running shoes. There was a good, scientific reason behind it when I started, something from Runner's World - but I've long since forgotten why. I just do it, almost without fail. Nervous little habits can form as well. My family knows that when I feel anxious or tense, I tend to rub the side of my neck. Even if I swear up and down that I'm fine, they know I'm full of crap when they see my hand move to my neck.

As far as bad habits go, they become just as second nature to us as the good ones do. Unfortunately, bad habits are very hard to break. I tend to say, "yes" to any project without considering first all the other things on my plate. Habitually being 5 minutes late has become part of how I am. I realize that this developed by most of the people around me always being 10 - 15 minutes late for meetings, parties, etc. I went from being a few minutes early, to leaving my house with just enough time to get to an event 5 minutes after the scheduled start. I hate it, but it has become a hard habit to break. Thomas Jefferson wisely said, "He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual." Any thing we do, which we know is not right but do it anyway, can become habit-forming. We let down our guard, we make excuses, we justify, we validate. Just as in Jefferson's illustration with lying, bad habits break our moral fiber. I'm determined to follow the advice of Benjamin Franklin who said, "Each year, one vicious habit rooted out, in time ought to make the worst man good." I need to attack the bad habits I'm developing head on and root them out with ferocity.

Shamefully, I've also begun a habit of breaking good habits. 10 o'clock had been my bedtime for ages up on ages, except on weekends. 10 o'clock saw me tucked in, lights out - because I value a good night's sleep and with a hard workout planned in the morning, I know that I need it. For the past three or four months, I've been pushing the limits of bed time, hitting my workout without the required sleep and feeling zonked by mid-afternoon. Because of this lapse, I'm now breaking another good habit I once had - I used to always wake up and read my Bible before I did anything else. Now I find myself trying to catch every last wink of sleep possible before hitting the gym, and tell myself "don't worry, I'll get to it later." Some days "later" never comes. According to Aristotle, "Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts." If I want to do the good things I plan on doing, I must do them and do them and do them. Things like getting to bed on time, reading my Bible at the start of my day, etc, should be as imporant as drinking that darn shake and heading to the gym on time.

The picture at the top is a too bright cell phone shot of the wonderful set we created for vacation Bible school. Buddy Davis will be preaching from our outdoor scene tomorrow morning. :) We were thinking of standing him in the river with a ducky tube around his waist. I wonder what sort of sense of humor he has...

Now it is time for me to catch the run that I missed this morning - then I need to clean out the refrigerator. On top of all the activities of the week, the youth group is coming to our tomorrow for their monthly hangout. Once a month they hang out at someone's home, either a kid in youth group's or just a family that wants to open up their house to the group. It's our turn, so we've been trying to get things in order. I realized the volley ball has a leak, so tomorrow after church I need to run out and get a new one - plus a couple of more lawn chairs.

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