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Monday, May 28, 2012

Habits - or "I can sit where I want"

All human beings are creatures of habit. Some of us are more a slave to their habits than others, but we all base a lot of what we do on habit. Now I have expressed this thought to people over the years, and I get an argument out of some of them - "I am not a slave to my habits" or similar is exclaimed. I ask if they shave, most say yes to at least some part of their body. I then ask do you have a starting point and a pattern you follow? Some then looked shocked as they realize they do. I can also ask about brushing their teeth (dentures, I am not so sure- not there yet). Most start in the same place and go approximately the same way through their mouth. There are many, many other examples that we all have, but these two usually get people.

Now I know, having ritualistic movements and behaviors are one of the way we get through the mundane parts of our lives. I actually don't know anyone over the age of two or three that enjoys brushing their teeth. We do it because it is necessary. We do it habitually (or ritualistically) to make it bearable and to hopefully assure some quality in our actions.

The problem with habits and habitual/ritualistic movements and procedures is they can be inefficient, incorrect, or just unnecessary. Sometimes something we are doing now was started when it meant something, but we keep doing it "because we always have". I try to regularly examine what I am doing, as well as the why and how. For example, years ago I noticed I shaved the exact same way every time. For the past five or six years I have forced myself to shave differently. I try to start in a different place and go in a different, even random, order around my face. I will say that when I started there would be days that I would be ready to wipe the residue of shaving cream off my face and notice I had missed a cheek or the labret (look it up, I love the word) It actually makes me think about what I am doing. (then again, I admit I am strange)

OK, here is what brought this post about. I live mostly alone. I have a 21 year old daughter that uses this as her legal address, but she is rarely here for anything other than to shower, change, and sleep. Therefore, if I eat here, I eat alone. I still have the same dinette table here that we used when all the kids were here. I have one leaf down and only three chairs around it, but it is still the same table. I noticed tonight when I sat down to eat, I was sitting at the same space I sat at when I had my wife and some of the kids eating with me. I eat there if one of my children and/or grandkids come to eat now. I realized I was sitting where I have sat for years and years for no other reason than that is
where I sat for years and years. When I realized what I was doing I made myself sit on the other side of the table.

It was amazing. The A/C hits me better, so it is cooler (my old seat was in the corner). I can see out the back to the bird feeders and the back yard (old view was through blinds to the side of my neighbors house). I read at dinner a lot and the light is actually not as good, but the view outside was worth it. Plus, I fought off another habit. It was invigorating (but I don't have much of a life).

Try working contrary to one of your habits. Let me know how it goes.