Back in the Habit Again (This post has nothing to do with Sister Act 2)

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It’s incredibly frustrating how hard it is to form good habits and how easily they disappear. These bags of ham are leftover from Easter lunch (I should mention that I am the only person in my house that eats ham. In fact, for the most part I’m the only person in my house that consumes meat on the regular. My wife was raised vegetarian, and while I do give my daughters the occasional bits of chicken and fish, their diet too consists primarily of fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy). At first I was worried about getting through all that pork, but I’ve had no problem putting it away. A slice here, a slice there, and it’s slowly but steadily slipping away (in all honesty, I don’t know why this comes as a surprise). But back to habits. What the hell do excessive quantities and consumption of ham have to with habits? This will be fractured and circuitous as hell, but I think I can explain.

I cooked the ham on Easter. This is the first Easter in a long time I’ve celebrated in a “Christian” manner. My family and I got up, went to church, took part in the delightful call and response, “He is risen/He is risen indeed. Hallelujah!” The moment felt real for me in a way that it hasn’t in the last 13 years. What a tremendous thing we (Christians and/or folks leaning strongly in that direction…ahem ahem…me) celebrate on this day. Triumph over the grave. Not fearing death. Flipping the bird at the darkness. Winter dies, Spring lives, and new life begins. George Harrison had it right.

I’m not sure how familiar folks are with liturgical calendars, but leading up to Easter is the season of Lent, a time of reflection and preparation to mirror Christ’s desert sojourn where he faced down the devil. Typically during this time people will give up something they hold dear. Catholics are the go-to exemplars, opting to chow down on fish instead of other meats (I’ve heard, which means I’ve conducted no research, that the whole fish business was political more than anything else, as historically, rich fat cats, including those in the Vatican got the meat, the good stuff, and the poor were given fish and told that God wanted it this way). I was raised Lutheran and while we attended the Wednesday evening soup suppers & church services, we never really went in for the whole giving something up for Lent thing. So this year I decided to give it a try. I chose beer, which I thought was noble, only to discover that it’s not. It would make more sense for me in my twenties to give up beer for a month. I don’t drink as much anymore (mainly a weekend imbiber) so to giving up beer didn’t involve much sacrifice, leading to no real reflection. Now my understanding of Lent is that it’s not about giving something up to give something up. It’s about identifying the shit in our lives that distracts us, that prevents us from growing as a person, that gets in the way of an honest relationship with ourselves and our G/god (whatever that may be).

Netflix. I’d developed a nasty Netflix habit, putting something on anytime I needed to accomplish a task: getting ready in the morning, doing dishes at night, grading. Netflix was my companion and because of this, all of these activities took twice as long. It was a never ending bout of binge watching. I’d clear seasons of shows in a couple days. Okay, you get it. So I threw Netflix on to the Lent heap with the beer and gave myself a break. And I got shit done. I got through my tasks a lot quicker which gave me more time to write, cranking out at least 350-800 words a day. I also had more time to read (I finished three different books). I felt focused and confident in my new habits.

Then Spring Break fell across the land like a shadow, bringing with it the approach of Easter and the end of Lent. I dismantled my good habits. I stopped writing every day (justifying it of course…I was working on a writing grant, so I told myself not to worry about getting any stories done), taking an entire week off, and at the end of the week, I actually dreaded writing. At night after work, I only wanted to crawl into bed and read. I had to force myself to write. And this is how easily those hard-won habits disappear. It’s easy to slough off the challenging shit with the excuse of trying again tomorrow, but I don’t want to do that. I need to push through. I need to accomplish.

I have watched a few shows since getting back on Netflix. House of Cards (3 episodes), and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (1 episode). It was nice watching those shows but I didn’t feel the need to kill an entire season immediately. Actually, I had more fun checking out the Fellowship of the Ring film from the library to watch with my wife. She’s never read the books nor seen the movies, so it was sweet getting to experience this movie again, but with her by my side (sorry for the sentimentality…it’s important to get sappy and tender from time to time…I’m not a robot, dammit).

That was a lot of digression kicked off by excessive ham talk at the beginning, but I hope to have made a modicum of sense.

Be well. Hold on to the good habits. Tell the bad habits to piss off.

Huzzah!

-Gus

PS-I started cracking into the beers again and those have been glorious!

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