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When I was little had the habit of biting my nails. My mom tried every and nothing worked. I’m not sure when I finally stopped, but now I bite my cheeks instead. Another bad habit I guess. I do it when I’m stressed or distracted. My daughter does it now too. I guess bad habits are as easy to pass along as they are to fall into.
Why are good habits the opposite? So hard to implement and when I do the minute I stop it’s as if it never was a habit. Things that should be habitual like eating breakfast, cooking dinner, flossing every day just aren’t.
Last year for a few months I started a new habit. It was great. I learned it on The Sorta Awesome Show and had a big sign on my kitchen whiteboard. The 3 Ds. Dishes, Dinner, Dirty Laundry. Every morning I woke up, did one load of laundry, emptied the clean dishwasher and defrosted or planned something for dinner. It was magic, pure brilliance. For once, I was caught up with laundry and not caught off guard every evening at 4:30. Dishes went straight into the dishwasher and I could see my sink.
They say positive consequences are motivating but I guess not motivating enough? Christmas happened, and extra shifts and the “did you do your three Ds?” reminder haunts me every day. It’s been 8 months and I have not done it one day since.
Recently I started doing yoga again. I discovered Yoga with Adriene, again another Sorta Awesome find! I connected with her style of teaching and for the first time since being pregnant was doing yoga every day. I signed up for her 30-day challenge and minus a day or two here or there have practiced every day. It’s become a habit. As I’m ending the challenge I wonder “Will the habit stick?” I don’t know. I hope so.
Here’s the thing I have learned about good habits. It makes thing smaller and more easily managed. Doing a little every day keeps me in a place of balance. I feel less like I’m catching up. Catching up on laundry, and exercise, and eating healthy. A tiny bit of yoga every day has subtle but amazing results. I can touch my toes, easily. I was near my knees a month ago. My heels almost touch the floor in downward dog, I think about my breath every day. I’m calmer (most days). A little bit of maintenance goes a long way.
It’s not my nature, though. It takes me approximately 1-2 weeks to read the first chapter of a book (or a year, who’s counting?) Once I’m into it I basically read the rest of the book in one night. I don’t bake for months and then I spend one week filling my freezer when the urge arises. For a long time, I’ve been a slave to my whims. Unable to bite off chunk sized pieces each day. Papers were written the night before, always. Payments were right before the due date, or late. I ignore the mess until it makes me so crazy I clean for hours straight in an anxious rage.
When my daughter got diagnosed with ADHD I read about all her tendencies to be like me. I cried because I didn’t know how to teach her things I didn’t know how to do myself. I learned to love her for her quirky unique self and to have self-compassion for myself. To speak kindly to myself around the things I wished I could change.
Something funny happened when I started accepting the smart and scattered nature of our family. When I learned to love that part of us, even while it drove me crazy and made me feel inadequate. When I stopped futilely fighting it and welcomed it in, it lost it’s power.
I still have trouble implementing new habits and even keeping the old good ones but there is less shame attached to the missed days. When that shame is gone and my grip is loosened a little I can let it go. I can see each new day as another opportunity to get it right and love myself based on my worth, not my ability to keep up good habits.
Good habits are tools, they are tools to help me and heal me, they bring me peace and functionality, but they are not me. I am me, the good habits and the bad. When I hate the bad habits but love myself I have the motivation to change.
The desire to care for myself because I deserve to be healthy and my family deserves to be healthy is far more motivating than the self-recrimination of being a failure. The habit of speaking kindly to myself, with compassion and grace? The one where I walk in courage and show up to be seen in my vulnerability? Those life-giving habits mean more to me that how clean my house is. Ironically, when I feel good inside from loving myself, my physical world tends to follow naturally.
*Prompt #4 in Make Blogging Fun was to write about HABITS.