up the down stairway to heaven…a game of habits

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i will lament a little this morning about habits (not the kind that nuns wear…perhaps there is a nun blogger out there writing that post as i write mine…follow my tags and maybe you’ll find that one too). the whole concept of “habits” is entirely too complex. i mean, how complicated should it be? do new things that are good for you, stop some that are bad…pull it off with some consistency and call them habits. so why is it so haaarrrrrd?

habits to me seem like one of those God games…like women’s menstrual cycles or irony…like a drinking game or little kids’ game where every round, someone gets to add a new rule. God and SuperFriends sat around laughing their ethereal asses off, throwing in things like, “make the bad ones really hard to break!” and, “the easy ones all have to be bad.” and the sillier (or drunker) They got, the more esoteric and obtuse the rule:  “oh, oh! and make the good ones hard to notice…I mean, like where, like, the more good ones you make, the more bad ones you see!”

i’ve made a few good habits lately, and broken a few bad ones. i need to acknowledge that because all i see are the things i still haven’t managed to habitualize, and all of the patterns i maintain despite evidence that altering them would make me feel better in the long run. ug, and there it is…(one of) the problem(s) between habits and me. i don’t like long runs. in fact i hate them. the cross country races i had to run (slowly) in high school still haunt me like a phantom stitch in my side or ghost shin splints. i say “had to run” because it was considered “pre-season” soccer training. “hey people (coach!), there is a reason i’m a goalie!” my dad used to try to comfort me by telling me, “mastersons will get there, we just won’t get there first.” that was quite comforting, come to think of it.

i digress. my point is, i’ve noticed that bad habits seem to come with all of those wonderful things that bring instant gratification, while good habits inevitably involve “the long run.” and here’s a fun rule: most things that bring instant gratification will destroy you in the long run. ARG! so we spend all kinds of time trying to turn long-run oriented results into something that feels good now. “mmmm, i like these carrots better than chips ahoy rainbow cookies anyway.” that’s some joke. thanks Guys and Girls up there…i hope you are having a good time with this game, Someone should.

still, i have to play the game, or lose to sloth, indulgence, heart disease and/or a drug problem…or end up crippled from sports and fun my body is not prepared to withstand. so this morning i take some stock and look at some of the long run homers i’ve hit lately, to clear my vision and let me see progress that might motivate me to make more. so…the biggest? i quit smoking cigarettes (for the millionth and final time) more than two months ago. talk about easy to make and hilariously difficult to break! secondly, i’ve managed to habitualize keeping my home pretty tidy. thirdly…and now i’m stretching…um, let’s go with sleeping in my bed almost every night instead of the Couch of Even Crappier Sleep.

i have started one habit…not exactly easy to maintain…but that’s enjoyable and rewarding enough to beat the odds…it’s good now AND in the long run! it’s writing here, every day of the week except sunday. it takes some discipline. oh, how i hate that word, but in this case, its tactics are gentle. i don’t beat myself up over this habit…i don’t spend scads of time thinking up reasons to skip it before i decide to get to it (ahem…i’m talking about you, exercise!). i guess it’s easy for me to like it in the moment and let “the long run” benefits develop on their own. i have no end goal in mind when i write. (well, there is that pulitzer committee thing….).

i don’t know if i can maintain this habit. i don’t know if i can make other ones feel this good. i’ve heard rumors that they all get easier the closer you get to habitualization. (by the way, i’m fairly certain “habitualize” in all its forms is not actually a word…but i figure if i use it enough, it may become a linguistic habit across our lexicon…that’s me making up rules to my own games…hahaHA!). like i said, i’ve established some healthy habits lately, broken a few bad ones…but they are hard to see. i do see that i need to drink more water, eat healthier, drink less coffee, exercise more, walk my dog more, stop procrastinating on all the administrivia that haunts me, and meditate regularly (for more than a minute and a half).

for today though, i will try to enjoy all my new and shiny habits, and pat myself on the back for being here, for trying and for succeeding at lots of things…and for trying again when i fail. join me today…look at what you do well, for yourself and for others. shine a new light on your habits and find the good ones that keep you going everyday (if you see some bad ones you’d like to work on, that’s ok too). i think making a habit of appreciating yourself might just make this game fun(ner). i’m talkin’ fun for a girl and a boy…and though there is no victory, just “game over” at death,  i will still shake my hand at the sky and laugh every time my little slinky of a life continues its journey down the stairway to heaven…oh, wait…am i going the wrong way? ah well, it’s not the destination right? or did i just discover another twisted rule?

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