Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Always the Habits

It is tough for me to sustain new habits. As the saying goes, old habits die hard. This morning I'm thinking about how I have slipped back into old habits and trying to remember to stay clear of them. Deciding to change is easy, I can do it in a second. Sustaining the change is something that I have to maintain over the long haul. That's more difficult.

I weigh myself every morning to have a feel for where I'm at with my eating. I have learned bad eating habits over my 43 years. I eat when I'm not hungry and when I'm bored. The scale this morning read 208.3, up five pounds from where I was only two weeks ago. Part of that is daily fluctuation. I get that. But it's higher than my weight ought to be.

Yesterday, at 207.9 pounds, I told myself to eat better and get my body back down to where I want it. When I saw today that I had gained rather than lost, I wondered out loud, "how did that happen?" I was genuinely confused. Then I remembered having had a beer and a half yesterday afternoon, two servings of chocolate, half a bag of chips, and so on. I didn't exercise yesterday either. Go figure.

I'm not all that worried about the things that I ate. I'm unhappy that I ate and drank without being present. I was dog-tired yesterday and it shows in how I ate. I wasn't there for most of the things I put in my mouth, didn't taste or enjoy them. I was tired, not hungry. I'm unhappy that I forgot to notice the difference.

Today, I'm again telling myself to eat better, but the idea is different. Yesterday I meant "don't eat so much!" Today, I'm saying "three deep breaths before eating." If I'm hungry and the food is going to ease that hunger, I'll eat. If I'm just tired, bored, sad, or anxious, I'll put the food down and try to understand what I'm feeling.

There are other habits I'm trying to change and the lesson is the same. I struggle with eating, sleeping, exercising, working, writing, reading. The struggles aren't Earth-shattering, but they make me notice that things are going on and that old habits are coming back. Which brings me to the idea of changes.

I work with students who have had trouble at school. They come to our school as their last resort. I used to preach that they had to change. Then I  wondered why they refused to do so. How presumptuous of me to demand that they change and how laughable to expect that they will just because I say so. My demand that they change says that they aren't good. Being judged doesn't lead to good change.

There aren't bad kids. They are people who have gotten stuck in old habits. Rather than demand that they change, I need to help them become aware of themselves. I try to help them see that their habits screw them over much more than any outside force. I'm working to have them see themselves clearly and to feel power instead of helplessness. I tell them about my own struggles. I tell them about how I blamed the world. I show them the power I have to be aware of what is really happening and how that makes my life better.

And I tell them that I struggle with it every day. I tell them about my date with the scale each morning. Then I tell them that change can happen. Things can get better.

I've seen the proof. Today is my 52nd day of writing 750 words each morning and it's my 30th day of publishing them. The change has been good and I'm understanding more of what it means to write for an audience. This one change has been powerful and made me more aware of myself and the world around me.

I've read that a new habit takes 30 days to become, for lack of a better word, habitual. I think that it takes me much longer. Which means there is only one option for me to improving: write on.

I made another change today that I hope to carry forward into my second month of publishing. Originally, I had planned to publish these as-is, first-draft. Reading this piece showed me the problems in that. I've revised it once and it is geared toward an audience outside my mind. That's important for me to work on as a writer. I'll go through revisions of December's writings and see what other changes happen along the way.  (Brian)