Saturday, December 29, 2012

Changing One Thing

A guy online yesterday asked, "what one change do you want to make in January?" It's a good question founded on a good bit of practical wisdom: the way to make real change in my life is to begin with one change and stick with it until it becomes a habit. I've done that with writing 750 words each day. I'm sixty-three days into a streak and even if I miss a day, it won't break my habit of writing.

(By the way, you should log in to right now and start your own streak. Go for a few days and then throw the guy a couple bucks. It's worth it to pay for good things.)

His question got me thinking. What one change do I want to make? I've got the writing thing going. What about meditation? Not bad. Exercise? Hard to make that call when I'm still recovering from surgery. Working on the novel I wrote in November? Finishing the book of poetry I started in June?

All of these sounded reasonable enough, but I want something basic that goes to the heart of who I am. Daily writing does that. It's a simple pattern that brings out huge results. I want something elemental. And here it is:

Eat slowly and taste food.

For the end of December and all of January, I want to slow down. I eat whenever food is handy rather than because I am hungry. I eat even when I'm full and sick of eating. I drink fast without tasting them. I plan snacks and then feel obligated to eat them. I eat like a crazy man.

Eating slowly and tasting food changes something fundamental and helps me to be aware and present.

It's a tough goal to keep. I have forty-four years of eating fast as my habit. Doing something new is a real challenge. It will require me to consider things in the moment of eating, something I'm not good at yet. And this is exactly what I need, a tough challenge that requires me to be fully awake.

Eating is a fundamental need but the ways in which I eat are problematic. I eat too much without tasting, without thinking, without noticing. Because of that I weight too much, spend too much on food, and use eating to deflect from other things. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person with this set of problems.

The good news is that I don't have to eat slowly and taste my food every day of January and the end of December. I need to do it today. Actually, I just have to do it right now. I just sipped my coffee, tasted it, and swallowed. I enjoyed that moment rather than drinking it while doing five other things. I stopped typing and thinking about this essay to enjoy the taste and thus achieved my goal. Life is good.

I expect that soon enough I'll see that I have eaten three cookies or finished a glass of bourbon without tasting or enjoying. When it happens, I'll need to acknowledge and recommit. Failing once doesn't mean it's all over.

That's the real lesson. I can fail without falling apart. I've lost a 102-day writing streak but now I have a 62-day streak running. Whatever the number, I'm still a writer. I've learned that even when I miss a day of writing, it's a matter of habit now and I simply get back to the computer and write on.