Sunday, January 15, 2012

The force of habit

Two weeks into the New Year and I've already reneged on the resolutions I would have made were I prone to making ritual year-end proclamations pertaining to personal improvement.

This year might have been an exception.

In my mind, if not in verbal resolve, I saw myself vowing to make more homemade dinners; taking long, daily walks; and playing family-friendly games after dinner besides “Who has the Remote Control?”

But just as I was just about to say it aloud: “This year I will …”

I was overtaken by viral-turn-bacterial plague. I could barely turn over on the couch, let alone turning over a new leaf.

Truth be told, I'm not used to getting hammered with the mythical “Man Cold.” Something seemingly slight that takes a person down for the count. But by the third week, I began to wonder if I'd ever feel human again.

I also waxed even more dramatic than usual:

“Our time here is so brief. Don't waste it,” I told myself. “Being sick and knowing you will recover is a gift so many people won't receive. Don't take it for granted. ...

“Oh, Hon? Can you get me a glass of ginger ale and a banana?”

Of course, by that point I hadn't handled bedtime bedlam. I hadn't been the heavy behind brushing of teeth or finishing of books. The last-minute sibling squabbles – a standard ploy of the manufactured extension of playtime – had been swept from my room and shushed with a sensitive admonishment: “Mommy needs her rest.”

Oh, how I missed them.

But as I started to feel better – as my achy joints smoothed over and my stuffy head dried out – the idea that I would take pleasure in the small things in life seemed entirely possible again..

I could breath again. I wasn't sneezing or coughing or fearful of spreading contageon. I missed reading stories and good-night kisses.

Until bedtime rolled around on the second night, as it usually does, with overdue housework, overtired kids wanting to hold off visiting the Land of Nodd until they ate everything in the refrigerator, read every word on their book-buckled shelves and secured the OK to brush their teeth in the morning.

One step forward. Three steps backward.

I could taste the familiar threats as they found their way into my throat.

“There will be no books.

“I will shut this door and listen to you cry.

“I don't care. I can find earplugs.

“You'll have no one to blame but yourselves.”

Somehow, perhaps it was a holiday miracle, the words never made it to my lips.

Stopped, perhaps, but a new perspective.

It's not as if we don't have a routine: They always settle down … eventually. They will brush their teeth and they will fall asleep sooner than it seems. Tomorrow we start again.

This is my resolve.

It's not perfect. But, as I look more closely, it certainly doesn't seem broken.

Perhaps the goal shouldn't be to break habits, it should be to smooth edges.

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