I am an amassment of bad habits, all of them clinging together to crudely resemble a human female. I am a lady-shaped jumble composed of candy corn, terrible excuses, kitty-cat videos and wine. I’m nothing but bad habits, baby.
I may be exaggerating a little bit. That’s another bad habit of mine.
All right, look: I may have a number of bad habits, but I’m not all that different from anyone else. I’m pretty sure we share a bunch of these. Are any of us really getting enough sleep? Are we exercising as much as we should? Come, now. There may be a few virtuous types out there, the ones who win ultramarathons or help the poor while also following a gluten-free, sugar-free, cruelty-free diet, but I avoid those people. They’re not much fun at parties. I think. I actually avoid parties, too.
The thing about most bad habits is that they tend to be fun and therefore hard to get rid of. Conversely, good habits are less fun, which makes them extraordinarily easy to ditch.
I can easily shed good habits even if I’ve kept them for years. I was a regular exerciser until about six months ago, at which point I pulled a muscle (or something), and once that was healed up, I completely forgot about that place called “gym.” I’ll get back to it, I guess, but right now I’m enjoying this period of unfettered laziness.
[pullquote]I have managed, somehow, to cut out sugar for an extended period of time. And then I’ve had a single bite of cake and immediately launched myself face-first into a tub of frosting.[/pullquote]
One of my most intractable bad habits is the consumption (or, rather, overconsumption) of sugar. I think of dessert not so much as a delightful treat than as an overpowering need. (People who say they don’t have a sweet tooth always amaze me. I want to curl up on their laps and find out what it’s like in their strange worlds. What does it mean, to be free?) Sugar does a number on me, mood- and energy-wise. I get shaky, my head hurts, my anxiety worsens. And yet, despite knowing all this, the idea of living a dessert-free life makes me feel even worse. (And no, fruit is not “just as good.” How dare you.)
I have managed, somehow, to cut out sugar for an extended period of time. After the inevitable period of suffering passed, I’ve seen how much better I’ve felt emotionally, mentally and physically without the sweet stuff. And then I’ve had a single bite of cake and immediately launched myself face-first into a tub of frosting. Damn it, I love dessert.
Sugar consumption is not, at least according to my husband, my worst habit. He’d tell you all about how I’m a chaos creator, leaving a mess in my wake wherever I go. He’s not wrong. I mean, I don’t mind cleaning. I can get it together for a Saturday afternoon of listening to the ol’ Stax Volt playlist while vacuuming and scrubbing or whatever. But the everyday maintenance of my home seems to be beyond me.
I honestly don’t intend to wreck the place whenever I set out to, say, put a snack together or change pants, but the evidence says otherwise. I leave wrappers and cans on counters, and drawers and cabinets I’ve opened simply remain… open. Piles of clothes stubbornly lie where I’ve left them, which is invariably on the ground. Once I’ve turned away from things, they become invisible to me. I’ve tried to pass off my absentmindedness as a sign of genius, but I don’t think my husband is buying it. (By the way, he’s not exactly free of bad habits himself. Like, say, cursing and sighing every time he finds a mess I’ve made. Tiresome.)
Because I am also a hypocrite (is that a habit?), I get mad at my son for doing the same thing I do. Every time I enter his room, it looks like he’s been raptured. At least now I can blame him for my messes. Hell, I’d blame the dog if I could.
I get why this is annoying. It’s annoying to me! I’ll return to a room and get all mad that some jerk left it in shambles, and then I realize I’ve been alone all along, at which point I’m frightened because clearly this means that we’ve got ourselves a poltergeist. Does my husband think I’m trying to scare myself?
Like most of us (again, except for the 1% of the population I really don’t want to hear about), I’m working on these and all my other less-than-admirable habits. I manage most days to keep my sugar consumption at a reasonable level. After I’m done in the kitchen, I remind myself to go back in and take care of the garbage I’ve left everywhere. I try not to beat myself up over it.
And that leads me to my worst bad habit, which is beating myself up. Unlike the others, this habit isn’t even fun, but it feels strangely virtuous (which makes it even harder to get rid of). That is, when I even notice that I’m doing it. It has been such an automatic response for so long that it has taken me years of therapy to be able to stop and realize: Hey, Bradley, maybe that tension headache isn’t from the cupcake but, rather, from the mental flogging you performed on yourself afterward.
It’s hard, though. Harder than avoiding cookies or getting off of Facebook when I should be working. Some weird, small part of me is apparently committed to the notion that I require ceaseless criticism. The best I can do, and it’s not insignificant, is step back and notice when I’m doing it. When my pants don’t fit or I’m running late for a deadline or I forget to sign a permission slip, and that voice pops up, I can take a moment and think, yep, there you are, right on time. Now kindly leave me alone. And, you know, sometimes this even works.