Destructive habits fight for survival like hyenas would fight for the last scrap of tendon from the last tough gazelle on the planet.
I’m a deadline junkie. When the countdown hits those final seconds, I go to work: It’s DO or DIE, dearie, so yes I do it, I pull it off, I slide in right under the wire. Watch me crank, every move a ballet, Hail Mary – nothing but net!
The deadline crunch is a way of life, a drug-free adrenaline rush. I write for a living. For 35 years, that copy due-date has ruled my brain. Since my car was rear-ended last November, I’ve been suffering a solid week of misery month after month. All that 11th-hour work, glued to the computer in a deadline frenzy, just kills my injured neck. It turns around and murders ME, and then I have to go prone for two straight days to let my neck recover.
My physical therapist and my AA sponsor have been noodling me to change my way of life. I say, yeah, yeah, I need to do things differently, and then habit takes over, and I’m doing the same old thing, getting the same old results, month after month.
Habits hate change. They’re living creatures who will fight for survival. They live in your brain. They pull strings there, sometimes subtly sabotaging your thoughts (“That can wait till tomorrow…”), and sometimes screaming outright (“NoNoNoNoNO! You can’t do that!”). They’ll try every trick in the book to preserve themselves.
Excessive Misery Is A Good Teacher. That’s scrawled in big orange letters in one of my AA books (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, to be exact, at the end of Step Six, where we address the character flaws that made our lives so adventurous, so thrilling, so disastrous). A short paragraph is highlighted in pink: “in no case does He render us white as snow and keep us that way without our cooperation [blue-ink underline there]. This is something we are supposed to be willing to work toward ourselves.”
Excessive Misery Is A Good Teacher. Sick and tired of being miserable, huh? Maybe…do something different? Change, perhaps? Commit, say, to slaughter a bad habit, even if it bites, scratches and goes down fighting? Whose brain is it, anyway? Who’s in charge here?
So I acted like I was in charge. I knuckled down this past week, made a real effort to be smarter about meeting my writing deadline. Started earlier. Worked shorter hours at the computer. Stayed off the computer entirely if I wasn’t working on a story. Took those breaks everyone was advising I take.
Got the work done a day early! Holy crap! Didn’t have to go to bed for two days! Didn’t get the adrenaline rush, either. Ho-hum. Life threatens to get boring. [That’s a whisper from a dying bad habit…those suckers die hard.] Ah. Maybe I’ll take up bungee-jumping…