Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bad Habits Die Hard

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…


The Bug said...

Good for you! Oh man I have some bad habits that it would really behoove me to kick to the curb. Unfortunately the #1 issue is inertia & I'm not sure how to overcome the habit of not moving. Maybe I should hire Jillian Michaels (that's a joke).

Bungee jumping sounds fun, but perhaps just as perilous to your health?

Steve E said...

My habits seem to form rather quickly, especially if they're bad ones. And then SO hard to delete.

Now the GOOD ones, well, we all know how they are--downright contradictory Peeps, that's what.

And so EASY to dispose of, as if they were never a part of my behavior.


Nice blog, good message: by a FINE writer! Thanks, Sister in recovery!

Brian Miller said...

do take a vidoe of that first bungee jump to share with us...just saying...smiles....good on you chris for going after those habits...

Anonymous said...

My ex husband is exactly like that. It used to drive me insane until I realized that if he finished early, he would probably go back and rewrite things. I think leaving things to the last minute was a way to insure that he wouldn't have time to dick around and rethink anything.

Wish I could work your neck out for you. That's what I do, you know :-)

Syd said...

I've been an early starter on deadlines. I do work well under pressure but have found that I am more sane if I do things in measures. Living life in balance is easier than sitting on the edge and hammering away at something under duress. Hope that your neck feels better. Thanks for your comments. What you went through with your mother helps me to understand the FIL.

Anonymous said...

oh dear, did you fall into a coma after not sleeping for two days? I would have!

Lisa said...

Great post! I am a terrible procrastinator; and the adrenaline high from getting something done at that last minute is such an awesome feeling!

The downside is that I feel sick when I am close to not making a deadline, it impacts a lot of what I do, and I often have to pay more to get to the result that I need, etc. etc. etc.

I am going to print your post and keep it in front of me (well, when I'm back at the office and connected to a printer)...procrastination at its best! LOL

Really, great post!

Peter Goulding said...

Oh God I can relate! The rush when the deadline's looming and the words just tumble out!
Getting it done early is the sensible thing of course...

Mary said...

Good for you for taking on a destructive habit and finishing AHEAD of schedule. Your words are a good reminder, I think, of how strong bad habits can be..they really do fight a person 'tooth and nail.'

Anonymous said...

yay, you!

"they" say that the best way to permanently break a bad habit is to replace it with a good one ~ maybe you can find something which doesn't cause you any real harm but gives you an adrenaline rush... but you only allow yourself to do it if you have reached your deadline in a healthy way. hmmm... i can't think of one thing that gives me that rush that isn't bad for me. {smile}

good luck with your neck ~ i had 3 accidents {all of which i was stopped at a red light and rear-ended} which now have caused vertigo. so do what your physical therapist tells you to do, young lady! ♥