Habit forming

I am not in the habit of making coffee. It is something I very rarely do. Mind you, I drink it like a caffeine-junkee who’s sure today is the last day coffee will be available ever, but I rarely make the coffee I drink. This past week I made every cup of it. Well, every cup except the one pictured here.

Carmen the dog is in the habit of walking three times a day. It’s part of her — ermmm, how to put this delicately? — constitutional. There are things she will not do to relieve herself in the backyard and so she relies on those thrice daily walks. I, however, am not in the habit of walking her three times a day. The midday walk has been my responsibility since Carmen came to live with us, and for the most part it is the only one I’ve done.

I am in the habit of sleeping on the right side of the bed. And by right, I mean my side or not the wrong side. It may actually be the left side depending on your perspective, but I know it as my side. If there is no one else in the bed, I am still on the right side, not the middle, and never the wrong.

These are just a few minor habits of mine that came to my awareness this past week. Bruce, the maker of coffee and twice-daily walker of dog and usual occupant of my wrong side of the bed (his right, of course), was out of town, and we muddled through without him. Even the last evening, having to walk the dog on her third walk of the day and set up the coffee-maker and lock up the house, as well as the usual chores of making sure Kate didn’t run Lake Ontario dry with her shower before getting to bed on time and that she took her allergy meds, whilst remembering the dog’s nightly bit of rawhide and loading the dishwasher, threw me. It’s too much for one person to do in the short time it’s usually accomplished around here. Which is of course how it all got divvied up in the first place. Organically, for the most part (there are a few exceptions that required … words) without thinking about it, we settled into these grooves like a stylus on a vinyl disc … Oh, right. We don’t use those any more. But didn’t that technology make a lovely metaphor for ruts and routines and music-making while they lasted?

To muse a little further: These housekeeping habits are built over nearly three decades of choosing to live alongside Bruce, some by silently coordinating our efforts toward a common goal, and some banged out with fierce arguing over how best to accomplish something neither one of us likes to do, and a whole bunch others somewhere in between. We meet people we admire, about whom we want to learn more, with whom we wish to associate, and we match our pace to theirs for a little bit or for a long time depending on our circumstances. We take on habits of being that allow us to connect better with that other. Sometimes those associations fade long before the newly acquired habits do. Sometimes the habits lock us into unhealthy relationships.

Which brings me to monastic retreats and self-examination. Going outside my well-worn grooves, habits, routines, ruts, and matching my pace for a little while with those mindfully living a communal life set apart. Immersing myself in their order jars me out of mine, freeing me to begin to pare away unhealthy habits I might otherwise not have recognized as such, and to adopt new ones that are better for me. It also awakens me to relationships I have missed without knowing because the lack was covered over by layers of habitual thought or behavior that masked the void. Difficult work, but lucky to have it.

I am a creature of habit. Of course, so is Carmen the dog…


About pattiblaine

Raised under the name of Snyder in the upstate NY town of Vestal, I've worked as a typesetter, a fast food salad bar tender, an art reviewer, a waitress, a part-time nanny, and a very-bad-with-phones temp. Once upon a time I was all-but-thesis toward a Masters in Art History. Now I'm just a mom with a lot of fiber squirreled away throughout the house. We call it insulation. In 2013 I completed a life-long learning program at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, and am a postulant toward the diaconate in the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, NY. In addition to coordinating volunteers for the soup kitchen, I volunteer as a tutor at a deeply impoverished city elementary school, and am a docent at the Memorial Art Gallery.
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9 Responses to Habit forming

  1. They sound like good habits, and part of a good relationship. When I divorced, and lived alone, every said “isn’t hard?” –It wasn’t–well not very much so. I had during my marriage had developed habits too. I was in the habit of meeting most of my own needs–and many of his. Divorce was easy–I only had to pick up a few new habits (locking up, and paying bills)–shopping, cleaning, laundry, meals,–a list of tasks a mile long were already mine–Only now, I only had to shop for my self, and clean to my own standards, and eat meals on my schedule.
    I hope Bruce misses you and your habitual care as much as you miss his–and that you both remain creature of loving habits.

  2. Sarah says:

    Love the vinyl album metaphor. I am also a creature of habit.

    • pattiblaine says:

      I miss the vinyl. I remember when we sold our player, and can still visualize the check a fellow faculty member in Holland, MI wrote for it. Regrets. 🙂

      • Sarah says:

        About every weekend you’ll find us in Savers looking at the records. Since we lost everything in vinyl from the fire, DH is trying to start a new collection. Granted, it doesn’t have my dad’s In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida or Moody Blues, or all the Elvis I got from when I worked at Sal’s, but it’s something.

  3. Lidiya says:

    We do, in fact, still use those! And at fancy music shops they cost twice as much as the CD version, just so you know it was money well spent.

    I have some habits like this too. But when Tu was on a trip two weeks ago I slept in the middle of the bed. I’ve tried it since he’s been back, but it didn’t work so well…

  4. Fiona says:

    It’s odd how Other Halves complain if you choose to lie in the middle of the bed. Of course, my husband does have a point – my chosen middle is along the diagonal……….

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