It’s true, what they say: Old habits die hard.
Old habits…like going to work, school, church. Hugging our kids. Seeing friends. Helping a neighbor or our parents.
So much of life is habit. In the daily humdrum of your life, do you ever take time to stop and think about why you do things the way you do them? Do you remember the last time you allowed yourself that luxury (if ever)?
So, here’s something that CoVid might be teaching us: maybe that’s not a luxury, at all. Maybe it’s what we need to survive, sane.
For the last few weeks, we’ve all been struggling to give up all our old habits, in order to survive, and to allow others to survive. And we’ve been doing an outstanding job, most of us, sheltering in place — even if that place is a tiny apartment on the 17th floor.
Some of us, however, are prisoners of our habits. The surfers who got arrested as they came out of the water. The climbers who can’t stay off the rocks, even if it means crowding out the tiny, out-of-the-way towns whose hospitals and responders can’t handle extra emergency situations. The congregants in the church where 40 people wound up with the virus after they refused to hold digital services.
Habits. We cling to them, like to a lifeline.
Changing a habit requires a lot of thought. Even harder, though, than thinking about it, is deciding to do something about that status quo. Have you ever tried to stop smoking? Eating chocolate? Having dessert? Drinking your favorite specialty coffee, which you know is filled with sugars and Greek and Latin ingredients that are terrible for your body?
Change is hard. Habits are comfortable. How far out of our comfort zone are we willing to go?
Anyone who has raised a child knows the value of routine. Predictable routine helps us make sense of life. Right now, though, in the midst of this pandemic, we are living, as the KUSC website puts it,
“…in a consistently unpredictable world.”
If you can embrace change, can envision stretching to fit a new comfort zone, you probably won’t have trouble re-structuring your life around CoVid’s demands. But if you’re habit-driven, like many of us, if you find comfort in your ‘old standby’ routines, this pandemic is going to demand things of you that your psyche will fight hard against.
So, ask yourself this: Why do you do things a certain way? Could you do them differently? Would that mess with your head…more than the virus is already doing?
Educators know, for example, that online classes are not as effective as having a real, live teacher and colleagues in the same room. But that’s dangerous now. So we compromise. We embrace a less-effective system that’s safer.
We can all do the same. We can embrace change, structure our lives in ways we’d never thought of. Buy our groceries on line. Get our exercise and stay fit in our own neighborhood. Hug our long-distance kids in our minds, while we sleep, but talk to them only by phone. Visit them digitally.
We can. While we wait. And hope.
Our old habits are in a fight for their life.
So are we.