Habitually Verbose

Bad habits are hard to break. They covertly find ways to circumvent obstacles placed before them, hiding their work-arounds behind opaque veils. At some point, though, their evasions  come to light, angering and embarrassing the habit-holder who discovers he has failed in his efforts to quell undesirable behavior. Eventually, if the habit-holder persists, victory can be his. Victory may not be the right word for it, though; truce may more accurately describe his cessation of the bad habit. Frequently, the habit does not die—its corpse is not buried, never to rise again. Instead, the habit simply is incapacitated, as if in a coma. When circumstances are favorable, the habit may unexpectedly awake from its coma, sometimes stronger and more aggressive, thanks to its restorative “nap.”

Working people have a lot of bad habits, but the worst of these is work.

~ Clarence Darrow ~

Paying heed to Darrow’s insight, I retired early, at age 58. Had I been considerably brighter than I am, I would have realized much earlier what a terribly bad habit work had become. Work was doing its best to shorten my life. It had already shortened my temper and my patience. But I “saw the light” and, finally, responded accordingly. The fear of what might happen if I stopped working was less than the fear of what might happen if I continued. Okay. My tongue is firmly planted in my cheek; I will continue, but in a more serious manner.

I remember the many times I tried to quit smoking. Over and over I tried to conquer the habit—addiction, really—only to fail when I allowed myself to give nicotine the upper hand. The odor and taste I now find utterly revolting tricked me, repeatedly. Nicotine assured me that only by taking a drag off a cigarette could I experience that brief moment of bliss I had come to associate with smoking. “Nothing else can do this for you,” it whispered. The one solution that worked, but only in specific situations, was absurd. I sat at a table in a tiny room, drawing long drags off my cigarettes; wires were attached to my hands. Every time I took a drag, electrical currents were sent through the wires, giving me an unpleasant jolt. Problem solved! At that moment and to this day, I knew I would never again smoke a cigarette while confined, with wires attached to my hands, in a tiny, smoke-filled room.  Years later, the ultimate solution came from fear and determination. After I had to have double bypass surgery, my surgeon told me if I continued to be a smoker, I probably would die within two years. The habit/addiction had met its match. Though I had some help, with medication, my fear and determination finally won out. But after so many previous failed attempts, I knew the tricks my habit would play to overcome the obstacles I placed before them: the key to keeping them in place would be to avoid even a single drag. For all time. The addiction had been overcome. But if the habit’s tricks were allowed to jump over or through the fence, there would be no guarantee…I could never permit the habit an opening. Overcoming bad habits can be an incredibly difficult struggle, made even more challenging when paired with physical or psychological addiction. It is most definitely worth the struggle.


A run to Costco  is on the agenda for today. I have other things to accomplish, too. And… Oh, there is so much more on my mind this morning, but I do not have adequate motivation to write about it. Trust me, it is better that I let my fingers rest.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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