They all showed up

all six of them for my 10th birthday, sweaty and red faced from playing tag.  Barone’s pizza grease dripping from our faces. Wild and happy. He came stumbling up the driveway, the undigested pizza in my stomach threatened to show itself. I stood and smiled. He tripped past me up the porch stairs, threw the door open, struggled not to fall while his shoes came off. The hot garbage stench as his foot released from 12 hours in railroad boots punched me in the nose. He was slurring and screaming, wanting to know what the hell all these kids were doing in his house. Running to my room i cried, for barely a minute, taking a deep breath before returning outside to play again, telling them my dad was sick, not to worry. He wouldn’t make it for the singing.

Habit

We are our habits, whether we like it or not.  Many neuroscience studies indicate that our brains are made up of about 40% (the low estimate) habit.  Meaning that as we do an activity over and over again, the decision making part of our brain starts to shut down and the routine is automated.  The good news is that this frees up our brain to do other things – the brain takes up more than 20% of oxygen, blood and energy to function, so in order to allow up to do higher functioning tasks it needs to automate as much as possible.  The bad news is that it doesn’t differentiate between good and bad habits.  That is where awareness comes in.  In order to change or shift any habit we first have to be aware we have it – the excuse that I just am the way I am doesn’t fly.  We are changeable adaptable, malleable beings.

I will be talking about this subject a lot in the coming weeks as I am working on a project that i think will eventually change the way people look at their behavior and provide the necessary tools to make sustainable change.

As I was doing my research I started to think about all the ways in which habit effects our lives and I immediately thought of my three year old son.  I realized that all the conscious and unconscious decisions my wife and I make in his life are forming habits that he will keep for a lifetime.  Whether we are talking about the basics such as eating and sleeping, or we are talking about how he interacts and thinks of himself, how he interacts and thinks of and treats other people.  Many of you have children, think of how quickly something can become part of their routine, how quickly they come to expect something to happen the same way everyday…

For example, Henry has a bedtime routine, as I am sure your child does.  He takes a bath, brushes his teeth, we read three books and sing three songs, he sleeps with his favorite love thing (he calls him baby E) turns on his lantern and goes to sleep.  We have been following this routine most of his short life.  He expects it and can rattle it off, he will even correct a babysitter if they miss a step.  This isn’t a rant about what routine any child should have, it is about being deliberate and fully aware that whatever you are doing, you are creating a routine and creating a habit – good or bad.  And if you aren’t following a routine than the non routine becomes the habit.  It is about realizing that every choice we make, in our lives as well as the lives of our kids could result in a habit.

So, as you ponder this I highly recommend taking an inventory, maybe just starting with yourself or if it is easier, think of your kid(s) or your pets.  What habits have you cultivated without realizing it?  Write them down, the good and the bad.  Now what habits would you like to cultivate?  Write those down too.  It is the start of creating awareness around how we behave.  Pick one habit from you list – good or bad.  And think back to when the first time was that you did that thing…

It helps me if I do a short meditation before I do the reflection.  Set a timer for 5 minutes –

Arrive – get comfortable and be where you are

Awake – start to hone in our your breath – breathing in on the count of 4 and out on the count of 6

Just breathe – when you mind wanders to the next thought as it will, come back to breath and start counting again

Aware – continue breathing – allowing your self to only have to do this one thing – let go, let be

Back to the breath, counting in and out

When the 5 minutes are up, take out a piece of paper and try the exercise above, you may have opened up some more space to remember more details.

We are all imperfect beings, with good and bad habits.  For change to happen we first have to come to know ourselves.

stay tuned.

 

with love,

kelley

Roman Ruins

I fell in love with the burden of my pain and rather than wallowing in my self pity I used it as a pulpit to preach and defend upon. In the end, I was not better off than having wallowed in self pity because I hadn’t leaned in and looked it in the eye. I told the story as a detached third person and masked it in self acceptance but it was fear and martyrdom.

I can hear the defenses before the alarm has been sounded – no one could call my shit because I had a story for everything – I better defended than the Roman Empire.

And the reward was great, my sad story guilted people into submission – I was left alone and revered for making it- for not becoming just like them. No drugs, no alcohol addiction, graduated high school and college, successful and in a big job, married with a child in a beautiful home.

And it worked until one day it didn’t. As I told the story and deceived myself into believing I had done the work – after all I meditated and had a therapist – my world began to breakdown – slowly at first. Like a small crack in a pipe, water slowly leaking, and suddenly it is hit, ever so slightly in a way it has been hit and cracked before, but this time in just the right way that it fully bursts. And I moved directly to blame and escape. I blamed my wife for all the things she wasn’t doing and took the high road – I latched onto someone who found me smart and interesting who liked the stories I spun and thought I was funny and wise – and I escaped to the false comfort of a fleeting intellectual crush. I was a distraction from the sad story – and she was a piece of the “make me feel special plan”. Along the way I crushed my wife and almost ruined my family – the solid city – the Roman Empire of the story I had created had crumbled.

How honest could I be with myself, could I look the raw truth in the eye and resurrect my life?

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