Awareness before change
I was surprised to find the top floor office smoke-free. For years I had avoided coming back because the owner smoked. This evening he revealed how he quit.
One day, he became conscious of himself. He was always lighting up a cigarette as a gesture when he got on the telephone. The ritual was this: dial the number, ring, answer, and light up a cigarette. Whenever he ran out of cigarettes, he would have to go all the way downstairs to replenish his supply. The more phone calls he made, the more cigarettes he lit. After awhile, he noticed this ridiculous, repetitive behaviour. Try as he might to change it, with Nicorette patches everywhere, he couldn't. He had become enslaved to this behaviour pattern. One day, he just had enough and quit for good.
The week before, I visited another ex-chain smoker. He quit smoking along with quitting his marriage. I stopped taking sugar in my tea and coffee when I left a significant relationship. Sometimes it takes big life changes to quit a habit.
Most of us aren't so conscious of the repetitiveness that defines the familiar. Only when I became out of breath one day did I stop to consider why. I am always making appointments, rushing not to be late, trying to make up for the delay caused by office work or the train, and anticipating meeting the next deadline. Each interruption or distraction to my pre-set schedule translates to delays which have repercussions. The more I anticipate I might run late, the more I worry about being late. Ironically, in the mornings I often stay in bed dreading a repeat of the ever-predictable cycle.
So how do I stop this merry-go-around? Stop making appointments? Stop caring about being late? Don't get interrupted or side-tracked?
Even when I'm in a foreign country with no access to the Internet or telephone, I know that I'm living on borrowed time. Only on a weekend or public holiday do I feel that I own the time that I have. Only then do I feel free to live my own schedule. Perhaps I need to make more appointments with myself.
6 March 2002 Wednesday