Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Butter Melts Out of Habit, You Know, the Toast Isn't Even Warm

Habits are really strange. You might not even realize you have certain habits because they're so insignificant, like the direction in which you brush your teeth every night. And you can get away from those habits, something in your life can change, but it's so easy to revert back to the patterns you followed before. Sometimes habits are comforting; they're consistent, they're familiar, they're right where you left them. But then you realize that they're there and it's strange and you can't stop yourself.

I have a habit of brushing my teeth in a certain way every time. I rinse my mouth out in a pattern with a yellow cup -- first with hot water, then cold, then hot, then cold water to rinse out the sink. It keeps the water temperature even. I rotate in the same positions every night trying to fall asleep. My fingers have learned habits so I type my password immediately after my email address even when it's not necessary. I read the comics in the same order every morning while eating breakfast. I sit in the same seat in the same metro car at Cote-Vertu every time, every single time. Walk down the stairs, turn right, it's the second door in the car after the TV, the seat across from the metro map. When I ride with other people I make them sit there too.

Sometimes habits are disarming. When you realize what you're doing it's sudden, it's awakening. Sometimes your feet just walk and before you know it you're at the bus stop and you don't know how you got there. Then you furrow your brow and try to think about it, but it seems inconsequential, takes too much energy --

And we learn other people's habits too. We come to expect the way someone answers the phone, we feel comforted by the smells of shirts because someone washes them that way, we are balanced by another's routines, "making a temporary sense of the senseless, choreful day". When it changes we are alarmed, suspicious. We want things to go back to normal. Your life is unnerved when you build your habits around someone else's habits and then their habits change.

Returning to old habits feels weird -- why do I always sit in the same spot? Is it really necessary? But then I sit there anyway, just because. Just because it's easy, and I remember it. Perhaps my habit remembers me. It says hello, it welcomes me back, and though it may be uncomfortable at first because I don't want it! I don't want it anymore!, I eventually settle back into my routine and then I forget that I had ever tried to do something different.

It's hard to change a habit. There's just nothing else to do, it seems. It's lonely, a little, realizing you haven't changed at all. It hurts, thinking that you can't. You convince yourself you don't need to change anyway, after all, your morning routine is harmless. It's not killing anyone. So then everything is the same, all the time. All the goddamn time. The places you go, the bars you haunt, the streets you walk, the words you say, they're all the same, the places you go, the bars you haunt, the streets you walk, the words you say, they're all the fucking same.

So you resign yourself to a life of grayish suits, tired shoes, and a battered briefcase.


laura said...

i sit in a different spot on the subway every time but i need my noise machine to fall asleep.

Anonymous said...

i feel like most of the habits i have are terrible. i stayed in new york so i could get away from them, but now i'm here again. it's like trying to drag a moving car in the opposite direction.

saint modesto said...

laura: i like to listen to music when i fall asleep.

butcanshedance: sometimes after a change of scenery i promise myself that when i get home everything is going to be different. and then it's exactly the same.

brooke said...

There's something to be said for habits. You know, some habits are good and some are bad. Thankfully we're human and can acknowledge the bad ones and attempt to consciously change them if we want to. Aristotle said excellence was a habit, he's right.

And even if you're sitting in the same metro car seat on a daily basis, what goes on around you while you're sitting in that seat does change.

Also, I only have one grayish suit, the others are blue and black. I like to wear sneakers or flip-flops with them whenever I can get away with it.