Force of Habit


We are the things we do.

Taking a break is so strange. I still feel basically intact and like more or less the same person, but bits of my mind seem to wander. When we do the same thing every day it begins to become part of who we are, what we are. I’m home now, but a bit of my mind is still on a train, being rocked gently back and forth, trying to sleep as the sun’s light seeps through the cracks between the velcro-sealed curtains. A part of me is still convinced that the next time I get up it will be to sit next to a stranger on a hard seat in a dark coach car.

There’s an inertia to identity. We are the things we do, and the things we do are us: This is one of the things that makes changing behaviors that have become habitual so difficult. If you are a smoker, your smoke breaks are the land marks by which you navigate your day. Quitting is not only a matter of overcoming that chemical addiction, but in replacing those nails by which you hang your daily schedule.

Changing the things we do changes the people we are.

It’s a kind of brainwashing. How often do we deprive ourselves of sleep, blast ourselves with sound, make ourselves repeat the phrases over and over until they become true? It is not easy to change the inertia of a person, but there are time-tested methods. Sometimes it is not enough to ask nicely of ourselves, sometimes we must be coerced.

Even now though, the sounds of the train begin to be replaced with stock sound effects. The coach car, the lounge car, the cafe car, the impossibly narrow corridors leading between bathrooms and luggages and sleeping passengers, are all beginning to be replaced with cardboard props. I’m still there, but the there I’m in is hollowing out, the piece of me that’s there is fading, and soon I will be entirely here again.

I’m sorry if my thoughts are disjointed. I am split between two locations, I am split between departure and arrival, and the room keeps swaying back and forth, and I can’t get my legs quite comfortable…

This is why I make sure I get something done every day, even if it’s not much. This is why I constantly strive to move forward, even if I can only crawl. If I stop for too long, this reality too will begin to fade, this person I am will begin to shift, and I cannot know what will come to replace them.

Some folk have the advantage of a life that forms a mold around them. They cannot change that much because of the shape of their world, the weight of the forces that have coalesced around them to hold them into their place in life. I do not think at this point that I have many such restraints on the shape of my character. I have broken my own mold.

I believe I can become anything.

It is not nearly as reassuring a belief as many would like to claim. The vast majority of things one could become are quite undesirable.

When we are freed of the expectations of the world, when we flow freely like water, it is far too easy to merely splash against the surface and have no effect. Carve a channel for your life to flow through – before you are dried up, before you are subsumed by the sea.


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