It’s a cold Chicago winter morning In the middle of the cold month of January. I walk down Madison avenue and my neighborhood gymn window is chock full of determined souls filled with their new years resolutions. I look at the grim faces. Gazes lock onto me as I walk by and though few faces are happy…they are resolute.
It’s only a few weeks into the new year. Most of us made resolutions to change “something” about ourselves. I wonder how many treadmills will still be occupied by the second cold week of February. How many resolved souls will find the way back to pizza in the next few harder weeks? Changes that seem simple in the aftermath of a holiday season of gluttony become more complex as the weeks speed along. We start missing our old pleasures and sins. Habits are actions we have chosen to cope with the patterns and wounds of our lives…no matter what that habit may be. It really shouldn’t be a new years “resolution” that we make. Rather than a vow to “change” a habit… we should instead vow to look at the underlying reason we select the actions that become habits.
The woman that drinks too much wine in the last day’s of a bad relationship is really inebriating in order to escape the painful clarity that loss is just ahead. She drinks to pretend that she didn’t choose a relationship that turned out to be broken. She drinks to pretend to be happy as long as she can. Acceptance of failure isn’t easy to embrace.
The man that can’t wait for the 11:00 lunch break to go stuff a zillion calories into his every expanding gut is not happy and fulfilled with his job. The food is comfort in an otherwise meaningless day. He is afraid to look at the truth because he made all the choices to be spending his time meaninglessly. He has to hold himself accountable for those choices and then change his life if he accepts that clarity. It is so easy to enjoy the double decker salami and crispy potato chips with a bad ass brownie. It is the biggest pleasure he can find in the midst of a long empty day.
The 18 year old that drops out of college to smoke pot and hang out with friends is really afraid of making any choices at all. Numbing the fear is easier than examining a lack of confidence. Perhaps the insecurities started with absent or overbearing parents that assisted in undermining confidence from an early age. Perhaps the fear started when the child observed others failing in their life choices. Dropping out and playing video games is comforting. Dealing with the fear is frightening. Pot makes the drop out easier.
If we accept that habits and addictions are the result of dealing with our life patterns we start understanding how true change can occur. Facing those underlying fears and wounds is the only way we change. It still takes willpower but at least we may implement change that returns light and joy to our lives. We lessen the need for our addictions and distractions with truth. Changing the “habit” without changing the life pattern is rarely successful. We don’t like pain. We don’t like fear. We would rather find some distraction and pleasurable activity to avoid dealing with pain. It’s a natural protective reaction though that reaction often gives rise to other damages You can only eat so much chocolate cake without exchanging bad relationship pain for a body image crisis.
As the weeks spin by and the treadmill gears turn I would wish for everyone to look at the habits they are correcting. Why did the habit begin with regular choices? A habit doesn’t happen overnight. Smoking one cigarette doesn’t create a smoker. One glass of wine doesn’t make an alcoholic. One badass brownie doesn’t create a fat ass. It’s the need to indulge in those pleasures to mask other fears or painful realizations that causes the habit. The truth is that life would be less pleasant without occasional indulgence. Wine, chocolate, comfort foods are good things. The use of those indulgences to mask the light of truth is not a wise choice for anyone.
I know of what I speak. This year of 2014 is the year I return to dating. I had a long hiatus. It was necessary. I am bringing all my fears, insecurities and past wounds into this quest for companionship, sex, fun and partnership. I have to examine them regularly in order to simply be in joy about dating. It is hard sometimes. I don’t always want to keep dating. Sometimes I find myself thinking “aloneness” is not so bad and why did I think I wanted to have to face all these fears? I have a very full and joyful life. But I also believe that life is better shared. Therefore I must examine my underlying insecurities, fears and also my dreams in order to make wiser choices and avoid future pain. I am resolute. II am in the light of my truth. I am hopeful.
Examine the reasons for your habits and light will shine into your life. If you eat because you don’t like your chosen career you are wasting the valuable moments of your life. If you are drinking to numb painful relationship change ahead you are wasting the valuable moments of your life. If you are dropping out of life to avoid a confidence crisis you are wasting the valuable moments of your life. If you spend all your time alone you are missing out on valuable moments of love and connection. What could you do with that time? What light could you bring to yourself and others if you spent that time more meaningfully? Would facing your fears allow love, passion, joy and light into your life in a more complete way? Yes. Absolutely. Does that take work? Yes. Absolutely. Is it worth it? Yes. Absolutely. Shine the light of truth into your new resolutions for 2014. Make the changes that change your life. Make that your new habit and love and light will follow.
The simple light of truth comes from the complicated darkness of examining our habits.