I read somewhere once that skill, will power and passion are less important in motivating you to do something (or not do something) than is habit. And in my experience, that’s not untrue (though I’m unwilling to concede the role of passion or skill! Will power I could do without). The things we are used to – and expect – to do at a given moment are the things we are most easily willing and able to do.
This is hitting home lately because I’ve just had minor surgery on my wrist. I say minor because it was an outpatient procedure, but recovery has still been pretty intense – mostly because those pain meds are no joke. But the worst part of recovery hands down is that I’m not allowed to lift anything over 5 pounds for at least a week – and that includes my baby! I have to stop myself from instinctually – or better put, habitually – reaching for him at every turn. The afternoon of the surgery I did pick him up without thinking about it and got a quick and no-words-minced scolding from the wife – appropriately so.
There is a lot else I have to remember to stop myself from doing, like leaning on my hand, lifting things with my right hand (oh did I mention it was on my dominant hand?), chopping certain things with a knife, opening tough jars and bottles, etc.
The habits lie not so much in my head as in my muscles. And muscle memories are hard habits to break.
And hard habits sometimes to re-establish.
Writing too is best done when we’re in the habit of doing so. I’ve mused before about how training myself to write is not unlike training a baby to sleep – getting into the routine, or habit, of doing certain things at certain times trains the body to be tired by 7pm or generate words into a blog post at 8pm.
After all, the brain is a lot like a muscle, scientists have determined.
And as I’ve geared up for this surgery and am now recovering from it, I’ve had to forgo many habits, including often writing. And my brain has slowed down in front of the blank page when it used to pour out. Just as my milk production slows down the second my stress level spikes and pumping regularity slows. My milk production is habit, too, but one that forgets its muscle memory the second it senses a slow down in demand.
So here I am now – writing and pumping at the same time, in fact – recovering slowly/quickly (quickly in the grand scheme of things but it feels sooo slow) and struggling to defeat muscle memory on many things (anything involving my right hand) while mourning the lapse in the habits that I hope to soon regain, like this blog. And really hoping my son doesn’t lose the habit of the cuddling with me that I can’t give him right now.