"Happiness equals reality minus expectations."
As Spring sets in and we are shut in we are all getting a good behind the scenes glimpse of ourselves. Personally, I have been confronted with quite a cast of characters in the form of patterns, rituals, habits, routines and the underlying beliefs that fuel them. While sipping my now nightly glass of wine I was amused by my newest habit. Funny, not funny. In stark terms my life is a compilation of mostly socially sanctioned ‘addictions’. Netflix, vino, java, food, email, internet shopping just to name a few.
One by one, as I try to shed them, I become aware of the all too natural impulse to replace old habits with new - Malbec anyone??? With eyes wide open I am left reeling with the question of how I got in so deep. How did my morning coffee become the first thing I think about when I wake up? When did I decide to not wake up in the morning before my husband left for work - only to see him for the first time at 7PM? When did watching TV morph into binge watching Netflix til 3am? When did I stop cooking - something I absolutely love?
My lifelong strategy of trading in my old outed habits and behaviors for shiny new ones and labeling it change hasn’t seemed to work. This time around, rather than going cold turkey, I decided to self inquire: What purpose are my ‘addictions’ serving?
The answer I heard was COMFORT amidst chaos. At first glance, seeking comfort seems totally reasonable. Don’t we deserve a little peace in this crazy world? Some guilty pleasures? It’s just a cup of coffee after all. Or is there more to it?
Politics, global warming, pollution, poverty, war, famine, fires, natural disasters and disease have long been constant reminders of our perceived powerlessness, insecurity and vulnerability to circumstances beyond our control. But none have driven it home like COVID-19. This pandemic has brought to light the steady but unacknowledged state of collective fear we live in. It has also separated us from our normal ‘comfort’ inducing patterns giving us a unique opportunity to reflect on both.
The belief that we are powerless to our circumstances is clearly reflected on the macro level but it is the micro level that is becoming more apparent during our home stay. Despite our illusion of freedom and being in control of our daily lives, very little of what we do each day feels like a choice. We do it because we have to or should, and if given the choice we fancy that we would opt for something else.
I am playfully referring to our daily habits as addictions because acting from the ‘should’ zone is compulsive. We feel like we can’t not do it. I had to have my coffee and had a one track mind until I got it. I could not stop picking up my phone. I had to get that workout in or I did not feel good.
These socially sanctioned compulsions like work, email, working out, eating, and school fly under the radar but their effects do not. They control us, we do not control them. We cannot stop, we can’t pull back, we can’t disconnect, we can’t take care of each other and we definitely can’t take care of our planet - because we are not free do as we choose.
The pace of staying at home has confused the routines and woken us up from autopilot. We are back in the driver’s seat free to now connect with what we want rather than what is expected of us. Hopefully, this feels liberating. We don’t have to throw everything out, quit our job and leave our spouse but for anything we choose not to change, we must own that we are, in fact, actively choosing it. This shift inmindset moves us from compulsion to freedom. To weather the storms ahead we must update the narrative to include the truth that we are always in choice, we are always free, we are never powerless or victims of circumstance. With this understanding we have the opportunity to make all things new.
I am choosing to treat quarantine as rehab. I am choosing to see COVID-19 as an opportunity to get honest with my ‘addictions’ and get clean. I strive to come out of isolation as a recovered powerless / comfort addict with a newly adopted belief system that has LOVE and FREEDOM at its core. I invite you all to take this on like the world depends on it - because it does.
List - List all your habits, routines, compulsions, things you can’t stop doing, justified or unjustified..
Ask - As they all serve the same purpose - ask yourself what that is for you.
Assess - What is the cost to each my 'addictions", ie. the amount of time it takes, what does it keep you from that you say you want to do? How do you feel about yourself in relation to this habit?
Choose again - With each habit decide if you are going keep it.
Rewrite the Narrative - For those habits that you choose to maintain, change the story from ‘have to’ to ‘get to’ and see what changes for you.
Stay safe, stay sane,