I've been here before... What makes a practice? What behaviors of mine have become a practice? How many times do I do something in a row for it to qualify as a practice? If I do something twice is it a practice? Ten times?
Since April, my hummingbird feeder has been empty. This hummingbird feeder is prominently placed at the front of my house in front of a window that spans the entirety of my living room. I have walked from my driveway right in front of the hummingbird feeder multiple times a day for the last five months. And every time I walked by that damn feeder, I said to myself, "Gotta fill that feeder." I can't say how many times I sat on my living room couch looking at the view, thinking, "God, I really need to fill that feeder." Sweet little hummingbirds, remembering the former bounty of the feeder, would hover, pausing to see if the feeder had been filled, and then leave quickly seeing that the damn feeder was still empty.
I have several regular habits that, at this point are definitely ingrained enough to be considered "practices." Since I was a kid, I've been a regular picker. It's not something I'm proud of, but it's true. I know I'm not alone in my compulsion to leave no scab unturned. It's routine now. Get a cut, let it scab, pick. You know you're in trouble when your six-year-old tries to physically restrain you from drawing blood on an almost-healed owie.
Another of my no-longer-secret, deeply entrenched habits is leaving the dirty coffee filter in overnight. It's not a huge deal, but imagine how great it would be to not have to clean the coffee filter in the morning. That'd be awesome.
This next practice, leaving my sock drawer slightly open ALL THE TIME, is a mystery. It would be so easy to close it, but, time and time again, I just walk by, like a sassy teenager, "screw you sock drawer, stay open."
There are others, like putting the salad spinner away crooked consistently, not dusting my base molding ever, eating red vines til my tummy hurts. These habits have become practices. I have created pathways in my brain that say, "Laura, you always do it this way", so I continue to do it that way, even if it is bad for me. Or just stupid.
Last week, I finally took the hummingbird feeder down. I don't know where the impulse came from, I just did it. I said to myself, "Laura, you keep walking by this empty hummingbird feeder. Either take it down and throw it out, or take it down and fill it up." And I did. I climbed onto the ledge of my brick planter box and grabbed the hummingbird feeder. While I boiled new hummingbird juice on the stove, I scrubbed the feeder clean. This was an exciting moment--I was breaking out of an old, dysfunctional practice. But when the time came to open the bottom of the feeder to pour in the juice, it was stuck. I tried everything. I soaked the entire feeder in hot water, ran the whole thing through the dishwasher, pried it with a knife, but I couldn't get it open.
So, yes, another lesson learned. I waited and waited and waited to change my pattern with the hummingbird feeder, and when I finally changed my ways, the damn thing was stuck. Two days later, after lots more scrubbing and soaking, I was able to open the feeder, pour in the nectar and rehang it for the birds. Change is always possible, but the longer you wait, the harder it is. You know what's coming.... What's your practice?