The Story Our Habits Tell about Us
Months back I had to end my relationship with caffeine. I literally cried for days. Until this point, I took pride in the fact that I “couldn’t” nap during the day. But after caffeine and I ended things, my perspective began to change. I would be reading a book during my daughter’s nap and begin to feel my eyes become increasingly heavy. That would have typically been my cue to get another cup of coffee. But I could no longer dictate the way my day went, so I laid down and followed my body's cues.
To my surprise, I woke up rested and at peace. It was like getting two morning wake up’s. And I love the morning. It might be the only part of the day that I don’t feel rushed to get something accomplished. Mornings grant me permission to move slowly and just be. No agenda. No pressure. No jostling for my identity. I just am and I am o.k.
As a counselor, I typically spend my time thinking about how our hearts inform our habits. But lately, I’ve been thinking about how our habits also inform our hearts. What we do and how we do it tell a story that our hearts begin to sync with. For me, the story my habits were telling my heart was that I am the author of my story. In that story, my productivity is what gives me an identity and a purpose. I am more valuable the more I get accomplished in a day. The quality of nap time, therefore, has historically been measured by what I am able to do rather than it being a product of who I am- a beloved daughter of the King. “He gives to his beloved rest” (Psalm 127:2). Choosing to nap rather than get something done (even if it was a good thing like reading or writing or sewing) was an act of telling my heart the true story.
What is the story our habits are telling us?
If we want to live in a story that includes being more present, more gracious, more lively, more content, more contemplative, and more peaceful, then we have to take the time to examine how our habits either contribute or hinder that story from being told.
Maybe it’s slowing your driving down so you don’t keep living into the story that you are responsible for everything and completely in control of your life. Maybe it’s turning off Neflix and taking an art class to fight the lie that you are just a passive player in life. Maybe it’s wasting time calling a friend who lives in another state or a family member you haven’t talked to in years. Maybe it’s learning the art of reading poetry or reading a book slowly and thoughtfully. Maybe it’s taking the time to cook a laborious meal. Maybe it’s wasting half the day imaginatively playing with your child or going on a sunday drive through the country.
It probably means multitasking less, being bored more often, and feeling the frustration of not being productive.
It definitely means talking to yourself more than you listen to yourself. Because if we aren’t intentional about the story we tell ourselves, we will be swept into a life we might not want to be living.
Photo by: Ashley Wittmer