Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dam Habits. . .

My work e-mail has now been down for about 16 hours.  I am stewing, wondering:
  • What am I missing?
  • Who might be trying to reach me?
  • Do they think I'm ignoring them?
  • Did my last e-mail go out?
  • Should I call somebody?
  • Whose fault is it?
Is this really the fabric of my life?  Is my whole life held together by e-mail?  (The answer to this is apparently yes, as I have four e-mail accounts and facebook!)  I cannot believe how anxious this is making me. 

Yesterday I read a reflection on the story of Jesus healing the "crooked" woman on the Sabbath (Luke 13).  Jan Richardson of Painted Prayerbook, asks these questions in her reflection: What are the habits, patterns, and rhythms by which we live our lives?  Are there patterns and habits that, over time, have become confining, keeping us bound and bent and feeling less than whole?  Experiencing this anxiety around the absence of my  e-mail makes me think that this habit might have become confining.  I definitely feel less than whole without it.

I thought I had evolved beyond that. . . I like to think I am a fairly free spirit, unbound by convention, regulation, and rules.  Eldest daughter and I had many discussions about rules while she was visiting.  She, having been raised with the broadest possible rules  likes to devise rules for daily living.  She thinks of them as building good habits - and I have to applaud her creative use of rules for that purpose.  It seems to me that she uses her chosen rules the way children use rules in games - to keep it fair, to foster peace, to make it more interesting.  I, on the other hand, who generally perceive rules as confining, now find myself vicitmized by habits randomly formed, rather than chosen. 

When my daughters were children, I chose their rules with great care. (e.g. "If your action could hurt someone, including you, don't do it!" or "People are ALWAYS more important than stuff.") I didn't want to have to enforce anything I didn't believe in wholeheartedly.  I also didn't want to stifle any of their creativity, or put them in a box that would force them to grow in particular ways.  I wanted them to be free to become the women God had created them to be. 

The rules I consciously choose for myself tend to work a lot like the rules I chose for my daughters:  they are there to protect me and free my creativity.  My habits, however, are not so intentional - and obviously it is time for some examination and re-evaluation.

Since one of my "creative" rules is to find a water connection for each of these musings, I'll share this mental metaphor with you.  Habits are like dams on a river.  They can generate power and regulate flow but they can also cause flooding upstream if they are too high or too inflexible when the rains come. 

I'd like to hear your thoughts on habits and rules. . . so please, jump in and leave a comment!

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