Cheryl Hughes: Undoing What's Been Done
I’ve figured out why I don’t mind loading the dishwasher, but I despise emptying the dishwasher. I figured this out while taking down the Christmas decorations and locating the storage containers for each particular decoration. When I load the dishwasher, everything goes into one big metal box. When I empty the dishwasher, I have to move around the kitchen to return the clean dishes to various shelves and drawers.
It’s the same with sewing. I love joining two pieces of cloth together. If I make a mistake in connecting those two pieces however, I don’t like taking the seam ripper and disconnecting the stitches one at a time.
Undoing and doing again is the part of life that I have the most trouble with. One of the hurdles is impatience, but most of it is the way I feel when I mess up. I tell myself things like, maybe this is a waste of time, it’s going nowhere, I shouldn’t have started. I have a hard time trusting the process. I’m a very “results driven” human being.
I know all the idioms about starting again. Start with a clean slate. Blow away the cobwebs. Go back to square one. And my personal favorite, anything worth doing is worth doing badly. A guitar player is credited with that little gem. Guitar is one of those instruments that takes doing and doing and doing to get it right.
“I’m going to change the way you play an A-chord,” my guitar teacher said to me, during the time I was enrolled in the music department at WKU. He moved my fingers around into a different position while still on the chord. “If you play an A-chord like this,” he said, “your transition to an E-chord will be nearly effortless.” He was right, but up until the time when I stopped playing guitar—carpal tunnel issues—I had to fight with my fingers to get them to play that A-chord the new way. I guarantee you if I picked up my guitar today, my fingers would automatically form an A-chord the way I learned it originally.
According to a guy named Jammes Clear, “The process of building a habit can be divided into four simple steps: cue, craving, response and reward.” He believes that these are the fundamental parts, if paid attention to, that will enable us to improve (jamesclear.com).
I’m sure you’ve heard all the theories about how many days or repetitions it takes for something to become a habit. According to the European Journal of School Psychology, a person needs 18 to 254 days in order to form a new habit. If you’re looking for the new behavior to become an automatic act, you will need a good 66days (healthline.com).
Sixty-six days wouldn’t touch it for me. I’m in the 254 plus category. I’m not a slow learner. I’m not really set in my ways. I like new experiences. I think it’s more the comfort of the familiar for me. I see it, I touch it, I feel it and say, “Come on in. Good to see you. Wait, who have you got there with you? Is this a new habit? Maybe it should wait outside.”
The people I admire most are the writers who set aside time every day to write. I have failed miserably in following suit. I know why. You have to sit yourself down to write, and I’m not much of a sit myself down kind of person. I’m a big fan of motion. My thoughts are unruly children who want to go outside and play. In this case, play isn’t really play. Play is accomplishing things with immediate rewards, like hoeing out the corn, picking green beans or mowing the yard. Writing is a habit that involves delayed gratification. Delayed gratification involves “putting away childish things.” It involves becoming a grownup. Most importantly, it involves paying attention to the habits that need to be undone. I know what I want to be when I grow up. Now, if I would just grow up.