Sometimes, to do less of something, we have to stop doing it completely for a while. Trying to cut back a little, while still doing it, just doesn’t work. I think we all know this down deep, even if we never consciously think of it this way.
Drinking soda is a bad habit
Cut back on soda, I told myself. It’s a bad habit, I told myself. I even wrote it in my nightly notebook as a goal.
Trying to consume fewer cans of soda in a day just resulted in my having more of them. Then my husband quit his second job, plunging us past “We can’t really afford anything” right up to “There isn’t one red cent in the bank, so there will be no soda (or anything else).”
So there was no soda at home. What my husband did at work is another story, irrelevant to my growth here. No soda at home. I did that for a while. Then one day my daughter found one lone can of diet soda (the only kind I’m “supposed to” have), hiding under a shelf. Oh, joy! SODA!
Changing a habit
Bet you think I guzzled it, right? I fully expected to do exactly that. But no. I actually shared it with my daughter. The part that I drank, though, I relished. And I didn’t chug it, I took my time with it. I let the rush of orange goodness pulse over my tongue while my taste buds cavorted in ecstasy. I could almost taste it for days after that, whenever I thought of that soda. When it was gone, instead of wanting another can, I was satisfied. Part of one can was enough. Ordinarily, I’d drink an entire can without stopping, then grab a second one for the slower, “sitting down to work, with a soda on my desk” kind of drinking. So right there was a 75% reduction in that bad habit. If you count the others I would have had during the day (another two to four), it’s an even steeper improvement in the habit.
This example might be enough in and of itself, or it may seem trivial to you if you’ve never struggled with addictions or excess. But it also points to something greater, to that truth in many areas of life.
Striving is a bad habit
I was trying so hard to find a way to increase our income, and not just because we love soda in this family. Of course I was getting nowhere. All I succeeded in doing was stressing myself out and making my kids feel less of my love for them and more tension.
So the Onion Slicer in my life (then our lay pastor, now he’s our Deacon) told me I had to knock it off. Of course I freaked out when he said that. Stop trying to survive? You’ve gotta be kidding me.
Only it wasn’t survival that was at stake. I mean, really–we had a mortgage-free home coming to us, and a paid-for vehicle. We had no payments except student loans. My husband had some money coming in. Even if we ate only beans and rice for days on end (and there have been some times), we’d have enough food to stay alive. So what my brain was terming “surviving” was really more than that.
It would be more accurate to say that my dreams and desires were at stake. Give up what I want? Those deeply-rooted things, the struggle I’m so used to (decades of that habit), the drive that makes me who (I think) I am?
Come to terms with it
So once I got it through my thick head, accepted that we would have to cope with only my husband’s current and insufficient income, that the church would bring us food if necessary, and my world wasn’t going to come crashing down, my stress level dropped. I stopped trying. I stopped striving. I accepted that I would be “just” a mom and would “just” take care of the kids and the house the best I could (as for the house, disabilities keep me from doing that the way I’d like). At first I hated it, hated my family, and was really torqued off at our pastor for it. That was several months ago.
And then, one day, instead of trying and striving and pushing and getting nowhere, which I had done for pretty much my entire life…
I found that I had very peacefully and quietly started doing things. There was no more striving, no stress, no feeling that I was pushing my entire family up a hill. Much less effort, and yet, I started getting some things done.