Every morning, I eat the same breakfast: granola (without flavor and crap like raisins — just toasted oats), a wallop of raw tahini, and rice milk all heated for 30 seconds in the microwave (cold food shocks my 98 degree body). This breakfast works for me — it keeps everything moving in every sense of the word.
This is the beauty of habit. I don’t have to weigh and consider, fiddle and experiment. Nope: I slide into my breakfast as if it were a second skin. This, of course, was earned through 43 years of trial and error and is not to be taken for granted.
We are fundamentally environmental creatures. We live in, with, and amongst the world around us. You are what and how you take in, take up, and refuse what you encounter, what’s around you, your environment (in this sense, I am an environmentalist). In the process, we develop relationships with things, with food, with spaces, with people, with things. These establish themselves to become habits that propel or hamper — or, more frequently, both at the same time — the system that is you.
While habit can be a beautiful way of going with the world, it can of course lead us to avoid life. We get trapped in ways that might have worked for us at some point but no longer do. And, sometimes, we enjoy habits that sap our vitality (addictions are the most extreme example). Just watch someone absent mindedly smoke a cigarette, drink a Coke, or eat a bag of Doritos. That blind reach for self-destruction is disturbing to witness.
So, despite my granola habit, I still consider my breakfast each morning. Is granola right today? Often, it’s perfect. But, some days, this body just doesn’t want toasted oats. So I have my gluten free toast with 85% chocolate and a banana. Yum! Or whatever seems right.
My goal, at all points, is to feel the ever elusive and seemingly vague but actually particular it. My body changes. My moods change. The weather changes. Meanwhile, all I want to do is what’s right for me and this circumstance at this moment — this meal, these words, this drink, this nap, this walk all driving my vitality. This is a trying but rewarding task.
I’ve done a pretty good job of engineering my life so that I often have the opportunity to make these micro decisions that are anything but micro. This, to me, is the great crime of labor: it alienates people from the means of their own production of self — my existential twist on Marx. Waking up to an alarm clock every morning so you can trudge to work through 45 minutes of angst riddled traffic is not the means to healthy self production. Duh.
But as I live in this life and have clients and a child, the world will not let me make any decision at any point. Often, I am asked to schedule things in the future.
Now, I’m tempted to say that I loathe scheduling. But it wouldn’t be quite true. I am resistant to scheduling. Scheduling is anathema to my way of being. It’s a deficiency that borders on cognitive disability. When someone asks, “Hey, what are you doing next Saturday?” my mind fogs over. I literally can’t answer as I can’t fathom life that far ahead.
And, in reality, how can they ask this of me? I mean, how do I know how I’ll feel on Saturday — not to mention next week, next month, three months from now? Yes, I love Ween but that doesn’t mean that two months from now I’ll feel like seeing them live.
Whenever I have appointments — say, a medical check up or meeting with a client — I get agitated. I can feel the tug from the future, a nag, a drag, like I’m forgetting something. That future possibility leaks backwards into my present and it’s not pretty.
With work, it’s easier to stomach because I feel like I have no choice — this life demands doing things we don’t want to do. But if it’s something I am actually excited about — a concert or trip to see a friend — I get anxious that when the time comes, something will go wrong. I won’t want to go. Or I’ll be sick. It’s too much pressure. I just want to focus on today, please.
Habit and scheduling — the past and the future: these are the forces, the temptations, that distract me from reckoning the now.
But then I think: such is life and such is time. It’s a fold. Habits are always forming just as events are always taking shape in the future. The now is never simply now. It is always a before and an after, both real and possible.
The trick, I suppose, is to feel an it than is at once now and then. I have to learn to extend my reckoning of the moment, let it flow into possible future worlds. The problem is I have no idea how to do that.