As I sit on the couch eating a bowl of Rice Krispies and grapefruit juice for dinner for the umpteenth night in a row, I wonder if in fact we are not all creatures of habit.
(Have I mentioned that I don’t like milk? I grew up putting orange juice in my cereal just like all of the other women in my family, but I have recently advanced to white grapefruit juice. Don’t say ‘Eww’ until you’ve tried it.)
And while some of our habits - like saying “I love you” when we hang up the phone – are best left alone, others – like persistent nail biting - are meant to be broken (thanks to mom’s trick of nail polish and mittens).
While internet scholars vary, the consensus is that a pattern of 21 repetitions make a habit. So here goes. I have a few habits to break, create, and reinstate. Twenty-one days from now puts me perfectly at Halloween (which has no significance whatsoever, but who doesn’t think it will be fun to celebrate my victories with the one eyed, one horned flying purple people eater?? My point precisely.).
So here are my habit goals:
I used to journal every single day. I started this habit as a teenager when I was a Summer Girl (nanny) in East Hampton. I knew that some day I would want to remember every detail of my experiences there, so I wrote everything down. Everything. Looking back, I don’t really care that I ate a bagel with strawberry cream cheese for breakfast three times in one week. But I do care that I ran into Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick on the streets of Sag Harbor. So even though I have to sort through the bed sheet ironing, umbrella holding, and breakfast pastry eating to get to the real memory gems, I love having a glimpse of myself in the past.
My favorite journals, though, are the spiritual journals that I have kept over the years. It’s amazing to read back through the thoughts of a 14-year old Emily. It leads to a realm somewhere between wishing that I was still that smart and realizing all that I’ve learned at the same time. Last year I made a resolution to journal every single day, and for the most part I succeeded. This year? My Nephew Journal is still full of clean, crisp, empty pages just waiting for me to resolve to pick up my habits once again. That day is today. I pinky promise.
Next time I am searching for a bobby pin, remind me that I have one in the spine of my journal, please.
One of my favorite songs on the radio right now is “I Refuse” by Josh Wilson. I continually recite this one particular line over and over in my head: “I refuse to sit around and wait for someone else to do what God has called me to do myself.” It is amazing to me that sometimes I don’t see the signs of what I am called to do until someone close to my heart points it out to me. I made a resolution earlier this year to find a way to volunteer more regularly in the community. I googled and searched and asked around for several weeks. All the while, my cousin kept encouraging me to check out the Child Life department at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. Since my time at the Ronald McDonald House helping out families always leaves me wanting to be involved with the children, I knew that this would be a great fit. I filled out an application and the rest is history. I have completed 4 weeks so far and I already know that I am going to love this. As a Child Life Volunteer I spend one evening (two hours) each week at the hospital. The volunteers all rotate between positions, so some nights I will be hosting one of the four playrooms (the sibling playroom or the others divided by age groups: 0-4, 5-11, 13-18). This involves doing crafts, playing board games, free play, etc. Other nights I will be going room-to-room and spending time with the kids who can’t make it to the playroom for various reasons. Whether this means making bracelets with a child who is in the hospital alone, giving a parent a break to go eat dinner, or discussing Justin Beiber with a teenager on isolation, I am hoping that my two small hours a week that would otherwise be spent in a way that suddenly seems entirely meaningless will change the hospital experience for these children. Plus I get to wear this awesome blue vest.
Vanderbilt Children's Hospital is an incredible place. If you have any free time in your week, consider spending a couple of hours with these kids. They are remarkable.
But working with children in a hospital isn’t for everyone. Find something that turns your heart. Those emotions are a God-given direction for you. Do you love cooking? Next time you are whipping up brownies, make a double batch and stop by the firehouse down the street to say thanks. Do you love reading? On your lunch break drop by a school in your community to read to a class. Are you a runner? Teach a young girl to have that same passion for health and fitness. Do your kids draw millions of pictures? Deliver them to the residents of the nursing home in your town. Make it a habit to change your world. You’ll find it is a habit worth having.
Here are a few more things that I am going to do every day for the next 21 days:
Send a different friend a text just to tell them that I love them.
Find something in my world that is beautiful and capture it in a picture.
Take my vitamins.
Stop going to bed with my hair wet. It's totally irreversible the next morning.
Today begins my 21 Days of Habits. Join me. Make a promise to yourself to finally stop the bad habit, start the new one, or pick back up on a forgotten one. Let me know what you will commit to do for 21 days. We'll have a Halloween party to celebrate.