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I Have a Habit…

There are some things I cannot change. Even if I tried. I cannot change my nightly routine of making my way into all my children’s bedrooms, smoothing back hair with the palm of a hand, kissing damp-haired foreheads in the shadows of a dimly lit room. I cannot change that. I cannot change that I must needs check on each again before I retire myself to bed. Tucking in blankets under little chins, readjusting bed covers, turning out the flashing nightlight that I have so often worried would create ghastly, strobe-light dreams. I cannot change the watching. The listening. The occasional midnight prayers.

The mother cannot change her ways.

I cannot cease to keep a light lit in the gable window. That light sits on the ledge with a permanent tilt in its neck from having been handled so. It is well-loved and well-used. A Child’s comfy reading nook. Husband’s go-to at bedtime. Daughter’s favorite spot to play school. I just like to look at that cozy little lamp- a gift from a dear friend for our wedding (seventeen years it has stood by and shone a light!) and know it is there still- lighting the way. I like a light in the gable.

I’m funny like that.

The girl in me needs that there to remind her: what’s important and what is not.

I cannot seem to break these long-standing patterns- they are ingrained in me, innocuous as they might seem to be. But there are other habits that I wish I could. And try as I might, I have such a hard time changing those- for they are so much harder to turn around. For there is more at stake. More to win and more to lose. The river channels run deeper- for they are habits of the mind. And a mind is hard to un-train. I am what I am. But am I?

I cannot easily change my ways. Some I should- but others are fine just the way they are. They are part of me- and I have come to terms with that. We cannot change what makes us who we are. The essential ‘us’. That part of us that defines our personhood. That makes us uniquely and definitively who we really are. We are the composite of all that which makes us wild and wonderful. We are the whole package- take it or leave it.

How often have I looked at others and wished I could change just one, small detail. That one small detail that would make that person more likeable, more suited to my preferences. Too often, I have examined others based on minute details- forgetting that people are the sum of all their parts. We are more than just our perfectionism. Than our stubbornness. More than our illnesses and our deficiencies. We are more than our strengths. More than our shiny, fancy packaging. Our trendy clothes. Our nice cars. We are more than meets the eye.

And we are more than our idiosyncrasies. Our differences. We must never change those things about ourselves which make us fragile and precious. That make us unique and special. For without these peculiarities, who would we truly be?

There is only one thing we can change if we so choose- and that is how we decide to look at others- how we look at the people around us with their own set of quirks and eccentricities. We can accept and embrace or we can reject and turn away. Either way- it is our choice. We can choose. But is not ever ours to change.

I have a habit. And it is mine to change.
Or not.


One thought on “I Have a Habit…

  1. One of my favourite authors, Elizabeth Elliott, wrote: In acceptance lieth peace. that is so hard-longing for something hard, or challenging, to change, is just so much easier. But, you are right, we really can’t change others–far better to love them and accept them for the people they are than agonize over what we would change, if we could! Love, Mom

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