Creature of Habit

I am a creature of habit. Some habits I chose for my own good, like where to put my keys every day when I get home from work.

I learned that trick the hard way (is there any other way?) when I got my first job in high school. I remember frantically looking for my keys when I needed to be leaving for work. I fixed that problem by choosing a place for them and always putting them there.

I have several items that have a place of their own. Sometimes, for some reason, I will put one of those items in a different place. I’ll tell myself that I’ll remember where because what I’m doing is so different than my normal routine that I couldn’t help but remember.

Wrong again. Five minutes later, I can’t remember where I put it. You know where it is, we all know do. It’s in a Safe Place. I just don’t know where that is. I sure hope I find it one of these days. It has lots of stuff that I’m looking for.

I drive north on Interstate 35 going to work and south coming home from work. When I’m driving someplace other than work, every once in a while I’ll miss an exit on the Interstate, realizing it just about two seconds after the point of no return and no exiting. I wave to the exit as I pass it by. I have been on autopilot without realizing it.

Some actions aren’t habits, really, they are just things I have to do each day to get to where I’m going. For example, when I’m leaving the house, I have to open up the yard gate, drive through, then close the yard gate. Doesn’t seem too hard, and it’s not. But doing it day/week/month/year in and out makes the actions blur. I can easily figure out that I opened the gate and drove through. But did I really close it? Sometimes I can’t remember and I’ll stop in Creedmoor to call Bruce, asking him to check the gate.

It’s important that I close the gate behind me, so that the dogs don’t run out of the yard when Bruce lets them out of the house later in the morning. I want to be sure that I close the gate. I want to be aware that I’ve closed the gate every single time. How to do this?

I’ve tried several different things to help me remember, particularly for my morning routine when I’m leaving the house. I tried touching the gate with both hands after I’ve closed it. It looks like I’m trying to bond with it. A lot of times the gate is wet from the dew or fog or it’s very cold in the winter. That’s not so much fun as I never remember to have a hand towel in the truck. I’ve tried tapping my taillight as I pass it to get back in my truck. It’s covered with dirt and caliche dust and I never remember to have a hand towel in the truck. (Some new habits are hard to start, like a hand towel in the truck.)

I’ve tried taking a moment to really look at the gate, then waving at it, telling it to have a good day while I’m gone. It never answers back (thank goodness) and so that was not very memorable. I’ve stretched my arms up, standing on my tiptoes, later adding in a twirl or two. Dizzy.

Fortunately, it’s dark when I’m doing all of this and no one can see me. I hope. But if you are driving by and see me dancing, twirling, holding onto and talking to the gate, just remember that I’m working on a new habit and just haven’t figured it out yet. And if the gate is open, please let me know.

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