I have started up a couple new habits recently. It makes me have to do things a little more deliberately, because I am still having to choose to do them instead of doing them automatically. But it’s important to keep changing habits, or at least it has become habitual, to me. There is something about a habit that shapes the time it is found in, or that flows through it. And old habits which I resurrect seem to bring with them a little bit of the former time, like a flavor of the atmosphere that you didn’t necessarily feel at the time. Like when you are away from home long enough that you notice how it smells on your return.
It’s an accidental time capsule, like a picture of the pile of library books I had out at one time, or an old recipe file, there’s an atmosphere that comes with that. The ghost of a life that you used to live, ghosts being distortions in the air. I remember the carpet that I fell asleep on one night up late working on a short story I was writing, I was in the habit of walking every evening twenty minutes to work on it and not leave until I had met a certain word goal. I think I was seventeen, I was working late, I thought I would lie down and take a rest, and when I woke up I had a spotted red area on my cheek, but the carpet I was on had waves on it. I remember that result seemed unlikely. It’s a whiff of the past in the present. The feeling was alienating and it remains a little strange.
New habits create their own atmosphere as they become habitual, before which they are just an event or an act like any other. The newest one I added yesterday, it’s really an annex to my current writing habits. I write at different parts of the day in twenty minute or 250 word chunks, and the things I am working on are all at different stages and mean different things to me, so I am running the same emotional obstacle course day after day. It makes a backbone to hang my different days on. Every day I write as fast as I can for twenty minutes first thing in the morning in my journal, I focus on one word after seven am, I am working through a shameful period in a memoir of a friend and figuring out what I learned from it, and I have serious doubts about where my pre-lunch short story is going but I manage to eke out another block of words every day. All these go together to make up the stable pattern that underlies the varied texture of this time. I wonder what of the stuff around me now would return in ghostly form if I was to bring a part of this pattern back, later in life.