If a habit is a usual manner of behavior, then breaking a bad one can be difficult, painful and challenging — even daunting.
Some habits are obviously good and may comfort and strengthen us, and I’m grateful for my good ones. I hate my bad ones and sometimes muster the determination and courage to try to rid myself of them. But I just realized this week that some of my habits are just plain invisible — even to me.
This came to light when our electricity failed while we were on vacation. Everything in our freezer defrosted and what was in our refrigerator became spoiled. It all had to be dumped. Since both appliances were totally full, it became half-a-day’s work. By nightfall, both were empty and pristine.
Hoping our loss might be covered by insurance, we photographed the spoilage and tried to record or estimate the cost of each item we had to toss, like 10 stuffed chicken breasts, two flank steaks, two boxes of salmon cakes, an enormous bag of shrimp. Filling eight heavy-duty plastic bags, we set it all out to be taken away on our trash collection day.
Now comes the invasion of habit. I knew most of what I had kept in these appliances. The grated cheese had its own special spot in the fridge as did the cocktail sauce, eggs and creamer. I knew where the pizza had been in the freezer.
We went shopping immediately to replace some of what we’d lost. But it was too overwhelming and expensive to try to restore all of it. So we made do with what we considered necessities.
What I didn’t count on was an invisible habit. Just this morning when I began to prepare breakfast, I went to the fridge to get some yogurt that wasn’t where it should have been. It has yet to be replaced.
Planning dinner, I assumed that all my refrigerated condiments were available. They weren’t.
And last night while watching TV I stood and got half-way to the freezer for the ice cream cones before I remembered they were gone.
I feel as if I knew all the stuff I had had. We were friends. When I needed them they were there, waiting for me, ready to be of use. I could picture the places they called home, and I miss them — like half the birthday cake my daughter baked for me and we had frozen, and the leftovers we saved from a very fancy, expensive restaurant.
All of these things still had a definite residence in the back of my mind. And now they’re missing.
I just have to convince my memory of that fact and try to break the retrieval habit. It feels strange to miss something that you’re so used to seeing. Baloney sandwich for lunch? Sure. Oops, the meat’s not back there yet.
I think what surprised me most about our electrical failure is just how much I had socked away in these two machines. And how dependent I was on being confident that whatever I needed would be there any and every time I opened the doors.
Now I have to refill all of the empty spaces in both places. It’s probably going to be expensive, but I know just where everything belongs, and I look forward to the process of rebuilding and re-establishing our relationship with one another. But this experience has caused me to wonder what other invisible habits I might have. I’m not so sure I want to find out.
Freelance Writer Judy Kramer can be reached by email at JudyandOz@tampabay.rr.com. She is author of “Changing Places: A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age.”