Where can I anchor the present?

A habit is a shield. Time is always pushing at us, so slowly we don’t even notice. But that slow push has all the weight of a glacier behind it. Our feet slip and we don’t notice we’ve moved until we are already somewhere unfamiliar. Woe to him who loses track of the time. A good habit pushes back, giving us a brief respite in which to get things done. ‘Cause things must be got done.

I collect habits. I love trying out new ones. I hate the feeling of wasted time, that sinking feeling when you know the glacier has pushed you back a few feet. You let down your guard for one day, for one night, for one lazy Saturday morning, and you are faced with an eternity of trying to regain that lost ground. When the guard slips, it’s easier to blame the shield than the arm that held it. So I cast here and there for a replacement.

Coffee is the secret to the productivity of some. Cigarettes allow others to jumpstart their synapses. Some will say late nights, some, early mornings. The president of the United States wears the same suits, eats the same breakfasts, walks the same paths, his daily schedule carefully planed and sandpapered by the Secretary of Efficiency. I bulldoze myself out of bed at the same time every morning for the same reasons, or at least I try. There’s safety in a strong schedule.

Habits are more than productivity hacks. They are lifelines, the guardrails that tell you which path you’re on. I watched a Swedish movie and for the next two weeks, I drank coffee every day. I didn’t need the jolt, but I did need the security. The warm mug and woodsy smell told me that the present moment was enough. Coffee gripped the floor and held back the glacier. For a moment.

The trouble with the world is that it won’t be pitted against itself. A mug of hot coffee is a castle with paper walls. It won’t shield you from the world. It will pants you and point to your insecurities. When the world laughs, coffee will laugh, too.

I need a shield stronger than a calendar. I need boots that will grip the earth. I need a helmet that will focus my sight. I need a sword that will remain faithful, a breastplate to guard my heart, and a belt to keep my pants up. The only habit worth clinging to is the habit of holiness. Any other is a waste of time.