Small Habits

Your local procrastinator here, Allison.

(*Disclaimer: if this post is riddled with grammatical errors and general nonsense, it was probably autocorrect’s fault. Or my general lack of ability to proofread*)

It’s probably been two months since I’ve posted, which might be a record for my laziness and general busyness. I visited a college in the midwest, flew to Italy, tried to make up three weeks of school in five days, and have maintained a vague air of still caring about my senior year of high school. Needless to say, its been stressful but wonderful.

Part of that insanity was a trip to Italy. While the European was extremely enjoyable (more on that later), it certainly added to my packed schedule. When my parents first asked me a few months ago if I wanted to go to Italy, I immediately said yes. I expected my brothers to be just as excited as I was. But they all said no for various reasons, and suddenly I was facing two and half weeks in a foreign country alone with my parents. I love my parents and respect them immensely, but I certainty use my brothers as a buffer between their nagging and general parental concern. Even though I knew before I left for Italy that it would be challenging to spend so much time with my parents, I didn’t realize living in the same room with my mom for sixteen days could amplify her motherly habits so much. Honestly, I didn’t even know it was possible for those instincts to be more amplified than they already were.

I’m a chronic nail biter. I always have been. One of my worst memories from high school happened while I was biting my cuticles during a class presentation and someone interrupted me while I was speaking to inform me there was blood dripping off my hand. And they were right. I had bitten my cuticles so severely I had caused a tiny genocide on my fingers. When I was younger, I read a book about Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, which causes people to compulsively eat their own flesh. The book concluded that people who compulsively bite their cuticles could have the same genes as those with the more gruesome Lesch-Nyhan syndrome. So I concluded I simply suffered from a form, albeit minor, of Lesch-Nyhan. Thus my excuses rolled forth when someone reprimanded me for my bad habit.

Naturally, while in Italy I found myself biting my nails. My mom began slapping away my hand, yelling at me, or telling me how ugly my hand was becoming. You know, the typical things that makes anyone respond positively to criticism. By the twelve hundredth or so time she did this, I snapped and told her to leave me alone. Only half jokingly, I reminded her I had Lesch-Nyhan.

She met my angry gaze with a smirk. “That sounds a lot like an excuse.”

I was indignant and tried to explain to her what I meant, but I found my mouth filled with an excuse explaining away my, well, excuse. She shook her head while she looked at me knowingly. Though the moment passed, I found myself dwelling on her words.

How many things in my life was I just telling myself I was destined to suffer from? Nail biting was a small issue, but it didn’t take long for me to think of other things. I always told myself I could’t sleep well at night. Maybe if I even tried to fall asleep at normal hour, I could. I told myself I would always have anxiety. But had I ever tried to work through that anxiety? Had I ever tried to put myself in situations that would make me less anxious?

It didn’t take me long after getting to back to New York to try to actually be mindful about the little habits I have. Instead of bitting my nails, I filed them. I stopped myself from pulling at my cuticles. When it was one am, I decided to try to read for a little bit before going to sleep, instead of staying up on my laptop all night.

It’s only been a few weeks since I’ve been home, and of course my life isn’t radically better. But I do feel calmer. More under control. I have a lot of ability to shape my emotions and the events in my life, as long as I take initiative to do so. I’m not proclaiming a miracle cure from all my issues, but this is a general reminder to fix the things in your life that have been upsetting you, because a lot more is probably within your grasp than you realize. I’m not destined to be a nail biter, and it’s unlikely I actually share genes with someone who has Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, and I’ve finally taken the time to accept that.

(Also, someone please beat me with a stick until I start posting more often. I apologize to the Internet for being so bad at this.)


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