In the winter, I wear pink blush. Then spring and summer come, and my face burns up past pink into crimson.
The other day, summer was here. By the calendar date, it was early. But it had inched out of hibernation weeks ago, bringing with it my crimson complexion. And the other day, summer rose to nearly 90 degrees.
As I was leaving a meeting, I briefly saw myself in the mirror. “You look pretty flushed,” I thought. “That room must have been really hot.”
I stepped outside and as the summer sun hit me, I realized I was pretty flushed not because the room was really hot, but because I was still wearing pink blush. Weeks after I’d turned crimson.
Habit had gotten the better of me.
And blindingly so. In the mornings, I looked in the mirror right at my crimson cheeks to put blush on. But I was looking without seeing.
In 1919, Marcel Proust published Within a Budding Grove, the second volume of his 3,000 page novel, Remembrance of Things Past. Towards the bottom of page 600, the author from Paris’s 16th Arrondissement wrote:
“As a rule, it is with our being reduced to a minimum that we live, most of our faculties lie dormant because they can rely upon Habit, which knows what there is to be done and has no need of their services.”
Minimum is a weak way to live. And it is an unthinking way to live. We will not weakly, unthinkingly become the people we can be.
Habits aren’t all bad. Many are important and trustworthy. But they are good servants, bad masters. We must choose them thoughtfully. Check in on them regularly. And do an inventory to see if we’re still applying pink where it’s already crimson.
And thinkingly – with faculties fully engaged, perhaps near exhausted- we will become the people we can be.