Habits: usual ways of behaving, something that a person does often in a regular and repeated way. So says an online dictionary about what’s on my mind this week. Good habits, bad habits, doing things out of habit, nun’s habits. It’s an easy topic to riff on.


It could even become habit-forming.


Touché, Lily! There are four stages of habit forming: cue, craving, response and reward. Psychology offers the 21/90 rule of forming habits: it takes 21 days to make a habit and 90 days to make a habit permanent.


So if I really did make my bed every day like Mom wants me to do for ninety days- –


That’s right, 9, you’d be stuck for life! As it happens, I do that very thing every day and have for the past few years. The tidiness appeals to me, and it’s also good to know that my bed is ready for me at the end of the day.

Habits: Like every morning, I’ve made my bed. . .

We’ll classify making the bed as a good habit. Good habits are defined as repetitive actions or behaviors you want to repeat. Why? Because they have positive consequences.


So bad habits could be defined as the evil twin of good habits?


I believe they could, Lily. Bad habits are actions you repeat that have negative consequences. Like- -hey, 9, stop picking your nose!


But I’m just a little kid!


And maybe you won’t damn me as an eternal nose-picker if you lay off it for 90 days.


I like goals that are measurable and maybe you, kind reader, do as well. There’s comfort for us number crunchers in the 21/90 rule because it shows us a trick about habits. If we’re consistent in good behaviors and erratic in bad ones we should come out okay in terms of forming habits.


Can life hold too many good habits? I believe it can. When COVID required social isolation and even grocery shopping became a dangerous pursuit many of us scrambled for new activities to fill our days. My fitness habit at the start of COVID (one I’d established in 1998) consisted of three half-hour sessions on the Nordic Track alternated with three twenty-minute sessions of Pilates and Yoga. Two and a half hours a week, the minimum recommended by most doctors.


Sounds like a TV commercial.


These days my COVID-amped routine resembles a TV commercial on steroids. I started walking a lot, just to get out of the house and, masked, mumbled “hi” to masked strangers that I passed at a six-foot distance. The “hi” part was more or less my social life for the first year. Then a friend told me about an online yoga-on-demand class. I glommed onto that like a barnacle to a hull for three or four sessions a week. As part of re-socializing myself when COVID restrictions eased I joined the YMCA. For a year I’ve been doing strength training twice a week (currently an hour each session) and swimming twice a week, advancing from 500 meters to two kilometers per swim.


Have I mentioned you’re kind of wearing me out?


I know what you mean, 9. This good fitness habit of mine now takes 8 or 9 hours a week, sometimes more. Maybe that’s too much of a good thing? Being a habit, it’s hard to stop. . .


From a dramatic point of view, bad habits are more compelling.


I agree, Lily, and I give them to my fictional characters all the time. The worst bad habit I’ll admit to is how I sleep. Fitbit has tracked this for me since June 27. In the nights since then I have rated only one- -one!- -night that qualifies as Good Sleep. This astounding 6 hours and 41 minutes was achieved the night of June 29, the first night I was back from a 4-day 800 mile road trip. Everything else has scraped by as Fair. Average nightly sleep last week was 5 hours and 33 minutes.


It’s a terrible habit, waking up around 4 AM, but especially at this time of year when the sun rises early and there’s so much to do. . .which more or less keeps me up until 10 PM and sometimes beyond if I have the evening out or want to see some interesting planetary event.


Maybe you’ll do better in the winter.


Anything’s possible, 9. Up to and including I’m looking into what it would take to be a nun.


For Living History, that is.

Habits: The kinds you form and the kinds you wear. . .

The Sisters of Providence, a religious order out of Montreal, Quebec, founded in 1843, came to Washington Territory in 1856 at the request of Archbishop Blanchet. Members of this order provided vital medical and educational resources in Washington Territory. In Walla Walla their legacy endures as Providence/St. Mary’s Hospital. As significant as these women were in the Walla Walla community, they have yet to be represented in Fort Walla Walla’s Living History program.


The trick is finding the right historic individual to portray, through whom the history can be told. Women’s lives in general were poorly documented in the nineteenth century. I’m pretty sure nuns weren’t making the papers as much as society matrons or madams, but maybe I’m mistaken about this? My friend Susan Monahan loaned me a book to help me begin my investigation, and I’ll soon be digging in the archives at Whitman College’s Penrose Library.

Habits: Starting Living History research with an overview book. . .

If I succeed in creating this new Living History personage she is likely to debut in 2024. Then I’ll have to consider a different type of habit. . .

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