Bad habits die hard

On a beautiful spring morning Jack called me to pick him up from our son’s farm, roughly a 45 minute drive from here. I jumped into the pickup truck, cranked up the radio and started singing along with rock and roll oldies. I was having such a good time that I failed to notice how fast I was going. But the cop in the oncoming cruiser noticed. He quickly wheeled around, roof lights blazing. We stopped right across the road from our old farm.

The young policeman approached my door without a smile or any cordial greeting. “I stopped you for speeding,” he said. I handed over my licence and started digging for the ownership and insurance. He went back to the cruiser for several minutes. I texted Jack that I would be late and sat waiting, red-faced. I deserved a speeding ticket. Judging by his all business attitude, I was in for it. I looked around to see if any of our former neighbours were watching and giggled nervously at the idea they would probably think it was Jack.

The officer returned and said, “I’m issuing you a warning today.” My jaw dropped. I double-checked to see there was no citation in his hand and thanked him as he walked away.

Very long lists
A warning! The reprieve prompted self-examination. Why do I speed? Because everybody speeds. I’m always in a hurry. I don’t think I’ll get caught. I’m sinful by nature. And – it’s a bad habit that I’ve fallen into. I set the cruise control for a few kilometres over the limit and drove on. It felt so slow! For several days afterward it seemed I had a line of traffic following me everywhere I went as I tried to (almost) obey the posted limit. Even a school bus zoomed past.

I started thinking of how I generally speed through life, not just when I’m behind the wheel, but on most days. Apparently my bad habit was more pervasive than I cared to admit. I have a strong tendency to pack far more activity into a day than what is reasonable, or even possible. Then I have to rush through all of it, sometimes ignoring or forgetting important details along the way because I need to get such and such done. As a result, I’m often surprised at how quickly the time passes, not to mention how little of my To-Do-List I’ve accomplished – not because I’m not working hard enough – but because I have unrealistic expectations.

So I determined to slow down. I would use cruise control more often. I would get back to taking regular walks, watching sunsets and reading books instead of passing out exhausted in front of the TV. I came up with a dozen little ways to take notice of God’s fingerprints all over my life. But really, I had only created a different sort of To-Do-List. Once again, I was confusing who I am with what I do.

I had to stop looking to my daily frenzy for purpose and meaning instead of looking to the One who created me. Significance must come from Someone greater than myself, or it isn’t significant at all, it’s just busywork. I needed a change in my attitude more than changes in my schedule. I vowed to adjust and thought it was going quite well.

But then I woke up one morning last week, truly surprised to discover it was Friday already. Seriously – where did the week go? Surely the days had conspired together to play some kind of blurry hide-and-seek trick on me. Worse yet, the email from Angela arrived to remind me that the column was due on Monday. Had it really been a month already? The time had slipped away on me and I hadn’t so much as given a thought to what I would write about. What to do?

I bundled up in a warm jacket and set out for a walk around the farm, chiding myself for falling into the same old trap. It’s true – bad habits die hard. On the other hand, maybe there’s a column in there somewhere.  

  • Heidi VanderSlikke lives on a farm in Mapleton Township with her husband Jack. They share their home with a gigantic Golden Retriever named Norton, who thinks he's a lap dog. Heidi and Jack have three happily married children and seven delightful grandkids.

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