Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Changing for the Better

How do you improve? There are more self-helps books out there than is really sensible, many probably unread, unacted upon and frankly, unhelpful. Does it all go back to the original lightbulb joke; one psychiatrist, but the bulb must want to change very much?

I want to improve. Not simply in what I do but in removing those habits, actions, selfishnesses which, by and large, remain unremarked upon but which, I know, people don't like.

For instance, I laugh at my own jokes. I wish I didn't. I can do deadpan on stage but in conversation a nasty little defensive 'tee hee' appears after a funny. My Dad did it. It annoyed me. Now I do it. It annoys me. Every now and again, like now for instance, I say to myself that I will stop, or at least try to stop and I stop in my head but then the relaxing nature of a conversation including humour cuts in and there is that tic, that first-to-laugh-to-make-sure-somebody-else-does moment. It happens before I can stop it unless I treat every conversation like a performance which is another habit I've been trying to stop for years.

I really don't want to alert my friends (although perversely I will have done by writing this) to the need to point out my failing. I'm not sure I could live with the derision; it may take some time to heal me.

But is there a better way?

For another instance. I pick my nose. I kid myself I do it discreetly but I don't. Liz doesn't, thankfully, point out every instance but does sometimes tap me on the arm and that is enough. Enough to make me stop for a second and then begin again more discreetly later, anyway. She has been kind enough to live with it. I remember being told off for this habit by my Mum, and also having it pointed out by merciless school 'friends'.

I'd love to know if my huge hooter creates a greater perpensity for itchy snot than in others. I'd love to know if asthmatic-related problems some years ago contributed. But basically it is an ingrained habit - there are too many accidental puns in this piece sorry.

Told off for it in a staff meeting by a colleague the other day I have tried again for a few days to restrict nasal excavation to the privacy of my own handkerchief or waste-paper basket; it is hard to stop. The hand is there before I can think it away.

I wouldn't dream of telling anyone else off for either of these two things - the plank in my eye is too big to be sure I can see it clearly anyway.

How do you change though? Is a desire to change a sign of continued growth even if with some habits the result is constant and repeated failure. Who could wear a badge saying, 'I know I pick my nose but trust me, I'm aware of the problem and trying to deal with it.' or, 'Don't be annoyed that I laugh at my own jokes.'

Maybe I should rub my fingers in chilli before work? Better watch the communion bread then. Perhaps eucharistic presidency should involve surgical gloves.

Tell you what. Let's just all confess everything to everyone. It'll be easier in the long run.

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