When I was a young father with a home office and rowdy boys I noticed in me a bad habit. I'd ignore the kids until they got way out of hand and then I'd blast them. My blasts were guilt-fueled. I knew I had been neglecting them. They were also wishful thinking as though one blast would straighten them right out. Their habits of misbehavior were as unlikely to change as was my cycling between neglect and blasting. Guilt-fueled and wishful, my cycle continued for years even though I knew it was a bad habit.

Though it would be nice if better habits could be switched on like some computer preference it doesn't work that way with humans. We can confess that we have a bad habit for years before changing it if we ever do.

I never did Catholic confession so I wouldn't know. Still, there's something about those Hail Marys that seems to indulge the fantasy of quick fixes, a fantasy because the next week you come back and confess the same bad habit again. I wonder what it would be like to bring back ritual confession, but without the guilt, absolution, resolution, or quick-fix formulas, just having someone to whom we inventoried our bad habits as defined by our own standards. Or maybe just keeping a list of our lesser habits somewhere.

With age, I've grown patient with my list. For the last three years I've known that I watch too many mini-series in the evening, high-quality stuff but still, I have better uses for the evening. I confessed it to friends. It took until this week for me to get around to unplugging the big alluring flat screen, throwing the remotes into a deep crawl space with the batteries removed, just enough obstacles to put TV out of reach.

That's how I am with lesser habits by now. I steep until I leap, usually by changing my environment. I've long realized that I can't change myself but I can usually change my environment so it changes me. With age, I've grown patient with my indulgences.

My oscillations between guilt and fantasy quick-fixes have subsided. I bide my time, and then I pounce. Or not. Patience with myself makes it much easier for me to confess.

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