For the longest period of time, I had been unable to execute certain actions to reform habits in my life. For example, I used to speed all of the time knowing that I would get caught eventually and have to pay another fine, take another driver’s retraining course, and raise my insurance premium some more. Without fail, it always ended up happening. I would be driving through a school zone, going 30, scanning the area, thinking, “How fast am-” and, there’s blues behind me.
Most of the time, these were situations where I wasn’t even intentionally speeding, just on auto-pilot, felt like a 40, was actually a 30, and by the time I looked down I was screwed. Three years ago, I was going down a road in the neighboring town heading to work and was pulled over. 40 in a 30. $100 ticket. Then, two years ago, I was going down the same road and pulled over. 40 in a 30. The cop, puzzled, handed back my identification and apologetically asked, “Nick, you got pulled over about 10 feet down the road doing the same speed exactly a year ago. What’s the reason for speeding?” I explained there wasn’t really any reason and that I always think it’s a 40 even though it’s a 30. He laughed and said because it was such a coincidence that it was the exact day and so close in distance, that he’d let me off this time. I was insanely grateful, as I had never got off any previous tickets (except maybe when I first started driving at 18).
I ended up meeting this cop another two times. The same cop. In very close proximity to the initial ticket. I started feeling like I was living in some odd alternate reality with the consistency of location and cop. On the third time, (because I had a previous driver’s retraining course) I would be required to take another driver’s retraining course and potentially lose my license. The cop suggested that I fight the ticket to avoid that happening because for some reason he had a lot of sympathy for me. I took his advice.
I didn’t know what I’d do to convince them that I couldn’t afford the ticket and so I figured I’d tell the truth: I’m an anxious air-head when driving. I always used to worry about the people behind me so I’d speed up as to not hinder their movement. I’d leave for appointments and work exactly on time or sometimes late and would try to beat the time by speeding. With all of these thoughts in mind, I decided I’d start trying to reform my behavior so by the time the court date came around I’d have some evidence that I cared.
So, first, I began allotting more time to traveling between anything. Next, I’d search for the speed limit sign of any road and begin repeatedly saying it in my head, “30 mph, 30 mph, 30 mph.” I’d say it three times, at least, because that’s the amount it usually takes for any human to remember something. Finally, I started specifically chanting, “30 mph” in my head the moment I left my house to go to work and when I left work to go home. I truly felt reformed by the time court came around. I began to plead my case and the District Attorney interrupted, looked at me, tilted her head, and said, “Well, it doesn’t look like you’ve done much to reform your behavior, based on your driving record…”
Even though it hurt, she was right. I drove like a complete idiot for most of my life. So, I owned up to it. I explained what I had done to reform my driving, such as chanting in my head “30 mph,” and allotting more time to travel between anything. She obliged and put me on probation. I felt so relieved. All I had to do was not get a speeding ticket until July (it was a 6 month probation). I ended up making it past probation, effectively not paying the ticket, and have continued good driving behavior since.
I decided I’d start applying the power of threes to every other aspect of my life, rather than just driving. The latest thing I’ve been chanting is “accelerate, accelerate, accelerate.”
I was jogging in the woods this morning which is atypical for me. 10 years ago (holy shit, I’m actually typing that) I was 17 and had just had my first knee surgery. It was a complete ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) reconstruction operation that took me a year and a half to recover from.
In writing, “a year and a half,” is only thirteen letters and a fragment of a sentence. It’s five syllables. It’s nothing to a reader (most of the time) because you can breeze right over it – “Ah, ten years ago, mmm, a year and a half recovery, pretty average,” you might think. But, when you leave the doctor’s all drugged up doing daily tasks becomes dismal. A shower? What is usually a refreshing, quick way to start the day becomes an hour and a half ordeal of taping your knee so that your surgery bandages don’t get wet and setting up a chair to sit on while showering because standing is too dangerous. This always requires another human to help you along the way too, so something really personal becomes a shared activity.
Working became obsolete so I had to take some time off. The day would always begin with stretching my leg so that I could feel relaxed and comfortable. I’d pop a few painkillers, prop up my X-Box, and position some pillows for a pensive evening. The first day of kicking back with a banged up knee and nothing productive to do wasn’t so bad. The second day neither but… with each progressive day, the days began to feel longer. Seconds became minutes and minutes became hours. Soon – by the fourth, fifth, sixth day – I felt like I was losing my mind. Due to the difficulty, I hadn’t showered in a couple days. My skin felt itchy from painkillers, greasy from being unhygienic, and I wasn’t even past the first week.
That’s stagnancy. When all movement stops, time stretches, and boredom is abound. Two years ago, I had more knee surgery (MCL) and shoulder surgery (labrum, bicep tendon, and bone spurs).
But today, almost a full two years from my shoulder surgery and a few months past a year from my second knee surgery, I was jogging in the woods. What I thought about while running was the energy I put into running and the energy I received from running. Normally, running is pretty bad on your knees, but running in the snow softened my impact. I immediately thought of the jogger on the news (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98mBl9d0dew). But it really did, I felt it grip my feet as I jogged and my feet gripped back. However, when I’d take a moment to catch my breath and walk, I could feel my feet sink. Slowly, I’d pull my leg out of the clutch of the crystallized ice, then feel it sink deeper into a sullen, sink-hole of snow (“that’s stagnancy,” I thought). Overall, my knee felt good jogging in the snow. Then, I began to think about momentum.
Momentum, unlike stagnancy, is continual impetus. I thought about energy-in and energy-out. That, for example, all of the energy I put into the run would be returned to me after the run; I’d be breathing heavier, thinking deeper and clearer, and overall more awake. Time felt quick again. An hour and a half went by between heavy, asthmatic breaths and calm, contemplation by a lake without even thinking about it. And so I figured, these were the two modes of living; stagnancy and momentum. Stagnancy is easy to execute but slow. Momentum is hard to maintain but quick. Stagnancy has been a huge part of my life due to surgeries and setbacks, but I’m moving toward a momentous one.