If only a pill could cure all bad habits

Posted: August 03, 2004

'Imagine: Losing weight while quitting smoking. A drug shows promise."

This was a headline on a newspaper article a while ago. Lose weight and quit smoking.

This drug could truly be a wonder drug for those honestly struggling to keep their weight to a manageable number, or for those who want or need to quit smoking.

I began to examine my own world, and I realized that, while I do not smoke or truly struggle with my weight (yet), I have more vices, issues and concerns than I need.

First, I am not as nice to people as I should be. I am regularly guilty of saying the wrong thing, the inappropriate thing, the fly-off-the-handle thing, and all of these "things" usually get me a long stare from my wife. Sometimes, she even makes a subtle comment or two when we are alone - usually at 120 decibels. I want a pill to help me say the right thing.

Second, I have a minor tendency to put things off. I believe that the term is procrastination. I have always promised my wife that I will look up that word, but something always gets in the way, usually helping my wife around the house.

Why should I do what I need to do now when I can just do it later? I can put the trash out in the morning. I know I won't be running late. What's the big deal? I mean, I'm not the only husband in the universe to put the trash out in the morning, am I? My wife wants me to look into a pill that will help me with this "problem." I told her I would think about it.

Third, I tend to not listen when people are talking to me, or so they say, but, hey, I'm much busier than most people. Plus, I am good at multitasking. I am so glad this term came into being, because it's so me. I can do a crossword puzzle, watch television, help my kids with their homework, and listen to the story my wife is telling me.

OK, so I don't do all those things well, but I do have good intentions. That should count for something, shouldn't it? Well, my wife and friends want me to look and see whether that pill is coming on the market soon.

Lastly, I am not as neat as I should be. I think that every doorknob is a hanger, and I put each one to good use. Why should I hang up my clothes when I might wear them again this week? It makes sense to me that pajamas should be kept in the bed. Speaking of which, why do you need to make the bed if you are only going to use it again? I don't plan on having any tea parties in my bedroom, and the guided tours have ceased until further notice. My wife has made written requests to many doctors regarding this pill.

While I could look for a pill to cure all of these problems, my better remedy would be a change of habit. Smoking and weight loss go beyond personal habits and into the physiological. The struggles I face aren't nearly as serious as obesity and emphysema. One pill will not cure my problematic personal habits.

There are things in our lives and our world that we cannot control. Being polite, being on time, and being neater are definitely controllable. A change of habit and a change of heart, and I could be right there.

This hurts, but maybe I could start by listening to my wife more often.

I'll start tomorrow.

Fred Alden writes from Mount Laurel.

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