The Changing of Habits

I know I am not alone when I say that I want to make changes in my lifestyle. None of us are perfect, whether we want to eat more salad, start reading a book every month, or try our hand at letting our artistic juices flow through music, performance, or even writing.

I have been struggling to get into a running routine that I stick with, to read novels throughout the year, and above all else, to give myself time to spend doing things I love even when I am busy, what many refer to as ‘scheduling dates with myself.’

Now, although I have tried and tried, I have not been able to change the habits that make up my life – until now. Here is what I have come to realize in the last few days. In order to change your lifestyle, you have to get away from it. When in the middle of it all, habits are, in their nature, extremely difficult to change. It has only been once I have removed myself from my lifestyle that I have been able to question who I really am, and who I really want to be.

I looked at my life as the days have passed here in Jimma, not over the course of an hour or even a day, but a continuous gaze at the habits that dominate my every day.

One of my worst habits is my inability to put my own personal time above an opportunity or a request from a friend. Sure, I may think about spending a night reading my great book for the sole purpose of personal enjoyment, or going for a walk through the market on my own. The second a friend asks me, “Taylor, what are you doing tonight? Do you want to do X, Y, and Z?” Done, I am there, always trying to be social, always putting my interactions with others above the interactions I have with myself.

I have been getting better at trying to break the habit of always putting my interactions with others above the interactions I have with myself. This past weekend I had a breakthrough, a moment that was so perfect and energizing that I now know that saying no not to myself, but to those around me, is sometimes the best thing I can say.

This past weekend, Saturday night to be exact, my friends Esa and Dru texted Amanda and asked if we wanted to go to El Shady that night, Jimma’s only night club that we have had a fun night dancing to Ethiopian music a few weeks prior. It was a very last minute plan, but I love last minute spontaneous plans! But still, I said no. Amanda went for our closest Ethiopian friends and had a great night, but I had other plans, an important one at that, a plan to go for a long run in the morning.

I had been thinking lots of long-distance running lately, and have been throwing around the idea of whether (with intense training) I would have the mental stamina to run across Canada. I have been beginning to have a desire to enrich my run-every-two-days habit I have created for myself here in Ethiopia, and on some days, go for longer, to simply go until I didn’t have the energy to go any further, and then to turn around on wobbly legs and start moving back in the general direction of my hotel.

Sunday morning, I did exactly that, and before I knew it, I was in the hills surrounding Jimma, 45 minutes of running outside of town. Once I made it to the top of a mountain with a view of hills, valleys, and the edge of Jimma in the distance down the valley to my right, I was able to realize the importance of scheduling dates with no one but myself, giving myself the time to think, to breathe, to dream. This is the biggest lifestyle change I have always thought to make, never fully succeeded until that morning as I stood covered in mud on the top of the mountain.

One other thing I have always dreamed of doing? Poetry. Writing, performing spoken word, I have always wanted to explore my abilities with poetry, and although I am only just beginning my poetic journey, here is a taste of my second poem, written after I got home from that one and a half hour Sunday morning date with myself. This poem, entitled The Mountain of Silence is something I will be performing tonight at a cultural show on Jimma University’s main campus. My first poem I wrote about Canadian culture, not very cleverly titled “The Canadian Poem,” I performed at last week’s smaller cultural show (500 people in attendance).As you read this poem, imagine me reciting it with a great deal of emotion (tonight’s perform will be filmed, I will try to post it here within the next few weeks).

Without further adieu, to my much appreciated readers, here it is, me changing my habits:

SILENCE

Wind whistling, sure, but no calls for prayer at the mosques now hidden down the valley

No Ethiopian pop artist blaring out of shops and restaurants

No honking of the constant horns that allow the flows of cars, bikes, horses, goats, sheep, dogs, chickens, to operate in a perfect yet perilous equilibrium

Not even the constant chatter of a people who value interaction and hospitality above much less important concepts like private life and personal space.

All I can hear is ……. (SILENCE)

In a place where my brain is constantly filled,

Not only with conversations, music, traffic, and the early morning and late night calls to prayer,

But filled with thoughts, of papers and people I miss, research studies and funding proposals,

Projects back home, projects just developing.

Ready, set, go! Too late, I am already moving, already thinking about what’s next,

always moving, always going, until I reached the top of the mountain.

I didn’t know what to do with silence,

It’s not something I can break down into 1,000 words a day or jot down on my never ending to do list.

It consumes me, yet allows me to consume it.

So, what to do with all this silence? I thought, about love and life, my passions and of poetry.

Poetry, isn’t that just something in a dusty old book? A type of literature from the past?

No, poetry is an art form, and is activism, with people just like you and me performing poetry in coffee houses, from rooftops, at protests. The power of poetry is that it can transform emotion into words, words into lyrics, lyrics into a performance, a performance that can not only change how people think but that can change the world we live in, inspiring movements, standing up against injustice.

So when I was hit with silence, I strung emotions into words to put this poem that I perform in the spoken word style on this stage tonight.

SILENCE

It’s that beautiful thing that allows me to breath, making all the things on my mind look so small,

To see not a university, a road, a meeting, or a mall,

But to see the world on my own terms, not to the beat of someone else’s soundtrack!

When my brain drifts into a quiet abiss, I stand tall and stare,

Looking at the world from the top of the – Mountain of Silence.

Thank you for reading, in the comments section, what are some of the biggest habits you have been striving for, or been working to change?

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