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Monday August 01, 2005, 01:54

Oh Balls.

I am a creature of such extreme habit that even the most innocuous break from the ordinary, say, stepping into the bathroom and turning on the water in the tub before taking off my pajamas, rather than after, will send my mind into a continuity tail spin.

For example, I like getting up early. I would say that I like getting up early if for no other reason than I like to see the world when it is just waking up, like to be there when it takes its first breath and welcomes everyone in along with it. But I think that I like the morning more because it means that I am up again, as I was yesterday, as I will be tomorrow, and it gives me a sense of purpose knowing that, if nothing else, I have gotten up and have succeeded in getting at least that far with my day. Early, of course, in this instance, is not earlier than say seven thirty, or even later, but for one who is routinely up past the hour of midnight, I should think that this is no small feat.

The truth of the matter is that I do like to see things in their place, and I do get a bit put off when they are amiss. It comes to a continual shock then, to both myself (and my mother, no doubt), that piles of newspapers and bills, magazines and boxes should cause me so much psychological trauma. My room at the family homestead (recently stripped of its captain's bed and back issues of Model Railroading magazine) was such a mess growing up that paths would need to be carved through the piles in order to get from point A (the door) to point B (the desk). Getting to the book case sitting between the two windows was almost an impossibility, and the closets were completely inaccessible.

And yet I find myself living away from the watchful eye of my parents and finding that these piles, these collections of things that I have been living with for so many years of my life, tend to cause me immeasurably grief; as I look at them I grow more and more uncomfortable until I find myself awake at four in the morning, poring over old issues of the New York Times Magazine and issues of Vogue from last year in a futile attempt to get everything under control.

And yet I have grown up with the habit of collecting. And hoarding. And piling. How on earth can I reconcile the momentum of the collector with the desire for a simplified existence, sans stuff?

I stare through the camera to the voice from behind and ask "So what's my motivation here?" That really is the problem. There are so many pieces of my life that I feel I need to keep track of on a daily basis that if I do not come up with systems and plans and try to overlay some sense of order (which, is some loose way translates equally well to "habits") I know that everything will come unraveled at the ends. Which is, of course, why I carry a little date book that keeps track of everything from the lunches that I'm going to have to the lunches that I once had. The idea is to keep track of everything that happens in case I need that information comes in necessary in the future.

This mode of operating is so ingrained (or so wants to be ingrained) in my very psyche that making plans without writing in the aforementioned book results in my feeling very ill at ease until I realize that I've left out a crucial part of the planning paradigm: the recording of the actual plan.

It is my hope that some of the things that I do so much like to do in life (like write and take photographs) can once again become habits to the point that not doing them would feel as awkward as not taking a breath for the duration of the day. One day does not a habit make. Nor two (which can mostly be considered an accident). But three?

Three is downright habit forming. Let's watch this space to see how I do.

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