I’ve developed a nasty habit.
I began an online master’s program a few years ago, and as a result, I end up sitting in front of the computer a lot, watching lectures. My hands aren’t always very busy as I sit there, and they became restless.
So they began this habit of plucking out my facial hair, one at a time.
I wear a mustache and goatee, and I think it all began with just stroking the facial hair. But then my fingers discovered that there is occasionally an exceptionally long hair that got missed when I was shaving. Unable to tolerate such abnormality, my finger tips single it out, and pluck it. A quick, sharp tug, a momentary wince, and the violator is removed.
But it doesn’t stop there.
You see, whenever the longest hair is plucked out, there is always a next longest hair to be found. Ever intolerant, my fingers once again work to implement more acceptable grooming.
On and on it goes, locating the longest and removing it with surgical precision. Sometimes my classes last two and a half hours, and meet twice a week.
I marvel that I have any facial hair left at all.
Truth be told, I do have some exceptionally thin patches, primarily on the right side, where my mustache and goatee meet.
It strikes me that my fingers’ hunger for plucking is insatiable. No matter how many hairs are removed, still there is the desire to continue on. One by one, yanking, jerking, wincing–the longest hairs are removed, a runner-up is identified, and it too is quickly unseated.
There is no ending. There is no satisfaction.
It highlights for me the potentially insidious nature of habits, especially bad ones. Over and again we repeat a behavior, not seeking real fulfillment (except of the most temporary kind), but rather just seeking engagement in the action. A need, a desire to do this thing…and once it’s done, to do it again. And again.
Even worse: I know that I’m doing this. I sometimes find single facial hairs on the floor–remnants of my previous indulgence. With great intentionality, I can stop myself from plucking, I can pick up a pencil and take notes during my class sessions instead. But without this effort, my facial hair becomes thinner, and thinner.
It scares me to think of what other habits I may have adopted, which–in the midst of thoughtlessness and apathy–could be causing any sort of harm to myself or others. Undoubtedly there is waste. Certainty there is ridiculosity (yes, that’s a word). And there is no shortage of plucking.