As habits go

It’s two o’clock in the morning and I can’t sleep.
I creep from my bed in stealth mode and slip out to the living room. I switch on my little study lamp, looking carefully around the room for witnesses as though I am part of a covert operation.
I crawl under a lovely big blanket, tucking the edges in around my chilly legs and break out my Kakuro book. Then guilt sinks in and I’m now forced to decide if it is the Kakuro that will help me get back to sleep or if it is the Kakuro that kept me from sleep in the first place.
I fear it is the latter.
I think I have a problem. Then again, isn’t that the first step in curing ourselves of some habit we’d rather we didn’t have? As I am trying to fall asleep, I am working out in my head what three-number combinations add to 19 or how many combinations of five numbers there are to make 23.
It isn’t the same as counting sheep, I assure you.
I tell myself that this adding in sequence and filling in the Kakuro pages is good for my brain. I’m sure I read somewhere that these brain puzzles keep the brain exercised—keep it fit so that dementia can be held back, a bit like a force field.
So I take pride in my mental bench-pressing.
Though cranking up the endurance on the thinking treadmill may keep my memory intact a bit longer, the truth is it is not too good for my to-do list. Not only do I not get enough sleep as a result of Kakuro, I don’t get the real life stuff done.
But I suppose that’s true of any habit, whether good or bad.
I don’t watch a lot of television, so I cut myself some slack about the time spent behind a puzzle book. But I’ve used that same argument in regards to smoking and drinking so that I could justify spending a small fortune on writing books and plastic storage containers.
I used to do Sudoku, the hard ones and the really hard ones. But I kicked that habit several months ago.
It wasn’t that hard. I gathered up all the Sudoku books in my possession and recycled them, feeling rather smug about my willpower. Then I moved on to the hard-core Kakuro.
What is next? I don’t even want to think about it.
I’ve used all the arguments to support my habit—that the means justifies the end and all that self-talk. But lately I’ve been thinking that perhaps some minds much more brilliant than mine are tied up doing puzzles of some devious kind and could have more wisely spent the time developing an alternate for nuclear power or really put some effort into a cure for tardiness.
Who knows how many of us are on the verge of genius, just at the crest of some great discovery, but are doing Kakuro instead.
As habits go, it’s not the worst. I don’t bite my nails. I don’t doodle on public property. I don’t litter. I don’t wear nail polish so that precludes picking the nail polish off.
I don’t drive over the speed limit (well, not excessively over the speed limit). I’m never late. So as habits go, maybe I’m not doing all that bad.
Kakuro books are hide to find. I wondered if there was a movement afoot, prohibition so to speak. Then I looked at the situation as a gift, like I had dodged a bullet.
I wiped the anxious sweat from my forehead and exhaled dramatically. Well, now I can get at cleaning my basement.
But then last week I wandered past a convenience store and out front was a stack of Kakuro books. And, it was a sign: they were on sale.
Now I’m back doing 15 or 20 puzzles a day.
The situation is looking grim.
wendistewart@live.ca

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