Mary Pickford used to say, “Don’t look at the sudden loss of a habit, or a way of life, as the end of the road; see it instead as only a bend in the road that will open up all sorts of interesting possibilities and new experiences. After all, you’ve seen the scenery on the old road for so long, and you obviously no longer like it.”
The breaking of a long-time habit does seem like the end of the road at the time – the complete cessation of enjoyment. Suddenly dropping the habit so fills our minds with the desire for the old habitual way that, for a while, it seems there will no longer be any peace, any sort of enjoyment. But that’s not true. New habits form in a surprisingly short time, and a whole new world opens up to us.
For those who have tried repeatedly to break a habit of some kind, only to repeatedly fail, Mary Pickford said, “Falling is not failing, unless you fail to get up.” Most people who finally win the battle over a habit have done so only after repeated failures.
I remember in Arthur Miller’s play The Price, the father lost everything during the stock market crash of 1929 and, for the rest of his life, sat in a room in the attic of a relative. That’s failing. It seems some people lack the stamina, the energy, to do it all over again or to make a new start. For them, it’s just the end of the road, and they’ve come to a full stop. Many lead such superficial lives, have so little depth of mind and spirit, that the sudden loss of income or material things is too much for them, and they jump out a window or retreat into insanity.
I remember hearing the story of a little boy who wanted to get over the backyard fence. He stood for a long time looking at the fence. And then slowly, with many falls and failures, he dragged a box to the fence.
Again with many attempts and falls, he got to the top of the box. But he still couldn’t get to the top of the fence.
He set to work once again, this time getting a smaller box to place on top of the big box. Again, many falls, having to get back on his feet – much tugging and pushing, lifting and dropping – but he finally got it to the top of the big box.
Laboriously clamored to the top of it, grasped the top of the fence and flopped over. Then he came back home.
So if you’ve been trying to start in a new direction, you might do well to remember the advice of Mary Pickford: It isn’t the end of the road; it’s just a bend in the road.
And falling isn’t failing, unless you don’t get up again.