Leeches and Habits
When I was about eight years old, I saw a leech for the first time. I followed my mother, in her blue Toyota corolla to one of our rice farms and was trying my best to impress her. Rice is a plant that thrives in swampy areas. There was a stream flowing right in the middle of that farm and it split the farm into two unequal halves. That evening, instead of pulling out wild rice as I was instructed to, I got caught up playing in the slow running, clear water. Staring at my feet and all the tiny little things that were alive in the water. There were some fingerlings, tadpoles and certain bugs that stayed on the surface of the water. This was my fascination, Nat Geo Wild at my fingertips, until I saw a black thing attached to my left foot, just below my ankle. It looked like a piece of black polythene stuck so I tried to rinse it off but that did not work. Attached to my foot, the thing seemed to be wiggling on its own, not following the rhythm of the flowing water. I screamed my lungs out and my mother was alarmed,
“what is it?’’ she asked.
“Mummy, wani bakin abu-one black thing” I replied through tears and I was hysterical. She was walking towards me, talking to me and trying to calm me. When she got close enough,
she said “oh masasaku ne — it’s a leech” and with a calm and soothing voice, she instructed
“rub your feet in the sand.”
Ah! I did so and the leech fell off just as my mom got to me. I was crying — I generally cry a lot.
My mother took me to her car and I waited for her to finish dressing her farm, it was obvious my time there was over. Some of us were not born for these thing you know. Before that day, I had only learned about leeches on TV, from school and stories told.
One of my favourite scenes from Tarzan and Jane is when Jane’s friends were trying to get past the panthers unnoticed. They used hollow sticks to breathe while they walked fully submerged in the river. On coming out, one of them screamed in terror — waking the panthers they had so carefully escaped. “Leech! It’s sucking my blood, it’s draining my marrows, it’s…`` ‘’ a leaf!” Another person cut in with an annoyed voice. I loved that scene so much. It represented danger and the unpredictability of human nature. When we thoughtlessly place one mode of survival over another. I have not seen any other leeches, but I have first hand knowledge that they do not necessarily hurt you when they are trying to get on your skin. But once that latch on, it is an entirely different story.
This is exactly how so many bad habits start. Subtle and painless. Only if you are watching closely will your alarm bells ring. And even then, you need help to get them off you. Will you scream? Or will you chest it? How do you deal with subtle things that become habits? Like eating bread in the middle of the night, spending above budget, sleeping late or not sleeping enough, not exercising, watching unwholesome content, talking to the people you should be staying away from, nursing a hurt that will turn to resentment, losing your temper.
The beginning of a habit is like an invisible thread, but every time we repeat the act we strengthen the strand, add to it another filament, until it becomes a great cable and binds us irrevocably thought and act. -Orison Swett Marden
This is one of my favourite quotes. May it stay with you.
PS. This is one story that never made it into the final cut of my book.