Saturday, November 2, 2013


This morning, I lay in bed for two hours surfing the internet.  And I don’t feel guilty.

After writing that, it was easier to get on the elliptical.  I exercised for half an hour, finishing the last page of Susan Cheever’s Desire just as the timer beeped the end of the session.  Very zen.  That may be the wrong way to use the word zen, but I don’t care right now.  This is my journal, and I’ll use and abuse words as I see fit.

My, what a rebel I am this morning.  A rebel or an addict?  Cheever thinks addicts are different from non-addicts, but that addictions are not different from one another.  In other words, addictions are interchangeable:  when an obese person addicted to food gets bariatric surgery and can no longer feed that addiction, he or she becomes a compulsive shopper or gambler or alcoholic.  Is it true?  I don’t know.  Not in my dad’s case anyway, I don’t think. 

Was I addicted to food?  I had obsessed over it and struggled to self-regulate for more than 30 years before I took what is probably as near as can be to an AA-style abstinence approach to processed food, sugar and starch.  Since doing so, not eating sugar isn’t very difficult anymore.  Halloween was two nights ago and I didn’t even really want to raid the kids' bags for Reese’s peanut butter cups.  My kids are baffled by my indifference to sweets, since they are all sick addicts themselves.  I mean that in a playfully ironic way, I hope, the way that all kids are sugar addicts.  I gorged on Halloween candy as a kid, but sugar was never really the monkey on my back.  I’d much have preferred two chili dogs and a bite of chocolate to one chili dog and a pile of sweets.  For me, it was mostly savory foods (except mint chocolate chip ice cream, for which I had a desperate passion) and a penchant for excessive portions.

When I stopped overeating, and the feeling of food addiction eventually passed, was I more prone to other addictions?  Did a third glass of Malbec become my third helping of Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing and gravy?  Did two workouts a day replace the two chili dogs?  Did figurative mint chocolate chip (a euphemism for something I have not yet worked up the nerve to write about) become a surrogate for its literal namesake?  Ironic, that.  The connection had not occurred to me before.  I think there may be a memoir title in there.  A memoir to be written when I am old and my children have had their own experiences with that other kind of mint chocolate chip, and so may not judge quite so harshly.  I will be an old lady, dignified and well-preserved, and my amorous past will be no longer scandalous, but only quaintly amusing:  Oh my, can you imagine Grandma doing that?

Do I love mint chocolate chip (figuratively), or do I just love ice cream?  I loved that question Eleanor asked, though I think she said chocolate, and I substituted a flavor I liked better, my flavor of the moment.  Or is it merely a flavor of the moment?  I don’t know.  And the beautiful thing is, I am growing more comfortable with not knowing.  I am beginning to grasp at the edges of what paradox means, and this aspect of my life is nothing if not a paradox.  For a change, I am content to live with the paradox, to be with the uncertainty, not to try to figure out the future.  For the first time since it began, I feel at peace with it.  Well, not completely, but closer to being at peace with it.  And that feels good.

I look at the surface of my desk, and the piles of papers that usually frustrate me, make me feel overwhelmed, lead me to beat myself up for allowing the mess to go on, do not do any of those things this morning.  I realize even as I write the words, that those active verbs are inaccurate:  the mess does not make me feel anything.  The mess is just there.  I feel the way I feel, and blame the mess.

Mindfulness, gratitude and kindness.  I am trying to practice these three things.  Forty minutes ago, I wrote down the time, 7:34, and started clearing the mess off my desk, putting things away, timing myself to see how long things took.  Some of the things to put away were three checks, and I decided to fill out deposit slips for them so I could get that out of the way.  I only had two deposit slips in the house, so I went to get one out of my car, and on the way, instead of thinking what mess the yard was, I breathed in the cold morning air and thought how good it felt, savoring the feeling of it filling my lungs, and feeling gratitude.  When I got to the garage, I was not annoyed at the fallen bicycle in my way, just picked it up and put it to the side with neutral thoughts.  There was no deposit slip in the car, and I found to my surprise that I was not annoyed by this.  On the way back to the house, I looked down at my hands, nine long nails with clear polish and one broken down to the quick, and felt not annoyed by the broken nail, but grateful that I have ten fingers and ten toes, grateful that I have beautiful hands.  Yes, beautiful:  the veined hands of a middle aged woman, and beautiful.

When I came back in the house, the cat was yowling in her discordant way.  It is strange, she is so pretty and delicate, but her meow is harsh and masculine and grating.  The tomcat we used to have was huge and black and majestic, but he mewed as though he were the little white kitten from The Aristocats.  This cat’s guttural howl has always annoyed me, and as many times as I have tried to feel benevolent toward her (I am not a cat person, so it doesn’t come naturally) I don't often manage it.  Today I did.  I spoke kindly to her, and let her out.  Then let her in again.  She had food and water, but still she kept meowing.  “Do you want to be petted?” I finally asked, and bent down to stroke her fur.  Apparently she did, because after that she was quiet.

I never did get the desk cleared off, and it’s more than three hours after I set out to do so.  It’s not cleared off, but it is better than it was, and that is something. 

I have no illusions that I can go on being kind to the cat and the dog and the kids and all of humanity indefinitely, but I can try.  I don’t think I can always keep my desk clear or look with equanimity upon the mess when I don’t, but I can try.  I doubt I can consistently look at my hands and see ten whole, perfect fingers rather than age spots and chipped nail polish, but I can try.  That’s all any of us can do:  try.

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