I wonder what makes me want to eat Italian bread toast with a lot of butter for breakfast (or French toast or blueberry pancakes or poached eggs on grits with sausage) rather than (or even in addition to) a tasty smoothie I can make in the fancy Aunt Sherri-donated Vitamix that has about twenty five fruits and veg in it that makes me feel really rejuvenated and full of energy.
That’s kinder to my body. But why does butter and white flour feel kinder when it’s going in my mouth? I guess it’s the same question for the smoker or the drinker (two things I also feel the appeal of).
When I visited Copenhagen last spring, I had a nearly- overwhelming urge to throw down some Kroner for a pack of cigs and walk around the streets in the cold, Scandi-grey air feeling moody and Danish (though the Danes do top world happiness lists year after year). I played it (the tobacco purchase) forward in my head to the moment when I took the first imaginary drag (probably coughed) and thought to myself, “oh, that’s it.”
Then back in real life I decided to spend my cash on a gin and tonic at a bar recommended by a student of mine. I drank it alone, so while it was a good drink, that’s not what having a drink is about. I sent a pic to my wife.
But I do wonder what the food thing is about, my drug of choice. That’s a lie. I don’t wonder. I know. I remember talking to an analyst in my early twenties about how I worried a little about how much cereal I ate at night. (I still eat cereal at night.) I told him, “Well, it’s not like I’m eating cake.” Dr. Krasnow said, “It’s exactly like eating cake. The carbohydrates do the same thing for you.”
And ouchy he was right, is right. The food, the wine, the Netflix, the Amazon Prime, the British crime drama du semaine, the fill-in-the-blank, it makes a cushion for me.
I was going to say it cushions me from the world, but it’s also a cushion from my internal world: old hurts that I filed away, ambiguous feelings that are thus far un-nameable, (so where do you FILE those alphabetically, anyway?), general low-grade discomfort that I’d rather mute than allow it to voice itself.
I learned recently studying the Enneagram that I am a 9, the Peacemaker: seeking to quell any and all conflicts that arise or MAY arise externally or internally. While this is a wonderful trait when it comes to empathizing and understanding several points of view, it makes for a lot of work when it comes to managing so much potential unease.
So, back to Italian bread. It’s delicious. And there’s a big-ass loaf of it that you can buy at Aldi right next to some equally delicious brioche. But you know what else? I’m going to make that smoothie too. And I’m going to rehearse the Strauss songs I’m performing in February, and I’ll probably put Noah in the Ergo and go for a little hike. Greensboro has readily available woods. Thanks Greensboro.
Maybe it’s about adding things that are loving, good, and move us in the direction of what lights us up, and therefore gives something beautiful to those connected to us.
I’ll still keep my cushions, I just know I will.
But the plan is to fill up my life space with the life-giving things so that at least the cushions get squished a little flatter.