Sunday, November 23, 2008

If This is Wrong, I Don't Want to be Right

I went to the grocery store this evening because I had a craving. Now, I wasn't craving broccoli, or apples, or kale. Frankly, if you have EVER had a craving for kale you need to see a therapist because there is something psychologically wrong with you! No, I was craving cake frosting! And not just any cake frosting. I wanted brightly colored, day-glo, all sugar and vegetable shortening, fat in a cup, cake frosting! The kind they decorate cakes with at the grocery store. That stuff is GOOOOOD!

In case you're curious, I bought the bright orange one at the top left of the picture. No, it didn't taste like orange, although I did notice, after eating half the container in one sitting (it was a one pound container, by the way!), that I began to experience a slight placebo effect that made me start to THINK that there was orange flavoring in the frosting. Perhaps my mind was trying to convince me that eating half a pound of highly sweetened fat in one sitting might actually be somewhat less unhealthy for me than logic would require. Well, at least for 30 seconds I was convinced!

I've mentioned before that part of being a Lifer requires you to live your live with enthusiasm, to make even the small moments enjoyable for what they are, and to not just sit still and be oblivious while the rest of the world goes on around you. So, why then does being a Lifer sometimes require us to do things that we KNOW are totally unhealthy for us? Let's face it, at 5'7" and 200+ pounds I didn't really NEED that cake frosting. But something inside of me COMPELLED me to the frosting! I had to experience the childlike satisfaction of eating something too sweet and too pretty for my own good. I mean, I could have bought chocolate cake frosting for half the price of the orange, and it would have tasted like something besides sugar. No, I wanted something that took me back to childhood birthday parties that I never had, with neon colored piles of kiddy jet fuel, otherwise known as cake. Except, now I don't need the damn cake. Actually I never needed the cake. Let's get something straight... Cake is nothing more than a vehicle for frosting! Why waste $12 on a cake when all I REALLY wanted was the $4 of frosting?

But back to my question. Why do we sometimes need to experience things which aren't good for us, and which we know aren't good for us, in order to experience life to the fullest? Maybe it has something to do with testing boundaries. Sure, we can all drive under 55 MPH and get safely where we are going, but eventually we just have to haul ass and see if we can get our cars up to 80 (or more) simply to prove to ourselves that we can. Granted, we may end up having to deal with consequences of breaking accepted boundaries. But even if we don't have to pay consequences, breaking those boundaries teaches us something about ourselves and the world around us. Breaking boundaries allows us to see things from a new perspective -- instead of always being on the inside looking out we get to be on the outside looking in. Breaking boundaries allows us to learn for ourselves whether or not the accepted wisdom for how we should live our lives is truly a good fit for us, or if we should try to push through and remake the map to fit our own needs and expectations.

I'm not recommending you go out and start hunting people as sport. That's probably one of the few boundaries that needs to stay in place for a reason. But, short of that, go out and find a boundary to test and push through it. However, while you do it, think about why the boundary exists: does it make us safer, does it make our relationships better, does it keep life flowing smoothly? Then, while you are breaking the boundary think about how you feel, and how does what you're doing make others feel, if applicable. Then, when you're done, take some time to think about what you learned, if anything. Do you understand better why the boundary exists, or should we all start to rethink our need for it?

So, what did I learn from eating $4 of neon orange cake frosting? Well, I learned that people are probably correct in saying that you should avoid eating out of boredom or to satisy some emotional need. I learned that, while the frosting did fill me with a temporary comfort, a momentary vacation to a time and place that never really existed (though I wish it had), it didn't really give me anything permanent; it didn't satisfy the overarching need. Instead of eating the frosting, I would have probably been better served calling a friend, or playing a game, or going for a walk. The frosting provided a temporary high, which is always followed by a requisite low, where human contact, intellectual stimulation, or physical activity would have produced the same (or better) high with none of the guilt associated with wasting money or not looking out for my health.

There's always a lesson to be learned in life if you are just mindful enough to stop and pay attention to it.

Have fun and keep living life... But don't forget to test a boundary every now and then!

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