Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Extremely Ordinary

I did it!  I finally finished the last chocolate in the box... probably my third or fourth chocolate for today, because I told myself: once all the Valentine's chocolates are gone, then I'll get serious about how I am eating!

I've discovered that I have a penchant for extremes and addictive behaviors.  For example, if I replaced my sweet tooth with a desire for alcohol, smoking or some other nasty habit, then both the obsession and mindlessness with which I indulge myself would clearly be seen as unhealthy.  Some mornings I wake up and the shiny box of sugary chocolates immediately begins to attract my attention. Why eat Cocoa Puffs for breakfast when you could jolt your system with a succulent square of candy enrobed in milk chocolate?  Then there is the issue with all of my "secret stashes".  On a bad day, when my top dresser drawer is empty of goodies, I can always start searching the kitchen cupboards for other chocolates that I've stashed away.  If worse comes to worse, there's always the humongous Costco bag of chocolate chips that I normally reserve for making my husband's favorite cookies... except in the case of emergency chocolate cravings.

Over the years, I've attempted to keep my obsession confined to being primarily a holiday treat. We start out in January with the on-sale, leftover Christmas candy.  Then comes February with Valentine's chocolates.  In the spring, there are Easter bunnies and Cadbury Eggs.  After that, there is a bit of a lull, but with various summer festivities, there are at least 2 candy parades (yes, my very community is an enabler to my bad habit!).  Of course October means Halloween candy by the bucket-load, which often last until Christmas.  So you see my problem - no time is a good time to avoid candy - it's practically shoved down my throat the whole year through!

Well, I didn't intend to make this posting entirely about health and dieting, but it certainly illustrates the patterns and extremes of addictive behaviors and the impossibilities of controlling them.

I tend towards extremes in my life.  The pendulum swings from one extreme to the other whether it involves exercise, food or my schedule.  For a while, I'm intensely committed to eating more healthfully, then I drop the ball, and I don't just let things slide, but I usually plunge myself into the sorrowful mindset of "I just couldn't do it, so now I might as well give up and eat every disgusting sugary, chocolaty thing in sight."  And there are times when I load up my schedule with every hour accounted for, my life so tightly wound that one little mishap will leave me completely frazzled and hopelessly, wretchedly late and unable to catch up.

The problem is, as a society, we tend to be addicted to extremes.  We have television shows featuring all manner of extremes:  people losing extreme amounts of weight, "xtreme" fighting,  people documenting survival in extreme environments (Survivorman, Man vs. Wild), the eating of extreme foods, and then there are all the shows with extreme in their name: Extreme Makeover, The Most Extreme, and don't forget Extreme Couponing!!!

I wonder if our instant-gratification, over-stimulated and comfort-driven lifestyles have numbed us to the satisfaction and joys that can come from simple, honest living?  If my "normal" life has become dull and mundane because my senses are accustomed to getting whatever I want, whenever I want it, and I am always trying to make my life better, then how can I find delight in the ordinary?  Too often, I'm seeking the next high - and in doing so, I battle the extremes in my lifestyle that come from an underlying dissatisfaction with my present circumstances.

We are 51 days into a 366 day year. (That's about 14% of the year.)  Today also marks the first day of Lent for many people, as we approach the Easter season.  There seems to be a lot of personal-assessment going on around me, and I imagine it has a lot to do with our proximity to the near year.  By now, you're either cruising along, satisfied with the success of your New Year's resolutions, or you're beating yourself up over your sucky-ness at screwing up yet another perfectly good year.  As tempted as I am to check-mark the boxes of where I'm doing well, and berate myself over the areas where I feel I'm floundering, I know I shouldn't because I'd only be fueling my tendency to implement extreme measures.  (Yes... I've eaten WAY too much chocolate this week, this month... this year.  That doesn't mean I need an extreme diet to counter it.)

What I am proposing is a pull-back from the hunger and desire for something bigger, better, faster, thinner, sweeter, or richer... ultimately that craving that simply says: I NEED MORE.  Instead, I will seek to find contentment and satisfaction in my daily routine.  I will choose to be more grateful in the midst of my circumstances.  I  will stop and smell the flowers - or maybe just the sticky sweet syrup in my toddler's hair.  I will find joy in the simple satisfaction of a neatly folded pile of clean laundry.  I'll thank God for the busyness of a household of healthy, active children, and the fact that I am blessed enough to spend my days at home with all of them.
Instead of hiding my boredom, stress or sadness with unnecessary indulgence, and instead of setting myself up for failure with all manner of goals and resolutions as I seek to change myself and my life in a really big (a.k.a. "extreme") way... I'm going to aim lower...much, much lower.  I'm going to attempt to be happy right where I am, just the way I am.  I'm going to work at being happy with my life and my family and not fuss about trying to make everything better all the time.

Dream big...?  Nah, not me.

Shoot for the stars? No way.

Instead of setting my sights on extraordinary things, I'm going to get my head out of the clouds, calm down, and be glad that today is just another ordinary day.  
"This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it" (Ps. 118:24) 
"In everything give thanks" (1 Thess. 5:18)

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