Friday, April 21, 2006

Penance

Is everything that feels good, actually bad? It seems so much that what we indulge in is toxic to our bodies, our careers, our relationships and well-being.

Fat, liquor, lust, impulsiveness, excessive sleep, sugar, gossip, shopping, splurging, venting, vapid glossies, channel-surfing, tanning, gorging, lounging…

And if, or rather, when, we do bend to temptation, our guilt kicks in, at least for me, and I spend days afterwards taking penance.

Drink too much? Flush out with a streaming hot shower, over the counter pain killers, sips of OJ, and a nap by the monitor. Swear to start that glass-of-water-for-glass-of- other ratio next time. Then swear to stop swearing.

Sunday nap past planned? Force off the down duvet, mutter, nudge to the gym, sweat out salt and sleep, return to fluff cushions, Lysol-swipe the sinks, cherry-pick lone socks from the wooden floors.

Wallet running dry? Vow to eat from the pantry, compile dinners from errant cans of tuna and powdered soup, grimace at the prospect, scan racks of dresses and cedar boxes of shoes to donate, build new looks by recombining old and end up pairing a white button down with shiny gray pants, grimace again.

When I was a little girl, my idea of growing up involved me devouring endless boxes of Fruity Pebbles (banned in my house), never chopping carrots for a salad (my nightly chore), lazing away Saturdays as past payment for weeding and flute lessons, overfeeding the cat with pounds of kibble (letting her munch up the spilled bits on the floor rather than cleaning them up), and never, ever going to bed at bedtime. And watching MTV as much as possible.

But somehow, that ideal blew clear out the window, though my parents no longer live close enough to impose those childhood restrictions. I don't need them to. I’m starting to do it myself. The should and should nots. No to this, and no to that, no more excess, and if I take more than my fair share, I better fill the pot back up with restraint.

I feel the need to take penance, all the time, for what I dabble in. Maybe I’m weak. Maybe it’s New York. There’s so much here to do, so many ways to sin against a healthy doctrine of hard work, tidied home, and frugal habits. Or maybe it’s being in this limbo of old enough to earn a paycheck but not smart enough to allocate it across savings, investments, and bills.

Thinking every other Friday with glee, “Free money!” And then running off to blow it all. The cash, the responsibility of the week, the organic lifestyle so rigidly adhered to and promises to keep…

And then the notion creeps in, the one which whispers to halt the trajectory towards adulthood no matter what society says, no matter how it goes against the grain of should. Jeopardize the steady, the calm, the collected. To trade off all the weight of supposed to in favor for what makes me smile.

The only hurdle then is how to maintain balance…

Because without that guilt of penance, without that nagging voice that tells me to buckle down, stop having so much fun, stop acting as though life was a music video and I'm the one starring, and for goodness sakes, do something with my life, I'm not sure I'd ever accomplish anything at all.



13 comments:

AmourArmor said...

Once when I was at a horse show with my employer, she asked me what I had for dinner.

I said, "Ice cream."

She said, "But that's not very healthy."

"That's one of the nice things about being an adult. No one can tell me what to eat anymore."

And she shut up.

Jae

Anonymous said...

Yes, I love that noone can tell me what to do now, even if I don't know how to take care of myself...

QuarkMan said...

An encounter with Atlas Shrugged once impressed upon me the importance of divesting oneself of unnecessary guilt. I am proud to say that I have extended that completely to all matters culinary. I feast almost entirely without guilt and enjoy life the more for it.

Lola said...

I'm starting to think it will always be this way. The struggle to find the balance.

Nevertheless, I hear you!

I'm trying to learn creative ways to save (brought an old coffee maker to work "Bye Bye $25 a week Starbucks habit.") without turning into my dear departed Grandmother who would recycle produce bags, mind you, not sandwich bags, which she never purchased because they were a waste of money (as were paper napkins and paper towels).

Balance. It's all about the balance.

But that water trick. Never could master that one!

Cheetarah1980 said...

I'm still learning balance. I find that there are so many areas to balance that I can't seem to do them all at once. If the checkbook is balanced, my work habits are tipped towards leisure. If my diet and exercise regimine is in tact, then I can't manage to stop shopping. If I didn't do my monthly penance I'd probably be 300 lbs and living in my shoe boxes. Great post.

And I think you're brilliant too. Even after the oil painting debacle. How are your clothes?

pookalu said...

don't think penance or guilt is the first step. no one should claim that growing up means denial, just understanding what needs to be done.

i'm saying this because even though i'm not catholic, or jewish, i'm still burdened with the idea of guilt. or guilt itself. are we too much of a puritanical society?

my point -- why should we feel guilty about anything, but shouldn't we change our outlook to view it as, a little indulging in the things that we want to do, and taking ownership/responsibility for the things we have to do! that way, you'll feel less guilty and less of a need to repent for any imaginary sins!

Jeannie said...

As they say, "everything in moderation". The problem when we're young is that we don't realize how much everything costs. We think our parents just have money. We don't see them being responsible, we see them being mean. When we become adults and have to shoulder responsibility, we (some of us anyway) would prefer not to. Some fail pitifully at this. Some would fail, but have ridiculous jobs (acting, sports) that pay a kazillion bucks so they don't have to be so responsible. Then there's the rest of us who want to remain solvent, want to be good people but want to have a good time too. It's not so much guilt as tension between doing what we ought to and what we want to. It's not comfy but it means you really are a grown-up. So choose your passions and priorities carefully so you can have your cake and eat it too. You just can't have anyone else's cake.

El Charolastra said...

all that stuff...
it's all good for the body.
carry on

Sober In the City said...

My parents wouldn't let me eat sugary cereals either. And I blame that for the reason I've overindulged ever since.

Hattigrace said...

I just SO wish someone had shown me the graph of the magic of exponential interest growth if I started IRA's in my 20's or even 30's. If you start now, you will have over four times the money when you are in your 50's.

I said YES to most my indulgences and now I am still scrambling to save enough so I can retire at 60.

Just pay yourself, ie, your future first. Then, indulge with what is left. Then you won't have the guilt or the painful regrets.

To put away a $3000 IRA a year, it is just $60 a week. If you do that every year, you will be a millionaire by retirement age. Because I did not, I am having to save $450 a WEEK to be able to retire at 60 with a very moderate income.

D.T. said...

I think life's too short to feel guilty about what makes you happy. I mean, sure, we have to be responsible (as Miss Hatti Grace just pointed out) but I think if you indulge yourself to the imaginative things in life, like sugar-sweet cereal for dinner or skipping down the street, every once in a while, it makes the whole growing up process a little more funner and a little easier to bring balance into our lives.

Red Hot Sexy Papa said...

Thanks for dropping by my blog!

Lick your lips!-RHSPapa

Just Some Guy said...

I took a week off writing which meant I took off reading...Post like this one make me wish I never would have left...Good to be back, please keep writing...