There’s a book I have been reading for the past two years, slowly incorporating it into my life, one page at a time, as if each new version of the sentence “Cancer is everywhere” will motivate me to live the day without any self-destructive habit or aim for self-destruction or habitual consumptive patterns worth eliminating.
The book is entitled Eat To Live, written by Dr. Joel Fuhrman (I keep thinking his name is “David”, probably because I keep assuming he is (like me) Jewish and I do not know where this favorable assumption came from but it makes me believe him more so, in person, if you ask me about this book, I will call the author Dr. David Fuhrman but, please note, his name is Joel).
Eat to Live is wonderful, full of crazy information supporting Fuhrman’s Nutritarian Diet, a word and method of eating he invented which defines the health benefits of limiting yourself to foods that are highly nutritious (i.e. they have a high nutritional value per caloric measure). If you have trouble constructing a diet for yourself that feels good and makes sense, I recommend this book for information-sake. Good luck reading it as it is very dense and kind of annoying but it is truly helpful.
After two years of reading it, slowly cutting the information into my diet, I finish the book today and I sit in wonderment: Fuhrman’s diet sucks.
It eliminates pleasure. And happiness. That’s why it works? I don’t know.
A Nutritarian Christmas looks like this: All vegetables, nothing cooked in oil and at the end of the meal, you can further celebrate with a tablespoon of flax seeds and the sensual aroma of gingerbread emanating from a candle, positioned in front of each attendee at the table for full effect and optimal holiday disappointment.
Nobody really knows this about me but I pray daily and most of the time I offer devotion to the day, I want to dedicate this day to the creation of the world and my miraculous fitting into it. Everything I do, everything I act on, I want to commit to further strengthening the goodness of the world.
And then by 4 pm I’m usually a bit drunk.
Sometimes I’ll bake a cake just so I can eat a bite of it and then I throw it away.
Currently I have a fixation on gummy bears but I hate gummy bears so I buy some and then eat some and then hate them and then I don’t know what to do.
I’ve refrained from purity because it takes too long.
The day is long. Time is usually on our side and when I say “our” I include those of us who live alone, are yet to turn thirty (still me), we are single and we keep speaking about our goals as if we obsess over them but, when Time pats us on the back and says DO IT NOW we get worried and we hunt for pleasure in other things.
The opportunities for engagement are plentiful but frightening. If I write something down, I will have written it down and then what? I will know what I think. What if everything I think is garbage? What if I think something that I cannot articulate fully and so I am therefore a failure and now I have proof that I am a failure because I tried but it didn’t work…I’m going to hide my face in my dog’s belly and ask him why he loves me.
It is terrifying to acknowledge our intentions.
The momentary distraction of pleasure is way easier than the pursuit of our purest intentions.
A couple weeks ago I began an experiment I called “The Deafening”.
It hasn’t been too interesting but I estimated that if I removed external noise from my surroundings I would have to face my thoughts more frequently and, in having to face my thoughts, I would strengthen my work, working from the specifics of pain or anxiety that I had been trying so hard to avoid by continuously watching television.
I have not really succeeded in the eradication of noise completely but, in review, the notes so far look like this:
Day 1, 12/11: No TV, No sugar, Meditation, no pain, no fatigue Such a great mood; Yoga; Tanya; pitch progress
Day 2, 12/12:No TV, No Sugar, Yoga, Meditation, no fatigue, no pain, no depression; Proofreading in the morning and I smiled and I smiled and they smiled back
Day 3, 12/13: No TV, No Sugar, No Yoga, Meditation, No fatigue, No pain: Discussed goals with Tara, worked closing, closed properly, promise fulfilled
……We jump ahead until:
Day 7, 12/17: TV, Sugar, No Yoga, One Meditation, Depression, Fatigue, Pain, wake the body up, trying to wake the body up
Day 8, 12/18: TV, Sugar, No Yoga, One Meditation, Depression, Fatigue, Pain, No notes
Day 9, 12/19: I don’t know everything and also: I just want to lie on the floor for a long time, and also death and also sadness and obsessions related to those things, ok
Day 10, 12/20: No notes
Day 11, 12/21: Meditated from bed, no real goals, can’t remember why
Day 11, 12/22: I loved waking up but I was afraid to move, became busy, found love, awoke awoke awoke, alcohol, TV
DAY 11, 12/23: Slept in, no idea how to return to the day, feelings of loss, feelings of blame, need to reorganize but what to reorganize and I have forgotten why silence was so important to me because right now it fucking sucks
DAY 12, 12/24: Everything fine. Destruction is fun. TV all day. Smoked five cigarettes for the first time in forever. Sugar because why not. Big meal with a bottle of wine because ok. Everything is ok. Just play the day in pleasure. Just play the day in pleasure. Just pleasure. Just fine.
This month has gotten weird and weirder.
I knew I needed clarity.
I quit my job and then had to work that job for three weeks. Within those weeks I had no patience for anything, I spent all my time looking forward to the time when I could just sit still.
My body is in so much pain from the anxiety of reservation.
I have been waiting to do things and I have no idea what those things even are because there are so many of them, I am just tingling with a misunderstanding of time, I am clueless as to the now, I am hoping and in hoping I am exhausting my nerves.
I just turned the TV off. I walked my dog this morning, came inside and turned it on. It was on all day yesterday. I was going to work in front of the TV. I was not going to watch it but the habit of it’s conversation, the fictional realm of Over There that exists in my home when that TV is on, helps. I don’t know how but it helps.
I turn it on and then I get nervous to turn it off: What if I cannot handle the silence? What if I become bored with my work? What if I just hate what I’m doing and then I have to sit there in the realization that I hate it?
It’s off now.
I turned it off.
I have to admit that part of the reason why I like to keep it on is because my dog lies on the couch and I like to sit beside him.
It is just pleasure. I seek pleasure and in solitude, the solitude of a single Jewish woman on Christmas, it is hard to fine so I find little ways of administrating it for minutes at a time and I hope it lingers.
Dr. Fuhrman states “make a sacred promise to yourself that you will eat with nutritional priority”. Ok. Eat basics. Spinach is just spinach. It does not need to be “dressed”, it does not need to be ruined. Just eat the spinach. Move back to working. If you need more spinach, there is always more spinach and then, there is always more work.
If life is any more complicated than that, I finally understand, it is because I am trying too hard to do much more than Live.
The whole city is seemingly spending time with their families right now and I am spending time with myself. The whole city is indulging for the sake of unity and I have indulged for the sake of aloneness. I am not making up for anything.
I am stretching existence to include pleasure so that reality cannot be demonstrably basic and therefore frightening. How can I fail when it is so easy to just succeed? I don’t know and so I default to: How can I fail if I do not even try?
I have eaten today. I cooked both meals. They were fine, a little bit too much oil for Dr. Fuhrman’s liking but fine.
There is the opportunity for purity in everything I do, everything I consume or choose not to consume. Everything I turn on or choose not to turn on. To find purity, I do one thing at a time. I sit with my dog, no TV. I eat a meal, no distraction. I lay on the floor if I need to, just lying there.
If people I love appear, be with the people I love.
Go back home.
Sit back down.
Return to the simplicity of engagement.
Day 13, 12/25: TV, no sugar, plenty of vegetables, meditation, no real pleasure, no real loss, just a commitment, a “sacred” commitment to Live, to Eat to Live, to Work to Live, substantially
VICE: The ground beneath the thing from the ground
The sun is outrageous. The cold is outrageous. I nearly lost my fingers walking my dog this morning. Not really. But, reality only serves to protect fiction from appearing to be too real so: really.
My dog and I were meant to go to the park. We walked twenty minutes and then I forced him to turn around, yelling “I CAN’T DO THIS” to the naked streets, panicked, images of my pale, dead body on the sidewalk and in between breaths the unusual need to say “hurry we’re almost there” as if my dog actually wanted to go home, which he didn’t, which is why we took forever to get home and I almost died. Really.
I failed at walking. I failed my morning.
Have you ever walked without a purpose because sitting at home provoked the type of urgency that only a walk could subdue, numbing the restlessness into a type of existential validity: Hey look everyone, I’m walking and, hey look everyone, that’s kind of an accomplishment, and hey look: Just look. At me. So I know I’m here.
This cold is a commanding controversy for me. I walk literally numb and, in so doing, I awaken a lot of pain. And fear. My numbing agent is making me feel too much.
Walking is the only (potentially) non-deadly vice I can think of.
Earlier this year, when I was quitting smoking (for the final time, everyone pray because it was true hell and I cannot go backwards again), I was dating a marijuana farmer. A legal marijuana farmer, as he would put it, growing for one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in Canada.
“I am legit Big Pharma,” he would tell me.
He was a really fancy drug dealer. And, I was quitting smoking. We were the greatest pair.
He’d ask. “So then what’s your vice, if you don’t smoke, what, like, do you fucking vape like a fucking vape-lady.” (“Vape-lady”, soon to be superhero, probably, probably not).
“I drink a bunch, I guess.”
“A bunch? haha haha How much is “a bunch”?
The truth was, not at all.
I have an undiagnosed and eternally annoying pain problem. It takes over my whole body, annually, usually in the autumn/winter months when the world is dark and I am frustrated with my apparent lack of progress in life (no matter my actual progress). When my body is in pain, it cannot do the usual work that our bodies do to repair themselves when we smoke and drink and so smoking and drinking makes me very very depressed.
I am always quitting smoking. I am always “not drinking today”.
Sometimes, my abstinence is organic. When I truly am not smoking, I truly am not drinking as the two go hand in hand. The idea that we always need at least one vice, as my loosely-compatible-almost-dating-me-guy made me believe in that moment, is troubling.
The way I see it, vice is dependent on two things: Emotional needs and recreational opportunity. We can factor money into that equation but, let’s pretend that money doesn’t exist and “resources” are just things that we prefer.
Appreciating life choices in a mathematical context sometimes helps me deal with my bad habits, if I allow mathematics to be completely abstract and therefore allow the outcome to make sense to me purely in theory but, then again, if it’s my theory: It’s real.
In the case of vice we can formulate an equation
Where, ‘x’ represents the value of Depressive Symptoms in an individual
(i.e. Loneliness + Hopelessness + Grief +whateverthefuck else is happening to a person who feels desperate and lost and pitiful, whatever it is, let that be ‘x’)
Where, ‘y’ represents a measure of the individual’s capacity for recreation (time + independence)
Where, “V” represents the value of the individual’s vice (let’s accept that there is no built spectrum of damage indicating the values of devilish pleasures such as nicotine, alcohol, narcotics, sugar, and whatever else you find yourself smoking, huffing, popping, licking, let’s all pretend we’ve agreed to understand that all of them are shitty but the amount of your pleasure that you ingest, that is your V)
The key to negating V, then, is either to become either busier or happier.
I have come to understand that a positive rise in both mood and activity level (therefore a negation in recreational time) is terrible. It provokes a short term mania, spinning the individual into a flux of that overwhelming feeling we get just before we tank back into depression.
DO NOT get high on increased activity.
Rather, if you choose to increase your activity level so that you are simply “too busy” to drink (for example), make sure you maintain a stable mood, no pleasure, just simply “doing”, “being”, a very active existence without emotive imposition.
I don’t mean that you should become a robot. I merely mean, it is harmful to activate our accomplishments and activities with too much emotion because too much emotion provokes too much emotion which instigates:
A negated x.
Consider: If x remains stable and y negates (i.e. recreational time decrease), then
A negation of vice. Win.
On the other hand, maybe, instead of hiding behind activity, you prefer to decrease your depressive symptoms, a delightful thing to do, theoretically, much less repressive than a decrease in y because as opposed to covering up your emotions with work, you can actually visit your emotional weaknesses and improve them, if that’s your thing, while keeping your activity level basic and stable.
Good luck, friend. Good luck with that strategy. If you can find the formula for achievable happiness, let me know.
I am not sure that love counts. Love is too temporary.
I have felt love once.
There is a lot of supportive love in my life, family and friends who are phenomenal people but I have felt a romantic and resounding love only once in my life, lifting me out of myself and making anything else useless, stupid, a complete waste of time. Other than that feeling, that feeling of “I don’t need to do anything with myself because I have love and that’s everything”, I cannot think of another way to improve my mood past the point of vice.
And, problematically: Love is a vice. Maybe.
Maybe it’s just an emotion but maybe it is a vice.
I don’t know. I am not a love expert because I keep working too much.
In that case, x must always be balanced by a decrease in y.
The answer: Keep busy, chums. Or, smoke.
The point of these mathematics is to demonstrate that our need for vice is negotiable.
The marijuana farmer who insisted that I need a terrible thing in my life to keep me stable, had no knowledge of my capacity for activity or, further, my capacity for healing. (He also had a vested interested in marijuana so, I’m not sure discussing the euphoria involved in not smoking was really worthwhile).
I don’t even have that knowledge of my capacities. I do not know how much I can do for myself.
I do know that, since knowing him, I have decided that I am a writer and I must write all the time. I made that decision: I am a writer. I will write for the purpose of crafting an inclusive world for women to live in and I will not stop writing ever. Goodbye cigarettes. Hello the “occasional drink”. Inner peace and any junk similar to it, greetings.
Except that: When I feel I have nothing to write, I feel like numbing myself. When I fall behind in my writing, I hide in Vice. I steep in pain. I overwhelm myself with distraction and it takes me a while to get back to work.
This morning, numbing walk completely painful and therefore a failed vice, I returned home and hugged my dog while watching three hours of television and wondering if I should go buy a bunch of wine, rip off my nicotine patch and go wild.
I walked the dog again. Tried again. I wore two layers of everything this time (three layers on my feet if you include the boots). The walk was shorter and more controlled. We went to the pet store. I got a coffee. We came home.
I made sure to stretch. My hips are cranky and, moving them, I felt an immense release. The release did not provoke happiness. I am not any happier than the woman who was on the couch this morning but: I saw my pain. I can’t move it completely. I cannot accomplish the kind of organic happiness that just sort of fills my body and makes me feel like I am in love with everything, I have had that before, I believe it exists purposefully for us when we need it but it won’t happen today.
The sun is so beautiful, my desk faces such a stunning amount of light, I have sat down. I am working.
Working cannot be vice, not for an artist, because it is not a numbing agent.
I feel sick when I work, I feel like a beehive, working and buzzing with the kind of order only I understand and when I stop, I do feel like I should go back, like I should finish, like I should create a completion, like I didn’t do enough.
I do not feel drunk.
I do not feel repressively satisfied.
I do not feel like I ignored all my loved ones and embarrassed myself past the point of recourse.
I just feel purposeful. And, like I should go back and renew my purpose.
I still really want to smoke and I do not know how to fix that.
I was fine for a couple months and somehow the urge came back to me, hard, and I do not know how to fix it.
I do know that I have been putting off projects for a couple weeks.
A return is in order.
Last night, I paced through my apartment reading Austrian literature until night became Night and I had to go to sleep.
Maybe that’s the ticket for me: A bodily devotion to storytelling.
I am better than the woman on the couch. I think. I am a woman at her computer.