Our friend Katie (mom and Pete, you met her) told us about a documentary we should watch, Happy. Just before the onset of internship, Richie and I snuggled up to be educated on the science of happiness. Happy The Movie explained a concept that we sense on some level is true, but is nonetheless fun to measure and name:
Here's what I know: Cookies make me want more cookies. As soon as I am having ice cream every night, I am jonesing for ice cream 'round 8 pm regardless of my level of caloric satiety. On the other hand, when I keep myself from some small comfort, say, ice cream, it heightens my senses for ice cream. Ice cream can seem too sweet (okay maybe a 3 musketeers can seem too sweet) if I have been eating Real Food exclusively for a bit.
When I deny myself in other ways - of sleep, of relaxation, of time to regroup - I clamor to achieve my comfort set-point by filling in the gaps in my comfort level, usually with food. My metabolism mostly keeps up with it, but I'm not going to tell you that I've never had a day where 3/4 of my calories came from Cheetos and Breyer's. In that order.
The reason I'm writing in the first person, "I, I, I, I," is because, in the words of Gunaratana "I am the punk, I am the crazy." Today I ran a red light - completely by accident. I lingered too long at my left turn, crept forward too far to see the light turn red, and pressed the gas of green car just as opposing traffic began advancing toward me. Yesterday I got confused during signout, spoke out of turn, and then flung my folded paper across the room in some sort of spasm of massive uncoordination. The day before I was eating a very ripe plum that was dripping on my hand, so decided to clean up by stuffing the entire remaining half-plum into my mouth. The pit landed right up against my hard palate, so when I tried to initiate the overstuffed mouth chewing process, I inflicted a mighty scrape upon the roof of my mouth. And worst of all, tonight I yelled at my kids. Now, I was being yelled at, but that's no excuse. My actions were unhelpful.
So, I don't know. I think my weird off-kilterness is from stress. Not some intentional well-circumscribed time of aescetism, but long time without enough sleep or enough time to catch up or process. Long time with busted routines.
Problem: It's just the beginning of residency.
So, I guess I'm okay - theoretically - with being thrust way outside my comfort zone. That's good, right? It gets me off my personal brand of hedonic treadmill. I think I'm resisting the stressors the way I resisted labor out of fear. I'm making up for them by raising my level of hedonic coping. I'm going faster on the treadmill, in other words. More ice cream. More coffee. Just a little more comfort. I owe it to myself. Right? Isn't that right? Wait a minute. Isn't that sort of like what Jack said to the bartender in The Shining? Uh-oh.
At this point, I feel like I might not cope without some treats now and then. I recall now a conversation with a friend who is at her absolute wits' end. She lives M-F so she can play music and drink beer on Sat and Sun. All the doctor sense in me says stop drinking beer, which is probably NOT helping, but all the Spidey sense in me says not til you have Something Else to cling to.
Science recapitulates truth. Religion initially wooed me with truth, and has pushed truth farther than is comfortable in my life (though not far enough). Where does that leave me? Depending exclusively on the strength of the Lord my God. I am weak. I am the punk, I am the crazy. I can't do this alone. I lose purpose, I lose joy, I yell at my kids on my own. Here I am again on my knees. I am partly relieved that it will never stop.