(No. 116) I'm breaking up with you, again.
I asked a visitor yesterday what he planned to do in the new year, how he wanted to be. It was kind of a toss-off question, pro forma, and I wasn’t expecting much of a response. But he said, “I’ve been thinking that I will start to leave situations and environments that are not comfortable or productive for me — until now I’ve tended to adjust myself to my environment, the people, the situation, rather than finding the environment that fits me. That’s what I’m planning to do.” Wow, I thought. I understood what he was saying, because that’s something I’ve struggled with. I say yes to people. I adapt. I often make peace. My denial of my needs makes me grumpy with a strong desire to be alone.
“What about you?” he said.
I paused for a moment, opening my mind so a true answer might bubble up. The answer was clear, and it was related to his answer, but with a more specific focus.
“This year for me is about claiming my health, about putting my desires to exercise, to eat what I think is healthy for me, at the times I want to eat, and making time to relax, meditate, enjoy life up front. Way too often I let the desires of others determine what I do or don’t do to be true to myself, health-wise,” I said.
This has been especially true in the last few weeks, from Thanksgiving to now. I have a compulsive relationship to sugar, and the holidays often challenge me. By sugar, I include simple carbohydrates like the delicious fresh pita from Miznon, and the croissants from the French place on the corner — I might as well paste one on my belly each time I eat one. If I don’t eat sugar for a few days, I lose my desire for it. But if I eat cookies or cake or white bread a couple of times in a day, or a few days in a row, it can trigger an almost compulsive desire for the stuff. So, in general, I stay away from it. This month I’ve had many guests staying at my house, who often bring home delectable treats they find in their wanders around Manhattan — a Danish cardamon bun here, a bag of zeppoli there — and packages of cinnamon popcorn, chocolate dipped shortbread and candied orange peels arrive via UPS. Some years, I avoid it all. This year I indulged to the point of gaining weight and feeling almost panicked at how uncontrollable my urge for sugar can be.
Two days ago I took a break from sugar, until last night when someone showed up with fresh halvah, which I have adored since I was a kid. I ate two pieces. It was delicious. I’m not going to have any more. I realize, again, that sugar is not my friend. Farewell to you sugar, again, until you next collide with my happiness.
Bonus read from The New York Times: The Barbaric History of Sugar in America
Happy New Year.