A spectacularly bad idea and a pretty good one

Friday, February 14, 2020

When I was in college, I worked in a traveling tent theatre for a summer. A guy from my hometown was also employed with this outfit, and so at the end of the summer I caught a ride home with him. His plan was to drive all night and just get it done. What about sleep I asked? Not a problem; his older brother always said you can replace sleep with food. Like they’re equivalent? That didn’t sound exactly even to me, but I was young and it was his older brother and Mike was the one driving and so that’s what we did, Mike cheerfully tossing back gumdrops and snack crackers as we cruised over the miles of dark empty interstate.
We did get home, which seemed to validate the method, but the way food and sleep seemed to be presented as an either-or situation -- you can take your pick, like clabbering milk with lemon juice works equally well as buttermilk and tastes the same -- that seemed wrong but also possibly a little bit right?  
I’ve thought about that notion quite a lot over the years, not because I ultimately bought into it but because I have no doubt bought into many others with not a flicker of awareness. Where do we get our ideas from? Someone’s older brother?

It makes me think of a story I once read about a person whose family had a longstanding Thanksgiving tradition of slicing the top off the turkey then roasting it in two pieces. No one in her immediate family knew why; it was just always the way it had been done. The writer had to go back a generation to her grandmother to discover the method was devised only because her grandparents’ miniature oven couldn’t fit a whole turkey. Possibly clever, certainly crude, it was an adaptation for sure, but a good one? Dry turkey or moist ham? Or lasagna.

However, a pretty good idea I came across came from a nurse I used to work with who had lost quite a bit of weight. She had an everyday way of eating and an occasional way of eating which allowed her to enjoy the fullness of life while having both health and pleasure. One day she came to work and with a look of absolute rapture on her face described a luscious piece of lemon meringue pie she’d had the night before. I could eat another piece right now she said. I immediately wanted to know if there was any left and if that was the plan for that night.

It was like she was ready for that question because a wise, merry look came over her face.
“Of course, my mind and my body want another piece of pie but they’re not going to get it,” she said. “It just takes about a day before they remember we don’t eat pie every day.”   

To be ready for what the mind and body now think is the way things work – like 7 pm is now lemon meringue pie time – and to understand there will be a wee little period of uncomfortable re-orientation to the everyday plan seems like a really solid idea. Like one worth passing along.