Sunday, July 10, 2011

You're the Soup

As part of my current diet, I gave up caffeine.  But I made a deal with myself.  Once a week, I can drink or eat anything I want.

I think that in the past, part of what's derailed my diets is that I swear to myself that I can never again for the rest of my life eat a sausage biscuit, and then days later when I've found a rationalization for doing exactly yummy that, I feel like a loser.  I made a promise to myself and broke it.  I made a plan and couldn't follow through.  What a willpower-less wimp.  And that's when the diet wheels come off.

So this diet-time around, I've taken a different tack.  I give myself Saturdays off.  If I want to eat pizza and guzzle strawberry milkshakes all day one day a week, I've given myself permission to do exactly that.  It's not necessary to go the rest of my life without ever eating Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream again.  I just have to earn it by eating the way I should the rest of the week.

Success breeds success, though, and -- what, more than three weeks into the diet now? -- when Saturday comes, I don't make as much a pig of myself as I might because my stomach is shrinking and I get full faster.  Yesterday, for example I did have two biscuits for breakfast, but I had a big salad for lunch, and at dinner I wasn't really hungry so I snacked on some Cheerios.

The problem was the Big Gulp Diet Mountain Dew I drank while we were out hitting the garage sales.

As is my way, it's taken me six paragraphs to get to the subject.  Sticklers for precision and brevity won't have even gotten this far, so it seems you're my kind of reader, and I should reward your patience by sharing some sinister secrets or a snippet from a spicy story about seduction and sex.  You know, hide the juicy stuff deep into the blog post, wait to get naked till we've gotten comfortable with each other.  Servants!  Chocolate covered orgasms for all my friends!       

As is my way, it's taken me seven paragraphs to get to the subject.  The Big Gulp Diet Mountain Dew.  Not drinking caffeine six days a week has given me a clear look at what the actual effects are that caffeine has on me.  As it turns out... the eye twitch I had that made me think I had some kind of neurological disorder?  Well, I hadn't noticed it, but it had gone away when I stopped drinking caffeine.  When I drank the Mountain Dew, blam!  After a couple of hours, I started winking uncontrollably.  And there's more.   

All my life, I've had obsessive thoughts.  Don't worry, it's nothing insidious.  You know when you get cut off in traffic and the guy who did it leans out of his car window and calls YOU "asshole"?  And then all day, you think about that exchange, going over in your mind all the things you could have or should have yelled back?  What I think is just like that, except I do that about everything.

On my worst days, it's as if every human exchange I have happens in a courtroom, and internally, I'm perpetually in the process of defending my every action and choice of words.  But I'm also the prosecutor, poking holes in my own reasoning and putting forth the case that I'm a worthless, terrible person who can't do anything right.  And at the same time, I'm my own judge.  And not a stern but comforting and fair television judge -- I'm a small-town, corrupt good ol' boy judge who got paid off on the golf range earlier that day to find myself guilty.  If you have a problem with me, don't worry, I've probably already thought of it and punished myself for it.

But those are the bad days.  On a normal day, I can use that anxious energy to get stuff done.  I have to get my work done or, or -- or what?  Doesn't matter, had a productive day.     

When I was young, I thought I was "analytical".  I got older and wonder if I'm just fucking crazy.  But maybe it's better not to know that.  If I peeked at a diagram of my mind, it would probably look like the jumble of wires behind my desk, and there's no way I'm crawling back there to see what's connected to what unless the printer stops working.  Too much dust, and spiders.      

So the Big Gulp Diet Mountain Dew?  It puts my personal brand of hyper, worried thinking into overdrive.  My normal low-level anxiety is what nature gave me instead of a personality.  Caffeine takes my normally fretting but reasonable Dr.Jeckyll and transforms him right past Hyde into a deranged and rabid shit-flinging flying monkey.

I wouldn't have known this, though, if I hadn't stopped drinking caffeine.  Drinking it after not drinking it for six days makes its amplifying effects abundantly apparent.  As it turns out, drinking caffeine every day for years might not have been the best thing for me, no matter how "focused" and "productive" I felt like it made me, and how "listless" and "unmotivated" I thought I was on days I didn't partake.     

"That's something you'll just have to find out for yourself," she said, pulling her panties down around her ankles and tossing them to the floor.  She stared at Karl's face as his eyes tiptoed up and down her small, athletic body.  "I've wanted this for a long time.  You don't even know."  As Karl stepped toward her, confident and erect,  he didn't notice her slender fingers sliding under the pillow toward the pistol.  "So long..." she said.   

So I told you all of that to tell you this.  It's hard to self-monitor.  It's hard to tell whether the soup has enough salt when you're the soup.  I don't even think people are even half self-aware until around age 30, and even then there's the danger of becoming a self-caricature.

It's easy enough to see what someone else is doing wrong, what he or she should try to do differently.  Easy when you have a perspective that's not from inside that person's skull, seeing through the gauze of his own experiences and prejudices and rationalizations.  It's harder to see in yourself. 

Your posts on Facebook may reveal you to others but not yourself.  For example, if your profile photo shows you grinning and brandishing a can of beer, but you complain that you are unemployed.  Or if in one post you are asking where the party is, and in the next you are griping about your mystery headache and fatigue.  Or if you are someone who drinks coffee all day long, and you fuss about your unexplainable insomnia.  Or if you constantly post about the delicious Moon Pies and devil's food cake burritos and cinnamon toasty banana caramel milkshakes you've been enjoying, then ask for sympathy for your obesity, diabetes, and latest knee surgery.  Or my favorite - if you can afford to smoke cigarettes, but you bitch about not having any money. 

How would your life be different if you viewed yourself in third person, if every night you had to watch a video-tape of you going through your day?  Would pimples we think we cover with make-up actually look like boils?  I won't ever be ready for my close-up, Mr. Demille.

Maybe if someone had told me years ago "Hey, the reason your brain is like a jumpy jumping bean is that all these sodas you've been drinking have a powerful drug in them..."  Well, I would have known that already but I wouldn't have listened, of course.  In my teens, I knew everything already.  In my 20s, I knew everything about everything and everybody else except myself.  In my 30s, I knew everything about everybody else, and myself, except I was wrong.  In my 40s, I know everything except the things I don't know, and the things I know which can change. 

At least I finally figured out to try to hold up a mirror.           
***Mister Mirror*** Please link to us on your blog or website. @JPSterling


  1. that's right - now i'm older i like stronger drugs than fizzy pop!
    beautiful, man!

  2. way to stop smoking they say is to drink as much as you can and when target date arrives, you stopped ultimately... no deal none whatsoever. i wonder if that works with other "addictions".

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  4. awesome post

    please follow back thanks :)

  5. Hi! I found you on the networkedblogs discussion board. I relate! I had to drop down to one cup of coffee a day after college. I couldn't quit completely...
    But I find my amped-up, anxiety-ridded state you describe so perfectly is now limited.
    I'm definitely following! Jump over to mine if you like.

  6. chocolate covered orgasms? when? where? count me in.