Last weekend, I opened a can of “Deluxe” mixed nuts and took out a single (non-peanutty) macadamia. As I raised it to my mouth, an unexpected thought surfaced: just eat one.
It was my inner dialogue again: Super Ego with her Id, Bossy Imaginary Friend with her Impressionable Less Confident Playmate, Goody Two Shoes with her Hedonistic Dance Partner, Angel with her Devil.
“But I need a full snack – a mini-meal – and, wow, the generic grocery store brand is trying hard: there must be 35% macadamias in here! Four. Four’s not pigging out.”
Is my Super Ego the Angel or the Devil? Because most of the time, she seems like a bitch. “Think about it,” Ms. Bossy continued, “What if you had only one?”
So I did think about it. What if there was only one?
I can’t remember the last time I had only one of something. Even if it’s the type of food that I choose to eat only a fraction of (like cheeseburgers or chocolate Easter bunnies), I’ve got access to however many I want as often as I want them.
That’s no small feat, either. In the not so distant past, you had to (a) find a cow and (b) kill it or know someone who would; then get them to share it with you. Oh, but wait, if you didn’t have a second cow to provide milk so that you could make cheese and you already killed the first cow, you would have blown your chances of this being a cheeseburger. Meanwhile, hopefully someone planted grain months ago so that you could bake bread for the bun. Good god, how did this become fast food?
It’s not just about what we eat, though. Even my mechanical luxuries — the more expensive ones that I could never invent myself (not that I’ve ever invented anything, really. I don’t even know how to make cheese) — like my computer and car are things that, if damaged (or old or unattractive enough) I replace — usually without ever having to do without. Not even for a single day.
As I stood there in the kitchen holding that macadamia nut halfway between my mouth and the can of 40 other macadamias (with salty cashews and pecans, too), I asked myself again, what if there was only one?
I thought of places all over the world where people never get things like macadamia nuts. Or beef or cheese or chocolate or computers or cars. Or clean water.
In that moment of imagining the deprivation of others, I realized that I am deprived of something too: the joy of savoring a solitary treat.
Do you remember the years before TiVo or DVDs or even VCRs (what’s tape?) — when there were only 6 channels on TV? The Wizard of Oz came on once a year. In extreme anticipation, my grade school classmates and I would talk about nothing else the whole week prior. And in the barren months between showings, we took turns playing Dorothy, acting out the story in our back yards. Second choice was the wicked witch. “I’ll get you, my pretty.”
I guess every generation has its illustrations for the ways life is changing but the exponential speed of it all boggles me. My iPhone boggles me: I’ve got the whole fucking Land of Oz in my palm.
I did eat just one macadamia nut that day last weekend. And I ate it consciously, enjoying it as best as I could—with gratitude. The feeling carried over to when I washed my hands with soap under warm running water. Who dug the holes for the pipes to make the water come out of all these faucets in my home?
But the next day, I showered for 25 minutes and noshed on handfuls of that peanut-free mix. Later in the week, I ate another $17 cheeseburger (spread out over two meals) and had a chocolate bunny ear, too. Just yesterday, I streamed Gene Wilder’s awesome voice over from Young Frankenstein as featured in a parody of a Nike ad not once, but three times. Because I wanted to. Besides, with other people digging holes and inventing things and killing my future meals, I had time on my hands.
If I want to get this savoring thing down, it’s going to require the intention to be mindful (unless a tsunami strikes or I’m maimed into a wheelchair or some other event occurs that forces everyday extravagancies into scarcity). I might as well practice while I still have a choice.
“Seventeen dollars for a burger when you’re a woman of a certain age and your 401(k) hasn’t been maxed? Are you out of your mind?”
Ahh, Ms. Bossy is back. Sometimes I agree with her: for more than financial reasons, it’s time to stop with the cheeseburgers all together.
[This is an edited version of a post from April 11, 2010. I thought a rerun would do while I meditate myself towards new material…….What? I have to write to write?]