My latest is "Ment." I have lunch with various colleagues and floor-neighbours of Amynah's - unsurprisingly, there are a lot of Type-A personalities. A few days ago, I was eating with a crew of women that had two PhDs completed, two PhDs in progress and three marathons completed between them (although, that's really two marathons and two half-marathons).
Everyone needs a running coach
For some reason the subject of Lent came up - one of the girls had, despite not being Christian, given up sugar for the last Lent. This led to a discussion of other diets, fasts and personal sacrifices we had made.
Being the type who takes great pleasure in undermining the decisions of others when they make me feel bad about MY decisions or lack-thereof, I pointed out that giving up something you like is much easier than forcing yourself to do something you hate. At that point, I had one of those flashes of personal insight I have learned to dread.
"Of course, it's not like I've ever really given up anything I like. I don't even know what I would give up," I said.
"Peanut butter!" said Amynah, sending a chill to my soul.
Now, I am not hooked on peanut butter, by any stretch.* But it is my go-to thing to make my breakfast carbohydrates palatable, and I will often rely on it when I don't feel like cooking. To put that in context, I feel like cooking maybe twice a year.
All right, challenge accepted. Only, I am contrary, and so I cannot have Ment (Mark-Lent) be the same length as Lent. Having it be shorter wasn't unacceptable either. And so, I will be abstaining from all peanut products until the New Year.
It gets worse: having somehow talked myself into a peanut diet that I did not want, I then pointed out I still needed the "thing I hated" to make it a fast/self-compelled personal growth that would be acceptable to the standards that I was quite happy to hypocritically apply to other people.
There were ridiculous and strict rules attached to this. The "thing I hate" has to be something from which I do not derive a benefit that I care about, and is far outside my comfort zone (i.e. reading classic novels instead of spy novels does not count, writing more does not count). Anything that would benefit me professionally or financially was also out. Whatever this was, it had to be as pointless as it was unpleasant.
Yeah. So now I'm getting up at 6 AM, three times a week, and running. Dear Lord, I hate running. If God/evolution had intended us to run, God/Evolution would not have given us the ability to throw spears at the things we were running from.
The problem with this is that the human mind rationalizes: as such, I am already turning what was supposed to be character-building suffering for its own sake (like self-flagellation or a hair-shirt) into a health crusade, and my peanut-butter fast into a semi-diet in which I've cut out most snacking and desserts.
I worry, if this trend continues, that I'll be one of those spandex clad health nuts measuring out their days according to their mileage and caloric inputs, or that I'll have to find something even more pointless and painful to make up the second part of Ment. Where does one buy a hair-shirt anyway?
* Anyone who knows about the several hundred dollars that were spent shipping peanut butter to Strasbourg is encouraged to not talk about that right now.