Recently I remembered that I had signed up to go to my 40th high school reunion in Highland Park, Illinois in less then a month. As a Clinical Psychologist I am often called on to represent reality and constructive thinking over denial, repression and procrastination. Apparently I had denied, repressed and procrastinated the reality of this blessed event for around…forty years. I had to accept the fact that at age 57, I now more closely resemble an aging bald man with sleep apnea than a muscled Adonis with an Armani wardrobe and warlock fangs.
Once the reality of my high school reunion hit, I realized I needed to swing into action, make a new plan, Sam, and take stock of my current life and lifestyle. In other words, I had to actually get off my butt and do some of things I normally get paid to remind others to do. First I had to admit to myself that some of my current behaviors are not conducive to healthy living or to an ego gratifying high school reunion. Like everyone else in Atlanta in the summer, I enjoy being outdoors, but mostly just to chargrill the shit out of my enormous meat-laden meals and then scamper back inside to wolf it all down… really fast. It’s too damn hot out there!! Maybe I learned that from growing up in Chicago, where steaks, ribs and deep dish pizza are considered appetizers and August often resembles the blowtorch they use on the creme brule I love way too much.
Anyway, healthy moderation seems to be only a vague theoretical concept to me, sort of like black holes and anti-matter. Part of my “action plan” involved going to my family doctor and letting him poke and prod me in all the vulnerable middle aged places. After hearing my laundry list of complaints, my internist, a very healthy and fit looking man around my age told me I needed to “generally cut back”. No wonder he gets the big bucks. However, I knew what he meant. Too much salt, too much sugar, too many carbs and calories, and too few push-ups. I cannot seem to keep what goes in or out of my mouth lean enough or “to the bone” as real writers like to say. In fact, usually I prefer to eat the bones too, crunching down on them caveman style and enthusiastically sucking out the fatty marrow, whether it is a T-bone steak, rack of southern style barbecued ribs, or a juicy rotisserie chicken. The following day I dutifully make an appointment to see my dentist to fix the gold filling I broke in the process.
I now realize that “too much” is my personal theme song and my hidden vice in life. I try to hide it in isolated instances of understatement. My cars are usually clean and my home is tastefully decorated, sort of. However, dont go into my basement….. Let’s just say my TV show, if I ever had one, would be called Hoarders Meets Not Ever Gonna Flip This House. I actually had a dream, not that long ago that my sons called up the producers of Hoarders and convinced them to send a busload of camera men, OCD specialists and “organizational consultants” to my house for a new episode…….on the same weekend as my high school reunion…
Whether it is parsimony or parsley, I cant seem to just “Let it Be” as the Beatles put it in 1970, a scant year before I graduated from Highland Park High School. Somehow, over time, my inner mantra somehow must have changed from ,”Be Here Now” to “While less is more, Way too much is better”. Even when attempting to cook “healthy”, I feel the presence of other epic purveyors of excess, (eg. Julia Child, Emeril, etc.) who inhabit my body and urge me to add “more spice”, throw in a little “lard”, or just “take it up a notch”…. The phrase “everything but the kitchen sink” is perceived by my hypomanic mind to be a kind of rare complement, rather than what it really is, a euphemism for intemperance.
It’s not that I dont appreciate the idea of Zen like simplicity, it’s just that some other part of me sneaks in like a stealthy but unhealthy Samurai to throw in some perceived “added value”… or to further “accessorize” the setting, the situation or the deli sandwich. How normal is to go on vacation and still be thinking about going shopping for accent pillows and better paintings for the hotel room? Look, I know the problem and the compulsive feelings that accompany it. I’m a Psychologist dammit!! I watch Hoarders. Everybody, including myself is clearly thinking, “Get rid of all that worthless junk!!” Let’s face it, those people need alot of love, support and thick leather restraints to hold them down while a caravan of 1-800-JUNK trucks come to load up all their piles of dreck. I can relate…to both sides.
They say every solution begins by first acknowledging the problem. Personally I’m not yet ready to cut back completely or do the whole “admitting to ones powerlessness” thing, at least not when it comes to my calories, my cable channels or even my consonants. Maybe tomorrow I’ll go where no Charlie Sheen has gone before and hand over my engorged Ego to my Higher Power. Right now, I just want to make a simple omelet for lunch-brunch. Just a nice healthy organic turkey bacon omelet with a little avocado and Monterrey Jack cheese…and maybe a dash of Mrs. Dash and black pepper..and perhaps a dollop of fat free sour cream…. I guess I’ll hold on the bad sodium nitrates, curb some of the carbs, nix the artificial sweeteners, and refrain from unwarranted shopping sprees and garage sales until further notice. Maybe I’ll even go for a few short and sweaty walks, or climb on a treadmill while watching Hoarders, Ace of Cakes or Cake Boss. I will try to mindfully meditate and see myself in a more realistic light, regardless of how much frickin money my high school classmates made selling Pork futures and Soybeans at the Chicago Board of Trade. Still, I doubt anybody at the reunion is going to get me to shut up or successfully take a vow of silence.
I realize I’m way more Wizard of Oz than Dr. Oz, but I’m gonna give it my best shot anyway. May Julia Child, Mike Ditka, and Open Pit Barbecue Sauce forgive me…..
Cliff Mazer, Ph.D. is a Clinical Psychologist in Private Practice. He specializes in sex therapy and eating disorders. He resides in Atlanta, Georgia and has an inexplicable thing for Pirates. He plans to attend his 40th high school reunion in Highland Park, Ill. in August, 2011 Contact 404-932-7193