This morning, something unusual happened: I had an original thought. I’d just woken up, and was thinking about the day ahead as I lay in bed.
The thought was: What if I don’t consume anything today?
I’m not here to claim that this is a 100% original thought. I’m sure plenty of people have already thought of this, blogged about it, gone on The Ellen Show to discuss it, and probably written a best-selling memoir about it.
What was original was that I thought it up. I didn’t read about it in a magazine, see it on social media, or hear about it on a podcast. No self-help guru suggested it to me.
The thought came as I was pondering my headache, which was possibly caused by a sugar/carb hangover from the day before. Why, I thought, do I overconsume stuff that’s bad for me, every single day? (In case you need to ask, the Whole30 thing is so far in the past now. I fell off and got run over by that wagon long ago.)
I started thinking this through a bit. Last night, I was exhausted. While trying to proofread my 15-year-old’s science essay, I hadn’t had a drop of alcohol, but it was like I was blitzed: I kept mixing up my words. I was hardly present. I couldn’t think straight.
To be fair, I had been up at 4:15 am to take my beloved to the airport, but the exhaustion was more than that. I think my body and brain were just overstuffed. I had spent the day over-consuming everything: food, information, ideas, social media.
Some of it was legitimate – after all, I have to eat, and I was doing research, writing and editing work that required me to be online.
But so much more of it was NOT AT ALL necessary. The Twizzlers stolen from my son’s Halloween stash. The three or four cups of coffee. The snacks that I don’t want to list in case my husband reads this and we need to have a serious talk afterwards.
The Google searches on my favourite horror story (“Trump News”).
The regular check-ins on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Listening to podcasts while I walked the dog, drove around, and folded laundry.
Sneaking a quick page or two of an Anne Lamott essay while on the toilet.
And, after dinner was over, sitting down before the fireplace with a stack of magazines, the local newspapers, the novel I had on the go, and my iPad in case I decided I’d rather read something on my Texture app.
WTAF, people? How could there possibly be room in my head for any of my own input when I was constantly listening to everyone else’s output?
Answer: there could not.
And also – how could I expect to wake up feeling great the next day when I’d been eating a whole whack of largely unhealthy foods, and stuffing them in without even tasting them?
Answer: I could not.
So today – the no-overconsumption day. I do still get to eat meals, but it has to be mindfully – no gobbling stuff down while reading a book or watching a few minutes of This Is Us. No walking the dog while listening to This American Life. No snacking. No social media. No looking stuff up on Google. No pulling my phone out, even to see the time.
It’s a bit flexible. I might watch a movie with the kids – after all, it’s Friday night. But other than that, I’m going to be present with myself all day. I’m not going to use food, or talk, or books to drown out whatever’s going on inside.
If all I ever take in is other people’s ideas, no matter how brilliant and marvellous, witty and entertaining they are, my own ideas haven’t got a chance.
Creatively, this is the equivalent of stuffing my fingers in my ears and going “LALALALALALALA” at the top of my voice – except the person I’m trying to shut up is myself (who knows why? I probably need therapy to unravel this one).
And that seems pretty sad.
Overconsuming is just a habit. There’s no actual need to do it. Sometimes I think it’s a reaction to a negative feeling or thought, or some anxiety that makes me want to zone out, or my desire to KNOW EVERYTHING (or at least look it up) but sometimes it’s just me on auto-pilot. I’ve been doing some of these things, like reading and eating voraciously, pretty much all my life.
It’s hard to break these habits, though, and I knew I needed a bit of a plan. I made a quick list of things I could do when the urge to overconsume food or media hit me today. The idea was that instead of following the old pattern, I could break out of it by doing something different, just for a short time. This is what I came up with:
· Play a song on the guitar or ukulele
· 1 minute deep breathing
· Rake some leaves
· Do some pushups or situps
· Work on a blog post (See? I’m doing that one right now!!)
· Do some colouring
· Play with Farley (the dog)
· Declutter some snapshots or digital photos
· Chop some wood
· Clean a window
· Talk to the kids (when they’re home)
· Declutter the filing cabinet
· Shred some old papers
· Call a friend for a quick chat (no texting or social media DMs allowed)
· Listen to "Deep Peace" by Bill Douglas (like a mini-meditation!)
It’s 2 pm and so far I’ve stuck to the plan. It hasn’t been easy (oh my GOSH, eating lunch without reading something felt so weird! But I have to say the meal tasted really good when I noticed what I was eating). I’ve done some colouring, written this blog post, walked the dog without my earbuds in, and done some pushups.
I know for sure that I won’t wake up tomorrow feeling full and icky from overeating, so that’s already a definite bonus.
I hope I’ll feel fresher mentally at the end of today. I spend all this time trying to learn stuff, take in new ideas, try new things to make me a better human being, but I’m going madly off in all directions and the fact is I barely remember most of the material I’m consuming. So it’s kind of pointless, anyway.
By doing this reset – maybe I’ll do it a couple of times a week – maybe I can regain some focus and memory, and allow some space for my own thoughts to come through. (So far, the major thought that I’ve expressed is to tell Farley how cute he is, so there’s definitely room for improvement on the intellectual front.)
And maybe I can fall asleep without being completely dim and addled, and wake up feeling clear and purposeful.
It seems like a tall order but I’m curious to pursue it, even for a while, just to see where it leads. Maybe I can become reacquainted with my own thoughts and stop eating my feelings.
At the very least, the wood may get chopped, the windows cleaned, and the filing cabinet decluttered.