Moderation is so sexy right now
It’s 6:00 am, and I’ve already had a cup of coffee this morning. I had it just the way I like it – black and in a cup. There was some coffee left in the pot yesterday, which means there’s coffee ready to drink today. Often I drink it cold – but this morning, on a whim, I heated it up in the microwave.
I’m living medium, baby!
If you’ll permit me to brag, I have a great life. I love my coffee, so I make sure I have a cup – Every. Single. Day. Sometimes I have a second cup, too. Even a third. Not a fourth, though, because why? There’s no reason for that. It’d give me the jitters, and it’s not like the days are that long. Better to sleep on it and make that fourth cup the first cup of a brand new day.
At my age ripe old age of thirty-seven, it pays to embrace moderation. Unless you’re a top-notch rapper or a nineteenth-century Romantic poet, no-one is impressed by your excessive lifestyle after you hit thirty. When a celebrity falls asleep in a pool of their own vomit, it’s adorable. But if I were to do it, people would just assume I have some sort of problem with substance abuse.
So I take it easy. When I was nineteen, I wanted to grab life by the horns and ride it into the dirt. Now, that just seems like a lot of bull. My lifestyle has slowed down considerably. Youth is a finely tuned Ferrari. Maturity is not having to go anywhere in the first place.
Admittedly, moderation is a grownup thrill. I don’t try and teach moderation to my two toddler children, because I’m not a sadist. The toddler mind understands, with perfect and unshakeable clarity, that seven toys is better than six toys. If I don’t want my kids to have a pair of laser nunchucks, I explain to them, slowly and patiently, that Daddy is a mean dictator who doesn’t want them to have any fun. This rings true to them, and they go on with their day.
It is only in adulthood that we learn a startling truth: while pleasure is wonderful, more pleasure is not necessarily more wonderful. For example, I love Camembert cheese with approximately the same ferocious passion that Juliet loved Romeo. Shall I, therefore, run to the supermarket, pick up eight wheels of the stuff, and gobble them up in an afternoon? No. No, although I have been tempted more than once, no. It is better to await a slice of heaven then to eat the whole cloud.
More pleasures does not equal more happiness. We don’t need a great many pleasures to be happy. Properly appreciated, a single pleasure can last a whole day. After I have watched the Youtube clip of Cookie Monster visiting the library, how much more do I really need from life?
Man, just thinking about that clip makes me happy all over again. Check out Cookie Monster’s expressions when the librarian is going off on him.
Truth is, the pleasures of life are a lot like turtleneck sweaters. When you’re shopping for them in the store, you think to yourself, “well, they’re so versatile – I’d better get three or four, since they’re on sale, save them for a rainy day.” Then, six months later, you find your closet is full of crap you never really wanted in the first place. There is no need to accumulate pleasures by the dozen, any more than you need to add to the beautiful cashmere you wear every other afternoon.
It’s long been common knowledge that America, where I live, struggles with this whole moderation business. The Italians invented the latte as a way to while away a morning. We put them in 64-ounce plastic cups and chug them on the way to our yoga appointment. Our idea of moderation is to take a break from work to exercise. But I remain hopeful that, sooner or later, we may learn how to actually enjoy ourselves. Maybe the solution to our ecological crisis is to not be so damned unhappy all the time.
We get the wrong idea of moderation: we think that it’s about pain and sacrifice, about denying oneself pleasure. Not so. If moderation were about denying oneself pleasure, I would only admire it from afar. I would be sure to nod seriously when the martyrs of moderation droned on about life being too important to dedicate to our own happiness; I would even harbor every intention of following their sage advice. But as soon as I got home, in a weak moment I would open up the nearest copy of Sky Mall magazine, whip out a credit card, and fill my front yard with giant yeti statues. I am terribly unskilled at making myself unhappy.
Fortunately, though, moderation is delightful. It is the art of making the most of pleasure. And, speaking just myself, I have embraced moderation as the path to a happier life. I am much too lazy to go chasing after a thousand pleasures all at once. Give me my cup of coffee and a quiet morning. Let someone else die with the most toys. I can amuse myself with the cardboard box the toys came in.
Each day I ask myself, “what is the slightest thing that can make me happy, today?” Because if every day came with a parade of space elephants, that might be nice, for a while. But then the first day that didn’t feature a parade of space elephants, I’d be all like, “man, no space elephants – my life is the worst!”
(Note: this is not to say I would actively say no to a parade of space elephants, if one happened to walk by my door. With glittery outfits. And dancing. Just laying it out there.)
It doesn’t take much, to be happy. Even waiting for a pleasure can be a pleasure. Right now, I am positively giddy at the prospect of a space elephant parade – which, for all I know, may well never happen.
The time for me to embrace moderation is now. I’m not getting any younger. I believe it was Shakespeare who wrote, “A fellow goes abed as fresh and new as the May wind – and wakes up to discover himself an old fart.” Getting old isn’t easy, so I want to start practicing now. This is spiritually work. I want to be able to take pleasure in the successes of others by the time my peers are lining up for their first Botox appointment. I want to be a frikkin’ Jedi of enjoying the small things in life, an experienced geocacher of happiness.
A second cup of coffee? Why yes, I think I will! Hot diggety. Living medium, baby!