Should we resist or give in to Titanic impulses?

Should we resist or give in to Titanic impulses?

Happy New Year’s Eve!

We’ve made it to the end of 2012, despite predictions that the world might come to an end a week or so ago. This is a time when many are thinking back on what they might have done differently this year and making resolutions of change for the year to come. My mom gave me these napkins for Christmas, and they are a good fit for the carpe diem attitude I’ve always seemed to have.

It turns out, carpe comes from the Latin carp, which — according to Wikipedia — has some ties to food: “I pick, pluck, pluck off, cull, crop, gather”

Screen Shot 2012-12-31 at 1.02.17 PM

For so many of us, our joie de vivre, to borrow another foreign phrase, revolves around what we put in our mouths, and though I certainly celebrate food and celebrate with food, you can’t seize every opportunity for pleasure, especially of the palate, and expect to lead a joyful life.

It’s a tricky argument to make: That to truly seize the day and make the most of this life, you have to be willing to say no. To that extra drink. To the dessert cart. To that fun-for-now-trouble-for-later decision. You’re not always supposed to say no, of course, and to fully understand the context of this quote, we should look at the woman who said it, Erma Bombeck.

Bombeck was a hugely popular newspaper columnist who died in 1996 after writing thousands of columns about her not-so-dreary life as a mom in Ohio and Arizona. According to ye Wikipedia, she’d given up her newspaper career to raise her kids and then made enough money off of her syndicated column that she could write from home and tour the country giving speeches and appearing on national television shows.

As a humorist writing for suburban housewives who were so used to sacrificing their own wants for those of their families, Bombeck rightly encouraged her readers to live life with a little more oomph. (I also acknowledge that I’m probably reading far too much into this one quote of hers and that her popularity extended beyond housewives, but bear with me.)

But I have a feeling that we all have or have had someone in our lives who says yes just a little too frequently for their own well being, often in the name of living life to its fullest. Yesterday, I wrote about making moments that make a life, but there is a vast difference between doing so in a responsible way that doesn’t hurt those around you or yourself and doing so (repeatedly) at the expense of your health, your work, your family, etc.

I think that about dessert cart rolling around on the Titanic. Sure, the ship sank and the women who passed up sweets for fear of gaining an ounce on their once-in-a-lifetime trip might have regretted that decision, but if the ship hadn’t sank and the women who had said yes to dessert just kept on saying yes, they might have lived unhappily as they struggled with their weight and died of untreated diabetes five or ten years later.

It’s a silly hypothetical, but as I think about my own struggle with weight during college, I wish I’d said no a few times to that soft serve ice cream in the dorm cafeteria and late night Pokey Stix. The parties and get-togethers would have been just as memorable without the extra 1,000 calories, and I’ll never get back all that time I spent worrying and beating myself up about my weight.

Whether or not we should care so much about our physical appearance is a whole other post, but I will tell you that I feel so much better about myself and my overall happiness is much higher now that I’ve learned when it’s time to say “yes” and when it’s time to say “no.”

Best of luck with whatever New Year’s resolutions you set for yourself in 2013!

One response to “Should we resist or give in to Titanic impulses?

  1. Twice in one day, I came across a reference to compassion meditation. I resolve to pay attention to the daily signals that show us the way.

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