FALL 2011. YUKON GOLD POTATOES. 09.30.11
There are two kinds of people – those who follow rules to the letter and those who flout them indignantly. I suppose there are shades of gray in between, but my hunch is that each person has a foot firmly planted in one camp or the other. I’m not saying one is right and one is wrong. Slap me if I ever get preachy here, please. Undeniably, rules are needed to keep order, to guide us towards a particular standard, to prevent disaster when at all possible. Being a typical firstborn, I am a rule follower. Boundaries = security. Rules + definitive guidelines = comfort. Maybe this is why I’ve always loved math, a vast collection of rules. Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we all crave order on some level. Yes, even the rule-breakers.
I recently attended back-to-school night at my eldest son’s elementary school. Sitting in a chair entirely too small for the likes of my behind, I listened intently as the principal shared a list of school rules set by the students. Of the five rules the children made for themselves and their classmates, a few stuck out in my mind:
Work hard and never give up.
Make good choices and do the right thing.
Keep your whole body in control.
Out of the mouths of babes come well-constructed principles that could be followed by anyone of any age. Can you think of a day when you haven’t been challenged by at least one of these rules? Neither can I.
Clear-cut directives help us make better choices. They can lead us to do the right thing when the devil sits on our shoulder whispering naughty nothings in one ear. For the last month, I’ve followed my own self-inflicted rule. It seemed like a good idea at the time, brought on by nothing in particular other than having a friend announce on Facebook that she’d just done it. Deciding that if she could do it, I could too, I pressed ahead without another thought.
I cut out sugar for 30 days and you know what? I discovered an unexpected sense of calm in having a shiny new rule to light my path. I thought it was going to be difficult. I thought I was going to feel deprived. But neither is true. It’s not about deprivation. In fact, I’m miserable at deprivation. I hate the idea of being restricted from anything, which is probably why I’ll never be a card-carrying vegetarian. Yet after the first few days of withdrawal (and a weak-kneed moment in which a homemade peach cake was thrust before me by a very eager and generous host – the same one, in fact, that inspired this focaccia), I can honestly say I even experienced joy in having one less choice to make. Dessert anyone? No, thank you. This sounds somewhat ridiculous, doesn’t it? I found meals to be more enjoyable since I wasn’t simply rushing through them to be rewarded with a sweet treat at the end. I hadn’t even realized I do such a thing. But apparently I do. I’d become swallowed up in a pattern of looking ahead to what’s next, completely missing the moment at hand. Savoring the moment more deeply became a welcome consequence of this experiment.
So how would I sum it up? It wasn’t what I expected. It was pretty easy, actually. Once you start looking for sugar, you realize it’s in just about everything from cereals to sauces to breads. And then you get creative. The outcome was unanticipated. I feel better, but I look the same. I didn’t lose any weight and my hair is still graying in the same spots. Will I scarf a gooey cupcake at 12:01 a.m. on October 1? No way. Will I cut out sugar for good? Definitely not. But my approach has changed and my appreciation has deepened. I think that’s worthwhile.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Douglas Bader, a British World War II pilot I hadn’t heard of until I stumbled across these words while trolling the internet for something else entirely: “Rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men.” What rules provide you comfort? And which ones do you ignore?