I live alone now.
There are no parents telling me to clean my room. There are no roommates bitching about the state of the living room or that I haven't done the dishes. No one in the world is bugging me about stuff but me. That makes it truth time about my disability.
I'm not sure if I'm whining or ruminating. You be the judge.
It's hard for anyone in the world to get stuff done while they're sick. This is just a fact of life. Happens to the best of em. That is the way life goes, and I notice and pay attention to it now when other people are under the weather. Many of my friends suffer migraines. Those are, by observation, completely debilitating. Yet too many of the migraine folks will wind up apologizing for it and desperately trying to keep up as if they didn't have migraines.
There's a fairly famous, knee jerk assumption that the Work Ethic is central to American culture.
We are supposed to admire and respect people who work themselves into the ground. Paradoxically we are supposed to judge whether they do by whether they make a lot of money at it. This means a significant level of society doesn't work itself into the ground except on psychological or psychosocial pressure. People who have a lot of money already do not need to work themselves into the ground and deny pleasures and ignore pain. They can take off and just relax and play golf if they want. There really are some people out there who could live on their investments. Most of them don't. Most of them stress out and worry and keep striving to acquire more, because they got that rich on being obsessed with getting that rich and getting a foot in the door on the money chase. Some of them exist just on shoving money around.
I question the whole principle.
Because of this disability, I have had to pursue real efficiency in my day to day living. I have to live in ways that give me maximum results for minimal effort. That isn't hard work for hard work's own sake. It's avoiding hard work that will drive me into the state my body's in right now, where sitting and thinking things out is a lot more effective than busting my buns trying to get it done the "simple" labor intensive way.
Associated values of simple life and denial of luxury create an attitude where you're not supposed to actually enjoy the results of all that hard work. Puritanism is in many ways self defeating. It sits at the root of a lot of neurotic anxiety and rests self respect on what other people think of you - something that can be changed in a split instant by one gossip's nasty criticism, which might not even be true. When it's perfectly acceptable in the Puritanical philosophy to criticize everyone around you and that's one of the few pleasures left in life for those that commit to it.
Hilariously although those ideas grew out of a branch of religion, many of the people who live by them aren't religious. They're promulgated commercially.
This is about to head into the Chocolate Rant.
I am not a chocoholic. Many of my friends love it, to me it's just a flavor. My favorite is butterscotch, big deal. But going into puritanism with religion filtered out of it, the obvious example is the Chocolate as Sinful jokes. Butter is on the list too. Any number of rich foods that are treats get held out as sinful or wrong and the knee jerk reaction is to cut them entirely out of your diet rather than just enjoying them as treats.
Ideas of balance and harmony appeal to me. Keeping my intake of cigarettes, alcohol, butter and sweets reasonable so that I never have to quit is how I approach life. I like these things, they're physical pleasures and I try to keep them in balance.
People will go to much greater lengths for social pleasures than any physical pleasure, and the one pleasure puritanism provides - a moment of feeling holier than thou - seems to be more irresistible than anything real in life they might enjoy.
In laboratories, rats wired for direct brain stimulation of their pleasure centers will ignore food, mating, nesting, any other behavior to keep hitting the lever in a Skinner box that delivers the rush. Runners talk about the "runner's high" and physically that's an endorphin rush brought on by sustained effort. Intellectual pleasures all give that internal reward and social instincts are deeply tied into it.
Doesn't it seem strange that a person can be put down for idiosyncratic food tastes? If the group agrees a certain food, say Spicy Buffalo Wings, is wonderful, but the person in the group who's allergic to pepper has no experience of it that isn't pain and really doesn't like it or think they're missing anything says so, the group's offended. The group has an identity of its own. The group likes Buffalo Wings and the allergy makes that other person an outsider. The allergy itself is sufficient excuse - it will make me sick - but inevitably the reaction of the group is sympathy. You don't know what you're missing. You'd love it if you could eat it.
When I know, as the allergic fellow, that before I couldn't eat it, I didn't like it. That simple, I didn't like spicy food and still don't like mayonnaise.
Not liking mayo is not a birth defect or a physical allergy. It's just an individual trait. But I don't have the social rewards that might make me want to bother to acquire an acquired taste - substituting social rewards of being part of the group that likes mayo for my real disgust at the flavor. For all I know, my not liking mayo is just as psychosocial and some situation in childhood involving mayo disgusted me because I didn't want to be part of the group that liked mayo.
Rambling from mayo, which probably has social assumptions but I can't identify them because they're so bland and inoffensive, can't even remember what the group that likes mayo is actually, there's the current big puritanical witch hunt against smoking. It's starting to resemble Prohibition. But it has one major psychosocial factor undercutting it so deep that anyone who wants to genuinely discourage smoking is losing a lot of people.
Example: the commercials for a local hospital's program combine a) raves about how good their surgeons are at dealing with cancer, b: raves on the effectiveness of their quit-smoking programs and c: the thing that would keep me out of those quit-smoking programs even if I ever chose to quit smoking. On principle, I wouldn't. On principle I would rather exercise more will power and cut down to one cigarette a day than quit smoking, because I don't like All or Nothing solutions and get offended by the puritanical idea of denying all pleasures in life. The less I smoke, the more I enjoy it. There is my view of smoking and health - and it is borne out by statistics, light smokers have a very small health risk counterbalanced by some little-known health benefits. Science magazine ran an article statistically looking at Alzheimers, Parkinsons and other tremors and neurological diseases, finding that caffeine and nicotine reduce the incidence of tremors and memory loss! Okay... so it's take a mild lung risk versus the risk of losing my mind. The body's a whole. Keeping a good balance in my body is keeping my health, so I am not decaffeinating either. (If you don't smoke - six or seven cups of coffee a day is optimum for the mild stimulants reduce odds of senility thing. Choice of mild stimulants is entirely yours).
The twist on all of this is that the same hospital commercials rest on a host of things that have nothing at all to do with smoking or health. The patients are inevitably presented as having done so virtuously out of a sense of responsibility to a nuclear family with children. The white picket fence lifestyle of marriage and children and taking care of yourself only to take care of other people is what's presented right along with it. I have not seen ONE anti smoking program that presents any image of life after quitting smoking other than Healthy Conformist Americana. The message along with the quit smoking, drink milk, get exercise lifestyle is tied to "Try to be just like everyone else and live Wholesome Lives."
Seriously, not everyone wants that life. I don't drink much and I do know a lot of alcoholics who have to quit completely in order to get their lives under control. Alcoholism is a disease and alcoholics can't drink without it taking over. That's what alcoholism is. Some of them crash and burn on their recovery efforts because of that social shift in self image, because after sobering up they're expected to make the prescribed behavioral changes to "desire only a mainstream lifestyle." Many of the successful ones break that pattern too and go off and find some other social indicator that they are not just like everyone else. They might take up a weird profession. They might take up hiking across the country instead of running a mile daily in order to be Wholesome and Healthful. They might not wear shorts. They might take up an unconventional religion like Buddhism or paganism. They might not wear suits and ties. Heck, they might buy a motorcycle and sink all the money saved on booze into parts and fuel and leather jackets.
Paranoid bloggers might accuse the media of attempting to control public opinion. I'm a writer. I know better than that. It doesn't take conspiracy for that kind of thing at all. It takes only a lot of people who just respond to what's out there as part of what's out there, who don't bother to examine and decide on every little specific thing in their lives because if they did, they would be overwhelmed in a mass of detail.
People rely on culture to tell them how to live.
In high school, my fellow black clad social critics and I all carped about Unexamined Lives and called anyone who lived one a Sheep. We exchanged ritual insults with the Wholesome Crowd and hilariously, at least in my high school, we took over the school. I was a core member in the most popular clique. The school itself turned into an Arts School because the Art Club collected so many talents in so many different Arts that it became just the arts watering hole and a Midwestern miniature of Greenwich Village. By sheer numbers we overwhelmed the rest. It got to the point that we creamed the school bullies with intellectual snobbery and it was an interesting bit of successful subversion.
Not smoking is associated with getting up early and doing calisthenics. Then eating a healthful diet of mostly rabbit food and doing what you're told all day. Then working hard and cheerfully at your dull day job and going home at night to clean up the house and do your fair share of taking care of the prescribed kiddies who are all clean and appropriate and cutesy playing with the labor intensive dog in the suburban yard. Yeah, right. And living in economic blackmail from the boss at that day job because supporting those kids in the lifestyle of Extreme Mediocrity means brand name breakfast cereals and brand name clothing and approved sports and activities, an entire way of life that isn't for everyone. It can get neurotic in the extreme. It hangs on one upmanship sometimes. It has its dark side - and oh, the Art Club pointed out its dark side constantly. We too had the privilege of criticism.
I have an artistic license and I learned how to wave it in high school.
So here is the challenge to all of the anti smoking faction and all of the health contingent.
Show me how I can improve my health in a way that doesn't strip away that artistic license. Show me a lifestyle that is not standardized, homogenized and Normal. I don't personally hold Mediocrity as an ideal and I think it's a sick pattern of culture to do so. I'm not willing to run a Red Queen's Race, two steps forward and three steps back, just to be like Everyone Else. And I am not an Olympic athlete physically, so I don't need to swap off smoking and having free time for physical extreme success - that image doesn't grab me because it's not what I am and what I do. You show me how the alienated, the outsiders, the weirdos and the artistic can live in a healthy balance without caving in to the Suburban Dream and then maybe I'll think about it - if I don't manage to keep my health by balancing it anyway.
Reality - if I have a cold or my allergies kick in, I smoke less and make myself comfortable.
Think about it and what you're telling yourself about who you are when you take up habits or quit them. Because if your health does demand cutting out sweets or cigarettes or something for a medical reason, you might get a lot more success by finding other flags of who you choose to be when you have to deal with other people.
Robert and Ari >^..^< (He got deep. I went to sleep. I'm cute.)