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At Winter Solstice, nothing succeeds like excess?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

We sure see lots of resistance to excess at Christmas : the "Jesus is the reason for the season" signage, the focus on charitable giving, and so forth. All good. But not the whole story.

Because, given that every culture in every era seems to have had some celebration of excess, in association with festivals of light, in association with the winter solstice -- and given too that Christmas was engrafted onto the ancient Roman tradition of Saturnalia -- I wonder sometimes whether human nature craves periodic excess. Requires intermittent excess. Seeks it out, to experience excess for its own sake.

"Give me excess of it, that surfeiting, the appetite may sicken and so die." Duke Orsino, Twelfth Night. The Duke was considering the efficacy of too much music as an antidote for too much romantic longing. Shakespeare knew all about it, for sure.

Here at Spark it's a familiar topic. I've been reading various blogs on the theme of "I submitted to Christmas goodies, I gorged, I binged. And now I'm back to normal . . . ." yeah. Maybe temporary excess of one type or another is an inescapable element of the human condition, permitting a contented return to normal austerity.

Yesterday I went out for a business lunch. Fully intending to order the tomato bisque soup. With a garden salad. And ordered instead the crispy chicken wings. And fresh cut fries. Mmmmmm. DELICIOUS!!

OK then. I tracked 'em. I'd had a very light breakfast. I ate very little more for the rest of the day. I came in within range on my calories, fats etc. But: I felt stuffed. Too much sodium for sure. My chicken wing and fries appetite sickened and died, basically.

Not condemning myself today, either. Nope. Just acknowledging, I'm human. And apparently indulgence in excess (gifts, booze, food . . . whatever form it takes) is something that overtakes most of us. Now and then.

So (here's my handy rationalization!!) it must serve some deep need in the human psyche.

Maybe most especially at this very darkest time of the year?

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
By Robert Frost 1874–1963

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

One of my promises to keep for 2014? Acceptance. Just as I can't out-exercise a terrible diet, I also can't out-discipline what is apparently fundamental to human existence.

Nihil humani alienum mihi est (with thanks to my long ago Latin teacher, "Nothing in the human condition is unfamiliar to me"!)

Nothing at all.
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ISHIIGIRL 12/26/2013 10:46AM

    NIce perspective. Love the poem. You filled our craving and now it is behind you. Lesson learned and you can move on in peace. We all go through these things every once in awhile.

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MISSUSRIVERRAT 12/23/2013 9:20AM

    I like this idea. I think you have a point. There is precedence through many societies that do seem to indicate that a departure from the normal state of order and self-control is part of life.

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KANOE10 12/22/2013 8:27AM

    We are human and like you said now and then indulge. Even though you had great plans going into the luncheon, you felt the need to indulge and eat something you wanted. The thing that demonstrates that you are a successful maintainer is that you made immediate steps to cut back the rest of the day and to stay in your calories. The other thing that you are doing is not feeling guilty. In Refuse to Regain she comments " become a warrior: banish guilt and commit yourself."

You are doing an excellent job of maintaining in the holiday madness of excess indulgence. I feel the pressure also as I am planning family celebratory meals. I bought some expensive cheese from Greece and found myself nibbling on it when I was not hungry. I stopped and put it away.

Here's to self acceptance in 2014. Compassionate understanding of ourselves on the lovely and dark road with miles to go before we sleep.

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COCK-ROBIN 12/22/2013 12:52AM

    I always loved that poem.

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PHOENIX1949 12/22/2013 12:26AM

    emoticon I read this poem in an interscholastic competition in 8th grade -- many lifetimes ago.

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DDOORN 12/21/2013 9:01PM

    So with you on the darkness, the miles and the acceptance...the latter being one of the toughest psychological muscles to build!


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CRYSTALJEM 12/21/2013 8:49PM

    You've made and excellent point. The feeling of excess eventually makes us appreciate the balance of moderation. I don't think we appreciate the balance until we stray from it.

Comment edited on: 12/21/2013 8:52:44 PM

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1CRAZYDOG 12/21/2013 8:45PM

  No pun intended . . . but this is definitely food for thought!

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BOOKAPHILE 12/21/2013 6:39PM

    I love that Robert Frost poem!

Times of excess are part of the variety of life. Participating (for a SHORT time!) then recognizing, rallying, and recovering are also parts for the successful maintainer. You are a good example of a successful maintainer!

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NANCY- 12/21/2013 6:28PM

    What a beautiful gift to yourself!!!

We live and learn through our excesses. That's how change happens. :)

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MANDELOVICH 12/21/2013 5:19PM

    I love that your promise to yourself is acceptance. That is beautiful Ellen. I love that you aren't condemning yourself, also beautiful.

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SLIMMERJESSE 12/21/2013 5:09PM

    Fabulous blog.

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DALID414 12/21/2013 4:59PM

    Acceptance sounds good.

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 12/21/2013 4:43PM

    Props for putting Latin in a SP blog. Unapologetic erudition.


And yeah it's a tightrope for sure, between going with the flow and setting boundaries. An unending push and pull of small adjustments. Decoupling judgement from that is difficult but as you point out, essential.

Comment edited on: 12/21/2013 4:43:45 PM

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TINAJANE76 12/21/2013 4:29PM

    I just love this idea, especially since it makes me feel a bit better about my occasional trips to the land of Overindulgence. As long as we keep getting ourselves quickly back on track, I think we'll still be able to stay where we want to be in spite of our cravings for crispy chicken wings and fries--and happily! Here's to lots of acceptance in 2014!

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SLENDERELLA61 12/21/2013 3:47PM

    Congrats on staying within your calorie range even with a splurge. Actually, I am quite impressed. Usually when I indulge my instinct is to just keep going. Like the taste it leaves in my mouth and the feeling in my stomach just want more. If I could just indulge a bit within my calorie range I'd celebrate big time!

The Robert Frost poem brings back good memories. My dad was an English teacher and one of the highlights of his life was meeting Robert Frost and interviewing him for his high school newspaper. I've heard that poem a few times. Inspiring!

I know you have important reasons to eat health and not just to maintain your weight, so I wish you all the restraint you need for a happy, healthy holiday. And I suspect an indulgence or two will fit right in there!!

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BOSS61 12/21/2013 3:05PM

    Bah and Humbug both are alive and well here, thank you.

And today begins the return to the sun, for us here in the Northern Hemisphere. High time.

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FIFIFRIZZLE 12/21/2013 2:53PM

    Gorging is what I was thinking about yesterday, such a marvelous word. And I agree, natural in its season.
Which is not full summer, which is where I am having my Christmas.
Someone commented on one of my blogs, what if we were fasting instead of feasting this Christmas. Too late for me this year, but maybe next year I will give that a try.


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ONEKIDSMOM 12/21/2013 2:25PM

    And the further we get in this journey, the more familiar it becomes! Good job... there are times when you do just what you said, "acceptance". Acceptance of the occasional lapse does not equal throwing in the towel and giving up what we've fought for so long... but it does mean we don't panic when it happens!

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