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Rebel Without a Pause! And The Perils of Naive Progressivism

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Sunday, November 03, 2013

Every day in every way I am growing better.

Good, better, best
Never let it rest
Till my good is better and my better, best.

Remember those imperatives from your own childhood too?

And how we were encouraged to internalize them? So that a 98 in math would earn the parental response, "Why not 100 next time?"

All meant to be encouraging -- and all resulting in that perpetual drive which never lets up in any area of our lives: better and better grades; more and more degrees; incessantly inventive dinner parties; leading edge home decorating and immaculate housekeeping; the newest fashion and grooming trends for the perpetually hot wife; the exemplary devoted mother; not just a "job" but the brilliant career climbing endlessly up the corporate ladder and . . . yeah. No finish line in sight.

So if losing 80 pounds and reaching 150 is good, 136 would be better? And if shrinking from size 18 to size 8 is good, size 4 would be better?

So if running 5 km three times a week is good, 10 km six days a week would be better?

Not for me. None of it. Even though I have to give up the external accolades for each new accomplishment. And the self-congratulation of the internal accolades too, of course. Those too. Because of course I've been complicit. I drank the purple Kool-Aid too (sugar free version, natch).

But now I've stopped. Because I know my precious rebel, who helped with those initial stages of achievement, who kept telling me that I was worth more . . . will ultimately rebel when there is no pause.

No let up in the relentless drive to achieve more and more. If I overload the rebel with my insistence on further progress. On continuous incremental improvement. When I lack the courage to be satisfied.

Which courage to be satisfied is not the same thing as complacency: not at all. But a recognition that maintaining a reasonable level of achievement with respect to weight and fitness requires just as much commitment (and probably even more commitment) than the commitment to reach that reasonable level in the first place.

And pushing too hard, too far -- succumbing to the imperative of naïve progressivism -- for me has the real potential to jeopardize all of it. Which is when I fall spectacularly off the wagon. And have to start over.

Why did I lose and regain and lose and regain over and over again? For decades? Exhausting the rebel was part of it, I'm pretty sure. Plus that insatiable desire to buy into the external accolades thing. "You've lost so much weight." "You're looking great." Once size 8 is normal, once size 8 has been sustained for a decade or so . . . nobody notices.

My rebel without a pause has turned on me in the past. Will turn upon me in the future. If I don't respect the rebel. And make the highest and best use of the rebel's essential skills.

After all, my rebel continues to be fully occupied with sidestepping those social invitations that involve eating with others food that I don't want to eat. And insisting upon time to exercise even when it's inconvenient for others who would prefer to sit and eat. And a whole lot of other rebellious tasks which are absolutely required if I'm going to maintain.

My rebel demands a pause.

What I'm maintaining is not spectacular, maybe. But it is good enough.

And when I consider the alternatives, good enough has to be good enough for me.
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