The fruits of Abstinence

As Socrates once proclaimed, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. In the last six months I embarked upon an examination of sorts. An examination of my diet, the effects of certain foods on my body, and crucially, whether I was at all capable of living without certain naughties in my life.

For those of you who read my previous post Abstinence, you would have noted that I had planned a month long expulsion of four dietary baddies: alcohol, sugar, meat and coffee. Unwittingly, that month- May 15 till June 15- ended up being FIVE weeks long! And boy, was it a looooong month. It was a struggle in many ways. The easy ones to give up were the coffee and the alcohol. Perhaps because a binge of one nearly always followed a binge of the other. Co dependants, and therefore co evictees. The meat and the sugar were much tougher.

In the previous months, I had tended to over compensate in one quarter when imposing a ban on another. For instance, in my sugar free month, I happily munched my way through all manner of meat preparations, drank my body weight in gin and kept myself buzzing on cappuccinos. I still (miraculously) lost weight! However, this time around, I denied myself the crutches I had become accustomed to. My sense of deprivation would most certainly have derailed me, had it not been for one little detail: my stubbornness. There was a dogged determination to my pursuit of ‘cleaner’ living.

At the end of that month, I baked a cake.

This cake was a celebratory one. Not for myself, but for my daughter who had just finished her GCSE exams. It was a hazelnut torte, the layers sandwiched together with swiss buttercream, finished off with chocolate ganache and decorated with ferrero rocher chocolates. I wish I could say that not a crumb passed my lips. Alas, that would be a bare faced lie. I ate not one, but two slices, and you know what? I enjoyed them too.

So was all of that abstinence an exercise in futility?

Nope. Not at all. This was never meant to be a life long prohibition. It was meant to be an examination not just of the ouster of certain foods I had determined I was dependant on, but also of my will power and ability to see it through till the end. That I managed, and am quietly proud of my accomplishment.

However, the dilemma that faces me now is how do I carry this forward? When I’d tried explaining to a friend that I was doing a no sugar, no meat, no alcohol and no coffee ban, he’d looked at me quizzically and quipped, “No life either?”

Sadly, for those five weeks, I wasn’t the most fun person to hang out with. In fact, at times I was a bit of a pain in the rear. The restaurants I agreed to go to had to have vegetarian options. I always declined the wine and the dessert, and stared mournfully at the lattes my friends rounded off their meals with. That is not how I want to live the rest of my life!

So, going forward the catchword of MY life will be moderation. Don’t drink an entire bottle of wine because it’s there. Don’t eat meat everyday because you are too lazy to look up new and exciting vegetarian recipes. Don’t eat an entire bar of chocolate because you are bored. And don’t drink five coffees in a day because you couldn’t haul your bottom to bed at a decent hour.

Which brings me to the mystery element of my abstinence.

In all of this taking care of my body malarkey, I stumbled upon an interesting truth. My bedtimes were inevitably at some godforsaken hour. Not because I was working hard on the great Indian/English/American novel, but because I was trawling through reams of nonsensical social media postings. What was this strange pull that social media exerted on me, and could I break the spell? I set about finding out.

For the entire month of June, I have sworn off social media. Facebook, Instagram and even Whatsapp have been cruelly culled from my life. Aside of answering a few panic stricken messages on Whatsapp, that I reluctantly signed back onto for a day, my life has been social media free. And oh, the joy of it!

I can now choose to read the news items I wish to read, without Facebook’s algorithms determining I need a glut of information about something I might have displayed an interest in once. No more reading every Tom, Dick and Harry’s opinion on what is wrong with the world (and how they will solve it all, hiding behind their computer screens). No more seeing a casual acquaintance’s blow by blow account of her agonisingly mundane life’s minutiae.

What a relief it has been. I have caught up on my reading, my writing and finally started to listen to the podcast I’d earmarked two years ago! I cannot, in all honesty, Continue reading “The fruits of Abstinence”

What lies beneath

We live in interesting times. Social media has given us a voice, a platform and an audience like never before. We are all armchair analysts, foaming at our mouths over social inequities and perceived injustices. Each of us has an opinion on politics and current affairs, and boy, do we air those opinions with glee. Our moral duty done, us fickle activists of the lowest order, move on with the more mundane business of living our fairly boring suburban lives. Till the next cause that tickles our fancy comes along. It is a moveable feast after all, with no dearth of succulent meats to sink our proverbial teeth into.

What lies beneath all this moral outrage? A desire for change? The seeds of a revolution? Or, a mere positioning of oneself at the epicentre of social recognition. This is a person with his/her finger on the pulse of what is important. Never mind that the frenzy over what is important changes from one minute to the next. The irony being that, that which is truly important is not sensational enough to warrant attention from the social media parasites.

Perception is King. If the appearance of giving a damn is enough, then why really bother to give a damn? If the headlines are eyeballs grabbing enough, why bother with the facts? We are shallow people with shallow agendas. Our motives are to lynch and demonise. To bring down, not build up. We hide behind our screens, trolling those whose opinions are different from ours. Mocking, laughing and sniggering at the people who are doing the real job of effecting change. Ignorance, impotence and ire are the rungs of this particular ladder.

Eschewing truth in favour of the flavour of the day, we jump on our moral high horses, and are surprised to encounter opposition. After all, isn’t the popular opinion the right one too? No? How dare anyone interfere with our version of the narrative!

The pitfalls lie in believing that whatever we are espousing this moment has no other variables attached to it. Cause, effect and circumstance have multiple facets and complexities, and in downplaying certain aspects to lend credence to others, we put on the blinkers of our biases.

So perhaps, in the midst of spouting all this wisdom, we need to take a moment’s pause and check ourselves. Check our facts, check our sources, check our thoughts, check our prejudices and check our knee jerk emotional responses. Check whether our outrage is rooted in principles or the shifting sands of social media’s topic du jour.

For, in refusing to do any of the above, we are in danger of becoming the very thing that we despise.