Recently, I talked with a friend about behaving responsibly.

As the years have piled on, I continue to focus on responsible behavior. I readily see the link between making “poor” choices (perhaps “immediate” is better) and the extension of those choices delaying, prohibiting, or outright negating the possibility of me attaining certain goals: health, financial independence, physical fitness, harmony with nature, and so on.

Each year, each month, each day, I consider and eventually enact changes in my behaviors that propel me towards these simple-yet-lofty goals. After all, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” and I’ll even add, “in yourself.”

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You see I really love cookies. I mean, LOVE them. To emphasize, my first word in this life was “cookie.” Previously, my personal performance of the bedtime routine opened with a few (sometimes more) cookies and a glass of milk, followed by a fervent tooth brushing and the inevitable slumber. I firmly believe that warm cookies and cold milk are good for the soul. So much pleasure and joy is contained within those crude little discs of love, how can they not be?

But recognizing their empty-caloric nature and my languishing metabolism as I age, I’ve been actively suppressing my desires, breaking with my evening custom, and oft replacing my beloved baked goods with less-than-sufficient celery and peanut butter, or worse, nothing.

“Don’t eat after 7:00!” “Don’t drink milk, it’s hard to digest!” “Don’t eat empty calories! And especially not just before bed!” No sooner have I clanked the lid, opening that heavenly jar, when these phrases, these axioms, these restrictive curses echo in my head, casting a gloom over those most treasured goodies. Out comes the celery. Crunch-crunch-crunch-crunch. Sigh.

And cookies are only the tip of the guiltberg. Over the past few years I’ve whittled away at movie-watching, eating out, buying things, driving unnecessarily, sleeping in, and doing nothing at all. I don’t spend much time with friends, or read anything inane, or lounge around in my PJs on a Saturday when I need to do nothing. Because at every turn I hear a reason not to—because I should read more, and exercise more, and eat healthily, and save money for the future. I should avoid alcohol; I should sleep less; I should move more; I should learn new things. I should, I should, I should…

I focus so much on how to live that I don’t enjoy nearly enough of the things that answer why I live at all. Before long, I’ll have shunned everything that used to warm my heart, free my soul, or clear my mind.

And so I expressed these sentiments to my confidant, framed in the context of a forbidden cookie, calling to me from behind the glass barrier of its coffee-counter prison. It was begging me to save it, to help it reach its rightful home in my starved and growling belly. An oak, I had ignored its plea and instead bent my friend’s ear about my self-imposed denials.

“All things in moderation,” he said to me, “including moderation.”

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