How Could You Do This To Us?

"Where the hell have you gone? We had a deal. A plan. You were supposed to be here, in the box, on the table, waiting for your turn to be locked into the puzzle."

"What's the problem?"

"What do you mean 'What's the Problem?' Do you not understand the pain you've caused us, buggering off like that. Not a word to anyone. No 'thanks and goodbye.' Nothing. You left us to do the whole thing only to end up one piece short."

"O-kaay. Sorry, I guess. I didn't realize it was that important to you?

"Didn't realize! How could you not realize? We spent over a week putting your puzzle together. We were careful. We kept things organized. We gave every piece a place to wait while we found their spot. We did everything we could to make this a good experience for you and for us and you screwed it up for everyone. 549 other pieces were able to follow the plan. But not you. No. You had to disappear on us. You had to let us all down. You had to waste all of our times.

"What's the big deal. It's just a stupid puzzle?"

"A stupid puzzle? Argh. Are you freaking kidding me? A stupid puzzle. Is the artist who created the image stupid? Are the factory workers who carefully cut you and your comrades into perfectly-coordinated shape stupid. Is the shopkeeper said who stocked you on their shelves stupid? And what about us? Are we stupid? Are we stupid for wanting to spend time together, to challenge ourselves, to do something other than stare at electronic screens while we're locked away in Coronavirus pandemic-induce home quarantine?

"Don't cry, for Christ's sake."

"I'm not crying. I'm. I'm. Okay, I'm crying a little. I'm just so frustrated. Do you even have an appreciation for how hard a puzzle is? It a laborious process to sort you all, to find the edges and the corners, to pull together sets of pieces that make up small parts of the whole puzzle. If you knew how many times we sat at the table scratching our heads trying to find that one piece that needs to fit in that one spot to finish that one section. Or how many nights we swore we were done for the evening only to have one more piece cry out to be placed. But you wouldn't understand, would you? You're a selfish, ungrateful little shit. You probably don't even appreciate the picture you're part of. You have no idea what you are."

"Wait a minute now. I don't appreciate you calling me dumb."

"Not dumb, per se. More like ignorant. I mean, what else could explain your insensitivity? Why would you abandon us, knowing you'd be leaving behind an unfinishable puzzle. Why? Why did you leave."

"I didn't mean to hurt you. Or the other pieces."

"Then why?"

"It just happened. I lay in the box, with all the other blue and white pieces. You left the lid off. I heard movement in the house, the sounds of life beyond the box. I felt the warmth from the sun through the window. A breeze blew through the screen door. A dog jumped onto the table and sniffed around us. I looked on your walls and saw that you had mounted a dozen finished puzzles. I could see the outlines of all the individual pieces that made up those puzzles. You had glued them together. And I felt overwhelmingly sad."

"So you just left? Without a word?"

"If you could see your future, and it looked like that, set and without your say, would you stay?"

"This isn't about me. It's about you?"

"Isn't it though? What does your future look like?"

"I have many possible futures."

"Do you see one where you're glued into the same spot forever, just one small piece imprisoned into someone else's picture?"

"This conversation took a turn in a direction I'm not entirely comfortable with."

"You do see it, right. You can visualize some version of your future where you played it safe, took no chances, ground it out working for others, pursuing safety and comfort and ended up unfulfilled. It's not pretty, is it?"

"That still doesn't excuse what you did. But I hear you. I can kind of see where you're coming from."

"I'm just trying to live my life. I don't want to have to follow someone else's pre-determined plan for my life. I want to create my own picture. Don't you want the same thing for yourself?"

"The dog ate you, didn't he?

(long silence, then...) "Yeah."


An Irrational Love of Junk Food

I don't feel well. There is a complaint in my stomach. It feels like I'm carrying a sack of gravel in a pouch above my naval. But I am not surprised. This happens to me wherever I eat too much of certain foods. Like the Big Texas Cinnamon Roll sitting on my desk right now.

I am lactose intolerant and gluten sensitive. I can consume both these things, but when I do, I pay a price. Gut ache. A bad night's sleep. Not enough pain or disease to keep me from work or, more importantly, my ability to ride a bicycle. But enough pain to make me curse my decision to consume the things that cause me such discomfort.

I can hear your response to this (I hear it my head, in my own voice, all the time). "Just don't eat the stuff that's bad for you, stupid." I know. It is that easy. But it's also not that easy.

I often get into a rhythm of discipline around what I eat. I'll have good weeks, months even, where I take in only high-quality food optimized for my sensitivities and nutritional needs.

During these heady forays into healthy eating, I drop weight, lean out in the face, and my belly realigns along a flatter plane. My blood pressure drops into enviable territory. After a couple of weeks, I start to feel so good in fact that the little voice in my head that convinced me to take this journey starts to allow the odd indiscretion. It swears I can handle it. It teases that maybe the sensitivities are now cured, that I can go back to the sweet and the creamy, the doughy and the fat-laden.

That self-destructive version of my inner voice is strong within me right now. During our pandemic quasi-quarantine, I make a mental plan every night that tomorrow will be the day I get back on track. Tomorrow I'll start the day with a Paleo breakfast. I will eat salads, fish, and vegetables. I will drink tea and water. I will take my supplements.

Then the morning comes and before I even catch myself, I'm walking away from the taco truck with a sausage, egg, and cheese burrito wrapped in a brown paper bag alike contraband.

I know where the self-destructive voice in my head is getting its motivation. I feel stressed and anxious about the state of the world. I worry about my ability to protect myself and take care of my family. I worry about holding on my job and my business. I worry that the path I had built for my future has been upended, maybe even lost, in the cosmic card shuffle or the last few weeks.

But I also know that the voice comes in the name of habit and comfort. It may even be steering me to eating behavior that leads to pain because pain is the expression of my mental state. The voice is aligning my external sense with my inner discomfort.

I'm still going to eat that Big Texas Cinnamon Roll though.