Drifting Along on Clouds of Cotton Candy

Sitting here in the seventy degree, January sunshine that Santa Barbara is famous for, it is easy to pretend that the polar vortex which awaits me in Washington doesn’t exist. Much about the real world is easy to ignore when one’s days are spent blissing out in paradise. As I relish my last few days here before returning to the confounding miasma that is our nation’s capital my thoughts wander onto ruminations related to diet, friends, and lifestyles. Odd associations, I know. My mind works in mysterious ways. What does one have to do with the other?


Just about everything I do gets measured on a scale I define as “cotton candy vs. chicken.” This is my way of determining how rewarding a relationship or activity is to me. Is the experience a light, frothy confection or a solid, nutritious protein that will carry me over the long haul? There’s plenty of room for both in my world, and each serves a specific need because there are times when nothing will satisfy a hedonic craving like cotton candy, but if I want real fuel, I must go with chicken. That’s the way I roll.


It’s fascinating to recognize how varied people’s needs are for serious fulfillment versus light fun. We’re all over the map on this one. But then, there are those who seem to have firmly fixed themselves to one end of the scale and refuse to budge. Alas, I know individuals in Washington and Santa Barbara who have forgotten what it’s like to let go, relax, and be silly—as though there were moral virtue in being serious all the time. And others who dedicate themselves to the most superficial of existences, keeping their heads firmly planted in the sand. This is not simply their temperament, it’s a conscious choice—a lifestyle of sorts. Why the aversion to the other, I wonder. What is it that they’re so afraid of?


Just to be clear, I want to set out my belief that an activity doesn’t have to be “serious” to be fulfilling or meaningful. We can’t all be ER docs and life isn’t meant to be lived as a non-stop crisis, anyway. Indeed, I have seen myriad examples of people engaging in what they would define as “serious, important” work (especially in Washington) that is meaningless and gets us nowhere. Is that time well spent?


What about you? How are you spending your time? Do you find yourself eating more cotton candy than you actually enjoy? Perhaps you’re sick of all chicken, all the time.


I posit this question because it’s easy for us to forget to take a moment and assess what it is we’re doing, who we’re doing it with, and if it’s what we need. Are you feeling fulfilled? Is there room in your life for silly pleasure? And, if not, what’s preventing you from making more room for that element? What will fill that nagging empty spot inside? Does the fear of being judged by others prevent you from engaging in activities or friendships that you might otherwise enjoy? Are you terrified that you’ll get overwhelmed or depressed by all the bad news and chaotic suffering in the world if you give it more than a second glance?


Each of us will answer these questions differently. But with the start of the new year, I figured it was a good time to examine where the balance is for us now and where we would like it to be.


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