“Naughty or Nice?” – A Lesson in Letting Go

Featured Image: “Northern lights (Aurora borealis) flowing over the Lyngen fjord in 2012 March,” © Ximonic (Simo Räsänen), CC-BY-SA 3.0. Original work. Wikimedia Commons.

It drives me nuts!

It’s awful!

It’s horrible!

It embodies everything that is disordered and sick in American culture!

It is the latest food-related fundraising effort at my workplace – “The Naughty or Nice Cart.” The first time that one of the office staff rolled through with this trolley of over-priced snacks, it was late on a Wednesday afternoon.  I was already in that fatigued, clock-watching, brain-addled state of non-productiveness that sometimes settles in around 3:30 pm. For that reason, I wasn’t particularly swift to recognize what was going on as she silently ambushed me, popping from seemingly nowhere into my doorway with, “DO YOU WANT TO BUY SOMETHING OFF THE NAUGHTY AND NICE CART?!”

The scales of justice have been replaced by food scales.
The scales of justice have been replaced by food scales.
La Giustizia,” by Antonio Canova, 1792. Photograph © Fondazione Cariplo, CC-BY-SA 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

It’s bad enough that I get hit-up for money at least once a day.  Usually, I’m asked to contribute to charitable organizations I never heard of by people I never met. It’s worse that the fundraising creativity within my (very large) organization never branches beyond bake sales, pancake breakfasts, barbecue ticket sales, lumpia sales, cookie bake-offs, chili cook-offs… you get the picture. The fliers on the stairwell and bathroom doors I can stare past (although I must admit to passive-aggressively tearing one down once), the emails go straight to my junk bin, but when people come knocking on my office door it stirs up all sorts of defensiveness and anger. In the same breath that my boss tirades on about the “obesity epidemic,” he cajoles us to participate in the pasta lunch, because “we need to show that we have team spirit, and those ladies in the front office worked hard to put this together for a good cause!  So come hungry!”

The fund-raising tools of default. “A Selection of Rolling Pins,” © Terra Ambridge, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Jan 2010. Wikimedia Commons.

It usually takes all of my mindfulness skills to remind myself, in the moment, of what my therapist and nutritionist try to reinforce with me at our weekly appointments.  They don’t know any better. We are all victims of the same community-societal dysfunction and economic exploitation. I am very privileged and fortunate to have the opportunity to unlearn my food-related behaviors. Most people don’t even recognize the extent of the problem in our homes and in our society. I can see myself and my co-workers for who we are, complicated people who are suffering in our own ways.  I can forgive their comments and their actions, even when they put me down or put other people down, or when they perpetuate the underlying disordered patterns that are keeping generation after generation physically, mentally, and emotionally sick… just like I would want them to forgive me, because I am sure not perfect, either!

Jarred from my computer screen-induced stupor, I was caught without a ready response for my unwanted solicitor. I was also particularly appalled at the concept of a “Naughty or Nice” theme. My moment of delay gave her the opportunity to interject with enticements that she mistakenly thought would motivate me to dip into my pocket for loose change. “We have healthy snacks, too! You can choose to be NICE! We have fruit, and veggie sticks, and water…” So if I were to choose the chips or soda, does that make me NAUGHTY? I thought. I wanted to scream at her to get the hell out of my office with her token of pathology and judgment on wheels.

“No thanks, I don’t do food-related fundraisers,” I said instead. I saved my rant for my colleague, Steve, whose office is across a narrow, quiet hallway from mine. We leave our doors open and call out to each other through the day, popping in and out to pose questions, share interesting tidbits, or alleviate our boredom. He’s probably my biggest supporter at work, and helped cover for me while I was circling the drain prior to getting into a treatment program, then picked up my workload while I was away.

“Now our self-worth and value as human beings can be qualitatively determined by our snack purchases for an office fundraiser!!!” I growled, angrily.

“Really?” Steve raised an eyebrow. “Anyway, I thought you gave up all this complaining business and all-or-nothing talk,” he casually replied. Grrrrrrrr… I couldn’t even stew in my own indignation. He was throwing my Wise Mind back in my face! What was I supposed to do? Start burping up buttercups? I knew that he was right, but…

What can I do? As my nutritionist once told me, I can’t change the world – not alone, and not when people don’t want to be changed. When the Naughty or Nice cart rolls by now, the woman pushing it doesn’t bother knocking on my door anymore, and, still simmering, I return to the Serenity Prayer…

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.
~ Reinhold Niebuhr

So, dear readers, what would you do?

Sunny Day,” © Marcus Quigmire, May 2008. CC-BY-SA 2.0. Wikimedia Commons.
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