We all know the joke, right?
A man goes to his doctor and says “Doctor, my brother is crazy. He thinks he’s a chicken!”. And the doctor says “Well, why don’t you turn him in then?”. The man replies “I would, but we need the eggs.”
Woody Allen opens Annie Hall with this story, and says it reflects how he feels about love these days. I’ve been thinking it reflects nearly all the crazy stuff we do in life. Hold on, let me own that – it reflects all the crazy stuff I do in life.
There are all these habitual modes of thinking and behaving, and I even recognise them as being crazy and dysfunctional, but some part of me seems to think that I’m getting something out of it, that I need to keep behaving that way. I need the eggs.
Take drinking. (I know, are you tired of hearing my thoughts on this? Sorry! I’m unlikely to stop talking about it. It seems to do me good.) Anyway, long before I got to stopping, long before I even got to my first stopping which was years ago, I knew that drinking had a lot of bad side effects. And I’m not just talking about the hangovers, and the empty pockets. Even during the supposedly “enjoyable” parts of drinking, there was a voice whispering in my ear that this wasn’t really “me”, that I was using it to hide, coward, coward, coward, etc.
My retort (subconscious and all as it was) to this voice was that “Yes! I am a coward. That’s why I need it.” One could hardly expect me to go out and socialise and be the genki effusive bubbly version of myself that “my public” was expecting, without some Dutch courage to flip the switch and access my inner performer whilst side-stepping my inner critic. Everybody knows that the confident are the loved, and alcohol allowed me to access my confidence. Fake my confidence? I’m not sure, it felt real enough at the time. Oh, apart from that voice.
I needed the eggs. I knew it was crazy. I knew it was self-destructive, but I needed the crazy output of the crazy system.
The thing is, the eggs are lie too. I wasn’t really gaining anything. It may have felt like I was at the time, but if you continually tell yourself you can’t walk, and therefore you’d better use a segway, pretty soon your muscles will atrophy, and you won’t be able to walk, and so you’d better use a segway, and maybe some other mobility aids, and pretty soon other muscles will atrophy, and then you definitely won’t be able to walk, or move much at all, and so …
So, my social anxiety grew. And my confidence that anyone would ever like “me” shrank. Except when I drank, when it would become bigger than ever, bigger than Jesus. But the crashes got worse, and the perceived need got stronger. Now my daily living muscles were atrophied. Now I was anxious all day long, now I didn’t even like to spend time in my own sober company in my own sober head.
I’ve got to learn to walk again on my own. I’ve got to learn to tolerate my own company. Hey, these days I’m even starting to enjoy it a little bit (judgemental and irritable as I can be)! If I approach things with a kind of aware curiosity, there seems to be something to be found, even in the bored and frustrated moments.
Even though sometimes I still crave some eggs.
So, this morning’s thoughts all got triggered by the eggs I had for breakfast. I found myself wondering if I really like eggs. I would certainly claim that I do, I definitely like salt, I really like Tabasco sauce. Are eggs just a convenient vehicle for these two condiments. I slowed down a little and paid attention as I ate them this morning. Eggs are very …. animal tasting. I’m not sure how I feel about that lately. I can find some meat a bit too pungent for my tastebuds. And I have been having thoughts around the health implications of too many animal products, as well as the ethical implications of modern industrial farming techniques. I don’t necessarily think there’s anything wrong with humans eating animals per se, but it seems like it’s pretty difficult to source animal-based food products that have been produced in the happy farm life we choose to imagine.
It’s food (haha!) for thought, in any case.
I do like how I feel after eating eggs, so there’s that.