Too much of a good thing…

A picture of an orderly hoarder…. yes, this is my desk.

My spinning instructor says it’s all a matter of perspective, quoting, “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”

We had been whining at the start of our 5 a.m. class, none of us anticipating the next intense hour with thankfulness. But her words gave us perspective, and we willingly applied our well-shod feet to the pedals and started pumping.

Leaving the health club, I found myself following a man with one leg. He had just finished working with a personal trainer, and by the awkward way he maneuvered his walker, I surmised he had recently lost his leg. I felt humbled.

For some reason, maybe because I felt spoiled and shamed by the wealth of two healthy legs and my reluctance to work them hard, I had the thought: “Most of what troubles me is having too much of a good thing.”

  • Too much food and drink, for instance, makes me feel uncomfortable at times, leads to health problems, and forces me to exercise regularly to eat up the calories I consume (which isn’t a bad thing).
  • Too much of the wrong foods–like sugary treats–add pound after pound, despite my exercising efforts, and cavity after cavity, despite my brushing efforts.
  • Too much weight puts stress on my joints and contributes to the aches and pains I now feel every day.
  • Too many belongings are difficult to manage, requiring strategic organization and a perpetual putting everything in its place–or (more often) living with a mess.
  • Too much in my schedule (or my child’s schedule) adds stress and frustration and failure–and usually leads to comfort or stress eating (too much of maybe something that is not a good thing).

My husband, a physical therapist who does therapy at nursing homes, says that most of his patients are seeking treatment because they either ate too much, drank too much, or smoked too much. Of course, he has the occasional patient who is there because of a paralyzing accident or other tragedy, but most patients have deteriorated into their current state because they simply had too much (and lived long enough for “too much” to catch up with them).

I watch the news, I see what’s around me, and I know I am not alone. We Americans are an obese nation; every state has an obese population of at least 15 percent, and some states have more than 25 percent. In 2010, CBS news reported that 30 percent of Americans had abused alcohol at some point in their lives. Also in 2010, Americans, on average, consumed 135 pounds of sugar per year–per person! A quick Google search of “stress in America” yields 186 million hits in 0.21 seconds. (I might also add that a recent “too much” in the way of women–and email and more physical contact–has led to a sad end of at least one Four-Star General.)

When we have too much of the good things, we tend to take those good things for granted. And in America, we have too much of many a good thing, and that too much makes us less inclined to recognize the blessings we have and make the most of them. Like our good legs.

One of my neighbors suffers from a birth defect that has rendered his legs useless. He uses crutches and swings his legs from side to side as he “walks” miles up and down hills in our neighborhood every day. It seems that the times when I am least inclined to go for that run or walk, I stand at the edge of my driveway, reluctantly about to embark, and catch a glimpse of this man. He has no use of his legs–yet he makes the most of the good things he has, using his upper body to work out and gain strength.

I’ve often heard–and said–the phrase “less is more.” I’m not willing to give up my legs and am so very thankful I have them and the ability to work them hard. But I am willing to have less of the “too much of a good thing” that plagues me.

Which, by the way, would not be motivation… I don’t think I could have too much of that good thing!

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