As I flew home from another unmemorable job, the engine noise of an evening plane ride provided the intimacy I needed for another mock suicide – an overdose of junk food – the only escape from the ceaseless supply of meaningless work stretched out before me. In a fit of pacified depression I swallowed one handful after another of pretty M&M chocolate pills until I’d consumed two bagfuls.
This wasn’t the recommended diet for someone suffering with chronic fatigue, but I wanted to be somewhere else. I wanted a simpler, less technological life with my feet on the lush green ground, and there was no better companion for overcoming the personal shortcomings that kept me employed in a life I didn’t want, no better candy, impeccably and precisely designed, for making me feel as if I were doing something more enjoyable than I actually was; kind of like taking the real thing – like smoking a dooby or swallowing a fistful of drugs.
I knew that flying around the country doing environmental and engineering evaluations so someone else could make big bucks on a real estate deal was relatively easy, but preparing the report template was like filling out the same long form every other day for eternity, and the dullness always sent me to the M&M cliff. It was a decent living, but if I died in a plane crash it would be because a mortgage company needed a report on an apartment complex. Not exactly purposeful living for someone who had initially set out to become a wildlife biologist, or to at least do something meaningful in the environmental field.
I used every downer-causing incident to hold mock suicides over and over again. My plane was delayed, so I headed to the M&M counter. I had a dull report to write, so I grabbed a latte and scone. Work caused me to travel again, so my mind floated into an alternative world, where I could consume anything I wanted to because the day was a lost cause anyway, my life on hold until I returned from the trip. I was often tempted to take myself out in a blaze of rebellious gluttony, fueled by those misunderstood and deeply buried demons, by overindulging in all the crap that I’d denied myself as a struggling health nut – the real garbage of American junk food – twinkies and fruit pies and chocolate stars, ding dongs and malted milk balls and peanut butter cups, muffins and scones at a coffee shop, with pies and chocolate chip cookies and double lattes; topping it all off with my all time favorites, blueberry pancakes and waffles smothered in pure maple syrup, stacked in mountainous piles until I collapsed breathless, in a Homer Simpson moment, and passed out face first, mouth open, into a strategically placed box of Krispy Kreme donuts and died of suffocation, the last hopes for breath snuffed out from the creamy mouthful – done in by junk food. Then everyone I’d ever lectured about maintaining a proper diet and the importance of being a health nut could have the last laugh.
Maybe this was the cry for help many failed suicides supposedly aspired to.
Maybe it explained why the world continued toward its own demise, as too many others also lived uninspired lives deemed not worth saving.
We flew over Gary, Indiana on our approach into Chicago, and I wondered if my insides looked as scorched as the black industrial earth I saw below. Was I a small representative of the planet, slowly decaying from the years of abuse in the same way pollution from factories killed off the surrounding vegetation and clouded the rivers? Like fish forced to take in the water in which they lived, I had to breathe the air. Like the once lush green land below, did my insides turn from the clear pink tissues and organs of its youth, pumping excitedly with life, to a wasteland of disease from the years of abuse: all the alcohol and black coffee and processed foods, all the gases from fossil fuels and the mercury-laden rain and the rivers of PCBs, and whatever else the laundry list included?
Like questions surrounding the survival of the planet, with its numerous symptoms – from climate change to disturbingly high species annihilation – had I already gone over my own threshold of debauchery to cause permanent damage, or was there still time to change and become truly healthy? Could mindfulness and awareness, through the practice of meditation, bring me back?