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Moderation Is The Key

June 12, 2020 (641 words)

I had a couple of aunts on my mother’s side of the family that both lived well into their nineties. They never really got sick, and they never put on weight. Their life-long motto was “moderation in all things.” I didn’t pay much attention to anything these two biddies had to say back then because, well, they were Italian. And everybody knows that Italians – especially little old Italian women – are kind of kooky.

But now that my own dotage is gently approaching, and the list of minor ailments continues to grow, I find myself reflecting back on many of my deceased relatives and remembering things each of them said. And I realize those quirky Italian aunts, in particular, were on to something with their commitment to moderation. As they were always fond of saying, there really can be too much of a good thing.

Moderation may indeed be the key to a happy life, but it also seems to be just about the hardest thing for any of us to pull off, doesn’t it? Take food, for instance. Who doesn’t like to eat? But we often end up eating too much, or too much of the wrong thing. And who doesn’t enjoy an adult beverage from time-to-time. But some of us, particularly of an Irish persuasion, tend to go overboard in this regard, killing needed brain cells and damaging vital organs.

Come to think of it, “going overboard” is pretty much everybody’s basic modus operandi. This is true even when we are trying to be healthy.

We know that regular exercise is good for us. But of the small percentage of people who actually heed that advice, many end up addicted and actually exercise too much, leading to sprains of various sorts, and pulled muscles.

But maybe the most glaring area of life where we find it hard to achieve a sense of moderation is at work.

Just about everyone I know takes great pride in being a workaholic. Certainly this has been true since at least the 1980s. Of course our jobs can and should be an important source of meaning and purpose in our lives. It’s the place where we get to share the gifts we have been given with the larger world. It provides an active, dynamic forum for the ongoing development of empathy toward those around us.

our most important energy, the best hours of our day…

Unfortunately, though, all we workaholics do with our most important energy, the best hours of our day, is earn a living. Our existence has been boiled down in large measure to a very narrow formula: we make money, and we spend money.

While material success sure is swell, and has allowed some of us to live in bigger homes, drive fancier cars, wear more stylish clothes, eat at better restaurants, and take more lavish and frequent vacations, this non-stop consumption does not necessarily feed our head. Or stir our soul.

No matter how challenging one’s work is, and how enjoyable the fruits of one’s labor are, everyone needs something else – an outside interest, a hobby, an avocation of some kind – that moves them in a unique manner. It can be anything. It just has to be an activity apart from what one does to pay the bills, and apart from the discretionary spending of disposable income that provides only fleeting satisfaction.

This is the reason retirement can pose such problems for certain people: They are just so out of practice. They’ve spent their entire adult lives doing nothing but making a buck, and then spending it. They haven’t developed any outside interests, and they haven’t learned the art of moderation in all things.

So here’s to my Aunt Camille and my Aunt Annette. Thank you, ladies, for what you taught me. Even when I wasn’t listening.

Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr
June 12, 2020

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