I believe in my vices.
Every once in a while, I like to step out onto my patio and enjoy a cigarette. Every once in a while, with friends on a warm afternoon, I’ll have a few beers. And maybe even a few beers too many: on purpose. I treat myself to gooey desserts with some frequency, and I sleep in until noon or later whenever I can.
At the same time, I love my body. I take it to yoga four times a week and feed it lots of organic vegetables and filtered water. I work hard. I am a holder of two jobs, a cheerful volunteer, and a full time graduate student. I’m a good person. I go out of my way to be kind to strangers and children and dogs. I live an altogether un-extravagant life, in a tiny efficiency apartment full of second-hand clothes, old furniture, and no TV.
Allowing myself these little treats of daily existence keeps me grounded in what is possible. My wish is that someday everyone in the world will have the time and the means to enjoy a dirty martini, an afternoon nap, or a slice of tiramisu sometimes when they choose to.
I mention all this not to suggest that because I do these good things that I somehow deserve the “bad” things. It’s more complex than that. I allow two sides of myself to peacefully co-exist. I acknowledge that I am both slightly gluttonous and quite ascetic. I am hard working and a touch lazy in the mornings. I’m disciplined and frivolous. I am respectful of my health and my sanity and still occasionally indulge in things I know aren’t good for me.
I believe that honoring this duality, this schism, makes me stronger, happier, and, in the end, healthier overall. It makes me balanced. It helps me understand friends, family or even strangers who I might otherwise be altogether perplexed by. Because I know how it feels to let myself sleep in, I can understand how someone might feel so crippled by their own emotions that they can’t find the strength to get out of bed. Because I let myself splurge on a fancy shoes now and again, I understand how an otherwise conscientious person could start to appreciate “things” just a little too much. Because I think it’s fun to have a beer buzz now and then, I can imagine what it’s like to have yourself pulled under by addiction.
I understand these things, but I don’t become them.
My affection for my vices allows me to respect the contradictions we’re all capable of. I have no need to resort to absolutism or judgment to understand our weird world, full of so much good and so much bad. I embrace complexity and ambiguity. Entertaining my vices without being overwhelmed by them breeds patience, balance, joy, and most importantly, empathy. I believe that by neglecting or denying my own weaknesses, I diminish that which is best in me.
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