The week my husband and I decided to cancel our gym
membership, I lost five pounds.
I’ve been reading a book of agricultural essays by Wendell
Berry. Despite having written over fifty
books, Berry is not a well-known author.
I suspect it’s because he tells the truth where we prefer fiction. In this book, Berry writes a lot about
limits: Despite what the advertisers tell us, he says, we cannot have it all.
To me this means I need to start limiting in two ways: what
I choose to own (and purchase) and what advertisements I choose to listen to
(and believe). I’ve decided, then, in
the interest of our upcoming move and in the pursuit of limits, to rid myself
of one thing each day.
Last week, I gave up the gym membership, my iPod, and five
books. Giving up the gym was easy: If I
choose the gym, I choose to drive fifteen minutes to get there and another
fifteen minutes for the return trip. I
choose to exercise with strangers. I
choose to purchase yoga mats, bicycle seats, and a new bathing suit. And what do I lose? Besides the obvious time
and money, I lose time walking with my husband in the evenings. I lose my “thinking time”—a time where I am
alone with my thoughts, a time when much of my writing gets done. And the poor dog loses his three mile
walk. Apparently, however, by belonging
to the gym, I do not lose weight.
I gave up the iPod for many of the same reasons: It takes a lot
of time to manage an iPod—downloading songs and podcasts; remembering to charge
the battery; rounding up and detangling headphones. And I find by that listening to the
creativity of others, I surrender my own. Worst of all, plugged into an iPod or playing
one of its many games, I disconnect from my family.
It was hardest to give up my books, which I consider
treasured friends. But they have stood
unopened upon my shelves far too long. It’s
time to let someone else treasure them. Bit
by bit, I will pass my books on, holding on to only the dearest books; the ones
I consult frequently. You can bet my
collection of Wendell Berry books will stay.
By next year at this time, I will be three hundred and
sixty-five things lighter. And who knows? Since quitting the gym, I may even
be lighter, too.
Bringing it to the Table: On Farming and Food
Labels: Consumption, Creative non-fiction, farming