How much is too much? How little is not enough? I’ve never been able to hit that sweet spot, right in the middle, not too much, but just enough. Anytime I’m doing anything, enjoying anything, it’s either lacking or it’s in excess.
The other day I bought a pint of coffee ice cream. I’ll be at the grocery store and I’ll think, yeah, I’ll keep some ice cream in the house. It’ll be a nice treat, something to snack on now and then. But I can never keep ice cream in the house, because all of my problems with excess, with craving, with self-control, they’re all brought to the surface as soon as the ice cream hits the freezer.
Ideally it would be great, to come home, put it in the freezer, and forget about it for a while. But as soon as it’s in there, it’s all I can think about. Is it a special moment yet? Is it time for a little treat? And before I can finish unpacking the rest of the groceries, I’m already opening up the container, peeling back that layer of plastic pressed on top of the perfectly packed ice cream.
And then it’s just one spoonful, just a taste. I’ll work the spoon around the surface, just shaving off a really thin little curl of ice cream. And then I’ll put it in my mouth. Ice cream has got to be one of the best things on the planet. And as I’m hit with the overwhelming satisfaction of what I’m eating, the flavor, the sweetness, the richness, I think about myself as an animal, and how our species, somewhere over the course of evolution, of development of societies and civilizations, somebody thought to themselves, let’s take the milk of another animal, let’s collect the richest, creamiest part of that milk, let’s mix it with sugar and eggs and other flavors, and let’s churn it and whip it at subfreezing temperatures, until it’s this unbelievable treat that I’m now holding in my hands, in a little cardboard pint container that I picked out of a giant freezer at the grocery store.
And I’ll work the pint like that for a while, just a sliver, I’ll put it in my mouth, let it melt on my tongue, I’m savoring every second. But then the savor starts to wear off. The little bites aren’t cutting it. So I’ll dip my spoon in a little deeper. And that kind of works for a few minutes more, but pretty soon I’m spending less and less time in between bites.
A minute later and the container is getting too warm around the sides, the ice cream melting a little faster where my hands are holding it. At this point I start to get conscious of the fact that I’m eating a little too much ice cream, that maybe I should put it away and save the rest for another special moment. But I can’t stop myself. I’m aware of the fact that I’m plowing through the whole pint, that I need to put it down, but I can’t.
That first bite, the flavor was so intense. I could taste the flavor of coffee, I felt like I could distinguish the subtle texture of eggs. The sugar was just the right amount of sweet. But at this point, somehow I’m halfway through the pint, I barely taste anything at all. My tongue is really cold, almost completely desensitized. The only thing coming through is the bite of sugar. And it’s no longer a delicate sweet; now it’s too sweet. It’s a sweet that’s accumulating at the sides of my tongue, almost uncomfortably, and the cream, the milk, it’s having this drying affect in my mouth, it feels like I’m forcing down spoonfuls of Elmer’s glue.
If somewhere past this point I somehow manage to put away the rest of the container, it’s almost always more than halfway consumed. And that’s if I don’t finish it in one sitting, a very real possibility. And then I’ll just stand there for a second, really trying to contemplate what I’ve just accomplished. I’ll go for a tall glass of water. And then another. The taste is stuck in my mouth. I can’t get the gluey sticky feeling out either. And I’m full. Way too full. Maybe a little nauseous.
So yeah, it’s better just to not have ice cream in the house. If it’s not there, I won’t think about it. It won’t call out to me in the middle of the night, interrupt my thoughts when I’m trying to write or read, get stuck at the forefront of my consciousness when I’m out of the house, telling me to stop whatever it is I’m doing, to go home, to think about all of the fun I could be having by myself standing in front of the refrigerator.
But there has to be a sweet spot, right? If I could only catch myself at the height of the ice cream induced euphoria, somewhere after I’ve stopped shaving off tiny slivers of ice cream but before I’m digging up golf ball sized chunks. I guess I’m not one for moderation.