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Moderation: I'm An Unapologetic Fence-Sitter

Melanie Bates's picture


“Moderation is for the bland, the apologetic, for the fence-sitters of the world afraid to take a stand. It's for those afraid to laugh or cry, for those afraid to live or die. Moderation...is lukewarm tea, the devil's own brew.”Dan Millman

I used to believe this. Now, I’m not so sure. I’ve never practiced moderation and, for a time, I was proud of that fact. I would think of Millman’s words and revel in the fact that I was "truly living". But now I sit in my apartment when the skies are bright blue and folks are out there conversing with each other, taking walks, having sex, and I wonder if my lack of moderation is trying to tell me something else. 

The Unhealthy

The first time I noticed that I had an issue with moderation came when I divorced my husband and went to work in the bars. Seven days a week I was working and drinking, being the life of the party -- climbing on back-hoes to pose for a picture, carrying armfuls of balloons into respectable establishments, paying for a life-size stuffed Jolly Green Giant in Punxsutawney, PA to ride home in my car with me, dancing on bars in chaps and underwear that said, “I Love Brad” (our resident DJ), and buying kites to fly in thunderstorms. I look back on these memories and, damn, I had a good time. So many great experiences and moments with friends but my poor liver had started to curdle and each day the hangovers were more severe, the drinking to feel better started earlier in the day, and on any given night I would do upwards of twenty shots. No moderation. Even today, I've only had drinks on three occasions in the last eight months -- and yet on those three occasions, I still found myself thinking that I could drink like I used to.

It’s not like I had no clue in regards to my lack of moderation up until this point. I’ve never ventured into the land of drug use because I know myself that well. I would practice no restraint and would quickly become an addict living on the streets. 

The "Healthy" (ahem…)

My lack of moderation doesn’t just involve unhealthy choices. When I read a book I devour it. I will lie in bed for two days reading until I literally have rigor mortis of the ass. When a new Zelda video game is released I won’t leave my television for a week and when I eventually crawl out from under a pile of Nerd Rope wrappers and empty bottles of Sunkist orange soda I find that five or six days have gone by without my realizing it.

When I got out of the bar scene and stopped drinking seven days a week I decided to go back to college. All of the time and energy and devotion that I had put into drinking and having fun was transferred into school work. Some might say this is a positive change. Well, yeah, compared to drinking my face off, it was. But as I progressed through my first semester I realized that I had just shifted all of my time and energy into this. I spent my days in class and my nights doing homework, for hours and hours and hours. I saw no one, I said no to everything, I did nothing but pour over books, study, make flashcards, and write papers. 

The “My Jeans No Longer Fit”

I’ve been out of school for the summer and it’s been a nice break. Where have I transferred my energy? Food. It struck me the other night that this new obsession is just as unhealthy as drinking. After having a dinner of spaghetti squash, a baked potato, corn on the cob, and a small smoked pork chop I still felt empty. Not hungry, per se, but unsatisfied. I went to the cupboard for a bag of Lays Sour Cream and Onion potato chips. After consuming half of the contents of said bag, I still didn’t feel satiated. I pulled out half a watermelon and went at it with a spoon, then a pudding cup, then a bowlful of green grapes, then a bag of popcorn and a glass of chocolate milk... I was sick. Not just from consuming the entire contents of my kitchen in the span of five hours, though that was part of it, but from watching myself lie in bed eating with no moderation whatsoever and yet still feeling empty. 

The Void

It’s easy to look back on some of these times and realize what void I was trying to fill. (The keywords being “look” and “back.”)  When I was out drinking an entire bottle of vodka each night, I was trying to mask the fact that I didn’t like myself very much and I thought I could conceal the guilt I felt for leaving my family after my divorce to begin a new life. But when you’re still actually in the situation, when you’re laying on your eleven hundred dollar mattress covered in crumbs and watermelon juice, it’s not so simple to figure out. I do know that I’m attempting, unsuccessfully, to fill a void; to fill a loneliness, an angst, a restlessness. I’m punishing myself with my choices and my personal whip doesn’t stay idle for long. I’m just not sure exactly what that void entails. 

So it’s seeming to me that moderation isn’t for the weak, or the “bland”, or the “apologetic fence sitters.” It takes courage and resolve to practice moderation, at least it does for me. It’s an act of strength to put down those potato chips and see what longing I’m trying to fill before I inhale the whole bag.

Does anyone else out there suffer from “lack of moderation?” In what areas? What voids are you trying to fill Pinkies? And if you know you’re trying to fill a void how do you figure out exactly what that void is?


Dana Theus's picture


Yes, I know this feeling. I don't think of it as moderation, though I suppose it is. To me it's balance, a condition I've been seeking for so long. Recently I realized I had begun to achieve it, and somewhere along the way it had turned from rejecting overindulgence to seeking a good feeling that felt like balance and - most importantly - letting go of the void that kept me from it. Turned out that void filled a void and letting go of it was harder than I thought. It's a journey. Moderation as an act of discipline and courage absolutely. No question about it. good luck on your journey, friend. Don't worry about arriving, and don't forget to hold hands with those walking along side you and revel in overindulging in their love.

Melanie Bates's picture


I love that, "it had turned from rejecting overindulgences to seeking a good feeling." And, ah, the void. Yes, I recognize that black gaping hole. I mention in my comments below that my pendulum has always seemed to swing to the far right or the far left, so it really is a balance (and an effort to not allow my pendulum to fall into that abyss.) Thank you, so much, for the reminder of holding hands and revelry. Today, I will not worry. Love, xoxo

Monica Wilcox's picture

The Devil's Own Brew

This post cracks me up because I am in one of those life situations that shove you right off the end of the moderation scale. I've recently moved and there is very little moderation to be found when you spend all day looking through 53 boxes for your vacuum hose. Getting married, having a child, divorce, moving, new jobs, retirement: Moderation is the hardest to achieve when we are entrenched in a major life change, just when we need it the most.

Maybe I should forget locating my silverware and go to the movies instead. My family won't mind finger food for another night. :)

Thanks for reminding me to always find balance!!


Melanie Bates's picture


Wow... even after talking with you last night I still need you today, every moment really. No pressure. I had a major breakdown (bawling like a two year old for half an hour) at my place of employment today. I'm def entrenched in major life changes, that's for sure, and eating a bag of potato chips sounds so good right about now. Just remember I'll always be witness to your requests from Sebastian, the Purple Kangaroo. Remember he helped you find that vacuum hose. You'll get there girl and you'll be so balanced you'll float when you meditate. xoxox

Leslee Horner's picture

Thanks Simone...

Yep, every little "lesson" I teach in my writing is for myself as much as for anyone else.

Love and Light,


Learn more about the series, THE PAST LIVES OF LOLA RAY, at www.lesleehorner.com

Simone's picture

Almost Skipped You Because...

...of that header. Then I read it was a Dan Millman quote and thought, "Ohhhh. NO wonder. He's peacefully warring with himself." Whenever I hear a statement about moderation or neutrality that is negative like that, it makes me laugh. It's as foolhardy as calling oneself "wise."

Moderation is encouraged by the law of physics which states that there's more energy in the center than in the extremes. Good post, Melanie. It really spotlights the "void" and "emptiness" of our (burn out) culture at large.

Melanie Bates's picture


So happy you didn't skip over this because of the header. Then I would have missed laughing my arse off over your, "He's peacefully warring with himself" comment and that, truly, would have been a shame. More importantly I would have missed something I need to take fully into my heart "there's more energy in the center than in the extremes." Thank you for taking the time to comment and help a girl out ;0)

Melanie Bates's picture


Thank you for sharing your obsessions. I love what you said, "Life is a learning process and a huge step is being able to acknowledge these not so great patterns." So... I'm on the right track by acknowledging them. That does make me feel better. Balance is so hard to achieve and I really think the secret lies there. I've always said my pendulum always swings way to the right or way to the left. This I need to work on. (And boy, do I hear you on the internet obsession ;)

Leslee Horner's picture

I can relate...

I can look over my past and see the same patterns. In college for a few years, I was similar with the drinking (got voted biggest partier in my sorority one year), then I "woke up" and put all that energy into school, then I met my husband, after we got married I overate and gained a lot of weight(although overeating was always a constant theme), then I became a diet and exercise fanatic. When I got pregnant I obsessed about that, then it was breastfeeding. In 2007 I read my first self-help book and since then it's been all about creating a fantastic life and making my dreams come true. Luckily, by obsessing about that I've learned the important key of finding balance. I master this in brief intervals and then return to some obsession (the internet for example). Life is a learning process and a huge step is being able to acknowledge these not so great patterns.

Love and Light,


Learn more about the series, THE PAST LIVES OF LOLA RAY, at www.lesleehorner.com

Simone's picture

You amaze me, Leslee!

Every time I read something else from you, I am pleasantly surprised. You are a lovely ball of life's contradictions. You keep on going!

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