An Anti-Moderation Wake-Up Call

We all can expect (and hope) that as we age we become more nuanced, less harsh, more understanding, less judgemental. I like to believe that the more time we spend on the planet, the more we understand the huge diversity of lifestyles and beliefs and values out there that are very different from ours but no less valid.

For example, living in the South has taught me quite a bit about moderating the way I express myself and how I judge others. For 35 years of my life, I lived in places where it never occurred to me or anyone around me to ask someone where they went to church. It took me quite a few years of living in Tennessee to learn how to navigate this strange new world of Christian cultural domination but it certainly taught me a lot about “others” and I eventually learned to love some aspects of living in this culture.

But this week I’ve been wondering if somewhere along the way I’ve become too quiet. If I’ve lost a little too much of me, the loud and different and bold parts. If I’ve become, gasp, bland. Oh my god, the horror. I’ve got a lump in my throat just typing that. I’ve become bland. This is the worst possible thing for an Enneagram Four, I swear.

I’ll tell you what got me thinking this. I listened to Penn Jillette’s interview on the Tim Ferriss podcast. A few months ago I read Penn’s book Presto: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear because Gretchen Rubin mentioned Penn is a Rebel in her Four Tendencies framework. I’m always interested in how other Rebels live, so I was eager to read this book and so much of it deeply resonated with me. For example, a Bob Dylan quote you will hear Penn quote both in the book and on the podcast:

“to live outside the law, you must be honest”.

Listening to him on the podcast made me realize that he is much, much braver than I am. Everyone knows what he believes, how he sees the world. Yet he also maintains a commitment to kindness and non-violence. He’s both true to himself and invested in making the world better. Here are a few things he said that I had to write down:

“I’ve never wanted to do anything easy in my life. Why, with my health, was I deciding that was the thing I wanted to be easy”?

This quote hit me like a ton of bricks because I am the same way and I sometimes forget that. I never want the easy thing. I always want to do the hard thing, the challenge, the thing that I haven’t done yet. But I’ve almost completed eliminated these hard challenges from my life partly because (I tell myself) they require too much accommodation from my family. Or because I’m focusing too much on habits and daily living.

I don’t respect moderation and I don’t respect moderators.

Oh my gosh, YES YES YES. I cannot tell you how much it changed my life to learn about abstainers and moderators. I am an all or nothing person and it works so much better for me to embrace that and go 100% on or off in many things in my life. That’s why I went from my first sprint triathlon to an Ironman in 18 months. It’s why I have been sugar-free for over a year and plan to continue for the rest of my life. It’s why I have five kids. It’s why I don’t drink alcohol. It’s why I can do anything if I feel strongly internally motivated but can’t do the smallest thing if the motivation comes from outside or from other people’s expectations.

I know I am an abstainer and an all-or-nothing person. But what I realized while listening to this podcast was that I have never truly accepted and embraced those aspects of my personality. I’ve never seen them as something to be proud of, as an integral part of me. Instead, I’ve seen it as something that holds me back, limits me, when in fact, it’s been the source of my greatest achievements.

Listening to him say he doesn’t respect moderation unlocked something in me, gave me permission to say the same thing and be glad of it. I don’t respect moderation in myself. It’s not who I am. And I have often felt a lack of respect for a certain type of moderator, the one that doesn’t realize that everyone isn’t like them. The one that writes nutrition and weight loss books and encourages us to use a smaller plate, or eat just one cookie a day, or have a cheat day once per week. I think those types of moderators (and our moderation loving culture) do a lot of damage to abstainers.

If you know two things about a person and can guess a third, that person is boring and not worth getting to know.

I wrote this one down because I thought it was funny and very, very true. I like talking to strangers but I rarely meet anyone truly interesting. I think this is why. If you knew two things about someone (for example, they have a man-bun and like to go to the Farmer’s Market every weekend), would you be able to guess a third thing about that person easily? That they like indie bands, for example? Or own a rescue dog? Boring. If, instead, a third thing is something outside the mold? Perhaps they are passionate about sky diving or meteorology? Intriguing, perhaps a free-thinker, worth further time and conversation. How predictable do you think you are?

This ended up being a very cathartic post to write. Thanks for sharing it with me. I’m so glad I listened to that episode. I’m going to devote myself to reading more material from other Rebels in the future. Everyone needs role models, and I think I’ve spent too much time trying to mold myself in the shape of a majority culture that I know does not serve me. I’ve never prided myself on being like others or being in the majority, yet this episode made me realize how many of those dominant cultural messages I have internalized.

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