Friday, January 14, 2011

The Frugal Enthusiast

A nine-month-old has inspired me to describe myself in a new way. My newest creative experiment is to think of myself as a frugal enthusiast.

Charles Vachon posted a time lapse video of his nine-month-old son, Charles-Edward, as he played on the floor. Four hours of play were condensed into about two minutes of "synaptic exuberance."

Baby Edward's curiosity and sensory involvement are glorious to watch. Robert Krulwich, writing about the video on NPR's Sciencey Blog concludes,
"babies go wild making connections and then, as we grow into our preferences, our personalities, life is like a scalpel. We slowly shed what we don't need or use or want. Having watched Edward for those time lapsed four hours, it's hard to imagine what he’s going to give up later in life but he's got to give up something. We all do."

My mother will turn 90 this year. She was describing how much more difficult it was this year to pack away the Christmas decorations. She just doesn't have the energy or stamina she used to have.

Though I am 40 years younger than she, I find myself in a similar situation. The natural losses of aging are compounded in my body by chronic illness.

We all have to give up something. The trick, of course, is to do it gracefully.

In the late '80s I watched a television show called "The Frugal Gourmet." Host Jeff Smith cooked good-tasting food prepared with an eye toward budget and prudent use of ingredients.

I love Baby Edward's engagement in the world. I remember the childhood feeling of wanting to do everything, to try everything. There is a piece of that I don't want to give up.

On the other hand, at my time of life, conscious choices are my allies. In a metaphorical Baby Edward's world, if I spend too much time kicking the oval basket, I may lose energy before I get to crawl under the chair in the corner. As we age, we get better at seeing our options. As a person dealing with chronic illness, I have to take a step back, consider the universe of choices and set priorities. If that chair is important, I better visit it first.

So I have arrived at the phrase "the frugal enthusiast." Frugal because I need to be economical, not wasteful, in my expenditure of energy. Enthusiast because I want to be a person active in interest. I would rather get excited about things for seconds than be bored for hours.

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