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  • Writer's pictureAlastar Connor

I deserve a treat.

I deserve a treat.

I was listening to an episode of Glennon Doyle’s podcast today. She is trying to heal herself from anorexia. She was talking about longing. That feeling of wishing, needing, wanting. Her habit of replacing a coping mechanism (like body control) with a purchase. A small dopamine hit by clicking BUY. An obsession with an item that needs to be acquired and only feeling better once it is in her possession. And how it only makes her feel better for a small time.

I feel that. I get my dopamine hit with treats of all kinds. An experience, a sweet, a baked good, a glass of wine, a purchase, a date, an outing with a friend. The thought goes…I deserve this. I deserve a treat for dealing with something I don’t want to, or to make life feel a little better. Life is frustrating or dull and I endured. I deserve a treat. I’ve earned it. In other words…I need a dopamine hit. I need something that validates that I am worthy. To prove that I’ve earned it. Pay for a job well done.

Why? Why do I need a treat? Was it the way I was raised? Hard work deserves a reward? My grandparents farm legacy motto: Idle Not Acres? Pleasure can only be enjoyed AFTER it is earned?

Was it my mom’s unhealthy thoughts around food? Her habit of cleansing her palate after eating something healthy with a sweet treat? The calorie counting that meant food deprivation could earn empty calories in the form of sugar? Is that where my sweet tooth comes from? Or is it the genetics my dad passed on, from one sweet lover to the next?

Was it being spoiled that led me to feel that life should be MORE? I got used to all the shopping, vacations, meals out, experiences? Was it living a luxurious life that made me feel that’s how it should be?

Perhaps my soul is too tainted by the world of beauty that scrolls by on my phone? And before the phone, in magazines. On reality shows and tv series. In the movies on the big screen? This kind of false perception has always existed. There is nothing new about the glamorous Hollywood spin or the unusual beauty of models being sold as the every woman. This kind of dangled carrot has existed for all of eternity. The grass is always greener in a capitalist sexist racist society.

The more I indulge in the urge to reward myself, the more often my brain wants a reward. Like the slippery slope of addiction. And just like anxiety, it doesn’t pay to feed the beast. I’ve researched…searched out the answer to what about my brain keeps pushing for treats but what I encounter is endless link lists of “Top ten reasons you deserve a treat.” “Yes, you deserve a little treat.” “Reasons you deserve to treat yourself.” Is it the fact that I’m inundated with messaging about treats disguised as self care that makes me think I deserve an indulgence?

Another article ponders, “If I give more to myself, I can ask more from myself. Self-regard isn’t selfish.” Am I just feeling guilty for treating myself?

Knowing where my motivation is coming from is important. Do I want a glass of wine because it’s full of sugar, offers an escape, takes the edge off, calms my frustration, helps me settle down, because I’m alcoholic, or because I deserve it? Do I want a baked good because I’m a sugar addict? Or simply because I enjoy it? Do I really “need” that item of clothing? How much is too much? When is it avoidance and when is it simply enjoying life? Maybe I just need to drink more water?

When I look at the scale halfway through this winter season, I have to question how many treats is too many treats? I have to wonder why I turn to a reward when I want to feel relief from my constant feeling of lack and restlessness instead of taking a true step to change something.

I don’t have an answer. I don’t know if this concept of stringing children along with tokens that add up to a treat to encourage “good” behavior was what created this cycle/habit. The Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports Programs or PBIS that many schools use feels a lot like training us to seek a dopamine hit when behaving as expected. I’ve read many articles about how external rewards do not create intrinsic motivation. Yet here I am, working for the treats I bestow upon myself.

I know that the next item of clothing, glass of wine, or holiday-themed sweet will not make a lasting improvement to my happiness. I know they will not create a more exciting life, a more fulfilling daily existence, a more decadent lifestyle, or change my life or brain any way. They are a shortcut to feeling good that sabotages efforts that could lead to long term gain.

I must find a way to be satisfied with the here and now. The daily mundane that makes up the life of a parent and earner. What is it about my husband that makes him better able to endure the boredom of repetition? His parents taught him that life is hard work…and yet…he often forgets to feel joy. He won’t let himself shirk the aggravation of things not being perfect, wrapping himself in the justification of being right over being happy, so he is also not immune to clinging to old ways that do not serve us.

Is he right to cling to the insignificant details of living that mean so much to him? Loaded dishwashers, up-to-date grocery lists, closed garage doors, and nothing discarded on the mudroom floor? He often forgets how freeing it is to travel. He gets stuck in his predictable patterns just as much as I yearn to avoid them. How do we find balance between hard work and frivolity? Where does happiness come from? Is either of us right in our attempts?

“But the mind always

wants more than it has—

one more bright day of sun,

one more clear night in bed

with the moon; one more hour

to get the words right; one

more chance for the heart in hiding

to emerge from its thicket

in dried grasses—as if this quiet day

with its tentative light weren't enough,

as if joy weren't strewn all around.”

Holly J. Hughes

My restless spirit has found no answer. No click, sip, nibble, job, or ticket has filled the lack. The hole that needs to be filled….the grand gesture from the universe that I seek. The excitement, grandeur, adventure, glamour, indulgence, and sense of accomplishment that my brain tells me will make me happy. My heart knows that happiness comes from within. Now if only I could figure out how to find it. What a real treat that would be.

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