everything in moderation (including moderation)

It seems that Oscar Wilde spent a fair deal of time musing about human desire, and coming up with famous quotes like “I can resist anything except temptation”, and “everything in moderation, including moderation”.

I’ve been thinking over these quotes a bit recently because my horoscope said that my self-discipline and will-power would be tested in the coming months. (I generally only read my horoscopes occasionally, and just out of interest/curiosity, rather than to seek out guidance. I find they tend to give pretty general advice, anyway, like “avoid arguments at home/work” or “you will have a small win this week” – you know, stuff that can be applied to anyone. I don’t really have anything against horoscopes. Just, you know, take them with a grain of salt and some common sense.)

Well, anyway, this particular horoscope believed that I probably “eat, drink and spend too much” …which is probably a fair call. I am generally quite careful and frugal, but I will splash out now and then (mostly on food). Unfortunately, the horoscope had not warned me about one particular temptation…

Yesterday, being Friday, and being that I had longer work days on Monday and Tuesday, I had an early finish. The weather’s been warming up quite a bit, so I thought I’d go to the library and enjoy some aircon before going home. Thought I might pick up a good book, too. So, after treating myself to some lunch at a little eatery I’ve been meaning to try out for a while, off I went.

You can probably see where this is going, so I won’t drag it out too much. Generally when I browse the library shelves, I find maybe one or two novels that excite me enough to pick up and take to the check-out. On this particular afternoon, I found several, and actually had to tell myself to get out of the library before I found any more.

I’d originally gone in search of a copy of ‘Burial Rites’ (by Hannah Kent), which I was pleasantly surprised to find on one of the “recent returns” trolleys within about five minutes of searching. Such a short library visit is quite unheard of for me, so I browsed some more… and found ‘Kafka on the Shore’ (Haruki Murakami) and ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ (Gabriel Garcia Marquez). I also found ‘Clariel’ (Garth Nix) but had to (reluctantly) put it back because I knew there was no way that I’d finish more than three books within eight weeks (yeah, I don’t read very fast…)

Well, anyway, I was positively ecstatic with my yield. I was also a bit fearful for my self-control, but I think I’ve potentially discovered an explanation.

As I left the library, I contemplated getting a coffee and maybe a snack or something so that I could sit down and get straight into my new acquisitions (I would have just stayed in the library but, as I mentioned earlier, that place is full of temptation, and I couldn’t risk it). However, I quickly talked myself out of it, and just found a bench in a reasonably quiet section of the shopping centre.

As I headed home later, when the heat wasn’t so intense, contemplating the week-end, I was kind of grateful that I didn’t have plans (previous plans post-poned) because that meant I could spend the majority of my time being a hermit and reading. I did browse some shops before I went home, but I only bought a shirt, and some lollies to restock the “emergency” box at work. (I sometimes joke to new recruits that, while most places have first aid kits, we have a lolly box instead. But, don’t worry, we do have a proper first aid kit as well. It is a pharmacy, after all!)

So, as you can see, I avoided all unnecessary eating, drinking and spending. The area of least self-control (but arguably still ok, since I didn’t pick up more than three books) is perhaps library borrowing. I think that perhaps I’m subconsciously compensating for tightening up other areas by allowing myself to borrow more books. I reckon I’ve borrowed more books from the library in these last few months than I did all of last year (NB: not sure if this is actually true at all).

It is also possible that my frugal subconscious is taking advantage of the inverse relationship between books borrowed and books bought: the more books I borrow from the library, the less I buy from shops. I own a lot of books that I haven’t even read yet, and I think this is because I know that I could read those at anytime …so I go and get more books…

I think on my next visit to the library – to return these three books after finishing them – I won’t borrow any books. I’ll just go treat myself to some ice-cream or something instead.