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Life Is Just a Bowl of Fruit Salad

[Ed. Note: This article was written in early March 2000, five and a half months after Hurricane Floyd]

I'm one of those people who eats the food on my plate one item at a time. In ascending order of preference, first to go is Veggie No. 1. Then Veggie No. 2. Then the protein. And then the salad.

I know there are some who take this even further, making sure that each item is separated from the others by a morsel-free zone. Nothing can touch.

I also know of others whose practice extends to the colors of the foods. Greens can't touch beiges. And their order of consumption starts at 0100 and works its way around the plate as if it were a clock.

Frankly, that would be way too much work for me. I'm not nearly that organized.

My practice began when I was a kid, and although I can't point to a specific day or incident, I suspect it has something to do with the time my father made me sit at the kitchen table until I finished everything on my plate. And — being the civilly disobedient child that I was — I sat there staring at that plate for hours, until I fell asleep face-first into it. Linguini Marinara, if my memory serves me.

So what does all this have to do with today, now, 30+ years later?

At the age of 37, my life is a bowl of fruit salad. Nothing is distinct, or self-contained, or whole, or complete and in its own skin. Everything has been chopped up into tiny little pieces and is mixed up with everything else. I like to savor the individual flavors — of life as well as fruit — to taste and truly know the sweet, the salty, the bitter, the sour. But now there's orange juice all over my blueberries, and the textures, each remarkable in its own way, have been reduced to a soggy mush.

Don't get me wrong — I like a good fruit salad. In fact, I've been known to toss a pretty impressive one myself. And it's fine when we're talking about a light meal or an appetizer or a snack. But not as the main course of a fixed and steady diet.

In my sometimes-naive-and-overly-optimistic way, I'm tempted to shout "Out with the old! In with the new!! Embrace your fruit-saladness!!"

Unfortunately, though, this burst of enthusiasm for diving into these fruit salad days evaporates quickly. And after the pep rally is over, I'm still left with some hard choices about what to do and how to make a life out of this wet and sloppy mess.

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Out of clutter find simplicity. From discord find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.  Albert Einstein

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