It is a constant struggle to maintain focus at my white collar office job, which is, more often than not, as thrilling as an enema. This is no small matter in a brain where, all year-round, dopamine and norepinephrine flow like molasses in January – unless I go skydiving before breakfast. Boredom has the same destructive potential in the brain of a person with attention deficit disorder (ADD) as lightning in a tinder dry forest.
When an office do-gooder arrives to work with a self-satisfied smile wielding plastic containers teeming with delectable, home-baked chocolate cupcakes for all to share, it is like a match that sets my mind aglow. It is an admirable gesture: bring cupcakes for co-workers. It also happens to be the bane of my existence when these office ne’er-do-wells put their sugary wares on a table only a few feet from my boring, stimulus-deficient cubicle.
The mere fact of being in an office quickly obliterates what little self-restraint I’ve instilled with my daily spiritual practices. It does not take much for all traces of composure, lofty intentions to preserve dignity and maintain good conduct, to be swept away by a tidal wave of adrenaline at the sight of a full plate of cupcakes.
The profound lack of willpower that has me hoarding complimentary dainties is amplified by the boredom; it grows like an invasive species of weed in the mind of an ADD-afflicted adult made to spend hours in the day-prisons we like to call an “office”. My particular cell is made up of grey, padded dividers; one of many erected in a fluorescent-lit room with staid carpets, randomly placed filing cabinets, and grimy walls made of a synthetic material that never looks clean, even when washed with buckets of sulfuric acid. People have the audacity to suggest this travesty of interior design is a suitable, humane workplace.
There are several cures for white-collar office doldrums in which I could easily indulge – drugs, alcohol, porn, on-line shopping, gossip, and toxic behaviour. For me, food is my self-medication of choice; it fends off the onslaught of disillusionment over career and mid-life disappointments that have come crashing down on my psyche like a truck-sized ACME anvil in a Looney Toons cartoon.
One of my fail-safe prescriptions for food-borne self-medication is chocolate, preferably that which comes in a moist, cake-like form. Cupcakes are my Shawshank Redemption; my escape from white-collar lock-down. Once I start into a cupcake at work, particularly when it’s free, I’m done. It’s like Kryptonite to my self-control. It is my magic pill.
For this reason, I don’t bring treats to the office; they would be devoured before lunch – most likely just after breakfast. Why? Because I hate offices. For me, they are synonymous with an Elizabethan torture chamber; a prison where my soul is placed in the pillory, my body slammed into an iron maiden, and my will to live ripped asunder on the rack. Shitty food momentarily floods my mind, weakened by such daily insults, with endorphins sufficient to sustain the delusion that a cubicle is a sensible place for me to be. Saturated fats and sugar intoxicate my mind just enough to silence the Mormon Tabernacle Choir of self-recrimination for putting myself in this intolerable situation.
That is why I keep stashes of herbal tea at my desk – the same batch I’ve been carting from office-to-office since my first job. I’ve learned to live with the pillory, to sing along with my ominous choir. I bring granola and raisins, a weekly supply of almonds, and keep yogurt and apples in the fridge. I make sensible choices such as these because I am aware that over-indulgence in toxic food to lift a wilting spirits is, in the end, a way to permanently crush them – with a heart attack or stroke.
I pat myself on my back for being such a well-disciplined, health-conscious guy. I “lean in” to the torture of my office cubicle existence; I don’t use cupcakes to mollify the self-hatred for all the impulsive, unplanned life choices that put me here instead of where I should be. But then, the unhinged do-gooder brings a container with two rows of chocolate cupcakes and leaves them on that cabinet just outside my cubicle.
Why do people gotta be so fucking nice?
As I walk to the kitchen to get my lunch, the delectable scent of sweet cocoa cuts across my face like an engorged breast to a nursing infant. In an instant, the nutritious helping of almonds and yogurt I am about to eat mentally mutates into a bunch of cockroaches frantically dog-paddling to wrest free from a vat of bull jizz. It seems hardly worth the effort to walk all the way to the lunchroom for such a deplorable meal when chocolate muffins are an arm’s length away.
“Hey idiot, you shouldn’t have chocolate dainties for a second breakfast,” says the aspiring, emotionally-intelligent asshole I call ‘Adult-me.’
“But office do-gooder will be disappointed if these treats they worked so hard to prepare go uneaten,” the tenuously socialized man-child I call ‘ADD-me’ responds.
“Nice try. Now, step away from the dainties dip-shit,” Adult-me orders.
Adult-me weasels his way into my consciousness when his over-zealous ‘ADD-Impulsivity Detector’ (AID) senses a precipitous increase in the amygdala’s activation, which stirs ADD-me awake. Adult-me intervenes before the amygdala dispatches ADD-me into the world, usually without a road-map to ensure he behaves accordingly. When there are free dainties and nobody looking, ADD-me tends to take seven instead of just one, which elicits Adult-me’s recriminations.
Adult-me has been calling shotgun in my mental driver’s seat since college – and for good reason. ADD-me is a little impulsive, says the wrong things, does not like to delay gratification, and has a tendency to crave over-indulgence in pleasant thongs; I mean things. As a young man, Adult-me cottoned-on to ADD-me’s predilection for quick, easy stimulation to quell boredom and satiate constant feelings of inner dread.
Adult-me has no idea how it came to pass that I woke up in a hotel bed fully dressed in my suit, with my shoes still on, and a completely untouched, half-naked woman beside me. He sure did castigate the drunken ADD-me thrill-seeker who got us there. Was he the cock-blocker who forced the ADD-me to be a gentleman and fall asleep as she freshened up to avoid the chance of mutual regret? Most probably. It wouldn’t have been the first time the killjoy Adult-me swooped in to douse the little fire ADD-me started before it became an inferno.
Adult-me remembers nothing before midnight on New Year’s Eve 1991 when he arrived to find ADD-me on the dance floor sharing a champagne bottle, doing the tongue-tango, and engaging in pre-coital rituals with the ugly-duckling younger sister of a friend who, after I hadn’t seen her for several years, had grown into a beautiful swan and wanted to spread her wings with me. On another occasion he was indifferent to the magic tricks ADD-me performed to convince two young women to shove me into a bedroom at a party and start taking my clothes off.
Adult-me would make his appearance at the moment the space shuttle mission envisioned by ADD-me was about to take off. As he arrived he would sigh with disapproval, “Edmund, how did you get us here?” Having to ponder the question compelled ADD-me to flee the scene so I could figure it out. Thus, the space shuttle mission was scuttled and everyone went home disappointed.
Once Adult-me appeared, ADD-me would be sent to his room, leaving the neurotic, inhibited buffoon to finish out the scenario. Most often, that socially-challenged moron knew no better than to put the paint-brush between his toes and turn a would-be experiential masterpiece into something resembling a finger-painting done by a baby chimpanzee.
Fast-forward several decades, where I now consider Adult-me a real fucking Cassandra. Sure he makes sure my bills are only a half-month late and intervenes so I only forget about one or two important things in any given week, despite phone, work-email, Outlook, and dozens of sticky notes to remind me. He tells me it’s not okay to talk turkey to my kids, as ADD-me once did before realizing children need support and not turkey from their parents. That’s when Adult-me took up Buddhist meditation.
Adult-me locks ADD-me’s jaw shut tightly in those fiery moments when “fuck you!” is dying to come out of his mouth with disastrous effect. Adult-me tells ADD-me not to quit my job even though they both agree it is dreadful and hate it. Adult-me knows it would be a serious hassle to lose a regular, upper-middle class paycheque without having a solid plan in place for the next step. ADD-me wants to kick the shit out of Adult-me for somehow getting us into this situation. There’s no way in hell, left to his devices, ADD-me would have wound up in a career that had him sitting in a cubicle taking orders from schmucks higher up an arbitrary corporate ladder.
The problem is, Adult-me didn’t let me be as young and stupid as I could have been; and should have been. He became far too self-disparaging when shutting down ADD-me. Now that I am old, I am feeling wistful about the good times I could have had were it not for Adult-me, who has over-zealously adorned a veil of fear about the risks of ADD-me getting a little slack. Adult-me doesn’t seem to trust fun and wanton depravity in small doses. He doesn’t have a lot of faith in ADD-me or ‘Real-me’, for that matter.
So when all I want to do is douse my mid-life malaise with a fistful of chocolate muffins, Adult-me is there, as usual, to rain on the parade. ADD-me is so goddamed tired of his logic, his high-minded principles, his rule-following he wants to scream.
“Kiss my ass, Adult-me! I’m gonna get me some sugar!”
Having locked Adult-me in the closet, ADD-me tears the lid off that bin of free cupcake muffins like a grabby-handed teenager getting the green light to go past second base for the first time.
“Why are these bras so hard to unclip?” ADD-me thinks, leaving a bizarre look on my face.
I grabbed, squeezed, and tugged at the tray of muffins without rhyme or reason. Like Michael Douglas in 1990’s classic Basic Instinct – when it was still considered mainstream and acceptable to depict sexual animus with rapist violence – I lustfully ripped the fancy-pants off those cupcakes exposing their raw, sultry bottoms. Before I knew it, I had three undressed muffins in the palm of my hands, reeling with anticipation. I gritted my teeth and said “I am gonna eat the shit out of you!”
But then Adult-me yelled at the top of his lungs, “Who made these?”
ADD-me wondered if it was the angry lady from the first floor who hates her job so much the plants in the office wilt a little when she trudges past them, smothering them in her misery. She smokes at the entrance to the building, forcing everyone to pass through her toxic cloud of negativity and wilful courting of death. I doubt she’d bring cupcakes for people, unless it was a revenge-plot and they were laced with hemlock.
I gave my head a shake and took a deep inhale. Neither the container nor the muffins smelled as though they had been arm-wrestling bikers in a whiskey bar the night before. Angry lady didn’t make them.
Tidal waves of saliva crashed into the back of my teeth. The twinge between my legs blossomed as my palate readied itself for the rapacious muffilingus it would soon perform to satiate my sugary supplications. Every breath I took suspended all worries or cares about anything woeful in my life. I figuratively stroked my axons and dendrites to the scent of the palate-porn in my hands. I felt like Al Pacino staring at a mountain of cocaine in Scarface.
“Isn’t it customary when treats are left for everyone to take just one, Edmund?” said quintessential hater Adult-me.
ADD-me should have gagged him before locking him in his room.
“Um, who’s talking? Sorry, wrong number,” ADD-me said, feeling clever.
And then ADD-me stuffed those babies in my mouth as if we’d been stranded for three weeks by a plane crash in the Alps and our last meal was a seatmate’s thigh.
“Oh. Oh. Oh, yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout. Uh-huh. Yep. Oh baby, don’t stop going down. Yeah, like that. Let me show you how …,” ADD-me moaned.
Okay, so Adult-me was partly right. The shame didn’t feel great.
“You’re a bad man, Edmund. You need to grow up. You probably would smother a litter of kittens after a bad day, wouldn’t you? You steer your car to run over cute, fluffy bunnies running across the road. You are a gluttonous child,” says Adult-me, chastising ADD-me, as usual.
To quote Joe Pesci from Goodfellas, “Hey Adult-me, are you bustin’ ADD-me’s balls over here?” You know Joe, I think he is bustin’ my balls. I think he thinks I’m a clown. I think I amuse him. Why don’t you, me, and De Niro grab some shovels and lime, line the trunk of the caddy with some plastic, and take Adult-me for a “little drive” upstate. I work hard to pig out on muffins, and I want to eat them without that fucking wise guy busting my chops about it.