Chardon's Center for Self-Indulgence
Has self-sacrifice left you at a loss?
Self-discipline beating you down?
Are you tied up in knots in the name of self-restraint?
Should you find your willpower waning,
Come to the place where excess is admirable,
Where guilty pleasures meet instant gratification*,
Where vice begets virtue.
Pay a visit (it’s free!) to Chardon’s Center for Self-Indulgence.
I pride myself on being disciplined. It helps maintain the illusion of control. Everything in my life is measured. I once stood at our range extending a Stanley Leverlock 16’ tape measure over a frying pan as the box pancake mix denoted a serving size of four 4” diameter cakes. This was before I realized it also said ‘about 1/2c of dry mix.’ On some level I must enjoy restriction. It’s the same way our orange tabby enjoys being petted - up until the moment his teeth are sunk into your arm. Suffice it to say I take Lent in stride, perhaps not having given up the right things. I subscribe to the ethos of minimalism. Each week on Tuesday I stand in our kitchen opening every drawer and cupboard scrutinizing utensils as I would criminals in a line-up. This week I eliminated a set of wooden serving spoons and drew a deeper breath. With great pains I organize my week for optimal efficiency. Paradoxically, doing so takes an inordinate amount of time - most of Sunday evening - yet allows me to sleep that night. Monday I awake an unwilling participant in the plan, compelled to rebel without cause until midweek when, my former wisdom rediscovered, obedience reigns anew. Some days discipline doesn’t feel like freedom. Some days I long for normalcy of the abnormal sort portrayed in television sitcoms. Mostly, I desire to be eccentric just not in that ways that I am.
There’s a place I go in Chardon to let loose the bonds of self-control, a place where I’m uninhibited. It isn’t far from home. In fact it’s right on the Square. Likely you’ve walked past it, perhaps even through it without realizing the liberties it offers. It doesn’t serve wine although that would be lovely. An affectionate domesticated pet could lend something to the ambience. Full-length pencils would be good. Nonetheless. In this place I’m free to satisfy my whims, aimlessly seek entertainment, take up leisure, engage or withdraw, lose track of time, lose focus, change direction, act on impulses, mindlessly consume. Within its walls I’m easy-going, flexible, light-hearted, affable, spontaneous even. I may indulge my inner child, find myself, lose myself, diagnose myself, find God, a recipe for beef bourguignon, passage on a vessel to an uncharted land, learn to fold origami, draw anime, keep bees, arrange furniture, write a fiction novel in 30 days, experience the world through the life of an Amish baker, an Irish immigrant, a teenage girl in love with a vampire, a man in the belly of a whale, a jail matron in the 1920’s, a veterinarian in rural England, a wife of Ernest Hemingway, a cat in a hat. I can visit any day of the week, come as I am, go as I please, and take all I want without paying a dime. I’m a patron of the Chardon Library, endowed with all its rights and privileges in perpetuity. Are you?
There are mystical forces at work within the library; those with the power to transform frailty into strength. I stand among its stacks the way I stand in line at King Kone - eyes wide, calculating the most favorable combination of ingredients - I’ll have a brownie delight sundae with chocolate peanut butter ice cream drowned in butterscotch and fudge. Nuts? Sure. Whipped cream? Why not. But hold the cherry, let’s be reasonable. The library is an all-you-can-eat menu and I can always eat. I overindulge without gaining an ounce though I do gain respect. The only reputation I’ll earn for binge reading is that of being well-read. At any one time I can borrow 75 items, plenty for an artfully arranged stack. Being temporary residents of my home they’re weightless. I return them guilt-free, sometimes before I’ve even read them. Of course there are always more books to be read. The librarians are enablers, pushing their BookPage magazines, making recommendations. Pretty soon you’re huddled outside the doors at 8:45am in subzero weather. The library was made for cheapskates like me. The books are free, the programs are free, and it’s damn near impossible to incur a fine. I take out loan after loan after loan and never pay it back. I can max out my library card, use until it splits in two then get a new one. If I need to be heard I attend bookclub where it doesn’t matter if I loved the book, hated it or never cracked the cover. I still get my say, get my free cookies, too. When I need to feel superior there’s a book for that. There’s always a character who’s got it worse than me, or better, for when I need inspiration. And after all that reading I can smugly post my conquests on Instagram, take a selfie in round tortoiseshell glasses with a book cover that compliments my eyes, #bookstagram #bookhoarder #readingissexy.
In an unadulterated display of self-indulgence I once witnessed a fellow patron picking his nose, digging deep with reckless abandon, and while within 3’ of me. At the time we were facing each other and unfortunately both using the computers. On the one hand I was horrified but on the other it was sort of poetic.
Come visit the Chardon Library. Satisfy your deepest longings, appease your inner desires, succomb to your urges, embrace the hedonist within. Whatever you do, just don’t dog-ear the pages. That’s taking it too far.
*Unless the book you want must be sourced from another library in which case it’ll be a few days.