It seems natural to think about deprivation while I’m on a monodiet. Deprivation: the taking away of anything enjoyed; dispossession, loss (OED)
As I ponder deprivation, I find myself considering it from a number of angles. To begin with the obvious: food. What do I feel the loss of? Mostly coffee. Pizza. Bread. I enjoy these things. But taking a short break from them is not much of a deprivation, really. I’m lucky to have so much variety and so many options in my food choices. So despite the fact that I am technically taking away things I enjoy from my diet, it’s not a dispossession. I still have agency and they will be waiting for me when this is over. (I’m looking at you, half-caf iced coffee.)
The role of choice and agency in deprivation is deeply interesting. Dispossession. I’m uncomfortable with this word (as I’m equally uncomfortable with its counterpart, possession). There’s violence inherent in dispossession. And there’s the specter of possession, of property, to be addressed. Of which I am somewhat suspicious. What do we truly possess? So many things, from international headlines to local events to the familiar ache of a break up, are reminders of the temporary nature of our lives. “Deprived of life” is a phrase that gets bandied about sometimes. Do we possess even our lives, to be deprived of them? I can’t say that I can answer that question. Deprivation, in terms of agency and choice, are often outside of our control. You can’t control your circumstances, but you have some choice in your reaction to circumstances. Hokey, but true, to varying degrees. (There are other elements to this idea that I will save for another blog. Suffice to say that I know that I’m working with big generalizations at the moment.)
I realize that I’m often able to make change in my life when I feel like I have agency, not when something feels like deprivation. When I formally changed from an omnivorous to a pescetarian diet, I didn’t feel deprived of meat (not even bacon). I’m not particularly into meat-imitations because I’m not looking to trick myself into thinking I’ve eaten meat. And I continue to eat fish partially because I would feel deprived if I cut it out (although I hope that one day that will shift). When I have recurring nightmares about an interaction with someone, it’s because I didn’t own my agency, I did something I regret, and I feel deprived of the company of someone I genuinely care for. Awareness is not outside the circle, either.
The more I consider it, the more I can see the fear of deprivation working in my life. If I say or do “X,” will I alienate person Y? If I stay home instead of going out, what am I missing out on? When a relationship ends, am I deprived of a future and a past? But the reality is that I have a comfortable, stable life in a country that has its fair share of issues, but I’m not in any immediate physical danger. While it’s true that life is by nature precarious (an interesting word to unpack), I have the luxury of pursuing what I enjoy – granted not necessarily to earn my keep, but still a huge luxury. When I stop thinking about what I might be losing and focus instead on my experiences and the people I have shared my time with, it’s awfully hard to feel deprived.