In a psychology class I took in college (during my brief stint as a psych major), there was a lecture on what determines our personalities. One of the factors was what the professor called energy endowment. Some people are born to be energetic and some aren’t. Your energy level would certainly affect your personality.
I recall thinking at the time, Well, that explains a lot. I’m not blessed with much of an energy endowment. I wasn’t especially lazy or anything, you understand. I went to my classes, I was diligent about my homework, and I worked as a waiter on weekends to make a few bucks. But I didn’t crave physical activity. I liked reading, playing in a band, and talking about every subject under the sun with my friends. I was never the guy who said, “Hey, let’s go play football in park!” Sometimes I did go play football in the park if other guys invited me, but I was kind of relieved when it was over and we all went to sit down in a pub.
Fast-forward 35 years …
The forecast for Saturday was rain all day. Just as well … I knew Chareva and I wouldn’t be doing farm work together because she took Sara to a seminar for girls on math and science careers. So I figured I’d spend the day indoors, working on my speech for the upcoming cruise.
As I was sitting at my desk and going over the speech, I noticed a ray of sunshine peeking through the window blinds. Then I felt mild tension in my right calf. I looked down to see my right foot inching towards the door.
“Excuse me, foot. What do you think you’re doing?”
“It hasn’t rained all day. I want to go out.”
“And do what, exactly?”
“Well, I’m a foot, so it would probably be something that involves walking, genius.”
Not wanting an angry foot on my hands, I gave in and played 18 holes of disc golf in the front pastures. Then Alana and I took food and water to the chickens in the front pasture and collected the eggs. Then we took food and water to both flocks of chickens in the back pasture. Then we took food and water to the hogs.
Feeling I’d done right by the foot, I sat at my desk to go over the speech.
“You know, it’s still not raining.”
“Yes, I know. The forecast was wrong. Big surprise.”
“Well, I want to go back out.”
“But I have to—”
“You can always write later if it rains.”
Can’t argue with that logic. So I went out and played another 18 holes of disc golf. When I tried to take my shoes off to go inside, the right foot refused to let go of the leather.
“What now? That’s 36 holes already!”
“I’m just negotiating on behalf of your arms. They don’t talk much.”
“Well, what do they want?”
“Work. I mean, real work. Tossing those little discs around isn’t work.”
“Tell them Chareva is gone, and the next farm chore is stringing more fencing. That’s a two-person job.”
“Hang on … They say the driveway could use more patching.”
“Well, yeah, now that you mention it …”
“You need to fill in the holes with rocks. They like that idea. Rocks are heavy.”
Chareva’s garden cart was full of tools, tarps, gloves, zip-ties and other items dumped in there in no apparent order, which means she planned it that way. I decided not to mess with her system, even though the garden cart is good for hauling rocks.
So I took a big bucket down to the creek, which serves as my quarry when I need rocks. For the next couple of hours, I scooped rocks and gravel from the creek into the bucket. Then I hand-carried the loaded bucket from the creek, across the front pasture, and to the top of our driveway, making sure to switch arms so neither would feel left out. Then I filled canyons and craters in the driveway with rocks and gravel. When we get a few days with no rain in the forecast, I’ll mix up some Quikrete and pour it between and on top of the rocks.
The rain that had been forecast all day finally came. My muscles were tired by then, so the foot and his silent companions didn’t complain when I went inside.
In Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes wrote about what he calls the compulsion to move. We see lean people who move around a lot and fat people who don’t, so we assume the lean people are lean because they’re active.
Taubes says that’s getting the causality backwards. Lean people are lean because their bodies aren’t hormonally geared to store a disproportionate share of calories as fat. When they eat, their bodies would rather burn the calories than store them – so they feel a compulsion to move. Longitudinal studies have shown that despite what most people think, kids don’t sit around and then get fat. They start getting fat first, then sit around more – because they’ve lost the compulsion to move.
I believe there is such a thing as an energy endowment and that it’s partly genetic. Some people are born bouncy and stay bouncy. Others, not so much. But diet has to figure into it as well. When I was college, hardly a day went by when I didn’t eat wheat. Toast or cereal in the morning, a sandwich for lunch, noodles or a roll with dinner – heck, that’s just normal food, right?
Now I rarely touch wheat. But when I do – like, say, for my very rare pizza indulgence – I can feel the difference the next day. I lose my enthusiasm for physical activity. I feel like I did back in the days when I believed I was born with a low energy endowment.
I don’t have that low energy endowment anymore. I’m not the bouncy type and never will be. But when the weekend rolls around, I feel a compulsion to move.