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More than you can chew . . .

Ever bite into a submarine sandwich and in the next instant realize you’ve bitten off far too much? The bread seems to mushroom into an enormous wad of cotton. You vainly push the chunk from one side of your mouth to the other, hoping your molars will reduce it to a manageable size. You reach for any available liquid to moisten the wad. If you weren’t in company, you’d spit it out. But you are, so you keep chewing, your cheeks puffed out like Dizzy Gillespie. Midway through the ordeal, your jaws hurt, your tongue is tired, your teeth ache. You repent, swearing off subs for the rest of your life. By the time the hunk is in your stomach, you’ve earned a case of TMJ dysfunction. Maybe indigestion as well.

The admonition “don’t bite off more than you can chew” is not about food, although nothing brings it home more quickly than over-stuffing our mouths. It’s about taking on things beyond our capabilities, for example, thinking we can do something in a day when it will take a week. We all do it, though, we all think we can do more than is reasonable or wise. We end up stressed, frustrated and discouraged. I should have learned that lesson long ago, but I still tend to take on more than I should. Human nature, I guess.

On occasion, the consequences of overestimating one’s abilities are disastrous. I had gone to a preserve on the Indian River Lagoon not far from our condo in Florida for some quiet time when I saw something atop the water, slowly floating toward shore. It looked odd, like someone’s tube sock had gotten tossed overboard. Each wave brought it closer. As it neared the dock, I could see it was a fish, but it didn’t look right. Something was in its mouth, its jaws wide open. The fish wasn’t decomposed in the least, in fact, it looked so fresh I thought it might swim off. It didn’t move, though, and eventually was washed ashore.

It was such an unexpected sight that I went to investigate, clambering over the rough rock stabilizing the shore to the edge of the water. Once I got to the fish, I laughed out loud. It was a spotted sea trout, quite dead, with a fish that was too big to swallow stuck in its gaping mouth. On closer inspection, I discovered two fish stuck in its gullet. A case of gluttony if ever I'd seen one. Poor fish. It had no one to administer the Heimlich maneuver. The eyes were wide, as if its last thought was, “Why did I do that?”

Lucky for my husband and me, it was quite fresh. I took it back to the condo where we had it for dinner. It was delicious.

P.S. In the spirit of this post, I will blog less frequently, once or twice a week instead of daily. Thanks to everyone for reading and subscribing!

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