Every once in a while, I will see things that inspire me in choosing a topic for my column. Last week, I was sitting at a stop light watching a gentleman with a leaf blower trying to clean up his sidewalk on a day when the wind was blowing over 15 miles per hour.

At first it was comical watching the man blow a pile of debris out into the road just to have it blown right back by the wind. Personally, at this point, I would have given up and gone to some other task, but this guy just kept chasing one leaf this way and another leaf another way. Just when it seemed he had gotten them all together, a huge gust of wind would come and blow them all back to where they were originally.

It struck me this was the modern-day example of the Greek myth about Sisyphus, who was condemned to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, just to have it come crashing back down. Although I’m sure he was frustrated, the fellow just kept blowing the same pile of leaves onto the sidewalk, just to have them come right back two seconds later. I don’t know how long he did this or why he chose the windiest day of the year to blow leaves, but it got me to thinking.

How many times in our lives do we do things over and over again, but never get what we expected? Dr. Phil (the TV advice guy) says that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over but expect different results. How many times have we told ourselves I’m not going to call this person because we always end up in an argument? Or I’m not going to argue with my mother when she starts criticizing.

We are strong at first, but eventually we break down and do the thing we told ourselves we were not going to do. And guess what? The exact thing happened that you thought would happen. Yet we are still shocked and angered at the results. What is it about us humans that make us gluttons for punishment? Why do we have to push the big red button that says “Do not push!”?

I am guilty of it myself. I love the Kickin’ Chicken sandwich at Zaxby’s, but every time I eat one, I become sick to my stomach. I don’t know if it’s the grease or the spicy sauce, but it just doesn’t agree with me. I know this and I remember how bad I felt the last time, but it doesn’t make me change. I “reason” with myself that maybe this time will be different — maybe if I eat it really slowly; maybe if I only eat half, it won’t be so bad.

Of course, it is always the same result. I always end up in bed with a tummy ache, although I thoroughly enjoyed eating it.

I am a college-educated, fairly intelligent, 40-something mother of two who would point out this fault in another person in a second, but yet I keep doing the same stupid thing over and
over.

It is just like people who keep going back to their abuser because they say they’ve changed or the alcoholic who says he or she can have one drink. Most of the time, things stay the same as always, but we are disappointed when the outcome isn’t any different than the last time.

Do we do it because we hope it will be different eventually, or do we just convince ourselves that we can make something change by wanting it hard enough? Why is it we can recognize what we are doing, can predict exactly what is going to happen, yet choose to do it anyway? It’s insanity. It’s like blowing leaves in a windstorm. You’re just wasting your time, running in circles and not accomplishing anything.
Sharon Myers writes for The Lexington (N.C.) Dispatch. She can be reached at sharon.myers@the-dispatch.com. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @LexDispatchSM.