Tidying up my physical world only goes so far. Lately, I find my psychic space being cluttered by the simple act of following the news. So I’ve started tidying up my interior landscape by consciously limiting my sources and consumption of current events.
While I’m still appalled at the hate and fear demonstrated by my fellow citizens, I CANNOT remain in a state of agitation and high-alert between elections. My mental and physical health simply can’t afford the stress of getting (and staying) angry at every little (or big) thing our leaders or countrymen say and do. Ignoring the latest atrocious words that one man or his minions have tweeted is a conscious act of resistance and survival on my part.
First, I reject any “news” source that yells at me or allows shouting matches between those espousing opposing arguments. I click away from inflammatory headlines and name-calling–no matter which side they come from. A little NPR (National Public Radio) in the morning while dressing or the few minutes I spend in the car keeps me up to date. Thank you, NPR for not simply focusing on the latest horrible thing. Thank you for providing context, in-depth stories, and interviews with authors, musicians, scientists, and historians. Thank you.
Secondly, but in the same vein, I’ve decluttered my Facebook feed by shutting down my privacy settings. I’ve hidden or unfollowed posts and people (even a relative or two, sorry) who repeatedly spew hate or misinformation. Name-calling by either side also gets ignored or hidden. And I’ve cut WAY back on reacting to or commenting on political posts, since that only feeds the beast. My friends know where my bleeding heart and I stand. Furthermore, I really (really) try not to read the comments section which is inhabited by trolls who have long-forgotten the basic rule of civil discourse–
“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
A confession: I do indulge my dark side once in a while with a little dose of the snarky humor provided by Samantha Bee or Lewis Black. They get righteously angry so I don’t have to. But honestly, their humor (like others on both sides) strives too hard for gotcha moments that make the opposition just look dumb. I am increasingly drawn to Sarah Silverman’s Hulu series, I Love You, America. And I recently discovered a great podcast with Alan Alda in which Sarah talks about the series and explains her efforts to be more empathetic, even on Twitter.
Unlike some people, I really try to be even kinder on the internet than I am in real life. While I certainly vent among my like-minded friends and family, I don’t want to clutter up the universe with more rancor and awfulness. I know minds are not changed by arguments, but hearts can be changed by empathy.
Finally, I try to let go of things over which I have no control. Yes, I still write letters to my deaf Congressman and Senator, but I know my only real power is to change my response to what is going on. So I take deep breaths, listen to music, enjoy walks, practice yoga, or escape into a good book. I smile at strangers. I am generous with compliments and thank-yous. I vote.
And when the news is especially sad, I’ve been known to eat a few Dark Chocolate Peanut M&Ms. Just to take the edge off, you understand.
Here’s hoping for a week in which I don’t have to hit the hard stuff. Or buy a bigger bag.
Retiring certainly freed up my calendar but still, prioritizing my time and energy didn’t happen overnight. For a decade or more before I quit working, I tried to stop being the “Girl Who Can’t Say No.” I whittled away at commitments—both personal and professional. It took practice. I learned to say, “Let me get back to you” rather than giving an automatic yes. I handed off leading roles on committees and politely begged off a few social engagements.
However, the first year after I retired, I still found myself over-committed to political and social causes close to my bleeding-heart. And I continued to write Opinion pieces for our local paper, The Nevada Appeal. I joined clubs and attended meetings, but I soon discovered that meetings were rarely productive. For many attendees these were simply social events that accomplished little. After a career in education, I’d attended enough meetings. And with a large circle of friends I’d cultivated over decades in the same small town, I didn’t need to socialize with strangers. Heck, on a trip to the local farmers market I could easily run into a dozen acquaintances.
My time is precious. I mean, who knows how much I have left? Obviously, some organizations and calendar items didn’t make the cut.
Nonetheless, I did become a Weight Watcher leader. My rationale was that since I needed meetings to maintain my weight, I might as well get paid to go. I led meetings for eight years until we moved 45 minutes away. When leading meetings felt too much like a job, I stopped. I also bagged food for needy kids and played in a monthly charity bunco game. The money went to a variety of causes worthy of my time and energy–animal welfare, sexual assault, domestic violence, hungry kids. Bunco was fun and included dessert. A win-win. However, when we moved away those items slipped off my calendar too, along with contributing my columns to the paper.
Now ten years into retirement, I’m just as busy as I ever was, but even choosier about what goes on the calendar. Today it’s yoga classes, writers’ groups, my book club, bus stop duty with my granddaughter a few times a week, and volunteering in her classroom. Writing (and re-writing that beast of a novel), reading, and putting my feet up every afternoon have become priorities.
As I said before, time is precious and finite. I’m trying to spend mine wisely.
A few months ago, my Nurse Practitioner and I determined that a three-day bellyache was the result of an intolerance for milk protein and eggs. Since that time, I’ve cut back on both. Especially challenging has been finding breakfasts that have enough staying power (i.e. protein.) I also want these to be high on taste and fiber while staying low in fat, calories, sugar, and hence, Weight Watcher Smart Points (SPs). Yes, after over fifteen years on Maintenance, I still follow WW. Mostly.
Certainly, I could make a smoothie with veggie protein powder, but a tall, frosty glass of anything isn’t appealing when there is snow on the ground. And frankly a smoothie isn’t a very satisfying meal in general. I like to chew my food. In fact, the chewier the better.
With that in mind, here are a few breakfasts I’ve put into the morning rotation with no unborn chickens and only a little dairy now and then. It seems to be working. The Smart Points (SPs) are given, because that’s how I roll. For perspective, my daily SP budget is 23. All protein and Smart Point counts are estimates based on my calculations.
Something on toast: Tofutti cream “cheese” on half a bagel (6 SPs, 7 grams protein) or Better ‘n Peanut Butter on a Thomas Double Protein English Muffin. (7 SPs, 11 grams protein)
Bulgur wheat porridge: I’ve been making a big batch with almond milk instead of water. It takes about 20 minutes to cook but saves nicely in the fridge in an airtight container. I can simply microwave a portion for a few minutes, then add whatever fruit and sweetener I want. Berries or a banana are very tasty. 1 cup =5 SPs, 8 grams of protein made with almond milk and without added sugar
Garbanzo flour mini-frittatas: I found the recipe for these on Pinterest. Sauté whatever veggies sound good (spinach, zukes, onion, peppers, mushrooms…) and portion it out into muffin cups. Put ¼ cup of the “egg mixture” on top and bake. It makes a dozen, so I freeze 3-muffin portions in zip-lock baggies. They are a bit bland, so I splash on some green Tabasco before I eat. 3 mini-frittatas= 6 SPs, 10 grams of protein
Apple & turkey sausage pita pockets: I admit this one is a little weird. Maybe it’s my German heritage, but I think it’s super tasty. 1 chopped apple, 3 fully-cooked turkey sausage links cut into discs, 1 pita pocket (I like Josef’s), 2 Tbsp syrup (I used sugar-free, but that’s just me). Toss apple chunks into a fry pan that you’ve sprayed with some Pam. Start browning. Add turkey sausage. Cook and stir until they are browned a bit. Remove from heat. Stir in about 2 Tbsp of syrup. Spoon the mixture into two halves of a pita. 2 filled pita halves= 4-5 SPs, depending on pita, with sugar-free syrup, 13 grams of protein
Bob’s High Fiber Cereal: I can only find this online (or at Bob’s store in Portland, OR when I’m there), so I order a case and store it in freezer bags in the deep-freeze. Here’s my favorite way to make this: In a large-enough-to-allow-for-bubbling microwavable bowl, measure 1/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill Organic High Fiber Cereal, ½ Cup (or more) frozen mixed berries, and a scant 2/3 cup water. Microwave 5 minutes on 70% power. Top with 1 Tbsp brown sugar and ¼ cup of fat free plain Greek yogurt. Yes, yogurt. As long as I keep milk products to a minimum, my belly seems to be fine. One serving=6 SPs, 13 grams of protein when topped with Greek yogurt.
I still enjoy Eggo Low-fat toaster waffles with berries and yogurt from time to time and indulge in a couple of perfectly poached eggs on toast every few weeks. So far, so good. I have yet to explore the world of scrambled tofu. Maybe that’s next?
A few months ago, I suffered a bellyache that confined me to the couch with a heating pad for three days. Of course, it was over a weekend, so I waited until Monday to call my doctor’s office. Of course, he couldn’t see me right away. And of course, by the time I got in, the bellyache had pretty much resolved itself. When I finally got in, the wonderful Nurse Practitioner asked questions and listened as I described my symptoms. She grew suspicious of food allergies and sensitivities.
“I don’t have any,” I protested with a shrug. “I eat everything.”
She nodded, then ordered an ultrasound (to rule out anything really scary) and blood tests—a regular panel and a food sensitivity panel.
“The good news,” she assured me, “You’re not allergic to chocolate.”
But, why now?
It’s hard to believe that after 67 years of consuming milk, yogurt, and cheese nearly every day, that this could be the case. Nonetheless, I reviewed what I had eaten in the day or two leading up to that bad belly. It was my daughter’s birthday and I baked her a cheesecake. The filling hadn’t all fit into the pan, so I had cooked the extra separately. I had consumed some of that overage AND a generous slice on her birthday–as well as a slice (or two maybe? Don’t judge) of homemade deep-dish pizza. Are you counting up the dairy servings here?
Basically, I had OD-ed on dairy.
Some personal history
For over a decade I’ve stuck to a pretty healthy regimen of lean protein, whole grains, and lots of fruits and veggies. It’s allowed me to maintain the thirty-five-pound weight loss I achieved with the help of Weight Watchers. So, like anyone who is in the habit of looking at food labels and weighing the pros and cons of almost everything that goes into my mouth, I sought out nondairy alternatives for my favorite foods. I found many substitutes, some of which actually taste okay. Not delicious, but okay.
I learned a few things. For example, “nondairy” creamer contains casein, the milk protein. I also discovered that many of the milk substitutes offer little nutrition, especially protein and calcium. Some items (I’m looking at you, almond milk yogurt) are higher in calories than the items I’m trying to replace. Sure sorbet is dairy-free, but nowhere near calorie-free. A predicament for someone intent of maintaining what’s left of her girlish figure.
Breakfast protein has been my biggest challenge. Certainly, there are plenty of dairy-free, egg-free protein sources out there–nuts, beans, edamame. But will I eat a bowl of garbanzos for breakfast? Probably not.
For me the idea of never having a fro-yo, a poached egg, or a slice of Tillamook sharp cheddar again is unthinkable. Therefore, I’ve decided on a “middle of the road” strategy for now and have applied the 80/20 rule. 80% of my diet will accommodate my food sensitivities, especially dairy and eggs. No more than 20% will be from the forbidden list. With that in mind, I’ve cut way back on my cheese and yogurt consumption, substituted almond or soy milk in my lattes, enjoyed eggs just once a week, and spread Tofutti cream cheese on my bagel. So far, so good. No bad belly.
If you’ve faced similar food issues, what are you eating now? Have you discovered any helpful resources? Please share! I’ll post here from time to time as I figure this out.
Furthermore, since I don’t want troublesome foods gang up on me again, I won’t risk Eggs Benedict, fondue, lasagna, and cheesecake on the same day. Not even on my birthday.
Well, 90% water anyway.
With that in mind, I began my New Year’s meditation with a babbling creek. This is the image I intend to focus on this year. Just as a stream flows gently, effortlessly around logs and boulders in its path, I will find my way around every obstacle in my path. I will grow neither angry nor frustrated. I am water. I always find a way through and past a boulder. Even a dammed creek can only be held back for so long until it flows over the top or creates a new path. Nothing can withstand the persistent force of water. And in time, water erodes obstacles, dissolving them, turning them to sand.
I am water.