Feast or Fast

I’ve been accused of over-preparing food.

The people who would scold me for said crime are the same ones who would complain if I didn’t make their personal favorite dish for EVERY celebration.

Food is a love language, so I guess you could say I’m bilingual. Fluent, actually. 

The irony is, I eat only a small fraction of what I cook. I’ll spare the details behind my restrictive diet but suffice it to say that I’m no stranger to food anxiety. As such, I’ve engaged in countless elimination diets in an effort to quiet the beast within whilst nourishing myself.

The bright side of ‘selective intake’ is a much healthier body than the teen version of me who grew up in the break-out generation of fast food and sugared cereal.

Much is written these days about the benefits of fasting.  The practice is both fashion-forward and archaic, having been used for a range of reasons from physiologic prowess to spiritual enlightenment.

Pope Francis provided this gem:

The most appealing diet ever! Of course I adopted it on the spot and posted it in several areas of my home like an amateur. Could I not have predicted that Husband would ask me in a sarcastic and self-righteous tone how my fast was going when I became impatient? And immediately after that when I snapped at him for asking?

Seriously, I did pretty well considering the near impossible odds of actually getting over the habit of being myself. I’ve been on the personal growth block long enough to know that baby steps are a win. When anger rises up, noticing it and stopping it 3 seconds earlier than usual is cause for celebration.

The idea of fasting from that which brings us down and feasting on that which raises all of us up, is delicious AND nutritious. Bonus: it’s free food. It costs nothing to indulge in joy and hope and gratitude.

Junk ‘food’ on the other hand comes with a hefty price. Pessimism and resentment are thieves that will rob us blind and ruin our relationships in the process.

Spiritual fasting isn’t any easier than the physical version. I doubt I’ll avoid my propensity to shout when triggered. But if I can shed a few pounds of worry…

I suspect I’ll be a happier and healthier version of me.

Finding Freedom From Parental Worry

Once upon a time there was a mother who worried.

This mother turned her worry into a part-time job and often forgot to enjoy the experience of raising humans. She mistakenly thought that if she worried enough, she could thwart impending disaster and spare herself unimaginable heartache.  

For this mistaken belief, she suffered. Bargaining with the devil is costly and Satan takes all forms of payment. The mother lost sleep, sanity and serenity. 

The weight of worry grew in proportion with the children. Stories of teen escapades were revealed in bits and pieces, making the mother woozy. But shockingly, none of the stories equalled the terrifying possibilities that marinated in her imagination.

In other words, most of the mother’s fears never came to pass.

Reflecting on the fact that she had invested far too much in the fruitless schemes of the mind, the mother determined that it was time to reclaim her peace. 

The mind, she determined, was like an unsafe neighborhood. Best not to enter unaccompanied, lest fear lure her into a dark alley and rob her. 

Over time, the mother learned to keep company with more amiable companions like love and trust. She began praying and practicing the principle of detachment. Gradually, she felt lighter. Anxiety had been a heavy weight to carry.

These days, the mother practices safe thinking with the fervor of a zealot. Now that she has tasted freedom, alternative options have lost their appeal.

When a young adult son shares photos of his escapades….

the first thing she sees is Joy instead of Pain; Fun instead of Danger. And she, too, feels happy. Without fear lurking over her shoulder, the mother is able to partake in the amusement of her children’s lives.

Sometimes the mother entertains Regret and wants to cry over foregone chances at happiness. But instead, she works on self-forgiveness because she’s finally wise enough to recognize thieves in all their cunning disguises.

COVID – The Gift That Keeps Giving

All I got for Christmas was COVID. Needless to say, I hadn’t put it on my wish list. But per usual, Life has its own ideas about gift-giving. 

As an extreme rule-follower, and a self-described pandemic poster child, I thought I would escape 2020 unscathed. Silly human.  If this past year has taught us anything, it’s that our delusions of control are grossly misguided. Life isn’t a puppet for us to manipulate. 

Our egos would have us believe that if we are _______ enough, we will succeed in getting what we want. No matter our age, experience, or level of maturity, we never seem to shed the immature notion that we can bend fate in our favor. When we fail, the disappointment can be hard to swallow.

The mind is like a toddler who can’t sit still in a church pew. Constantly jumping from one thought to the next, future-past-future-past, it repeatedly asks ‘Why?’ and ‘What if?’ edging out any chance of being content with what comes to pass.

When I was carrying my 4th baby, after having lost my 3rd during pregnancy, anxiety ruled my existence.  By cutting and pasting the tragedy of the past into a possible future recurrence, I robbed myself of the opportunity to enjoy what turned out to be a healthy pregnancy. In truth, no amount of catastrophe practice would have saved me from suffering fresh pain had the outcome been negative. Instead of fearing and fretting, I could have chosen to been happy. 

Trying to impress this lesson upon my high school senior who awaits college acceptance letters is no easier than it was to appease the Christmas-morning anticipation she had as a child. We want to know outcomes and reasons so we can end the emotional war within. But it is this need to know that actually perpetuates the battle.

Eckhart Tolle advises, “Give up waiting as a state of mind….snap out of it. Just be and enjoy.” Letting go of anything should be easier than holding on. When I grasp a heavy object in my hand, it takes effort. When I release my effort and stop contracting my muscles, the burden of holding eases. 

The irony is that when it comes to letting go of our ideas about what should’ve happened or what we wish to happen, we find ourselves somewhat incapable of releasing our grip, no matter how much it pains us to hold on. 

Emerging on the other side of illness, I’m reminded that the fear of a thing is often worse than the thing. When one finds themselves face to face with something they dread, there’s no choice but to deal with it. Action brings relief from anticipation.

I’ve never welcomed any adversity I’ve encountered. And yet, I’ve also never met a challenge that I couldn’t shake hands with when we parted. Illness, loss, and struggle are simultaneously impersonal and bespoke, providing for each of us exactly what we need in order to practice making peace with life.

I find myself humbled by Life once again, and grateful for reminding me that I am vulnerable but not victimized. Even in 2020, Life is a place I’m glad to be.

Thanksgiving 2020

Of all the things that have provoked my anxiety in 2020, gravy-making holds an embarrassingly prominent spot on the list. Familiar readers will attest to my solid level of skill in the kitchen.  But the daunting task of creating this undeniably critical turkey-topping has negated any confidence gained from 25 years of culinary domestication.

For years I have left this intimidating aspect of Thanksgiving meal prep to the family matriarch.  But thanks to the pandemic, my pinch-hitter will be absent – safely ensconced in isolation where she will await a socially-distanced delivery of food made by yours truly.

If I’ve learned anything from the relentless ‘growth opportunities’ served up by 2020, it’s that I can do hard things, like surrendering my previously under-appreciated life to a virus, and separating pan drippings from fat to make gravy.

The invitation to rise above something as monumental as a pandemic (or a gravy recipe), has its appeal. A historical glance is enough to remind us that challenge and effort have a merit of their own, irrespective of outcome. If the figurative gravy over our lives doesn’t pan out this year, can we still enjoy the meal?

On one particularly memorable Thanksgiving, I thought I’d be fancy and cook a duck. One duck for twelve guests. Each ended up with a meager morsel of meat. By all accounts, it was the most delectable bite ever taken. Scarcity compelled us to savor.

Being thankful this holiday season may require more creativity than in previous years if viewed by its tremendous loss and hardship. Or it may be the most authentic expression of gratitude ever offered as a result of our whittled-down existence. Perspective will decide.

My offering this Thanksgiving Day is gratitude for all that has been given and taken, from every friend and foe. May our collective sentiments raise us up and remind us that Life, with or without gravy, holds something for us to savor.

Words That Need To Be Whispered

This is the best thing that could have happened to me,” she whispered, as if to sneak the truth in through the back door. 

My friend understood that revealing her relief about the current pandemic restrictions might be met with hostility.  Thus the need to whisper words that are too controversial to utter aloud.

Suffering is socially acceptable at times like these.  Tales of loss and devastation are broadcast to the masses.  Attention and sympathy abound for those who are withering.

For those who experience something other than melancholy, silence is the safest option lest they risk being accused of insensitivity or labeled as privileged.

My friend is neither tone-deaf nor unaffected.  She, like many, has lost her income and is hunkering down with her young son.  Her husband works on the front line.  She has reasons to worry.  But she chooses to admit that her sacrifices are a fair exchange for unforeseen benefits.

She has less money but more time.  Fewer activities but more cuddles with her son.   And magically, the pain in her body has waned in the absence of a physically stressful job.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic slammed its fist down on the world, we were Busy. Mindless. Careless. We lived life based on a litany of responsibilities and desires with hardly a thought about the effects of our choices.  Now we are reduced to focusing on basic needs while weighing them against risk.  Should I risk exposure to the virus for a loaf of bread?

There isn’t a person on earth who hasn’t had to adjust.  And no one, not even the experts can predict how this story ends.  This is good news.  Because ‘not knowing’ is where creativity and growth are born. 

This is rich soil we’re standing on.  There is gold beneath our feet, waiting to be mined.  We need not look any further than inside of ourselves to discover the gems that belong to us alone.

Those things you don’t miss from pre-pandemic days are a clue to where your life was leaking, informing you of where you gave away your precious resources. 

The people and practices you pine for beg you to examine their place in your life.  Do you need them or want them and why?  Are you willing to be surprised by the answer?

A platform for self-discovery has been delivered to your door courtesy of Social Isolation. Resist the urge to turn away.  Entertain it in bits until you dare to look it square in the eyes and ask, “What message do you have for me?”

There is no rush.  No obligation.  Only an invitation.  If you choose to seek yourself you will likely encounter a demon or two along the way.  In time you will see that Fear creates holograms, not actual beasts. 

 

Those who live through this, and especially those who thrive through it, will influence the future.  This is the way of adversity, spinning its magic in disguise.  Pain is not for naught. 

You need only bear witness.  Don’t pay more than you have to for clarity.  Blame, worry, anger….are dark indulgences that will lead you astray.

During this extraordinary and astonishing call to presence, may we do our best to remain open to possibility, to respond thoughtfully, and to be kind to others and ourselves.   

May we avoid the temptation to judge and criticize, opting instead to direct our energy toward understanding and compassion.

In short, may we be the sort of people that we can be proud of when all is resolved. 

And perhaps, be able to proclaim in un-hushed voice, the full breadth of discoveries we’ve encountered in this unfamiliar time.

Featured on Grown and Flown – Teen Friendships

I am once again delighted to contribute an essay to Grown & Flown, a wonderful website and blog about parenting teens and young adults. My current piece is about helping teens to navigate friendships.

If you’re interested, please find the piece here.

Thanks! Deb

The Passing Of A Princess


I was 7 years old when I fell in love with the idea of a Princess.  Many years later I met a noble woman, known then as the Birthday Princess, who restored my faith in the fairytale of life.

We met during a time of personal emergence when each of us were fledging writers, sharing our identical secret desire to change the world with a book.  We were fast friends whose kinship sustained and nurtured an unexpected bond, despite the fact that we would never meet in person a second time.

Sacha was a natural cheerleader and coach, unwavering in her support of others.  She spread her special brand of magic like a farmer feeding her chickens – scattering goodness all over with abandon.  The only thing she asked in return was that you love your own self more; that you see in yourself the beauty and potential that she saw in you.

Sometimes in life, if we keep our eyes open, we stumble into people along the way that we don’t deserve.  They are the rare gems that enrich us and invite us to elevate our game. 

Sacha was one of those people whose light shown so bright, from a place of such sincerity and generosity, that one was instantly drawn into it.  My crass, inelegant self wondered how Sacha managed to be so filled with joy.  She was never careless with life or people or words.  She was intentional, tender, and bubbly.

When a royal presence like Sacha is taken suddenly from the world, the sweetness of life suffers a bitter blow. I will miss this friend with an unparalleled level of loss, for I am quite certain there isn’t another of her for me in the world.  But I am privileged and humbled to have been part of her fold.  For those left behind, a calling remains, a challenge really, to embody what we’ve learned from one who had mastered the art of love here on Earth.

I imagine Sacha slipping seamlessly into Heaven, taking her place amongst angels as if she belonged there all along.  No doubt she would be shocked to find herself there, but likely she is delighting in the magnificence that surrounds her and wondering how she can share it with others.

After I post this tribute, I will wait with hopeful expectation for her response.  She would write something poetic in the comments section about how my words danced off the page and filled her heart.  And I would believe her, soaking up the free praise given by my most ardent supporter. 

Eventually, it will hit me that I’ll never again hear her words of encouragement, unless, like a solid Sacha student, I learn to do this for myself.  How proud she would be of me for finding the courage to be without her.  She would tell me not to worry that I’m not there yet.  Just be gentle with yourself and celebrate every step toward reclaiming happiness.

Thank you, Sacha, for gracing this world, and my life, with the gift of you.

Deb

A Parenting Invitation

Fellow parent,

Let’s not compete for martyrdom by comparing the hours of sleep we’ve missed.

Instead, let’s lift each other up with loving commiseration over the hard work we each do.

Let’s not insinuate that some parents are lucky to have children who sleep well, eat well, behave…

Instead, let’s acknowledge that it is hard work and intention, not luck, that bring success.

Let’s not be bothered by people who dismiss our concerns as insignificant and tell us that parenting only gets harder.

We need to support each other through the tough times right now.  Let’s remind each other that the rewards of childrearing make the drudgery worthwhile.

Let’s withhold judgment of each other’s parenting and avoid giving advice on how to do it better.

Instead, let’s respect that we’re each doing the best that we can and accept that our parenting styles differ.

Let’s not boast about our children under the guise of ‘humble-bragging.’  The insinuation of superiority is obvious and insulting.

Instead, let’s acknowledge the greatness in every child and celebrate their imperfections.

Let’s not talk about how our children make us crazy.

Instead, let’s tell each other how we’ve cried from disappointment in our own parenting behavior, and together, let’s figure out a way to do it better.

Let’s not ever pretend that we’ve got it all together.

Let’s be honest and expose our vulnerability so that we might learn to accept ourselves, and each other, more authentically.

Let’s not play that broken record called “I have no time to myself”.

Let’s choose to sing about how we had the courage to say ‘no’ to the ones we care for, in order to care for ourselves.

Let’s not line our parenting path with comparison and criticism.  It’s not a competition.

Let’s just be parents, traveling side by side, cheering each other on.

Moments

 

 

moment   

[moh-muh nt]                                                                                                                      

noun:  an indefinitely short period of time; instant:

 

that moment when

love

moves in.

 

that moment when

forgiveness arrives

at last.

 

that moment when

the ugly duckling

sees the swan

that is her.

 

that moment when

life leaves.

 

that moment when

his eyes shift

from light to dark

and you realize

with dread

what it means.

 

that moment when

the new mother

is born.

 

that moment

when the silence screams.

 

that moment when

Truth

unlocks the gate.

 

that moment when

IT

ends.

 

that moment when

you release the need to know why.

 

that moment when

you decide to say yes.

 

that moment when

you realize that the pain

is gone.

 

that moment when

joy returns.

 

that moment when

you finally understand.

 

that moment

when you acknowledge

that the only thing that matters is

this moment.

 

What a tasty morsel this moment is.

City Girl In The Country Without Water – H2O…no!

wilted-plantI awoke to this quote:  “May no adversity paralyze you.”

Then my well went dry. The actual well that supplies water to my house. It’s almost biblical in an omen-like way.

Regular readers will recall that this City Girl fairly recently discovered the nuances of a primitive water source. But being seasoned enough now in country-life inconveniences, I felt equipped to handle the immediate concerns of a situation such as this when Husband happened to be in another country on business. (Which coincidentally seems to occur with regularity when disaster strikes the home-front: water main burst, snow blower malfunction, broken furnace….”) But I digress.

Teen son was the one who alerted me that luck had run out when he marched into the kitchen, oddly gleeful, to declare that he had just ‘taken a dump’ and got the last flush of water left in the tank.

It’s not that we didn’t have warning. The water had been coughing through our pipes for some months now, protesting the driest summer on record in the area. We had tried to conserve – as much as a family of 5 with two teenage girls who take endless showers can. But I realize now that we, in our 21st century mindset, hadn’t truly grasped the concept of conservation until we started hauling 5-gallon buckets of water from a neighbor’s house. When one has to work this hard for something that is typically available at the touch of a finger, a shift occurs. And not just in muscle bulk.

popeye-the-sailor-man
Suddenly, every droplet of water is precious liquid gold. If a spill occurs, it is tenderly wiped up with regret and sorrow, it’s loss mourned like an old friend.

Several friends have offered their showers but there’s something about getting naked and wet in someone else’s bathroom that gives me pause. I opt instead for increased attendance at the yoga studio that has a fully functioning shower. Other family members are following suit at their respective health clubs which isn’t a bad thing for any of us.

We have accepted donations of water jugs with spigots which elevates our primitive dishwashing skills to a post-modern level and deludes us into thinking that things aren’t so bad – that maybe we can hold out for rain instead of having to sink tens of thousands of dollars into the ground to drill a deeper well. But the grim reality is that Mother Nature isn’t in the mood to cooperate and won’t promise that she will fix our situation.

I’m trying to dredge up the fortitude of my ancestors while reminding myself that mine is a First World problem. People in other parts of the world operate with far less than a modern source of clean water. But my humor is running dry along with my well and my bank account.

Cue the curse of the appliances which sabotaged our refrigerator this week and requires replacement of the motor. When it rains it pours they say. Except that it’s not raining water.

Picture me, smiling sweetly through tears, while brushing my unwashed hair from my face, declaring (Scarlett O’Hara style) that “Tomorrow is another day.”

scarlet-ohara

Then erase that malarkey and picture what Scarlett would really be thinking in that ending scene of Gone With The Wind. Something along the lines of, ‘Get me out of this forsaken land and take me to a hotel where I will get the pampering I desperately need.’

As that is unlikely to happen for me, I am doing my best to accept this fate and return to gratitude for what’s left, like electricity and shelter and health!  These privileges are now esteemed and cared for with higher reverence.  There is a sense of stewardship that emerges when one realizes that nothing is guaranteed.

I can’t claim dominion over my attitude surrounding this dilemma, but I know that I am evolving into something more than I was prior to the experience. These inconvenient challenges have a way of elevating one’s game if you don’t allow them to sink you. And the lessons can spill over to others, like my neighbor who, in solidarity, is conserving water and evaluating her consumption in life. So I guess you could say that we’re ‘taking one for the team.’ Team human. Yay team.

Another neighbor, an engineer, sent us a flyer for an upcoming seminar at his place of employment called “Imagine a Day Without Water.” We were facetiously invited to be guest speakers.

They say that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I’d love to. Can I borrow some water to make it?

lemonade

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