Finding Peace in Every Day

Peace and healing go hand in hand. In war torn countries, health initiatives can be used for peace building. In our homes, something similar can happen when we make healing a priority.

Times of illness or recovery can put a strain on families. Exhaustion, shock, sadness, pain, and discomfort make it difficult to be at our best. But finding peace in every day can help create an environment that encourages healing.

After six months of improving health, we recently learned that my 18-month-old granddaughter has developed a quick growing muscle that is obstructing the flow of blood from her aorta. Removal and repair will require another open-heart surgery (her third). If we’re lucky, this will take place in about six months. If she gets sick this cold and flu season, the surgery may need to happen sooner. It will be more difficult than her previous surgeries and will threaten the still fragile heart repairs made last year.

From April 2018 to April 2019, she was hospitalized six times for an amount of time equaling six months. At the time, she had one sibling. Next time around, she’ll have two and one will be a newborn. That means it will take all of us to keep things going. We know what it’s like. We just lived through a similar year.

After trying unsuccessfully to hold onto some semblance of my previous normal, gone are my plans to move to another state. Gone are vacations. I just managed a trip to see my other new grandson, but lying on the beach, a cruise, the NCAA tournament, or a week at a spa are beyond reach for now.

Letting go of some positive activities has been a necessity. I prioritize getting enough sleep, eating reasonably well, working out 150 minutes per week, and grouping work into efficient batches. Most weeks meeting these goals plus family care duties puts me at capacity.

With waves of added responsibility arriving over the past three years, I am beginning to recognize new effects of the relentlessness. I’ve noticed when I feel any slight hint of relaxing into the warm feeling of a beautiful day or happy anticipation of the future, I immediately tamp it down. Then I feel sad, perhaps from a sense of loss.

At this point I’m not able to slow the process down enough to figure out the exact order in which the emotions arrive. Do I feel sad and that makes me pull back happiness, or do I feel happy and that triggers the sadness of loss? I don’t know. Maybe I don’t need to. I’m aware of the problem and sometimes that’s all that’s needed to find a solution.
What remains when life gets tough are the everyday tasks-finding food, taking a shower, throwing out the trash, putting gas in the car, and choosing clothes to wear. In fact, the US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows that most of our time outside of work and sleep is spent on everyday tasks.

It’s so easy to dread doing the laundry or the dishes or mowing the lawn, especially when we’re exhausted and stressed. And yet those tasks remain. Even if we hire someone to cook, clean, and mow, we still must bathe ourselves and brush our teeth occasionally.

Logic tells me that when most of the time available is filled with the tasks of everyday living, then that is the place in which I must find peace. I’m not exactly there yet, but I can visualize it-relaxing into the comfort of routine, not wondering what to do next, relying on muscle memory and allowing the mind to drift and quiet.

If you’re concerned that your mind will twist with worry instead, you have not yet experienced the state I’m describing. Neither had I prior to the past year. There is a point at which all energy has been harnessed to deal with the decisions and tasks of a given moment. In other words, the present is too absorbing to allow for speculation.

I wish you the chance to avoid reaching this point in your lifetime, but for some it will be unavoidable. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 16,000 infants per year have surgery for congenital heart defects and an estimated 80,000 to 85,000 aortic valve replacements are done on aortic stenosis patients in the US each year.

As I embark upon this next difficult journey through childcare and family support, here is how I will seek peace in every day:

I will create a list for my day of things I hope to do. I will set the intention to feel good about any and everything I accomplish. If I don’t get to something, I will move it to tomorrow’s list, next week’s list, or let it go.

When I wash dishes, I will notice the warmth of the water, the lemony smell of the dishwashing liquid, and the green plants outside the window. I’ll feel my feet solidly planted on the floor. I’ll let thoughts and feelings flow and go.

When I do laundry, I’ll take a moment to bury my face in the warm towels from the dryer and breathe in their fresh scent.

I’ll make sure to breathe when I’m on my yoga mat and consciously relax large muscle groups in order to stretch my fascia.

When I water the plants, I will savor the smell of rosemary and mint.

I will wear clothes that feel good.

I will lean into hugs.

I will say yes to help when it’s sincerely offered.

I will absorb comfort and compliments.

I will cut short phone calls or visits that do not feel supportive and will be willing to put friendships on hold or let them go when they feel draining.

While I may not take the time to record gratitude, I will take note each time I feel grateful.

I will count progress toward a goal as accomplishment.

I will trust myself, my judgment, and my shifting priorities.

I will let myself change.

Significant life events may mean we are never again the person we once were. This can feel like loss. That loss must be grieved. But all loss is also gain of something new and different. What we make of that gain can mean peace or turmoil. I may not get there immediately, but I am committed to using hard lessons as steps on a path toward peace.

This moment is all we know we have. If this is as good as it gets, then I have to let it be good enough. I will begin with finding peace in every day and trust that peace can lead me to joy.

I wish you both peace and joy in life’s easiest and most difficult moments.

Cheri ThriverPosted on Categories UncategorizedTags , , , , Leave a comment on Finding Peace in Every Day

Can You Pivot?

When things don’t turn out as planned, can you pivot? Today, I thought I was going to make enchilada sauce. Over an hour into the process, I realized there was no way my combination of ancho and pasilla chiles, charred vegetables, marjoram and Mexican oregano was going to turn out like any enchilada sauce I’ve ever tasted or hoped to make. The flavors had potential, but not as the end product I’d planned.
I face similar situations regularly. No matter how meticulously I plan, things change. I can either let that throw me, or I can pivot. At those moments, I usually remember my grandmother saying, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.” Hearing that over and over let me know that it was not unusual to have to look for another solution.

Changing course is not always easy. Sometimes it requires significant physical, mental, or emotional effort. But with life throwing challenges my way, the ability to pivot has made me less wasteful, more efficient, more creative, more knowledgeable, more confident, and infinitely more resilient. This is true when I’m developing recipes, but it is also true throughout all areas of my life.

Pivoting requires engagement, flexibility and decision making. If I had been determined to end up with enchilada sauce, my efforts would have been wasted. An hour of wasted time with my current schedule can mean I must say no to lunch with a friend or rearrange anticipated down time. That would feel discouraging.

Being able to see potential in the work I’d done allowed me to make a subtle shift that turned the effort into an acceptable mole sauce that can be easily tweaked into perfection. Visualizing a different outcome is one component of a graceful pivot.

Recognizing I’m in a moment that could benefit from a shift comes even before visualization. That was pretty clear to me when adding salt didn’t head the sauce in the right direction. My taste buds called for sweet and something to mellow the bitter overtones. Honey, anise, and chocolate all fit that bill.

Connecting my taste instincts with my food knowledge led to an immediate association of the sauce on my stove and mole sauce. Exploring that thought excited me because most of the jarred mole sauce I’ve found in stores contains crackers or bread. I added a few ingredients to see if my visualized flavor profile would work as I anticipated. It did!

I recorded the changes in the recipe plus a few that I think will improve it next time. Of course, I also had to revise the dish I had planned for dinner. My enchilada pie turned into enmolada pie. It wasn’t that much of a shift and didn’t require a trip to the store.

The pivot, which included recognition of my dilemma, connection to a possible change, exploration of that change, visualization of a new end product, and implementation of the new plan, allowed me to turn a kitchen failure into a successful recipe albeit not the anticipated one.

Imagine what that did for my mood, energy level, and motivation! Instead of feeling defeated or discouraged, I felt excited about all the dishes I can make with mole. Woohoo, my mind is now moving full speed ahead!

The ability to absorb, process, and turn unfortunate events into positive momentum is what allowed a pharmacist I know to purchase and grow his pharmacy into the largest in the county seat, marry and have two beautiful children, and become a pillar of the community in spite of having had polio as a child that rendered him minimal use of his legs.

Instead of viewing his disability as something to hide, he chose to showcase his amazing upper body strength — a pivot that clearly fed positive momentum into the rest of his life. I think of his example each time I walk into his pharmacy.

A willingness to pivot is important for businesses too. If Anheuser-Busch had not reimagined its end product during Prohibition, there would most likely be no Bud Light, Franziskaner, Natty Daddy, or Rolling Rock today. Someone at Molex had to envision a future beyond flower pots and salt tablet dispensers for the company to begin to manufacture electrical appliances. We don’t always notice when a business innovates, but we certainly notice when it doesn’t. We soon become dissatisfied and move on.

It’s common to resist change. But things change whether or not we’re resistant. Hurricanes, floods, fire, and tornadoes reshape communities. Acute or chronic health problems arrive. Spouses leave. Jobs are lost. Violence touches our families. Any of these things can happen at a moment’s notice when we have done nothing wrong. It is at those moments that pivoting becomes a critical skill.

We all want to emerge from shock, trauma, loss, and grief feeling optimistic, energetic, positive, and poised for joy. We all can, but some of us don’t know that we can or don’t know how to get from A to B. That path starts with a simple pivot away from the devastation and toward the possibilities created by that devastation.

I feel fortunate that I can pivot both in and out of the kitchen, but the ability was hard earned. Some tough circumstances early in my life led me to hone this skill. While I’m not all that grateful for some of those circumstances, I am grateful for the resulting resilience. Enough so that I would encourage you to develop this skill even if you don’t see its merits right now.

Sometimes the stakes are much higher than enchilada sauce vs mole.

On Track For February

Let’s see if your eating plan is on track for February. If you made a resolution to eat healthier this year, are you on track? If you’re not sure, take a look at our January posts. We’ve been getting to know our food so that we can make a reasonable plan and stick to it. So far, we’ve covered the most commonly consumed breakfast foods.

Now it’s time to talk about the basics for lunch, dinner, and snacks. Before we get into specifics, it’s probably worth noting that some people need more protein and fewer carbs; some people need more carbs and less protein; some people need a perfect balance of protein and carbs. You may already know what works to keep you feeling your best. If not, keep a food journal for a few weeks and note how you feel each day. This can help you decide what your optimum combination should be.
Keep it fresh!

Fresh food prepared in interesting combinations is a great start for any meal. You don’t have to choose organic or grow it yourself. Just buy raw vegetables, fruit, meat, poultry, and fish at your local grocery store and prepare them at home.

Starting fresh has several advantages. Fresh food tastes better! If you’ve ever eaten a perfectly ripened fresh peach at a roadside stand, you know I’m steering you straight. With fresh food that you prepare, there’s no need to look for hidden ingredients or allergens. Fresh food retains its nutrients without sodium and other preservatives. Because you’re getting fresh flavor and full nutrients, there’s no need for chemical additives.

If you’re concerned that starting fresh will take too long, look around the produce section of your local store. These days you can buy fresh and still avoid much of the prep. Many stores offer broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, peppers, onions, spinach, kale, celery, squash, and carrots that have been cleaned and and/or chopped. You can also find pineapple, honeydew, or cantaloupe that has been sliced or cubed for your convenience.

It rarely takes more than 20 minutes to bake fresh fish so it’s always a good choice when you’re in a time crunch. Steak, pork chops, and chicken breasts are also quick and easy. Larger cuts of meat like beef or pork roasts can be made in advance and eaten over several meals.

Recent research from Vanderbilt University shows that most of us believe healthy food means more expensive food. The research also seemed to assume we would choose packaged convenience foods rather than fresh food.

If you think you can’t afford fresh food, be sure to look closely at the shelves in your store. The produce section of the largest local grocery chain where I live has a $1 rack in each store. Whatever has been grouped in a net bag and placed on the rack is $1. I recently bought a bag filled with 3 orange bell peppers. They were still fresh looking a week later and they were 33¢ each.

I check this rack on each shopping trip. I’ve bought eggplant, potatoes, apples, summer squash and bananas there. It’s not unusual to find other fresh produce marked down. I always check for manager’s specials. There are manager’s specials in the meat department as well.

veggie sticks
Keep it simple!

Instead of breading, frying, or creating casseroles, keep it simple. Steam, sauté, boil, or oven roast vegetables that are better cooked than raw. Bake, broil, or grill meat, poultry, and fish. Eat raw or dried fruit (no sugar added). Serve dry beans, lentils, rice, or quinoa in place of dinner rolls. Eat raw nuts, plain Greek yogurt, fruit, veggie sticks, hummus, and guacamole as snacks.

Of course it’s okay to add some cheese, butter, or sour cream to a dish. It’s okay to serve pasta with a sauce or make enchiladas with tortillas, cheese and sauce. Just let the vegetables or meat be the star most of the time. This will accomplish two things. It will make prep time faster, and you’ll end up with a higher proportion of vegetables and protein to creamy, cheesy sauces more often than not.

Keep it delicious!

I love tasty food, so please don’t think I’m recommending a bland diet with no personality and no treats! I just know that homemade cookies taste better than those from a package and fresh food eliminates many worries. When you salt your food, you don’t have to worry about hidden sodium. When you use olive oil, you don’t have to worry about trans fats. When you season your chili with salt, pepper, garlic, chili powder, and cumin you don’t have to read a label to see if the seasoning is gluten-free.
green beans
Keep it real!

Let me repeat. If a health plan isn’t sustainable, it won’t work. Rather than adopting drastic changes, find some small ones that you can make consistently. If that means eliminating soft drinks, that’s a great start. If that means having a salad with your burger instead of fries, that’s great! If that means eating eggs for breakfast rather than boxed cereal, that’s good too. If that means cooking in advance and freezing your entrees, get that freezer ready.

Everything you do to create a lifestyle that will support the healthy changes you want to make is a step in the right direction. Change is always made one step at a time. Change is sustained through a supportive lifestyle structure.

With knowledge and a willingness to experiment, you can find a healthy balance that’s right for you. Next week, we’ll explore specific lunch and dinner options.

Can Really Big Buts Keep Us From Thriving?

Yes, the title of this post includes Big Buts and that’s not a typo. Why would I write about Big Buts, Butts, Butz or any other word that sounds the same? Well, I talk to a lot of people and a lot of the people I talk to seem to be controlled by Buts. After hours of listening, I’ve concluded that it’s very common for Really Big Buts to keep us from thriving.

Huh? Well, I know one person who says she wants her 25-year-old daughter to move out of the house and she’s given her a date by which to vacate, BUT that date has come/gone/morphed into a later date that’s come/gone. Why? Because she wants her to move out, BUT not enough to enforce a boundary, establish and enforce a consequence, ignore protests, and/or change the locks.

I have listened to a man who is behind on all his bills and feeling enormous amounts of anxiety rant, rave, yell, and whine that something has to change or he will crack, BUT he won’t consider selling his high end car with it’s $750 per month payment.

There’s the man who says he cannot stand the industry in which he currently works, BUT who will not consider taking a lesser title or small salary cut in order to transition to an industry with which he’s not familiar.

Then there’s my neighbor who at age 49 already has a pacemaker and defibrillator installed in his chest. He says he wants to work out regularly to get in shape, BUT he consistently skips more days per week than he participates.

So what’s the deal with all these Buts? From the outside looking in, it seems clear that the behavior of each of these folks guarantees that they will not get what they say they want. If you’ll listen, they can tell you exactly why they’re doing what they’re doing.

Here’s I’ve heard them say: “I don’t think my daughter can make it on her own without my help.” “If I buy a cheaper used car, I’ll end up spending more in maintenance than I’m spending on my car payment.” “I have a Masters degree and 20 years experience. I should be in management.” “It might rain tomorrow, so I don’t think I’ll meet you to walk.”

Once they’ve made these initial statements, I’ve listened for hours as they elaborate at length with details supporting their initial statement: “She has anxiety. What kind of mother would I be if I force her to move out?” “I already downgraded once. This car costs less than the one I had.” “I didn’t work my butt off for the last 20 years to have to have a peon job.” “I know you’ll probably want to go to the gym if I don’t walk, so I don’t want to wait until tomorrow to decide.”

And so it goes on, and on, and on, and on.

We all have blind spots that keep us from seeing how our behavior contributes to what we describe as our problems. Believe me, I’ve had some Big Buts in my time. So what have I learned about removing the blind spots so that we can get the outcome we desire?

First, we have to summon a tiny bit of courage. In order to make the most progress in the least amount of time, we must be willing to be brutally honest with ourselves. When we notice that there seems to be an area in our lives that we repeatedly SAY we want to change, but which stays the same over a long period of time, it is time to ask ourselves some tough questions.

The first question we must ask is, do we REALLY want what we say we want? If we determine that we do, then we must ask what we believe we will have to give up in order to get it. If we’re not willing to give up whatever it is we think we’ll have to give up to get what we want, then it is time to own that decision, change our rhetoric, and stop struggling. That’s one way to rid yourself of a Big But.

If we determine that we want what we say we want, and we believe that we are willing to give up, for instance, being too proud to temporarily take a lesser job, then we may have just solved our own problem by recognizing that our pride has been holding us back. Another Big But was just eliminated.

When we determine that we want what we say we want, BUT over and over our decisions lead us to a place where we can see no other option than one that keeps us stuck, we are dealing with a Really Big But. A Really Big But usually means that the process of getting what we want stands in direct opposition to the coping mechanisms we developed at a time in our lives when we believed we had no power but to figure out how to cope with the situation in which we lived.

Without consciously recognizing it, we behave as though getting what we want means giving up our power or our ability to deal with life. Our emotional survival feels threatened. Subconsciously, we sense that getting what we say we want will require us to go back and heal the wounds to which our coping is attached so rather than follow a path of change, we immediately dismiss new options in favor of relying on our long-ingrained coping patterns.

So when I have a Really Bit But, how do I get rid of it? Exercise, of course. I like to play a game I’ll call – But, I’m Curious. Here’s how it works:

A few years ago, I decided I wanted a better work/life balance. I understood that I needed to find a way to really get away from work – including the work that was always going on in my head, BUT I also had lots of very real deadlines, financial pressure, and a drive to excel. I tried to get some down time in the evenings, but whenever I was in my office or my house, I seemed to be constantly running a To Do list through my head. I was struggling to turn off the running mental list even on the weekends. I’d been trying and failing for months while complaining to 20 of my closest friends about needing a break. Finally, I started decided to replace my long-standing But with a new one.

Here’s the next question I asked myself – I see that I can’t seem to get out of work mode when I’m at home, BUT I’m curious what would happen if I spent a weekend somewhere else?

Hmmm. I had gotten my attention in a different way. Well, maybe I should give it a try and see. I did some research on inexpensive cabins at nearby state parks and decided I would spend one weekend per month away from home. It wasn’t much and at first I had trouble being still when I was away, but ultimately my work habits changed in a very real way.

Using curiosity to get me started makes change sound like an adventure. Besides, I’m just asking myself a question because I’m curious. Any answer to that question is okay. Anything I learn about myself in the process of answering it is good information to have. That feels like a very safe and easy way to be honest with myself. If I learn that my first plan still leaves me stuck, I just get curious about something else and see where that leads.

Another thing happens when I play But, I’m Curious. I learn more about my relationships because when I shift, everyone around me is forced to shift.

But, I’m Curious can lead you into the areas you need to heal, but as long as you stay curious throughout the process you will find the healing path that works best for you one step at a time. Imagine feeling free from having to cope. Imagine having the confidence that you can handle anything that comes along. Imagine believing that you are only limited by the choices you make. You CAN find a way to fix what needs fixing, BUT you have to really want it!