The value of persisting

When I was a teenager, I was part of a dance class— there were six or seven of us who were a core group. We had started as beginners and developed together.

The teacher gave us a pep talk one day, saying that everyone had a distinct strength to offer— Allison had perfect feet and posture, Val was very precisce, and me. . . well, I was always there. I never missed class. I showed up. I’m not going to lie, I was disappointed that my “strength” was that I could manage to show up.

But all these years later, it’s still a strength of mine— and it’s both more unusual and more effective than I’d known as a teenager. There are many, many times in my life that I’ve talked myself into showing up for something I didn’t initially think was worth it only to find that my presence was integral to the sucess of whatever it was. I’ve made friends by being the one who answered the open invitation. I’ve won awards by being the one who applied.  And I’ve transformed myself by being consistent in lots of little ways. I go to yoga class without fail, even when I don’t really feel like it. I can’t do insane arm balances because I’m really talented, I can do them because I’ve practiced nearly every day for years and years. I didn’t finish my doctorate swiftly because I’m brilliant, but because I was persistent in working on it and going after the support I needed.

So, hell yeah, persistence is a strength, and it’s a great one— because it translates to anything I decide to do. These days, persistence can be a political act (Elizabeth Warren FTW!)— and it’s powerful because it’s personal, it demonstrates commitment, and you can’t argue with it. So persist humans!

Moving forward: Looking inward

2016 has been a rough year– this  doesn’t need to be said anymore. I personally feel like I was dragged behind a truck over a bumpy road for a while, sucker punched a few times, and spat on for good measure. There’s political strife, there’s personal heartbreak, there are pure WTF moments (e.g., the car that crashed through my font yard last week). Yet I survived 2016 (unlike so many icons of creativity and resistance). And as it draws to a close, I have to wonder what 2017 holds. Great challenges, without a doubt. We must prepare ourselves to meet them head-on or risk being a) destroyed, literally or metaphorically b) complicit in evil, or c) all of the above.

Lots of folks have helped spur us to action— call your senators, organize, donate to social safety net and civil liberties groups. This is needed. This is good. Do that. Plenty of others have counseled self-care— also good advice. But I think we also need to take a step back, and start with self-inquiry. What can we learn about ourselves from the relentless onslaught of minor irritation and major trauma of 2016? How can we authentically move forward with our lives without giving into despair or fear, or being ruled by anger alone? What has this mind-fuck of a year shown us about ourselves?

take-action

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How to turn healthy eating into quality time

People tell me a lot that they’d like to eat healthy, but it takes time that they want to spend doing other things– spending time with the family, seeing cool things in the city, relaxing after a hard day, working on personal projects, learning new things. Or, it just takes a lot of ideas and it’s hard to think of something to make at night when you get home and you’re beat.

For me and Max, our meals are part of all this. We have amassed a collection of recipes culled from food blogs, and gorgeous hardcover cookbooks with glossy pictures. We often sit around over press-pot coffee on a weekend morning, after a run or walking the dogs, and plan out a week’s worth of meals. Recipes we know and love, ones we haven’t tried, ones that use an ingredient we saw at the market last time, ones that come together fast if it’s a busy night. This planning is like a ritual in itself– we look at the pictures, we enjoy it. We think how good that meal will be. We think about the week ahead– what’s going on?– and get our feet on the ground. We make a plan for some lunches, some dinners, some breakfasts– not usually 7 days worth, but enough to give us great options for most days and night.

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Evernote recipe library, lovingly curated over years

Then we do a weekend trip to the farmer’s market and/or sprouts and stock in everything we need to do the plan. This can be kind of fun in and of itself– the farmer’s market with its music and dogs and food trucks and, well, farmers, and the grocery store with the clerks who know us and the aisles laid out just so, where we know where to find exactly what we need. We’re really efficient shoppers by now 🙂

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summer farmer’s market haul

Finally, we’ll spend a little time prepping food, usually on Sunday. The kitchen smells good and there are some tunes, maybe a little dancing. Maybe we’re cooking lentils or beans or bulgur or wheat berries. Maybe we’re soaking cashews and freezing bananas. Maybe we’re roasting some veggies and washing some greens. Maybe we’re feeling ambitious and we’re making homemade vegan sausage and raw sauces in the blender. It might take half an hour, if we kept it simple. It might take a few hours, if we went all in. This step is awesome– it’s quality time together, but it also makes the weeknight dinner or the midweek lunch for work come together in 10 or 15 minutes– faster than ordering pizza (which is still tempting sometimes!).

Will this work for everyone? Of course not! But it shows on a broad level how we’ve integrated meals into our lives as a centerpiece of time together and relaxing and creativity, rather than a drain on us and a chore that gets in the way of those things. It serves us well!

Why healthcare isn’t just another commodity

If you are a person with a lot of choices, with a job that offers health insurance, with a social security number and a safe place to sleep and knowledge of where your next meal is coming from, I can see how you might think a market-based healthcare model is a good idea. You might be annoyed at your doctor, or the confusing bill, or the insurance company, but when something shitty happens to you, you aren’t really worried that you’re not going to be able to get help.

And I know that a lot of people in this position of privilege think (wrongly) that these basic pieces of a stable, comfortable life are accessible to anyone willing to work hard enough to get them. That everyone has basically good options but some people take advantage while others are lazy, entitled, or whatever other excuse might bubble up. This is infuriating because it is so, so wrong. It’s like that old adage of being born on third base and thinking you hit a triple. A lot of folks were born without even a bat to swing. Those folks are just as human as you are.

So imagine you are 58 years old, and your daughter just had a baby. Continue reading

Rx: Vacation. Stat.

Did you take a vacation this summer? How about last year? Did you really go on vacation, or were you checking email on the beach (oops). Were you relaxing, or were you feeling guilty? (yup, that too).

How did it get so hard to actually take a real vacation from work? Where is this coming from? It’s not like this everywhere, you know– the world won’t come grinding to a halt if we take a short, planned, and total break. I think it comes from a combination of workplace culture and career anxiety. And you know where it’s really rampant? Healthcare. We don’t even want to stay home when we’re sick.

This is total BS. You can’t pour from an empty cup, you need a full charge to give a jump start, etc. Healthcare peeps know this. We know about burnout and compassion fatigue, too. We preach the gospel of self-care and stress management. But then. . .  we freeze up. So here’s the rx: someone will cover for you for a week. You won’t check work email– you’ll have an out-of-office message up. You won’t respond to phone calls– someone else will be designated to handle urgent matters. You won’t feel bad about it, because you are entitled to vacation and there are systems in place to cope with your absence*. You will spend this week doing something that makes you smile just thinking about it.

me? i went on a road trip with my sweetie, slept in a cedar cabin, cooked on a fire, kayaked in caves, ran by the beach, drank wine, went to museums, and ate at fancy vegan restaurants. and, ok, i checked my email a few times. . . but i’m working on that!

*sometimes you have to build these systems. . . but it’s worth it!