Begin Within Monthly Journal
& Favorite Easy Meals
April 2015; Letter 5
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I think quite possibly one of the most underrated concepts among humans is that of starting over. It’s a wide-reaching concept that covers just about all facets of life. Even on the most basic level, each morning we awaken and we start over. (We may imagine that we are trudging forward with the same baggage that we went to sleep with, but only because we refuse to put it down.)
Now, you might be start to consider this and decide that there are things, or people, that REALLY don’t or can’t begin anew— or even those that don’t DESERVE a fresh start. And we can delve into the topic of the beliefs we hold, and stories we tell, and understanding (and forgiveness) another day. Today I just want to focus on the power of Starting Over. I’ll begin with a personal example, that by no means only applies to me: That of a once-dear relationship heading south.
My husband and I had a very rough couple of years after we moved to Argentina. (Another rather extreme form of starting over.) There were moments of excitement and adventure, but also a great many of overwhelm, disappointment, and stress which weighed heavily on us.
Over time we began to react to each other, usually in the most negative way. If something could be interpreted badly, that’s how we’d see it, assuming the worst of the other. It became a ‘vicious downward cycle’. I think we each had many moments where we thought we wouldn’t make it out of this experience together. Probably only the fact that we were in Argentina— seemingly tied together by what 'we had gotten ourselves into', and the co-owned house, and the cats— made us hold off on otherwise drastic decisions. No matter how bad it got neither of us could see abandoning the other to sort out Argentina on their own.
But it was extremely hard to keep it together at times. And the situation often felt totally stuck and hopeless. After at least a year of major deterioration, we happened to watch a movie called 'Hope Springs' with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. It’s a nice enough movie, but the timing was probably the most important thing...
In it I saw a reflection of what I NEVER wanted for me, or him— to live together, yet separate, year after year, married unhappily-ever-after. It was a heart-breaking moment. After the movie ended I was crying my eyes out. So we talked about it. More kindly than we had in a while. And then we slept on it. The main question in our minds being, did we want to try to piece things back together or were we just better off to separate our lives.
When I woke up the next morning I had a fresh thought, the first a while. What we needed was to start over. Drop the resentments and the blame and the reactions. Start fresh and only move forward, no strings attached. He agreed, and in that instant things began to turn around. When we felt situations start to roil again, we both backed off. And with time the pattern was broken. It didn’t even take all that long.
I also continued to work on myself and, as I have discovered, just ONE person in any relationship can completely change the dynamic. It does not take two.
This is not to say he didn’t or doesn't participate— sometimes he still is the one who initiates a needed shift. Regardless, I have truly embraced the fact that I am responsible 100% for what is happening at any given moment in my life experience. And I can change it, so long as I am willing to take responsibility. (Sometimes I still resist that though.) And the clearer I get, the clearer all of my relationships get. But THE key- after being willing to take responsibility- is to drop the story I’m telling myself about the situation (whatever it might be) and start over.
Today I can honestly say we are better together than we have ever been. We have taken many aspects of the Argentina experience and started over. When we moved here, it was to be a part of a specific development and community, and we had grand visions which were dashed at almost every turn. But, finally, after enough disappointment and anger and disillusionment to fill a lifetime, we decided to start over. We remembered that we were free and we settled in to our house in the small town near the development. Near our friends but apart from the developers and things that were making us crazy.
(After talking with a friend, I have to add my view that sometimes the best thing is NOT to stay together, and that can also be a positive form of starting over. The end of a relationship doesn't have to mean a failure, unless you choose to see it that way.)
I also used the starting over technique to turn my health around. I took my eating and lifestyle habits back to ground zero and rebuilt from there.
Now, each morning, I wake up and, before I let my mind move to the days activities, I take a moment to feel that freshness, that openness, that sense of starting over. And I try to hold onto that feeling and let it spread to my experiences with people and situations all day, each new day.
It’s easy to see things as fixed, that ‘people are the way they are’, ‘or the rules are the rules’, but they are only fixed so long as they (or we) continue to tell the same story about them. Sure, I have always been ‘me’ on some deep level, but I have also changed drastically multiple times in this lifetime. To encounter someone from my high school days and have them see me as I was then would seem silly… at least to me. And, now, after living this adventure in Argentina, I sometimes think I am hardly the same person I was when I landed here a short (long) three and a half years ago. I look at my husband and see how he has changed in so many ways as well.
The same is true even from moment to moment, not only in a sweeping, lifetime, big-picture sense. Maybe your friend was grouchy this morning. That doesn’t mean they are right now. Do you greet them as if they are still grouchy, or do you let them start over? Maybe you were feeling sick yesterday. Of course, that doesn’t mean you are today. Maybe you fell off your eating plan yesterday… well, all you have is now. Maybe you were once traumatized in some way, but isn't it your thoughts about it today that are still holding you in that place? You are starting over in this very instant... and this very instant... whether you realize it or not.
Every single moment is starting over. If we will allow it to be, this can provide the greatest freedom ever.
I get asked two questions fairly regularly: How long have I been vegetarian, and why did I become vegetarian.
I quit eating meat about 22 years ago, when I was 18. This was when my husband and I were first dating, and I was still eating some chicken and fish, though very rarely any red meat. We would go out and I would order something, say fish, and offer him a bite. He would say no thanks— and it never occurred to me that he always chose vegetarian options. It was months before it came up that he didn’t eat meat. Not that he was ashamed or shy (he isn’t at all). In fact, he was born and raised vegetarian, only eating a little meat by accident a few times in his life. I think he just didn’t want it to be any kind of an issue for us.
When he finally told me, I nearly instantly thought, ‘Hmmm, I could do that'. There was no attachment to eating meat for me. I’d say at first I embraced it for health reasons. I was very into working out and eating well, and back in those days eating carbs wasn’t the ‘bad' thing it is today.
I didn’t eat any meat again until about 3 or 4 years ago. Around the time I stopped eating gluten (to see if it would help with my energy levels), I decided to try a little organic turkey a few times. What I discovered was that my body was quite happy eating meat. There was no rejection or any reaction, even after so many years without it. In fact, I felt good. But after just a few times, I did not feel good about it mentally. Things had changed over the years and I realized my main reason for not eating meat anymore was conscientiousness about eating animals. I am crazy about animals, I really feel a deep connection to them, and I see the individual consciousness in animals of all sizes. I don’t want to eat them, I don’t need to eat them to survive, and so now that is the main reason that I am a vegetarian.
As for dairy and eggs, I don’t look at them the same way. I have had vegan friends who wouldn’t even eat honey because it was made by bees. For me, I don’t want to kill any animals, or treat them badly, but I don’t see the harm in sharing in some of the things they produce. (And I mean naturally. Slaughterhouses and most commercial 'animal processing' are horrible things.)
I don’t eat a lot of dairy because I don’t think it is particularly healthy for me. I also never was a huge fan. Even growing up I could only drink straight milk if it had pink strawberry-flavored powder in it. :) And here in Argentina we don’t have ‘organic’ dairy. (Though I did get raw milk from a local dairy once; which seemed great in theory, but it tasted way too strongly of animal for my taste.)
The goat cheeses here are quite natural and locally made. But the cow’s milk is all commercial, and I don’t know what kind of hormones are in it. In general, most foods are less processed and manipulated in Argentina, though I believe that’s been shifting as the Monsantos of the world make inroads. However, the milk here actually goes bad in a few days, as does all fresh produce. (Not including the highly processed milk that sits in boxes on the room-temperature shelves. Ew.)
I didn’t eat eggs for many years. Growing up they weren’t a big part of life. My dad would sometimes make us scrambled eggs with cheddar cheese which were yummy; though it would somewhat offset the yumminess when he would refer to them as 'liquid chickens’. (No he’s nowhere near a vegetarian. He also calls mushrooms ‘poisoned dog lips’. He just has his list of not-so-favorite foods… still, to this day.)
I probably didn’t eat eggs at all for about 15 years after I decided to become a vegetarian. At some point I felt that I needed an additional protein source and I found eggs to be satisfying and an important part of my healthy eating. Again, I don’t want eggs that cause chickens harm or stress. But since eggs aren’t actually ‘liquid chickens', I don’t have an issue with including them in my diet.
All of this is just to share, not to try to convince. Each person makes their choices and decides what is best for them.
Do You Hold In Your Joy?
Lastly, I wanted to mention something that I think about frequently. Some years ago, I read all of Nathaniel Branden’s books. He wrote a lot of great stuff, primarily about self esteem (his books would fall in the self-improvement category). In one of the books (I’ve forgotten now which) he recounts how he wondered; why, after all of the work he’d done on himself over the years, did he still have trouble just simply being happy sometimes? And then it occurred to him— deep down he believed that if he was happy then he probably wasn’t taking life seriously enough.
That one really stuck with me, and often strikes home with people I mention it to. Maybe your underlying belief is a bit different, but the result can be the same.
How often you hold in your joy? Why is it often so much easier to express the negative?
And with that thought, I’ll wind up for this month. As always, my favorite easy meals from March are below. This month I’ve included two very simple recipes that I love and that I often rely for simple and healthy meals when the ingredients are in season. I’m also including another book recommendation, one of my favorites that is both fascinating and powerful in it’s message.
Favorite Easy Meals- from March 2015
Roasted Beets, Carrots & Onions
This is one of my favorite easy everyday meals. It’s so simple and so delicious. It’s also packed with nutrition- iron in the beets, vitamin A in carrots, to name just two of the nutrients. Just look at the colors.
(Which, by the way, is a great way to get more out of your food. Are your dinners vibrant with the colors of the rainbow? How often do you eat green, red, blue, purple, orange, and bright yellow foods? This is not say all white foods have no value. Onions are good for you, so is cauliflower. But most white foods like bread, sugar, milk, and pasta don’t provide near the nutritional value as the brightly colored ones.)
As you probably know by now, I love roasting vegetables for dinner. This combination of beets, carrots and onions comes out especially good after baking in the oven. The vegetables caramelize a bit, get sweeter and meld together in perfect harmony. As a bonus, these are veggies that are always available in the markets here in Argentina, and probably in many other areas around the world.
So, if you’re looking for an easy weeknight meal (and great leftovers) that is gluten-free, vegan, grain-free, nut-free and soy-free, then look no further. I usually serve this over rice, but you could use quinoa as a non-grain base. It also makes an easy side to any other main dish.
Recipe for Roasted Beets Carrots & Onions
Use about equal parts beets and carrots and 1-2 large onions. Make enough to fill the biggest baking pan you have.
Peel & cube the raw beets and carrots (yes, with a regular vegetable peeler). Roughly dice the onion, in pieces about the same size as the beet and carrot cubes. (I like approximately 1 inch bites.) Toss in the pan with a generous amount of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a 400F (200C) oven for approximately 45 minutes until totally tender. Serve!
Recipe for Strawberry Avocado Salad
Wash and spin your greens. I recommend baby spinach or arugula. Roughly chop and make a bed in each serving bowl. Top with diced or sliced avocado and sliced fresh strawberries. Add salt and fresh cracked pepper. Drizzle with tasty olive oil and a good squeeze fresh lemon juice. Finish with a little balsamic vinegar glaze (optional). A sprinkle of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds (even better lightly toasted), or a crumble of goat cheese also go well here. And enjoy!
Lessons from the Light by Dr. Kenneth Ring
If you’ve ever wondered what happens after we die, and especially if you have kept your distance from anything that hinted of religion or airy-fairy spiritualism, this book provides fascinating, documented stories about near death experiences and how they changed the lives of the people who experienced them, for the better. You can draw your own conclusions.
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