Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Sweet Peace #24: Returning to a place known and unknown

2001 Memorial

In case I’ve ever wondered, I would not have made a good pioneer. Those hardy folks felled trees to build cabins without the benefit of step-by-step instructions in four languages and exactly the right number of screws in little plastic bags labeled 4C.

In the time it has taken me to assemble a wire storage cubby delivered by amazon and held together by ingenious plastic doohickeys, they could have skinned a bear, turned it into a parka and mukluks, and headed out to snare snow rabbits for dinner. My survival skills would have been measured by an egg timer.

I thought this would be an easy move. After three significant downsizings, I was living in an RV. How could moving be an issue when I had so little stuff? The challenge came when I moved from an everything-is-built-in RV to a bare-walls apartment. Even when you have little stuff, if there’s no place to put it, it looks like chaos.

However messy this move has been, I’m here, in the place I never dreamed I’d be able to return to, the place I fell head-over-heels in love with 42 years ago. One interesting aspect of this move is that I moved back to a place I know well (Santa Barbara) but wound up in a neighborhood that’s like a foreign country. Isla Vista is the unincorporated community home of UCSB, population 15,000, mostly university students and employees.

Beneath this tranquil, ocean-front community, rests a history of violence. Five people were killed in a vehicular homicide in 2001 and a murderous rampage in 2014 left six people dead and another fourteen injured. Plus, you could say that the same war in Vietnam which brought me to California in 1968 also brought me to this place where I plan to end my days.

The late 60s were a time of violent protests. In February, 1970, UCSB students began to riot and wound up burning the Bank of America. Governor Reagan sent in the National Guard but the tension continued for two months and finally abated after a student was killed.

During those days of conflict, student population dropped and a recently constructed dorm was sold to a group who turned it into an independent, senior living community … Friendship Manor … my new home. Who knows what new adventures this new life will bring, however, on my morning walk, I heard three different languages being spoken by young students just beginning their own adventures.

I am deeply grateful to be in this place at this time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Sweet Peace #23: Pulling out of a downward spiral

Hamilton Branch

Blame it on road trips … or at least the road trip mindset. Long hours on the road have somehow merged into a mindset that welcomes Cheetos, Diet Coke, and other packages of normally verboten junk food as part of the adventure. I used to blame it on boredom, but now I’ve discovered the world of podcasts which fascinate me, so it isn’t boredom. It’s more of a rebellion fueled by rest stops that involve walking through endless aisles of sugary and salty possibilities that never appear in my every-day world. 

However, it's more than just caving to the lure of those options.

This is my 23rd week of Sweet Peace, 52 weeks dedicated to making peace with food, my body, and my mindsets related to food and body. Progress seems to be a wave function of successes and failures with a gradual rising level of understanding and insight. However, the 11-hour trip from Santa Barbara to Lake Almanor plunged me into the junk food pool and I continued to sink as I set up residence at the lake, welcoming sugar and processed carbs into my pantry.

Knowing I had to write this letter to myself this morning gave me time to pause and wonder why I just hit this rocky shore. There are several contributors:

- Fatigue. The past two weeks of moving have drained my energies. Plus my new apartment is still in a disorienting state of chaos.

- Loss of routine. All my routine systems were dismantled during the move and just as new ones were forming, I headed off on an 11-hour drive to the lake. One of the victims of this move has been my daily gratitude practice and work on Gratitude Mojo.

- Fear, anxiety, and worry. Moving is expensive and this particular one has a lot of financial balls bouncing around, leaving me uncertain as to where they will come down. Part of me knows that everything will be fine, but the other part imagines disaster.

- Isolation. A big reason for the move was the pull of being part of a community. This necessary trip to the lake is an extension of the isolation I’ve felt for the past two years. While it is beautiful and peaceful here, I feel even more alone than ever.

Okay, Joyce, you have a lot of reasons for feeling low. So what? Everyone does. What are you going to do about it?

… … … …

I’m going to post this and then set up my gratitude workbook and write in it. I need to reset my mindset. I want to break this downward spiral. After writing my gratitudes, I'm going to plan a kayak trip for this afternoon or tomorrow. I'm going to pay attention to the beauty of this incredible lake while I'm here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Sweet Peace #22: Breaking my sugar-fast. Now what?

I chose to break a 67-day sugar fast to celebrate my move to Santa Barbara. My friend Barbara organized champagne, miniature ice cream cones from Trader Joe’s and we binge-watched several episodes of the new season of Grace & Frankie.  It was perfect and I feel much more confident about my ability to commit to a health plan and honor it!

I never intended the “no-sugar” thing to be forever, just to break the sugar cycle that had gotten out of control. It seems to have worked; one glass of champagne and the tiny ice cream cones didn’t trigger a reaction. My intention for moving forward is to restrict sugar to important social celebrations.

During the no-sugar days, however, a new behavior crept in. Because I wasn’t eating sugar, it suddenly seemed okay to eat non-sugary junk food, especially on the road trips I was making as I prepared for the move. Salty snacks became a thing. As I thought about how to continue moving toward cleaner, healthier eating, I knew I needed to do something about those snack attacks. A different fast seemed like a logical idea … maybe processed-foods. At first, I jumped at the idea, but after awhile, it began to pale. There are lots of problems with processed foods: chemicals, calories with few health benefits, bad fats … and again sugar. However, another fast sounded horrid … like going to war with food instead of making peace with it.

Instead of focusing on eliminating “bad” foods, maybe it’s time to choose healthy foods, foods I like *and* add to my health. Mainly plants, focusing on fiber, and avoiding highly processed foods. Moderate eating without the black and white drama of fasting or (never again) dieting. 

When I moved, I inherited a 3-meals-a-day cafeteria which tries to be healthy while also pleasing 250 residents. It’s far more carb-loaded than my system wants so I have to learn to adapt to what’s available and my own health requirements. Fortunately, there is a decent salad bar at lunch and dinner and I think, with some creativity, it could be supplemented to become the foundation of a healthy eating plan.

I just found a guide to healthy eating in college cafeterias that offers some great ideas. This could be like a game … avoiding the hazards with simple supplements to the fundamentals.

Oatmeal: enhanced with peanut butter, cream cheese, chia seeds, greek yogurt, or fresh fruit.

Salad: enhanced with chopped greens, hard boiled eggs, beans, seed mixtures, fresh fruit, avocado,

blue cheese or other pre-shredded cheese

Soup: make my own once a week and store in serving sized, microwaveable jars.

Snacks: nuts and fruits.

This is doable. Obviously, I need an apartment-sized refrigerator and a microwave. 

Love Letters to My Life: #47 - A new form of freedom with gratitude to Rich Strike

A labyrinth near my new home

One of the few times I've ever felt depressed was when I bought my first house with my first husband. We were on our way back to college after he returned from Vietnam and finished his tour with the Marine Corps. The government offered some sort of assistance for first-time home buyers and tacked on a requirement that it be new construction. There was ONE such house available in Stillwater, Oklahoma ... a tiny cookie-cutter, scraped-bare dirt lawn on the edge of town. One day, a lonesome cow wandered into our yard and ate my newly planted red bud tree. It was that kind of place.

     We were thrilled to find affordable housing, however that's when a strange spiral of depression began. I knew I should feel elated, however, instead, I felt burdened. Instead of feeling a pride of ownership, I felt owned and some sort of fear about losing something I wasn't even sure I wanted.

Over time though, I put the feeling aside and went on with life, bought and sold many houses, tried different housing options, and one more husband (who left way too soon). It wasn’t until this week when I was moving my thrice-downsized stuff into Friendship Manor, a senior community on the edge of the UCSB campus, that I realized the feeling of being owned by houses had evaporated. I was/am free … free of the expectations and responsibility of home ownership. Free of the expectations of being an “adult.” 

Somehow I’ve entered a zone of freedom from expectations … most likely of my own creation since I don’t think other people are bothering to create expectations of me. As the old joke goes: when I was 20, I worried about what people thought about me. When I turned 40, I quit worrying about what people thought about me. When I was 60, I realized they weren’t thinking about me. 

As I approach the next number in that double-decade series, I am truly realizing that this is MY life, the only life I have and what I do with it is my choice. This morning, a friend used the metaphor that we are in the home stretch and it made me think of Rich Strike, the horse that stole our hearts at the Kentucky Derby. Rich Strike lit our imaginations and brought home the message that it’s not over until it’s over and the expectations of others do not create our reality.

Few of us will carry off a win like the Kentucky Derby, however, as long as we’re running our own race, doing what we love to do, and giving it our all, we will take home the roses. And, there's another metaphor ... what exactly do we ... each one of us ... mean by "take home the roses?"

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Sweet Peace #21: Balancing Solitude and Community

Hiking a peaceful creek in Fallbrook with a friend.

The RV is in chaos, open boxes waiting for something to fit in that one last cranny, a sack for the thrift store, a few items for the kids, what can be packed away and what will I need for the next few days before the unboxing begins in a new place? Moving. One more move; perhaps the last one.

This time without a kitchen waiting presents a new set of questions, thoughts about a new way of being and how this development fits into the Sweet Peace journey. I’m moving into a dorm, albeit a dorm converted to apartments for seniors, apartments without kitchens. There is a central cafeteria and the manager has already joked about the “freshman fifteen.” I remember my own freshman bout with unlimited food, potatoes and dessert at every meal, freedom to explore and indulge. I wonder how I’ll deal with this new environment? Will I be able to hang on to Sweet Peace? It's my choice. Which reminds me of a poem:

It’s My Choice

I can let it flow.
I can turn it loose and let it go,
Or, I can work it.

I can push it, pull it, pound it,
Shove it, shape it, turn it inside out,
Or break it. I can work it.

I can form it in my hands
And make it fit my plans.
I can work it!

Or, I can let it go.
Turn it loose and let it flow.

Let it flow ...
    Let it flow ...

       Let it flow!

Of all my moves, this may be the most radical, even more than moving to Mexico. Solitude has been my norm for the past fifteen years; now I will be living with 215 close neighbors, eating communal meals, choosing to, or not to, participate in community activities. Learning how to adapt to and appreciate the community I've chosen.

The past almost-two years camped in a beautiful oak forest has been a gift, although an isolated one. I am one of the few full-time residents and days can go by without seeing anyone other than the maintenance guys who are always tending the park. I have lovely neighbors on both sides of me, but weeks go by without seeing either of them. Fortunately, telephone, internet, and zoom keep me tethered to the larger world. Now, I will be deep in community, not only my neighbors but friends and all the cultural offerings of being in Santa Barbara. How will I maintain my solitude in the midst of so much richness of community?

I put myself on the waiting list for this apartment in November and have spent the last six months dithering about whether or not I really wanted to make this move. Solitude has become familiar and comfortable. It has also bumped up against isolation which is not so comfortable. Thoughts about how long it would take for someone to find my dead body have reoccured often enough to become a macabre joke.

However, I kept taking two steps forward for every one backwards and here I am. This is the week. Friday, I drive a small U-Haul van to Friendship Manor, my new home, my new life, on the edge of the University of California Santa Barbara campus overlooking the Pacific Ocean, on an island of long-lived souls surrounded by a sea of just beginning spirits. 

Who knows what’s next on this journey.  

Friday, May 6, 2022

Sweet Peace #20: Don't miss twice!


Visiting Grace

Life is hectic right now. Just found out last week that I’m moving to an apartment in Santa Barbara so there has been a flurry of planning and the beginning of the packing process. That should be a simple thing since I’ve radically downsized over the past few years, however, it is still chaotic and stressful.

Therefore, it is now Friday and I missed my Tuesday commitment to write about this Sweet Peace journey. Perhaps it's because I’ve been frustrated by having my blood glucose spike again even though it seems like I’ve been conscientiously doing what should be done. I’m now on Day 60 of no sugary foods, processed carbohydrates are a rarity, intermittent fasting for 18 hours, and walking daily. You would think my body would be singing “Hallelujah!” Maybe, it’s waiting to see if I will keep this commitment.

During the creation of  Gratitude Mojo, a transformation journey for a better life, one of the lessons learned about habits was … don’t miss twice. Life gets chaotic, so it’s almost a guarantee that something will happen to pull us away from our commitments. That’s to be expected. However, if we miss twice, we’re on a downward slope toward extinguishing the work we’ve done to create the habit. It get’s easier and easier to think: tomorrow!

Two weeks ago, I missed my Tuesday commitment and posted on Thursday. Now, it’s Friday with no Sweet Peace post made this week. I thought about just skipping this week and showing up next Tuesday. It was tempting. I have a lot of stuff to do today … and that would only be missing one week so I would still be in the safe zone. However, since I “missed” or delayed last week, skipping this week felt like too much of a gamble. I’ve gotten a lot out of these weekly posts and I want to keep this 52-week commitment.

So, here I am. Showing up. Keeping my commitment. Determined to show up next Tuesday.

Image: This week, I was invited to visit a friend’s garden, two acres of flowers, orchards, succulents, all designed with a consciousness of water and beauty. Later as I thumbed through the many photos, this canna kept catching my eye, inviting me into a creative process that became “Visiting Grace.”