Finding ways to make life easier through hectic times. Photos courtesy: Caroline Ishii.
OTTAWA — “Summertime and the livin’ is easy,” croons George Gershwin in the famous song, Summertime. Is it for you?
How can we make our lives easier as we try to check off the many things from our to-do lists and enjoy the too-short summer season?
I’ve just moved, and anyone who has moved knows it always looks easier when you decide to move versus when you’re in the middle of it. Packing up, getting rid of things you’ve never used, and lots of boxes, many trips out to buy boxes and tape, or to drop off things at second-hand stores and to friends.
My dog Bounty is usually calm at home but became increasingly agitated and scared of the boxes. She doesn’t like change, and while I like change, I’m not fond of transitions. It’s a messy, awkward time when you must decide what you will pack and how much you need to keep going. And surrounded by boxes, the peace and comfort that made it home before disappears.
In moving, there is always a time when it is more work than you thought. This is part of the process. Our naivety in not knowing how hard things would be is how we started in the first place. Otherwise, we would never embark on new adventures. Whether having children, starting a new job, or moving.
What do you do when transitioning and living through the mess and clutter? Or the times when we’re not at our best? Do we scold and criticize ourselves?
I noticed I was doing this a lot. I often blamed myself when something went wrong, saying, “What’s wrong with you?!” I knew I was hurting myself by saying this, but had difficulty stopping. The first step is noticing! What to do, then?
What would our best friend tell us if we were discouraged and exhausted from moving? They may say, let’s go for dinner, take a walk, see a movie, and treat yourself well. It’s a hard time. What would our best friend say if we were discouraged and feeling low? Probably the same.
When times are hard, and I don’t feel well—tired, exhausted, and sad—which is normal, I often resist these feelings and worry that they won’t go away. Sometimes we need to stand back and hold up our hands, like in the Iron Chef Kitchen Stadium when the time is up in the showdown. We let go of our long to-do lists and stop punishing ourselves to do more, be better, and finish what we started, at least for now. It’s summer, after all!
In doing this, we let go of our high expectations of ourselves and start nurturing ourselves, which we need through hard times and all times. We become kinder to ourselves instead of waiting for a friend to permit us, which I used to do. I still lean this way, but I’m developing the muscle of compassion for myself. If I don’t, who will? In doing this, while my external and internal environment can be messy and cluttered, I free myself and know I am not this.
This is what taking pauses, getting away, and letting go at times can do for you; at least, that’s what happened to me.
Emotions coming through, positive and negative, are like passing clouds. When we can observe and appreciate them with curiosity but not attach to them too much or shun them if we don’t want them. Instead, we focus on them for what they are, just emotions passing through.
When we worry about what we can’t control, it’s wasted energy. If you reflect on how much of your worrying has been fruitful and positive, you will see what I mean. It’s a lesson I’m still learning, and I share it so we can learn together and put our energies to better use, like enjoying the summer.
“You are the sky. Everything else—it’s just the weather,” says Buddhist nun, teacher, and writer Pema Chödrön.
In unpacking and settling into my new home, and with the summer here, I go to easy-to-prepare meals and drinks. They are in my summer playbook of kindness to myself. I’m sharing a few recipes so that you can create your playbook. All recipes begin with kindness to yourself. Have a wonderful summer!
Green-Berry Power Smoothie
Yield: about 2 cups
Notes: The chia seeds, hemp seeds, and spirulina powder are optional. I add them for energy and protein from the hemp seeds.
You could also use a protein powder, like pumpkin, instead of hemp seeds. For the greens, I use whatever greens I have on hand, including the green tops of organic vegetables like carrots. Be creative! The world is your smoothie!
To freeze ripe bananas, peel them and place them in a freezer bag before storing them. They will be ready for your smoothies and provide sweetness without adding sugar.
1/2 cup frozen or fresh blueberries, or other berries
1 cup spinach greens or other greens
1 cup soy or non-dairy milk
1 ripe banana, previously peeled and frozen
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 tablespoon hemp seeds
1 teaspoon spirulina powder
1 small piece of ginger
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a blender until smooth. If you like a thinner smoothie, add more milk or water.
Barb’s Go-To Salad
Here’s a simple-to-make salad and dressing from my dear friend Barb, who doesn’t like to cook but loves to make and eat this salad for lunch. I’ve fallen in love with it and make it often. It’s sweet, bitter, spicy, and delicious—like my life.
Start with spicy, bitter greens—our favourite is arugula—in a bowl. Drizzle tahini on top of the greens, sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then the extra virgin olive and balsamic/apple cider vinegar. Toss lightly. Add some nuts, avocado slices, or protein if you wish.
Rustic Tomato Salad
I love my friend Rossana’s rustic Italian salad with ripe tomatoes; my favourites are heirlooms from the farmers’ market. Or if they are from your garden, even better!
She said there was no recipe but gave me the ingredients: ripe summer tomatoes, fresh buffalo mozzarella (from water buffalo milk, it’s a softer, creamer mozzarella) or bocconcini (bite-size balls of fresh mozzarella), fresh basil, red wine/balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and sea salt.
For protein, you can add canned tuna or chickpeas. Scoop up the liquid with crusty bread. In my view, heaven on earth!