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Posts Tagged ‘nourishment’

tea journal window cafe

Recently, the lovely and wise Jen Lee wrote about her prescription for strength, sharing a few details of her self-care routine and noting broader principles for tending to your own strength. That post came in the middle of a grey week, where I was feeling stretched thin, trying to do too much and growing frustrated when I ended up tired and frazzled.

I circle back to this theme of self-care every so often, devising recharge programs and lifesavers for myself, musing on the importance of taking care and moving toward balance when life goes off-kilter. My lists tend to include a mix of little treats (new books, chai lattes, hours with favorite movies or good friends) and old-fashioned nourishment (steaming bowls of soup, fresh fruit, hot showers, getting extra sleep). And as arsenals of mood-boosters and sanity restoratives, they play a vital role.

But I like Jen’s idea of operating from a place of strength, of knowing what you need for your physical and emotional health and then making that a consistent practice, even if taking care of yourself feels effortful, or complicated. We all know instinctively what we need to feel well and whole, but we don’t always think about it, or consciously put it into practice. This isn’t self-indulgence (though a little of that is called for every now and again). This is necessary care, especially since most of us are the primary caretakers of our own bodies and souls.

ballet flats yellow leaves fall autumn

The practices that nourish me and shore me up include the following:

1. Come prepared. Check the weather forecast; bring an extra book; pack snacks (or an umbrella or a cardigan – whatever will likely be needed); keep teabags handy. I feel so much less frazzled when I take time to prepare, even just for the day.

2. Wear good shoes. Living, working and walking in a city, I notice a difference when I wear quality shoes that support my feet.

3. Make time for tea. This ritual warms, comforts and relaxes me; clears my head and prepares me to deal with the world; and yes, provides much-needed caffeine on many mornings.

4. Get enough sleep. I am a night owl by nature, and I hold a 9-to-5 job with a commute. This one is tough, but I am making an effort.

5. Spend time in community. Not just the virtual kind (though I love it and am grateful for it), but the real, face-to-face kind.

6. Make time to journal regularly. When I am edgy or off-kilter, J will ask, “Have you been writing?” The answer is usually no, and it means I need to get back to the page, even if it’s just to rant for 10 minutes. I learn this lesson over and over.

7. Cook nourishing meals, and accept the necessity of takeout sometimes. These are different sides of the same coin. But they are both ways of paying attention to my body and accepting the realities of my schedule. J and I cook dinner together and eat at the table whenever possible, which grounds and relaxes us – but we also know the value of a meal out when needed.

8. Surround myself with good words. Books, blogs, a handful of my favorite magazines: wise, thoughtful, witty and engaging words are the air I breathe.

9. Get outside. Even when it’s freezing, fresh air blows the fog out of my soul – especially in the middle of the workday.

How do you nourish yourself and keep your reserves filled? I’d love to hear your prescription for strength.

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Last Friday, I came home from work early (thank you, summer hours), started a load of laundry, gathered up a scribbled list and a handful of pseudo-cloth reusable bags, and headed to the grocery store for the first time in almost a month.

With all the traveling I did in June – first to Texas, then to the Glen, then to Maine for a wedding weekend – and all the social commitments that filled the half-weeks I was home, I cooked (by my estimation) less than half a dozen meals. My husband did a bit of shopping here and there, for himself (he only went on one trip with me), but by the end of another week, the cupboards had grown bare again.

raspberries farmer's marker

Raspberries at the farmer’s market (before the grocery store)

I was astonished at how satisfying it felt to roll the squeaky cart down the familiar aisles, starting with the produce section (peaches, avocados, tomatoes, bell peppers) and moving on to the fresh cheeses (mozzarella) next to the bakery (a chewy baguette). I picked up a few staples (chicken broth, corn tortillas, pasta, pizza crust, the tomatillo salsa we can never get enough of) before moving on to the meat case (chicken thighs) and the refrigerated section (milk, lemonade, yogurt, frozen blueberries for muffins). And the whole time, I could feel my body relaxing, my spirit exhaling.

I wasn’t even buying a week’s worth of groceries to turn into meals. My forethought extended only to the staples mentioned above, and to cereal and milk for the next week’s breakfasts. Mostly I was grabbing what I knew we needed, and what looked good to eat on a night too hot and sticky to warrant turning on the oven.

We ended up making non-toasted bruschetta with the baguette, tomatoes and mozzarella that night, topped with curving leaves from my basil plant and splashed with olive oil and apple balsamic vinegar. We dipped bright raw slices of orange bell pepper into hummus, and drank sweating glasses of raspberry lemonade. Afterward, the plates and cutting boards and knives jostled pleasantly in the sink, a welcome contrast to the sad, solitary glasses and spoons and cereal bowls of late.

Shopping for food – lots of it, not just running to the store for a quart of milk or a bag of tortilla chips – plants me squarely in the middle of my own life. Buying fresh produce, glossy and firm but not likely to stay so for long, requires corresponding faith that I will be around to eat it. Stocking up on staples betokens a hope that I’ll be planning and executing meals for the long haul, not just tonight, but this weekend and next week and even later this month, when the pasta and rice and baking ingredients will still be usable.

I’m looking at recipes again, jotting down ingredients, planning meals in my head. I’m washing whole sinkfuls of dishes, not just the occasional fork or mug or bowl. I am back to inhabiting my own life, living in this kitchen, this pantry, this dining-room table. I am acting on my deep instinctual need to provide nourishment, but I’m also delighting in spicy sauces and milky mozzarella and the tart, sweet taste of raspberries eaten by the handful.

In short: I am tasting my own life again. And it is delicious.

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