Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Day 7 of 7: Colonoscopy Prep, Vegan Style

 It seems these days that nothing is out of bounds when it comes to documenting one's experience of anything. Doesn't seem to matter how trivial or important that experience is so long as it is either recorded and published via a video or a still picture or a carefully crafted written work. Everything is fair game. In the spirit of that no-limits approach and nothing-is-too-boring approach, I will be documenting my own experience. It's not just any experience, mind you. It's the experience of a vegan/plant centered person and it's mine! I will be writing for the full seven days about what is working and what isn't. I hope you will follow along and maybe at the same time, I can provide some useful information. 

___________________________________________

My exam day is finally here! I am offering up a prayer to the Poop Gods that my preparation is complete. (It sure feels complete, let me just say that.)

Yesterday (day 6, the prep day) went much better than I expected. For starters, the laxative did not cause the same side effects as it did the previous day. I was also contacted by the surgery center to see if I could come in for an earlier Covid test. I was supposed to have the test the day of the procedure first thing. Having it yesterday shaved an hour off of my arrival time. Much less stressful.

Part of my preparation yesterday was to drink an entire bottle of Miralax in the fluid(s) of my choice. I chose Gatorade which, as of now, I will never drink again. By the time the evening rolled around and I was nearly done I didn't think I could get any more down. I had also had my fill of vegetable broth and tea. I drank more fluids yesterday than I ever have at any one time in my life. And I can't say that I feel any better. I have read that the need to drink (8) 8 ounce glasses of water a day is a myth and not necessary for good health. OK then.

I was able to keep myself busy enough yesterday and still drink the mixture. The worst part has been dealing with being hungry. And of course I haven't had any coffee this morning which isn't helping. I hope everything goes well today. It's a miracle to me that this hospital is still performing procedures, is still staffed enough to keep things going. 

Update:

The procedure went very well. The doctor removed one polyp which I will wait to hear about. I apparently have mild diverticulosis and something called antritis which is an inflammation of the top and bottom of your stomach, roughly speaking. 

With regard to the procedure everything went very well. As others have noted  online and in person, it's a bit of a non event. The only discomfort was from the IV and the endoscopy. My throat is very sore. No problem, I can handle that. I am very grateful to the nurses at the hospital where I had my procedure. I was well taken care of. Nothing beats a nurse for competency and compassion. 

My overall take from this procedure? The prep really was the worst part. Not the part about drinking the liquid and taking the pills so much as the complete disruption to my life for a week. I am so grateful to be able to resume my normal diet, drink my coffee, and just generally get on with things. Now that I actually have two diagnostic tests in hand, I hope to get some better answers as to the source of my issues. A colonoscopy really is the gold standard in the way of diagnostic  and screening tools. 

If you have read this far, thank you. I hope these posts help in that they are written by a real person describing an actual experience which could be helpful for someone facing this procedure.

Any questions?

libbyfife@ymail.com



Monday, December 28, 2020

Day 6 of 7: Colonoscopy Prep, Vegan Style

It seems these days that nothing is out of bounds when it comes to documenting one's experience of anything. Doesn't seem to matter how trivial or important that experience is so long as it is either recorded and published via a video or a still picture or a carefully crafted written work. Everything is fair game. In the spirit of that no-limits approach and nothing-is-too-boring approach, I will be documenting my own experience. It's not just any experience, mind you. It's the experience of a vegan/plant centered person and it's mine! I will be writing for the full seven days about what is working and what isn't. I hope you will follow along and maybe at the same time, I can provide some useful information. 

_______________________________________

Well. That happened! My bowel prep regimen includes Dulcolax stimulant laxatives and Miralax (an osmotic and "laxative"). Let's just say that the laxatives nearly did me in yesterday. And that is saying something considering I have had the Norovirus and have undergone chemotherapy. A good time was not had by all!

I will be doing a repeat today (Monday) and adding on the Miralax (the generic is OK). I can hardly wait. I keep telling myself I only have to do it this one more time. In the meantime, I am weak and dizzy and have a bad "stomach" ache. (I put the word stomach in quotes because it is actually my abdomen that hurts but who wants to imagine your intestines being twisted into knots? That's exactly what it feels like.)

Right now I am currently enjoying my vegetable broth. I bought Progresso brand low sodium broth and added a couple of drops of Braggs liquid aminos to it. It isn't bad. Not sure I want to drink it all day but I guess I am going to. What choice do I have? None, that's what. I want the test done, I want the results, and I want to know what is wrong, if anything. I am struggling and trying hard to be an adult.

While these posts are meant to give some guidance to vegans on what to eat and a possible way to prep for this valuable screening test, I should also mention the reasons why I am going through all of this trouble in taking this test in the first place. I believe in this test as a screening tool for cancer. Also, it has been nearly a year and a half since I started having some difficulties with my bathroom "routine." And while my doctor has mentioned IBS, I don't actually know what, if anything, may be wrong. I do know that whatever it is, it is disrupting my life. This summer I turned into an undependable person who could not be counted on to show up for hikes. My routine and schedule is a distant memory. The whole situation has me depressed. And cranky. The bottom line is that I can't get anywhere with solving the problem if I don't have this test. And that's that. 

With all of that said, here are some observations from yesterday.

1. Eat as much as you can on the last day before your prep day. I became nauseous from the laxatives and couldn't each much of anything afterwards. It would have been good to have a little more food on board prior to starting.

2. There is no two ways about the fact that this whole process is incredibly disruptive. It's best not to fight this and to simply accept it. 

3. After the laxative debacle was over and several hours had passed, I was able to eat a bit. Just get up out of bed and eat something. Anything. It helps. 

4. The broth as a clear liquid option isn't bad. Add some soy sauce or liquid aminos to it if you choose a low sodium option. You could always make your own too.

5. Be as clear as possible about your prep instructions ahead of time. Trust me, you won't be thinking straight once you start and that is no time to try and sort things out. 

6. Drink all of the liquids you can in as many varieties as you are allowed. Liquids, believe it or not can be a little filling and also sort of make you feel like you are eating something. Sort of.

7. If you have family or other household members present, see if they can help you. My husband brought me water in bed yesterday which was really nice. He also got his own dinner ready, cleaned up, and watched TV on his own without complaining. I make him sound like a child but honestly, those are all of my tasks that I am now not doing.

8. If you aren't working, try to stay as busy as possible while you are feeling well. Having a sense of purpose helps the time to pass.

9. Know ahead of time about possible side effects from the medication. I was surprised about the nausea, chills and dizziness from the laxative tablets. 

10. If you can, make sure that your bed is clean and made. You are going to spend some time in it. Clean sheets help. Maybe you have a favorite blanket? Go get that and use it. My mom always told me that when you are sick, it's no good getting into an unmade bed with dirty sheets. She was right.

Well, That's it for now. I am on to do...something. Not sure what yet but something. (Oh wait! I know what I am going to be doing!)

Libby

libbyfife@ymail.com

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Day 5 of 7: Colonoscopy Prep, Vegan Style

It seems these days that nothing is out of bounds when it comes to documenting one's experience of anything. Doesn't seem to matter how trivial or important that experience is so long as it is either recorded and published via a video or a still picture or a carefully crafted written work. Everything is fair game. In the spirit of that no-limits approach and nothing-is-too-boring approach, I will be documenting my own experience. It's not just any experience, mind you. It's the experience of a vegan/plant centered person and it's mine! I will be writing for the full seven days about what is working and what isn't. I hope you will follow along and maybe at the same time, I can provide some useful information. 

_______________________________________

And it's on to day 5! Yay me!

Today is the first "pill" day. My regimen prescribed by the doctor is this: 4 Dulcolax pills on Sunday; 4 Dulcolax pills and 1 bottle of Miralax with Gatorade on Monday. That is 64 ounces of fluid which is ridiculous. I mentioned earlier that the fluid is not only for hydration and replenishment of lost minerals but is also meant to wash down the walls of your colon so that the doctor can better see what is going on. I am hoping that I can do this prep. effectively. I am very afraid of being sick to my stomach, dizzy, feeling unwell, and everything else that may happen (up to and including hyperventilation from anxiety!). I did read that if you expect things to go badly then they will. Well, duh.

Since I am the Curious Housewife, I wondered just exactly how far up into the colon the scope can go and what the colonoscopy test actually shows. The scope can travel all the way up to the end of the small intestine. (The endoscopy can cover everything else only from the other end of your body. Isn't that great?) A colonoscopy is useful in that it can detect polyps or bowel cancer and may help find the reasons for unexplained bowel problems such as diarrhea or blood in the stool. It can also give your doctor a good view of things and give an idea of the structure of your colon or whether or not there is any inflammation. It's an important tool because often times, if there is a polyp or patch of badness, the doctor can do a biopsy right then and there to see what is going on. With a sigmoidoscopy the doctor can only view the rectum and a portion of the colon. This test is appropriate for some situations. With an at home colon test, the fecal sample can only show the presence of blood, changes in your DNA or possible polyps that might exist. I think it is meant for screening in people that don't have any risk factors or people that have already had a clear colonoscopy. The doctor decides on that.

I didn't know this but colon cancer is the second most common cause of cancer related death in the United States. And it's preventable but you have to catch it in time. No one wants to talk about their colon or their rear end or what comes out of it or what hurts. It's private isn't it but honestly, I don't think it needs to be. My opinion is that we don't talk enough openly about the things that make us human. We are growing, moving, in-process physiological creatures. We aren't static, in other words. The more we talk about our fears, living and dying, what our bodies do, how our minds work, the better off we will be. 

Colon Cancer isn't something that we like to talk about. (Though we seem to love our poop jokes.) I had never thought about colon cancer or any cancer for that matter until I was diagnosed myself with Hodgkins Lymphoma at age 30. Truthfully though, until that happened, no cancer of any type was on my radar. Cancer was for old people. That ignorance changed for me in 1998, when Katie Couric (then of the Today Show), announced that her husband, the late Jay Monahan, had died of colon cancer. I still remember seeing her on TV talking about his death and her subsequent efforts to get herself and other people screened. It was heartbreaking. He was only 42. Today the minimum screening age is 45. I am now 50. I think there is some wiggle room there with those ages but in any case, I am overdue. So while it feels like I am on a train headed down hill with no brakes at warp speed, I am doing this thing. I hope.

Some observations from Saturday:

1. It only took 2 days to notice changes in my bathroom routine. This tells me that the human body can be very responsive to diet changes. Extrapolating out from that idea, I think it is never too late to discover what foods can make you feel good or bad and what those foods can do to your body in a very real and tangible way. 

2. I miss my beans! (still)

3. If you experienced a life altering illness causing you to change your diet, it would be tough! I have a new found empathy for anyone with any kind of IBD type disease or any other sort of illness that necessitates a change in diet. While my diet adventures are temporary, many people have to make permanent changes in order to live.

If you have been following along at all this far, thank you. Today (Sunday) things are about to get real, so to speak. Stay tuned!

Libby

libbyfife@ymail.com



Day 4 of 7: Colonoscopy Prep, Vegan Style

It seems these days that nothing is out of bounds when it comes to documenting one's experience of anything. Doesn't seem to matter how trivial or important that experience is so long as it is either recorded and published via a video or a still picture or a carefully crafted written work. Everything is fair game. In the spirit of that no-limits approach and nothing-is-too-boring approach, I will be documenting my own experience. It's not just any experience, mind you. It's the experience of a vegan/plant centered person and it's mine! I will be writing for the full seven days about what is working and what isn't. I hope you will follow along and maybe at the same time, I can provide some useful information. 

_______________________________________

This morning (Saturday) I tried a larger breakfast all at once rather than several smaller meals. I had a slice of sourdough toast, a small serving of mashed potatoes, green beans, and a pumpkin cookie. I also had a little bit of water to help things along. That's a starchy all carb. meal so we will see how long it lasts and what happens to my blood sugar. 

*Update to the above: Blood sugar was fine. I was still hungry.

Some things of note:

1. I am heartily sick of soft, boiled vegetables. Specifically, peeled carrots and green beans. Although on the flip side, I really enjoyed the carrot puree. I cooked the hell out of the carrots and then blended them in the food processor. They became light and airy like whipped cream. Dreamy. 

2. Also sick of tofu which, as you might guess, is not good news. I will bounce back from this one. 

3. Eating more at lunch was helpful though uncomfortable. A nap helped. 

4. I have a soup planned for after the procedure. I can't wait to eat beans again but I think I will blend them into the soup to make things easier on my stomach. We will see how I feel. Maybe I won't want to eat much.

5.  I have been able to stick with my exercise routine which is nice. I do enjoy my walks. My energy level seems fine too. People live on all sorts of diets by necessity and manage to thrive. This one thankfully is only a few days.

6. I have been drinking my water straight from the refrigerator. When it is cold like that for some reason it is easier to get down. Despite this tactic though I am still only drinking about 20 ounces or so a day. (This doesn't include coffee or juice.)

7. I am still very involved with myself with not much room for anything else. Wanting nearly seven days to pass so that you can get something over with isn't so great when you are my age. You really don't want any days to pass. 

And on that note!

Libby

libbyfife@ymail.com



Saturday, December 26, 2020

Day 3 of 7: Colonoscopy Prep, Vegan Style

It seems these days that nothing is out of bounds when it comes to documenting one's experience of anything. Doesn't seem to matter how trivial or important that experience is so long as it is either recorded and published via a video or a still picture or a carefully crafted written work. Everything is fair game. In the spirit of that no-limits approach and nothing-is-too-boring approach, I will be documenting my own experience. It's not just any experience, mind you. It's the experience of a vegan/plant centered person and it's mine! I will be writing for the full seven days about what is working and what isn't. I hope you will follow along and maybe at the same time, I can provide some useful information. 

_______________________________________

What a Merry Christmas! Actually, day 3 wasn't too bad. It is still just a low fiber diet day, not the prep day itself. I should mention that in following my own doctor's instructions, she specified 2-3 days of a low fiber diet. After a little research, I decided to do a few extra days in hopes of making the actual clean out easier. I eat a lot of fiber, nuts, seeds, and stringy type veggies and fruits and I don't actually know what my "transit" time is. The rate at which foods move through your system can vary from person to person and depend on many factors. I just thought a few extra days of a low fiber diet would be helpful. Afterall, the idea is to get all of that residue that might cling to the sides of your colon out so that the doctor can get a clear look. (I'd like to mention too at this time that the doctor told me what happens if she can't get a clear enough view. They wake you up, pump you full of a few fleet enemas, and wait for things to happen. No thank you!)

Let's talk about that low fiber diet shall we? It sucks. Sorry, I said it and I meant it. I actually had a tough time finding crackers and bread that didn't contain at least some whole grains, nuts, and seeds. I could, however, have a bought a whole fleet of Little Debbie cakes and cookies. (And a bunch of Twinkies too, no doubt. I didn't look.) Pasta was easy enough but honestly, I don't love pasta. I love my grains and I miss them dearly. Oats, quinoa, barley, millet, brown rice...I hope to see you all again soon! What I miss the most though (and it's only been three days) is my beloved beans. Oh, how I love my legumes, beans, peas and anything else in this category. It's my main protein staple. (Tofu is good but soy products in general don't agree with me.) I am here to tell you that my body needs protein and complex carbohydrates. Nothing else will do. I feel like doo-doo.

So, what went well yesterday? I have been loving the mashed potatoes and pureed carrots for dinner along with the pureed soup of sweet potatoes, carrots and squash for lunch. The air fryer tofu has also been a help. I went back to the sourdough bread which is a great filler and way better than the shitty white bread that I bought. It's like eating cardboard! I also made some pumpkin cookies which helped a little. 

What didn't work? I continue to be really hungry in the morning. For some reason I just don't/can't eat enough food. My feeling is (and I am not a doctor or RD) that not getting enough calories early on in the day sets me up for overeating at dinner time. I have read about this though (from various RD sources) and it makes sense to me (and fits with what I know too about my personality). During normal times, this pattern isn't too terrible but right now, when my calories seem to be limited anyway and I am having a hard time with adequate protein, things aren't going so well. I thought about a meal replacement drink a little belatedly. I doubt my local CVS has anything vegan. So, I may try and eat my dinner items at breakfast time. 

Lastly, since we are on the subject, everything came to a kind of grinding halt yesterday with my bathroom routine. (Didn't take long for bad eating to catch up with me.) Not great news. I also didn't drink enough fluids (not counting coffee and juice). So, a bit of a fail in this area. 

I do have a few things to recommend:

1. Prep your food early on and all at once. I have been piecemealing this and it's kind of tedious. 

2. I am thinking of prepping something to eat for after the procedure. Something simple that will be easy to digest. 

3. If you have issues with blood sugar, monitor that closely. I was really close to being hypoglycemic yesterday (from a technical standpoint) and from an anecdotal standpoint, I certainly felt like I was already there. I wasn't paying attention and it snuck up on me. 

4. Your digestive system can be very sensitive. A change in any kind of routine can affect it. It's not unreasonable to expect that quickly altering your diet might mess with the outcome, so to speak. Be patient. (Yah, right!)

Libby

libbyfife@ymail.com


Friday, December 25, 2020

Day 2 of 7: Colonoscopy Prep., Vegan Style

 It seems these days that nothing is out of bounds when it comes to documenting one's experience of anything. Doesn't seem to matter how trivial or important that experience is so long as it is either recorded and published via a video or a still picture or a carefully crafted written work. Everything is fair game. In the spirit of that no-limits approach and nothing-is-too-boring approach, I will be documenting my experience. It's not just any experience, mind you. It's the experience of a vegan/plant centered person and it's mine! I will be writing for the full seven days about what is working and what isn't. I hope you will follow along and maybe at the same time, I can provide some useful information. 

______________________________________

I woke up way too early this morning. I am very anxious and already feeling a little ill from nerves and not eating enough. My tendency is to experience stress a little belatedly, after the fact. Right now though, I am in the thick of it and experiencing it in real time. I am worried about eating too much and having a hard time with the colon prep regimen. It's a real concern. During the day I normally only drink about 16-20 ounces of water. (I am not including coffee or "water" from fruits and vegetables here.) I am very nervous about the 64 ounces of Gatorade that I will need to drink. To cope, I am trying to visualize how happy I will be when the doctor tells me that my colon is as clean as a whistle! Trying, trying.

My hardest meal right now is breakfast. Normally, I eat my meal over the course of several hours. Generally I have some toast (varied grains) with flax on top, a warm grain dish with almond milk and raisins, and then a banana smoothie with brown rice protein powder. I may have some nuts in there too at some point. This is over the course of the morning as I mentioned and I eat lunch at 11AM. With a low fiber diet, I am at a bit of a loss for breakfast. The white bread toast with almond butter and smoothie with protein isn't cutting it. Not sure yet what to do. Should have bought those frozen waffles. Sigh:(

Today (Thursday) I will be trying some things that I hope will help with my hunger and blood sugar control. I was a little low yesterday which I think was contributing to some discomfort. I was also hungry fairly often so I may have to step this up a bit.

1. I will be eating a bit more and earlier, before getting hungry. (Testing of course to see where I am.) Better to stay ahead of the curve. I didn't try a cream-of-white rice with cinnamon idea but I think I may do that for Friday.

2. I am going to add a little more protein powder to my smoothie today. It's brown rice protein powder with no fiber so I think this should be OK.

3. Today I am also making some seitan. Yesterday's post mentioned eating this protein to help with satiety. It's also possible that I just might eat the tofu I have open. Feeling a little lazy I guess.

4. From my experience yesterday, I would say that if you can, have some prepared food on hand. Mashed potatoes, well cooked green beans and carrots, sweet potato, carrot and squash soup, and smoothies have all come in handy so far. I also have pumpkin muffins made with white flour frozen and ready to go. I would also suggest some crackers or pretzels and a very good gluten free bread, if it has permissible ingredients. 

I don't have to go anywhere today so I am going to relax but stay busy as much as possible. I have already started to clean my bathroom. Why not? Apparently, I will be spending some time in there...

Any comments  or suggestions?

libbyfife@ymail.com


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Day 1 of 7: Colonoscopy Prep: Vegan/Plant Based Style

It seems these days that nothing is out of bounds when it comes to documenting one's experience of anything. Doesn't seem to matter how trivial or important that experience is so long as it is either recorded and published via a video or a still picture or a carefully crafted written work. Everything is fair game. In the spirit of that no-limits approach and nothing-is-too-boring approach, I will be documenting my experience. It's not just any experience, mind you. It's the experience of a vegan/plant centered person and it's mine! I will be writing for the full seven days about what is working and what isn't. I hope you will follow along and maybe at the same time, I can provide some useful information. 

______________________________________________________

In April of this year I turned 50. I was looking forward to that, had a nice day in fact, and went on about my business after celebrating quietly. Just another birthday you say? Hardly. The age is significant  because when you turn 50, among other things, you get a colonoscopy. There is no doubt that colonoscopy screening can catch cancer before it gets going in earnest. Who doesn't want to prevent that? 

It took awhile to get things going with an appointment though (wrong doctor, Covid, etc.) but finally, the date has arrived and prep time is here. I received a set of instructions from the surgeon's office: what laxative preparation to buy, what to not eat in the days leading up to the procedure, and what to do on the day of preparation and on the procedure day. The instructions, not surprisingly, aren't too detailed and they are geared to omnivores. What is a vegan supposed to eat? This problem sent me online in search of more information. 

Well, as can be imagined, there is a lot of different and conflicting information. In general, it's recommended to go on some sort of low fiber/low residue diet several days prior to your procedure. (The length of time varies-anywhere from 7 to 5 to 3 days.) There are many lists of dos and don'ts, what can be eaten and what should be avoided. Unfortunately for vegans, these lists are sort of omnivore leaning. If you love tuna fish or chicken, this could be a great time for you!

I continued to do some research and as I read further, I could see that all of the lists of foods had the same thing in common. You essentially have to eat some real crap (no offense to my omnivore friends) for a particular length of time in order to eat as little fiber as possible. (Fiber, while great for digestion and motility, can leave a residue on the inside of your colon. That residue makes it hard for the doctor to see everything including polyps and lesions and God knows what all else.) Anything with seeds in it is a problem as well. Seeds tend to get stuck and can look like other things that could be lethal. So, like it or not, low fiber it is!

To move things along (ha! ha!) and to ensure some better nutrition, I made up a menu of sorts for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. I then made my shopping list. And that is where the trouble started.

At this point, a smart person might ask why I needed to go grocery shopping. Don't I do that every week? Isn't my pantry Covid-full and ready to go? I do and it is.  It sounds ridiculous but I don't actually have many of the recommended items in my pantry. Here is a list of what I bought:

Gatorade (lemon lime for the preparation day).

White rice, white bread, crackers made with white flour, cookies made with white flour (I need a reward), apple juice, canned peaches, and white flour pasta (2 types).

I also bought acceptable vegetarian broth (no tomatoes), russet potatoes, green beans, carrots, summer squash, and apples. These are things I normally eat anyway. I also bought some high end carrot juice and veggie juice, two items that contain acceptable ingredients but most importantly, very minimal fiber (like, 0 grams per serving). I already had two boxes of tofu. 

The list I hope will be helpful for vegans or any plant powered people reading. Sweet potatoes are evidently OK too so long as they are skinned and super soft (pureed). I surmised that so long as the veggie or fruit is approved, cooked like mad, and pureed, things should be OK. 

Why bring any of this up? Who cares since the information is mostly out there? I mention it because the shopping trip nearly did me in. It physically pained me to buy some of those items. I have been a vegan for about 3 years or so and just eat in a very particular way, which I happen to love and enjoy. Buying those foods felt foreign to me at this point and produced heaps of anxiety. It just felt like a lot of food too that I was now obligated to eat. (I don't like to waste food.) Plus, let's be honest, I eat what I eat not only because I enjoy it but because of fiber's main and well known benefit. Ahem! Fiber keeps things moving along. Am I gonna be able to be regular on this sort of diet? I am a little nervous about tomorrow morning!

Lastly and to wrap this  up for day #1, I have a few tips to share. Well, maybe not tips exactly but some things that I am trying to do to make life better on both the day of preparation and the procedure day. Here they are:

1. I am trying to drink more fluids than normal (including fruits and veggies). I will need an IV and if I am dehydrated (which I always am) the IV insertion may be that much more difficult. So far, cold water from the fridge seems to be the best option.

2. Piggy-backing on the above, I learned why you have to drink so much damn fluid with the laxative preparation. It not only helps to move the laxative along but it washes down the walls of your colon making it easier for the doctor to see things. 

3. I am monitoring my blood glucose a little more than normal. Hyper or hypoglycemia is a real possibility. I am also trying to include enough protein and fat at each meal and have snacks in between. 

4. I am going to make some seitan since in theory, I think it would be OK to eat. It's all protein with very little fiber (say less than 1 gram a serving).

5. I made a nice pureed soup of skinned carrots, skinned sweet potatoes, skinned and de-seeded zucchini. It is delicious! It needed just a little general seasoning and a pinch of salt. veggies are delicious on their own. I also made some white flour muffins using pumpkin as the binder. Very tasty! (monitoring my blood sugar too!)

6. I am very involved with myself right now. I have very little head space for anything else. Is it Christmas or something? I couldn't tell you!

7. After my freak out/melt down at the grocery store, I took a Xanax and layed down. It helped. I got some perspective. This is only for a short period of time and I can go right back to what I love to eat. I have made it through cancer (chemo and radiation), the norovirus, several bouts of the flu, major dental work, heart surgery and several other things that mercifully, are a distant memory. I can do this.

Got any suggestions or comments?

libbyfife@ymail.com


Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Completing a Puzzle

Puzzled
2016-Painted paper collage on board

I love mulling over ideas! Lately, I have been thinking a lot about creativity: how is it defined, what does it look like, and what are the ways in which we use it? In the past, I believed that only artists were creative. If you weren't making something such as a painting or a piece of pottery then you weren't creative. It's only recently that I have come to view the word "creative" differently. Being creative can mean more than making something with your hands. It can also refer to the ways in which we think. That statement may seem obvious but I think that we often overlook just how creative we can get when we put our minds to it, literally! Creativity, flexing your creative muscles, can happen in a number of different ways and in many contexts.  Just as there are endless varieties of people and activities, there are also many different ways to be creative.

Creativity shows up in our everyday lives more often than we think. The way we approach problem solving, the ways in which we view and interpret the world and the ways in which we cope with the ups and downs of life can all involve imagination. Creativity, in other words. The word can be much broader if we let it be.  Creativity, I believe, not only pertains to something that you might physically make or do, but it also can be used to describe a way of thinking. Things are not always black and white. Sometimes we need time to process ideas, to think about things. Very often, we haven't yet learned everything we need to know in order to make good decisions or to form solid opinions. Creative thinking helps us to work with many different and seemingly unrelated ideas. It's almost as if there is a kind of "storage basket" in our brains somewhere, holding these different ideas, waiting for us to sort through them and make sense of how they are related. It's when we bring these different ideas together, when we have different interpretations about people and events, that we really begin to think in creative ways.

The trick, I think, in accessing this storage basket of ideas in our brain, of bringing unrelated elements together, is to actively search out what we think are dissimilar ideas and to try and relate them to one another. It's kind of like working a puzzle that has no picture on the box top. You dump all of the pieces out of the box and try to organize them. Where do you start? What colors are alike and can go in one pile? This is what I think we do everyday to be creative. We are constantly looking at a jumble of puzzle pieces and seeing how they might work together. At some point, a kind of picture begins to emerge. It's a picture that we didn't see coming. Put in terms of something more concrete, we have gathered all of these disparate elements together, connected them, and we now have a new idea or thought about the world and the way it works. Maybe it's a new vision of a person we thought we knew. Or maybe we feel differently about a subject that we thought was settled long ago. I see it as a puzzle solving process that gets us making connections that previously did not exist. When we begin to make these associations we can have a real ah-ha moment. It's gratifying to know that you have flexed your creative muscles to create a new thought or feeling; a new way of looking at the world and the people in it. 

As an example of the above idea, of how we often make creative connections every day, let's look at a series of seemingly unrelated events. Maybe one day you are watching a news story about robotics (mechanization in an industrial application). Several days later you read an article about greenhouse gas emissions. Months later perhaps, you have a conversation with someone about food shortages. That conversation might trigger memories of the news story that you watched on TV and the article that you read. At first, none of those things seem related to one another (but remember they are all living in that basket in your brain waiting to be connected). But now they do seem related. You are digging around in that basket and pulling stuff out. Somehow, you begin to formulate an idea or opinion about world hunger and how mechanization of agricultural elements has shaped our global food supply. It's not a particularly revolutionary idea (others have already talked and written about this concept) but to you, it's a different way of thinking about feeding the world. The idea is totally new for you and it's exciting. To see the problem of world hunger through another lens is an eye opener. And it's a vision that you may not have gotten unless you took those seemingly random events or stories or conversations and put them together in a new and novel way. 

I realize that the above process is not new and that for some of you reading, it may not work or it may not feel natural. Like anything, it takes practice. I believe that if you are actively paying attention, you will see that this way of organizing thoughts and ideas happens more often than you might expect. We may not recognize it at first but in reality, this way of bringing things together happens quite a lot. I see these bits and pieces of information waiting in my mental basket as puzzle pieces. It's up to me to root around in that basket from time to time and fit everything together. 

This process of joining unrelated things together to get a whole new idea happened to me just recently.  I feel that this kind of process relies heavily on "mental flexibility." It's an important trait to me as I get older and one that I really want to cultivate in myself. It isn't easy because my thinking can be rigid at times, though in the last couple of years it has gotten more malleable.  It just so happens that over the weekend I read a quote in an AARP article on successful aging by Dr. Sanjay Gupta. His quote is this: "I try to learn something new about myself daily. Self discovery is one of the surest ways to develop a greater appreciation for your life." I really love this since it mirrors my own efforts to discover what and how I think. 

On the heels of what I read in AARP magazine, my friend, Carol, posted something on Facebook that really resonated with me. It's a quote from author, Anne McCaffrey: "Make no judgements where you have no compassion." I thought this was a wonderful reminder to practice compassion. How many of us rush to judgement without putting ourselves in the other person's shoes? I see and hear people do this all of the time and I myself do it as well. 

When I considered the above two things that happened back to back, a memory for me was triggered that I now believe is related. I remembered that while on vacation recently, I listened to a podcast given by the noted psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman. He wrote a book called, Thinking Fast and Slow. During the podcast he talked about concepts from his book. One of the things he discussed briefly and sort of at the end in an offhand way, was the fact that (and I am paraphrasing this) the more he knows about something, the less sure he becomes. He wanted to remain constantly open to new ideas, never wanting to be absolutely sure about anything. I took away from his words that being sure about something was a falsity; we just think we are certain something is the truth. The question here is whether or not a person should ever really be done with an idea. By remaining flexible in our thinking, we become open to new ideas and new ways  of looking at things. Making up your mind is important. Sometimes we need to think and act decisively. More often though, it's best to remain open minded and maybe just a little bit skeptical. Not cynical but just quietly questioning.

This flexibility in thinking, the willingness to learn new things about ourselves and others (even when we disagree with those new things), and our ability to take in good and informed information is crucial as we get older. I was reminded very forcefully of that over the weekend. I had a rather upsetting conversation with a casual friend. Somehow we started talking about homelessness and the COVID-19 virus. (Probably, in addition to politics and religion, we should add the Covid virus to the list of things not to be talked about!) My friend informed me that homeless people want to be homeless. She went on to repeat what I feel are some other misconceptions about people living on the streets. Her statements upset me and challenged my current opinions which I felt were pretty firm. I left the conversation feeling a little angry but also a little ashamed. Angry because her views, I feel, aren't informed and ashamed because I can hear my younger self saying the exact same things that she had just expounded upon; generalizations that are unfounded and based on fear and ignorance.

What to do when the apple cart of your thinking is upset? The conversation was disheartening. After I got home and settled down, I thought about things. I don't want to make myself feel better by bringing my friend down so that I can raise myself up. But I don't want to let my friend off the hook either. Her statements seem misinformed to me. As I considered the conversation, I absently rooted around in my mental basket for ways to approach the problem. I realized that I had three ideas to connect. How could I take those items out of my basket (self awareness, compassion, and mental flexibility as mentioned above) and create a new way of seeing things? This is where I think creativity steps in. The answer to the puzzle lies in the preceding question that I just asked. I want to let myself be guided by those three bits of wisdom. They belong together as pieces of a larger picture and by putting those elements together, I can do some things to help myself. I can continue to examine how I feel about homelessness and I can educate myself on the topic as best as I can. I can be compassionate towards my friend who may not feel the same as me (even though I very much disagree with  her) and I can realize that my viewpoints are not stagnate and that they are not the only way of looking at things. And maybe what my friend said to me is worth thinking about. That alone might be useful. By rooting around in my mental basket and pulling out three seemingly disconnected ideas, I came up with a solution when I needed it the most. There is now something new to think about; a different way of looking at a problem that I thought I had already solved.

Anyone can do this. Anyone can problem solve in this way. By being creative, by bringing several unrelated ideas together, a person can make a kind of new paradigm for themselves. Creativity isn't just for the artistic or the talented. It isn't something that is beyond any of us. Being creative just requires conscious attention and memory and practice. Those skill are present in all of us I believe. It's up to us to access our mental baskets, pull out each puzzle piece, and see how they fit together. And before long, if you work at this problem solving consistently, a whole new picture will emerge, one which you never even imagined. 

Monday, April 20, 2020

My Two Week Experiment: The Results Are In!



Well, I made it. Two weeks without visiting the grocery store. It's some kind of shopping miracle! 

Let me backup a bit to explain the challenge that I gave myself (and my friends on FB) two weeks ago.  I had been watching a press conference with the President and his medical advisors, Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx. The doctors specifically said that the upcoming two weeks (the ones that just passed) would be critical in flattening the curve. It was strongly suggested to not go out, limiting time away from home for essential business only. They specifically said that now was not the time to go to the grocery store. I took that as a real mandate and frankly, it made me a little fearful. I am a compliant person (mostly) and so I decided to follow this advice. It's hard to know how to contribute during this crisis and this seemed a very concrete way of doing just that. I want to share what happened, what I found out and whether or not I would do this again. I came up with this "challenge" and shared it on FB. People chimed in to say what they were doing and the types of problems they were encountering, such as no delivery time slots and products that couldn't be found. I want to share the results of what I learned during my time of "no in person" grocery shopping. Here goes!

As with any challenge, well, there were challenges. I have broken them down into categories to make things easier.

Fresh vegetables and fruits:
As to be expected, I ran out of fresh vegetables and fruits first. Items like kale, broccoli, and other leafy greens were used up right away. Root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and sweet potatoes lasted much longer. What I learned is that I should buy a mix of perishable and semi  perishable items. Leafy greens are eaten first but things like bananas, oranges and apples can all last longer in the freezer (bananas) or in the fridge. Berries can be frozen too for smoothies. Veggies are a little harder. You can blanch and freeze broccoli and probably green beans without too much sacrifice in quality. These suggestions are worth a try and some effort.

Corn: 
Corn gets a special mention here. I am nearly sick of corn-frozen, canned, or otherwise! Corn is a staple in my diet, it's true, but boy am I getting tired of it!

Frozen Vegetables: 
From the get go, more frozen spinach would have been very helpful. Unfortunately, every person around here must have thought so too because the shelves at the store were completely empty. Also, frozen green beans are not the best. They are palatable but not my first choice. The freezing process in general is pretty good. Not as optimal as fresh but second best I would say.

Canned Veggies?:
With the exception of beets and corn (obviously), canned vegetables are not my first choice. And before you get down on me, I understand perfectly that everyone has their preferences. I also acknowledge (and respect) that for many people, canned vegetables are the only option or canning vegetables might be culturally significant. Canning is also a good way to preserve food that you have grown yourself so I've nothing against it. It's just that the green beans were sad. Very sad. I felt bad for them being treated like that. But, any port in a storm.

Did I shop otherwise?:
Why yes, I did! Quite a lot! I bought dry goods only since we don't have a CSA delivery in our area. Let me say that I am set for rice! Many businesses were low or downright out of products and so I had to hunt around. I found a couple of small family style retailers that I am happy to support: a small farm in Southern Illinois and a Native American farm in Arizona. Intuitively though, I know that shopping online is a 50-50 thing. Me shopping and having things delivered (dry goods only), means that trucks and their drivers are on the road. It also means that people somewhere in some warehouse are working to pack and ship my goods-also a risk. This activity is good for the economy but also puts workers at risk of getting the virus. It made me (and still does make me) very conflicted. Shopping though seems to be part of my makeup. I seem to have to do it. That isn't an excuse; I am just being realistic.

How often is enough?:
I realized rather quickly that I am very dependent on going to the grocery store as often as I want and to get whatever I want. This probably isn't good. There is the impact on the environment by my car and I am contributing to general congestion. Once a week would be sufficient. My plan going forward is to have a designated grocery day and to stick to that. I realize though that each person probably has their own comfort zone for how often they go to the store. It's probably dependent on habit, culture, location, season, transportation, and the ability to pay. Most people I know, myself included, are blessed with the means to go to the grocery store when necessary. I was reminded of this a lot during this two week period.

Fear mongering:
I noticed some fear mongering online (looking at you, FB!) and in person regarding who was shopping where. Our neighbor told us that people from out of town had come to our little community and bought up all of the meat. (You can imagine my response to that!) On FB I saw that folks were worried about the same thing; people from "outside" buying up all of the supplies. There is a mentality at work here and one I can't quite put my finger on. I know that fear is often at the bottom of things. It's what motivates many of us to do seemingly irrational things such as buying mass quantities of toilet paper (and meat apparently). And I know that we instinctively fear the outsider. My feeling is that as long as people aren't ridiculous there is enough to go around regardless of where you choose to shop.

Creative cooking?
I am uncertain if I expected to get creative in the kitchen when my fresh veggie and fruit supply ran low. Regardless, I will admit that I just got tired of thinking stuff up to cook that didn't involve what I didn't have. If I was single, things would be different. I am married though and I can't give Rich a waffle for dinner. He doesn't cook either so although he was sympathetic I feel that he wasn't actually standing in my shoes, so to speak. Putting dinner on the table every night is hard work, in my opinion. It isn't the physical act of cooking so much as the struggle to provide variety. I found that to be the hardest aspect of "missing" some ingredients in my pantry.

There weren't any other real surprises other than what is mentioned above. I will say that after such a long hiatus, my trip to the grocery store today became kind of a big to-do. People were there shopping as if nothing was wrong. Some were wearing masks and observing the distance rule. Others didn't seem to care too much, which is disheartening. It's one of those things I think where stuff just doesn't get real for people unless it is happening to them personally. There were some gaps on the shelves. Who the hell bought all of the damn flour and what are they doing with it, other than letting it get stale? Other than that, the shelves were well stocked and the produce looked good. 

It was a good experiment and I am glad I did it. Will I go two weeks again without going to the store? Probably not unless it is specifically mandated. I think once a week is sufficient and likely safe for the time being. I hope. There is still so much we don't know about this virus. We just don't have a lot of data to begin with to draw any conclusions other than to implement the precautions that are already in place. Could I have continued on without going to the store? Probably but the meals I made simply wouldn't have been as varied. I like to think my pantry is pretty diverse but it's hard to get away from the fact that fresh fruits and vegetables are a really nice addition. I am not sure that I will do anything differently after this exercise such as plant a more extensive garden or have groceries delivered. (Safeway is evidently doing that now in our area but for how long?) If anything has come out of this two week period, it's that I feel grateful for what we do have. It might just be rice and beans and canned corn but I can work with that!

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

I knew I shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque!

Joshua Tree National Park-Cholla cactus 
During the first part of March, I took a solo road trip down to Southern California. I had never driven anywhere that far by myself before. My goal was to see if I could really do it, drive myself 8+ hours somewhere and arrive safely at my destination without too much pain and heartache, i.e. getting lost!

Spoiler alert: I made it! And I didn't get lost. Well, that is a small fib actually. I took one wrong turn but quickly corrected myself once I saw that I was headed in the wrong direction (my car has a navigation readout on the dashboard). 

During the next several days there were actually a few moments like the above; moments where I sensed I was going in the wrong direction and had to stop. I would check my notes, the map, and my phone, and then reset my course. After awhile, I became aware that I was actually navigating on my own, getting a good feel intuitively for which direction I was headed in. (I am very directionally challenged as a rule though in the past few years, I have made an effort to get better.) 

Luckily, I did have some help in finding my way around. For one thing I had done my homework prior to setting out. I had paper maps, written directions, and routes loaded onto my phone. I also had the addresses of places where I would be going so I could easily look those up using my phone as well. (Isn't the Internet swell?) Lastly, a hiking friend has tried in the past to help me learn about the sun's position in determining both time of day and direction. I actively used her advice in conjunction with my car's location readout. It was fun to see if I was guessing correctly. (Most of the time I was close.) All in all, I had only a few missteps in getting around. It wasn't too hard to correct my course and get going in the right direction again.

Lately I have been thinking about my navigational experiences in Southern California. So much of our daily lives demand that we be able to spot missteps and regroup; to change our minds, our attitudes, and our actions. Sometimes this has to happen quickly, much as it did for me as I missed an off ramp on the I-10. Not to worry though and cause an accident by trying to catch that exit! There is almost always another chance coming up to get off of the freeway. There can be times though when you may be miles past the correct turn before you realize you have made a mistake. It may take some maneuvering, but you can almost always backtrack and find the correct route. There may even be multiple ways of getting to that destination.

My time on vacation, of navigating by myself, has made me thoughtful in some surprising and unexpected ways. For example, as I was cooking this morning, I considered that finding the correct route and maneuvering around a new city or town is similar to many things that we do in life. We often have to correct course. I realized that I have gotten a little off track lately with my eating habits. Too much added sugar has crept back into my diet. I also love the Veganaise a little bit too much! None of that is going to do me in (I hope!) but it isn't going to help either. I simply haven't been actively paying attention. As Ellen Langer might say, I have been mindless and not mindful. (I highly recommend checking out Ellen Langer, by the way. I listened to a podcast that she gave and it was an eye-opener!) Being mindful requires being awake and paying attention. It's noticing things and being aware. It's so important to do this; to be actively participating. That's a tall order, I know, but it's critical. We need to be flexible, to recognize that we are going in the wrong direction, and we have to actively cultivate those skills that are needed to self correct. You can't do any of that unless you are making an effort to really notice things.

There's no better time than now to hone these skills in a consistent kind of way. I felt that this morning I was really doing that, really paying attention. I am not making any big resolutions about that sugar intake or the Veganaise, but I am simply commiting to thinking about things. I am correcting my course just like I did in the car when I realized that I had made a wrong turn. And in the spirit of that self correction, I am not going to rid my pantry of the "no-no" foods (that would be too radical a move) but I will make some better, more conscious choices about "how often" and "how much". Same thing with the Veganaise. (It's hard to find this product in my area anyway now so that makes things a little easier.) I have a couple of hummus recipes picked out to try instead. It certainly can't hurt.

Big changes are not my thing. I can make small moves much more easily. I would never swerve off of the freeway from the left hand lane in an effort to catch that missed exit that is rapidly disappearing in my rear view mirror. It's more likely that I would calmly change lanes safely, and exit further down the road, all the while trying to pay attention (and not beat myself up for not paying attention). I'd rather catch myself and correct course than to just go cruising past the exit, never realizing that all the while I was heading in the wrong direction!

Good luck with your navigation today! Thanks for reading.
Libby

Saturday, March 28, 2020

And The Beat Goes On...



The New Social Visit:
This week my one "social" visit consisted of a trip to the cardiologist's office. (For those reading who don't know, I have coronary artery disease and a history of having had a heart attack and bypass surgery.) I see him twice a year for a check up. He tells me that the blockage in my carotid artery has not advanced and that he is happy with my lipid panel and liver values. I tell him about some anxious heart related problem that I have been pondering and he politely shoots my worries down. It's a pleasant time though because he is a really congenial guy, nice looking, my age, and possesses a very calm and reassuring demeanor. He usually enters the exam room and shakes my hand warmly. He is the only one who gets to call me "Liz." We chat, he listens to my heart and kind of checks to be sure nothing has changed in my activity level. Nothing ever changes in our routine. Until now.

As can be imagined, things were a little different for this visit because of the current pandemic.  No handshake from the good doctor and he stood crammed into the corner of the room opposite to where I was sitting. Still pleasant but not quite the same. I guess this is the new reality up close, so to speak, though 6 ft apart. I feel lucky to have been able to keep the appointment. I am waiting in nervous anticipation for my upcoming doctor appointment with my GP, hoping that it won't be cancelled. Selfish perhaps but true nonetheless.

After I finished up and went back out to the lobby, I ran into one of my trail buddies. (I walk every day at my local lake and there is a group of people that I see regularly-my "trail buddies.") I wasn't too surprised to see her (this is a small county and I manage to constantly run into people I know even though I don't know a lot of people) and so I said hello. I learned a while back that her husband has a pacemaker. I assumed she was there for his appointment and I asked after him. She said he was at home and that she was there for herself. Wow! She evidently had some trouble earlier in the month and was getting checked out. I said my goodbyes and walked out thinking that in the middle of a pandemic it's possible to have something normal happen, like running into an acquaintance at the doctor's office. Things are normal yet not normal. I continue to be surprised.

My New Old Routine:
Despite the colossal upheaval to life that so many are experiencing, my own routine and way of living hasn't been too disrupted yet. We are fortunate that Rich is still going to work for now and that our income and health care have not been affected yet. (I am omitting the stock market melt down here.) I keep roughly the same schedule that I always do and have been doing the same things, more or less. Last week I went on a hike (the above photo was taken on that outing) and I had another doctor appointment. I continue to go on my regular walks. The park that I use is closed to traffic and hence, no boating or fishing. No congregating in parking lots either. The bathrooms are still open, thank goodness, but everything else is closed. On my last walk I saw my regular trail buddies and we all stood 6 ft apart and talked. That was nice. I may start wearing a mask though just to be safe. We have 3 confirmed cases of COVID 19 in this county so far (small peanuts, I know) and I want to be safe. I also have alcohol wipes in my pack and use those until I can get home and properly wash my hands. For those times when I can't get out because it is too damn cold or it is raining too hard, I have added some aerobics DVDs and a yoga DVD to my routine. My art practice has slowed down a bit but I expect that it will pick up. It tends to go in cycles. There are no major cleaning projects in the works and I don't have big plans to learn a new language or to get together in any kind of a group online. As I said, my routine hasn't changed much. But it sort of has, really, since I can't go out as often. Like everyone else I am adjusting to this new reality.

It's The End of The World...Or is It?
Lastly, I had a really nice email exchange with an online "friend." (I put that word in quotes by the way because I have never met this person but consider her a friend. We are told though that people we have met online aren't friends since we haven't met them in person. Is this psychosocial parsing of terms and overkill? Let me know.) She sent me a wonderful article by an author called Craig Childs. He is a commentator for NPR and a guy whose ideas I can get behind. I am not normally a doom and gloom paranoid kind of person but consider myself a realist. Just recently I had a huge revelation about our collective mortality; our time on Earth and where our civilization and planet are headed. It was a huge comfort to me to accept that eventually, all creatures become extinct. And this includes humans. Childs's ideas dovetail, I think, with what I am beginning to embrace for my life. I bought one of his books and am looking forward to reading it. I have some time, apparently.

I mention all of this, including what I wrote about above, because the conversation I had with my friend revealed that she has similar thoughts to mine; that life is cyclical and never ending. It's really a smallish big world that is shown to us just a little bit at a time, through chance encounters and emails, visits to the doctor's office and an online chat with a friend. Everything is interconnected. If I sneeze I might kill someone. (Extreme but true.) You can't pull one thread without nearly unraveling the whole tapestry. This year will wear on, like it or not, pandemic or not. Time marches forward. We keep our appointments, reschedule them, postpone vacations, all the while dreaming about the future.  We cook dinner, go on hikes, and fantasize about an abundance of toilet paper for everyone. And the beat goes on.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Abundance and Scarcity: Two Sides of the Same Coin

A portion of my pantry. Don't judge!

This last Wednesday, I finally went to the grocery store. I had been putting it off. The first excuse was the rain. The next excuse was a doctor appointment. Then I was simply too tired. I knew that I was running out of reasons to not go. Finally, Wednesday came and that was my day. I girded my loins, got in my car, drove to the store, and guess what? It wasn't that bad!

Why all of the delay then? What would cause someone to put off a normal everyday kind of activity? The reason is that now things aren't normal. Things are very, very not normal. I knew there would be empty shelves. There might be a crush of people running around with toilet paper rolls in their arms, grabbing canned beans and packages of meat. There could be people walking around with a silent virus or worse, outright sick and obviously infectious. But, as I said, it was fine.

Mulling things over, for me, is a way to work through a problem. It was indeed a problem for me to not want to grocery shop. This is one of my duties at home. Rich goes to work and I do the grocery shopping, more or less. In examining my procrastination from the safe distance of my home, I realized that my real reason for not going was simply fear of the unknown. I experience generalized anxiety most of the time, you see, and now is no different. My current anxiety centers around something specific, something from my childhood, which is what I alluded to in the title of this post: the two issues of abundance and scarcity. As a country we have an incredible food supply; more than we possibly need and yet many people simply do not have enough. As a child, I worried about having too much and then, not having enough. Now, as an adult, I have more than I need and yet I still felt an urge to "stock up." Countless bloggers and websites told me that I needed to gather up the "essentials" so that I have enough. Numerous cooking sites suggested recipes to try for all of those newly purchased "staples." Everything that I saw on TV and heard on the news was directing me urgently towards the store. Now. ASAP. But the idea of having to stock up, of having more than is needed, makes me very nervous. It is indeed at the heart of what I often feel very conflicted about: we have so much but what if all of it was taken away? What if one day we needed something and couldn't get it? What then? And my current dilemma also contained an added layer of new anxiety. A previously safe activity was now potentially unsafe. Going to the grocery store meant taking the risk that I would have to face potentially infectious people. It also meant that I might find empty shelves. I just didn't know who and what would or wouldn't be there. 

Reason prevailed, and despite some misgivings, I did go to the grocery store. The shelves were a little picked over. That's all. Some things were not there: spaghetti sauce, pasta, some beans, and some grains. Oatmeal was in high demand evidently as well as bananas and onions and potatoes. I saw stacks of bottled water (will we never learn about those damn plastic bottles?) and an empty case where the eggs used to be. (Why eggs? Everyone here has chickens.) There was plenty of everything else. Seems no one wanted the kale (lucky me!) and the rest of the veggies and fruit were ready for the picking, so to speak. I bought a normal amount of food, paid for it, walked out to my car, got in and sanitized my hands. I then drove off with a reasonably clear conscience. 

Now, to the point of the story: abundance and scarcity. Where does my own anxiety come from and, possibly yours too? For many of us, the perceived feelings of having either too much or too little are two facets of the same anxiety coin. In my opinion, both ideas are based on fear. Fear that could be real but could also be imagined. An example of anxiety based in reality can be shown by examining the behavior of my husband's late father. He grew up during the Depression and WWII. Food and other supplies were indeed scarce. People learned to make do and to be thrifty. The lessons learned from having lived through those hard times were passed along to his children, most notably my husband who doesn't like to throw anything away. Anything. For us, living in current times, we really have an abundance of everything. We are used to buying what we need and scarcity isn't much of an issue. That doesn't stop my husband though from being influenced by memories of his dad being very conservative in his habits. It's critical to remember when examining the roots of an anxiety that we all have a framework from which we operate. Time and experience shape us to make us who we are today.

The example above is just one instance of  why some of us are anxious in this new age of pandemics, shortages, and other related problems. There are many other reasons surrounding the anxiety we experience because of a perceived threat to our settled way of life; our routine, if you will. I like bottom lines though and for me, I feel the common denominator to this old/new anxiety is fear. This fear might seem irrational but it's real. The idea of needing extra isn't always grounded in reality but it's what drives seemingly reasonable people to do unreasonable things.  In the simplest way, fear makes people hoard toilet paper and hand sanitizer and to appear utterly unreasonable in what they are doing. Fear is what makes us worry about going to the grocery store. It's what makes us stay at home and not speak out. Being afraid draws us to the Internet for answers and makes us believe outrageous claims. Fear is a pretty strong force and it can be overwhelming and paralyzing. It's the underpinning of the unreasonable anxiety that we will not have enough even when that may not be true and factually when the items already in our pantries say otherwise. Anxiety is all about fear; fear of the unknown, the unreasonable, and the irrational. Resolution of that fear, getting rid of it and the only thing that will conquer it, is moving forward while feeling paralyzed. It's going forth, one small step at a time towards the unknown, minus the extra rolls of toilet paper of course.