Grilled Cheese

“Are you ready to order?”  “I’ll take the grilled cheese, no bread please.” ??  My friend suggested I order this so I could stick to my low carb diet. Makes me chuckle, but I really don’t want to deprive myself of my usual comfort foods.  Why is it so  hard for me to do what is “for my own good”?  I remember:  “Take this medicine it’s for your own good.” And this meant it tastes like crap or it hurts. A big part of this dilemma  is that I’m not always sure what is for my own good, and as we all know things change. I’m all about feeling better physically and emotionally as I get older, but I don’t have 50 years to figure this out. I’m shooting for better not perfect. 

Like it or not (mostly not), some of the resources I had when I was younger are gone or in shorter supply. I’m not as fast, as strong, or as fit as I was.  My energy bucket has a leak in it. I’m awake less hours in the day too. When I think about what’s “for my own good” I know I have to be sure that I’m not just depriving myself or paying negative costs. Following a low carb diet isn’t the most fun for me, but not getting diabetes gives me a better chance at living longer and feeling better. So there’s a reward , but it’s not immediate. Delayed gratification is tougher to buy into when the gratification may not be realized before I die!  Rewarding myself  as I meet incremental goals feeds my motivation and my positive feelings about myself. So practically, this looks like a cheap 20 dollar date with Amazon every 2 weeks if I stay on my low carb diet, and a low carb shake several times a week. I get some goodies as I go along, so I get rewarded on my journey towards the big reward.

What about the phenomena of the “Normalization of Suffering” as it applies to aging? What I mean is the assumption that aging brings with it all kinds of unavoidable negative consequences. We often buy into certain beliefs or stereotypes  about aging that suggest  decline and deterioration are unavoidable. I find myself saying “Getting older is a bitch.” and thinking some of my aches and pains are just my due as I age. What does it mean when I say “I’m too old”? What does  “too old’ mean? Should I give up and just let what will be will be, and not worry about low carb diets because it won’t make any difference. The medical establishment often supports the inevitability of suffering as we age. How many times have you heard “You’re getting older and this is common in people your age.” My knee hurts and I hear its “just” arthritis from overuse for many years.  Apparently,  aches and pains are normal for the elderly. Would we say this to any other age group? So I swim through the molasses of these kinds of messages when I try to do what is “for my own good”. Maybe I should eat dessert first!

As a country we can’t even do what is “for our own good”. I’m sure I’ve never heard anyone say the “right” to own an assault rifle is for the good of children! We know what needs to be done to save our planet from being uninhabitable due to climate change, and we still can’t seem to do what needs to be done for the good of the planet and all life on earth. For many,  the greater good seems to be power, wealth, giving in to inertia and controlling others.  For damn sure,  women don’t need to be told what is for  “our own good” and what decisions to make regarding our own bodies and health care. 

It’s up to me to define what is “good” for myself.  Of course, I have to be honest  and willing to take action that may be uncomfortable or even painful to take care of myself. I’m reminded that there are lots of things that are “good” for me that feel wonderful. Things like massages, warm baths, naps, and a good book are all “good for me” and I feel rewarded and not deprived. As for that grilled cheese sandwich, bring it on! 


Fort Atkinson, Iowa My son Tyler’s photo

I just returned from a week long trip to Iowa to visit my family. I grew up in a rural area on a farm.  The landscape is beautiful and people are resilient. We were at ballgames, and ate, took beautiful drives to lots of small towns, and went to coffee shops and ate, did some wild Ranger riding and ate, walked a 5K, half of which was in rain, and took tons of long walks. My son pointed out that each small town we visited had its own unique heritage and feel. The Czech settled some towns, the Irish others, Norwegians had a big presence -and throw in some Germans too. There’s unique churches in every town and in the countryside, and we visited many. Who would have thought visiting cemeteries would be so interesting and even  “fun”? Remind me to tell you about the bootlegger/cemetery connection.

My intent is not to do a travelogue, but setting determines so much of our well- being. Growing up,  I didn’t fully appreciate the beauty of Northeast Iowa, because I had no comparison and I was complacent with the familiar. What strikes me now is not only the beauty, but the welcome of Iowa and my family.  My family shows up for each other. Presence is a gift to the receiver and the giver. At large family gatherings, and they are large with my 11 siblings and their families, there’s not always time to talk to everyone,  but I still feel the presence of everyone. I visited my Mother several times, but because of advanced dementia she can no longer be present for me. I could be present for her and chose to do that. Showing up is the prerequisite for loving. You just gotta be there and be present. I may stumble and fall but I won’t fall through the net of family holding me up. Red Rover strong! Sister strong!

Earlier in my life I thought Iowa was behind the times, bordering on backward.  Complicated lives, complicated values, just plain complicated was somehow more sophisticated and “better”. Simple was just not realistic. Boy I was so wrong …. After all, there are coffeeshops in Northeast Iowa so there’s all the sophistication I need. No need to debate forever on which restaurant to go to when the choices don’t number one hundred or more. Small town grocery stores may only have five different kinds of toothpaste, but then you can spend more time brushing instead of choosing which toothpaste to buy. Simple is rich and deep and healing.There are lots of things that just aren’t that important. It’s always good to keep it simple.

But I don’t live in Iowa, I live in Colorado. So I’ve decided I’ll just bring “Iowa” to Colorado. The welcome I felt there, the feeling of family, the beauty and rich heritage and the simple choices and values of Iowa are what I have carried home to Colorado. When I get caught up in all the “sophistication” of my lifestyle I will take a pause and ask how would “Iowa” do this? I will spend time with my son and renew my determination to be present for him. When I am tempted to purchase yet another shampoo that promises to make my hair thicker I will remember to keep it simple. Family is important, beauty is important and being Present is important. 

A special thank you to my traveling companions, my sister Ann and my son Tyler. We are quite a trio! Hopefully we will have many more travels.