Cooking with Cast Iron

That is absolutely someone else’s beautiful cooking–but the cast iron is even cooler with food in it.ūüôā

I got a set of cast iron pans from various family members for Christmas–from the darling tiny egg pan to the big-daddy grill pan. ¬†These pans are my first venture into the world of cast iron cookware. ¬†And at first, I will admit that I was a little intimidated. ¬†Cast iron is not quite the same gig as your average non-stick pan. ¬†Cast iron has rules. ¬†Cast iron needs care and attention. ¬†You can’t fill a cast iron pan and leave it to soak–unless you are fond of the taste of rust.

I noticed in the first week or so that I was kind of dodging the cast iron. Mind you, I asked for the cast iron.  This was an experience I opted into.  But I found myself overwhelmed by the idea of the cast iron care steps: let it cool, scrub it out, dry immediately, warm and add slight coat of oil to build seasoning.  And so I waffled for a bit.  But finally I decided to dive on in.  I challenged myself to only cook with my cast iron for a week.  No backsliding to the old, beat-up pans that I had.  In fact, I threw away several damaged pans, just to avoid the temptation to use them.

And I realized something interesting.  When I was using the cast iron daily, I started to really appreciate the routine that felt so overwhelming at first.  With each use, the cast iron is better seasoned, so it is easier to cook in. I appreciate how it translates the heat from my old electric stove into a smooth and even cook surface.  I like the process of tending to the cast iron when it is cool, the satisfaction of feeling as though I am investing time in something my kids might cook in in 20 years.  I like the way the neediness of the cast iron keeps me present and connected to this daily task.

What I recognized is that the cast iron is taking me through a regular mindfulness practice.  Because it requires some routine care, I have to show up and engage when I cook with cast iron.  I have to pay attention as I go through the process of cleaning up and putting my kitchen in order.  I have to be present for the routine tasks.  And there is a richness in mindfully participating in that routine.

Now, maybe you don’t want to sign up to cook with cast iron (but it’s amazing!). ¬†That’s fine. ¬†However, I would invite you to be curious and challenge yourself to find some things in your life that create a mindful experience for you. ¬†That force you to slow down and participate, instead of rushing through to the next challenge.

I’d love to hear what your “cast iron moments” are. ¬†Please feel free to share in the comments.

Make Mistakes–Pretty Please!!

I have been surrounded in the past few weeks by reminders about how important mistakes are to the process of being human. ¬†While listening to the audiobook¬†“As You Wish,” I was struck when author Cary Elwes describes a quote from his father: “It is only a mistake if you don’t learn from it.” ¬†And over the weekend, I heard famed astrophysicist¬†Neil deGrasse Tyson say that “any day I make a mistake is a good day, because then I have learned something.”

Both of these statements make me intensely happy.  And the reason that they make me happy is that they reflect a truth that I try to convey to my clients on a daily basis:

[tbpquotable] Mistakes¬†aren’t failure. They are an essential part of being a healthy, growing human being.[/tbpquotable]

In a world where we are graded from an early age, with the possibility that our online mistakes might live with us forever, it can get easy to be swept up into the story of why mistakes are dangerous.  We can buy into the idea that a mistake says something about our essential worth.  That idea make us so paralyzed by our fear of making mistakes that we stop doing anything.

I want to call BS on that idea. ¬†There is no skill that we have, from crawling to talking to writing our names, that we haven’t acquired after intensive practice. And that practice included mistake after mistake. ¬†Mistakes that brought us one movement closer to mastery. ¬†Human learning and growth is entirely a process of moving from mistake to competence.

During the month of February, I participated in the Real Happiness daily meditation challenge from Sharon Salzburg. ¬†I appreciated the reminder that she often shared that distractions are chances to change how we interact with ourselves. Distractions aren’t failure. They provide the opportunity¬†to shift from frustration with our mistakes to kind acceptance and redirection back to the meditation.

This compassionate, gentle outlook is such a lovely way to view mistakes.  And if you can bring that compassion to other parts of life, then you have the chance to begin taking action, happening to the world, and moving closer to healthy, connected lives.

So today, I would love to invite you to make some mistakes. ¬†I’ll be there right along with you. ¬†In fact, today, I am trying to master knitting a hat in the round. ¬†I can promise that many mistakes will be made along the way. ¬†I’m not sure that I will end up with anything vaguely resembling a hat. ¬†I’ll post a picture of the results in the comments later for you. ¬†Feel free to share your mistake-making adventures in the comments too.

And if you are feeling paralyzed by the possibility of a mistake, maybe I can help with that.  You can reach me by clicking that appointment button to your right.

Happen to Something

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I was recently talking with a client who is dealing with some very difficult PTSD and depression concerns. ¬†She was describing her sense that many of her goals have been interrupted, and her struggle to take any action since she couldn’t see how it would connect to a goal.

I think the feelings she described are true for many folks who have been affected by illness or trauma.  When life is severely disrupted, when the things we thought we would be doing begin to feel out of reach, it can be hard to see why we should bother engaging at all.  We struggle to see the point.

What I have learned is that sometimes, when we are in the dark, action and engagement are the point.  Trauma and depression are emotional experiences that provide us with a constant litany of all the ways that the world is dangerous or that we have failed.  In a misguided effort to protect us from pain, depression and anxiety can tell us that we should just not bother trying anything.  Here are some common messages you might be getting from your depression or anxiety:

  • It’s just going to backfire anyway.
  • I have already missed my deadline to do this, so doing it later will still feel like a failure.
  • Nothing ever works out for me.
  • I don’t deserve to succeed.
  • Doing this small self-care won’t get me a job (finish my degree, fix my relationship, etc.), so why bother?

When my clients share thoughts like this with me, I remind them of two things.  First, that we can appreciate the work our depression and anxiety put in on trying to protect us from harm.  That is true. What is also true is that depression and anxiety will use lies to try to reach that goal. They will lie using pieces of truth.  And the fundamental lie that they will tell is that lack of action keeps you safe.

Lack of action doesn’t keep you safe. It keeps you stuck. ¬†So, today I am going to invite you to engage with your life in some small way that brings you joy. ¬†I know that you may be facing pain and challenge. ¬†I know that the future may feel too complicated to face. ¬†So don’t face the future. ¬†Don’t worry about where your action is taking you. ¬†If the struggle to understand how this makes change is keeping you frozen, step around the struggle. Do something because you can and because you like it.

Today, this moment, do something that you love. ¬†Happen to the world instead of the world happening to you. ¬†It doesn’t have to be huge. ¬†Cook something delicious. Stand in the sun. ¬†Do a 5 minute lovingkindness meditation. Snuggle your pet. Watch something funny. Take a long shower. Do something that you can start, even from a place of darkness, something small and manageable. But happen to the world. ¬†Happen to yourself. ¬†Create a ripple of joy and connection.

If you’re willing to share how you happened to the world, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. ¬†If you need some help getting started–click on that appointment button to the right.

CANCER – Guest Blog Alene Nitzky “Driven to Disruption”

Source: CANCER – Guest Blog Alene Nitzky “Driven to Disruption”

Truth or Complaining?

When I published my post earlier about the ways we keep our pain silent, one of the patient advocates I deeply admire responded to my post.  And what she said reflects a truth I often hear in the office.  It still hurt to hear.

There are those that think we are complaining because you can’t “see” pain and other side effects but still disabling 4 us.¬†

When did our attitude shift so that telling the truth about painful experiences or pain itself is identified as complaining? ¬†How did the “positive attitude” become a mandate rather than a goal? ¬†Listen, I’m a psychologist. ¬†I am a brain science geek. ¬†I truly believe that finding and fully experiencing the moments of joy and comfort in our lives is important. ¬†I use gratitude journals and happy moments practice as therapy homework assignments. I am passionate about the possibility of people moving toward more brain and body health. ¬†I understand that sometimes we have to challenge ourselves to move and reach and risk–even in the face of pain.

But here’s the thing. ¬†While I believe that pain does not have to be the complete definition of our existence, I understand that pain is real. ¬†I understand that fatigue, depression, pain, and anxiety are not going to be banished by our will alone.

The expectation that people who are coping with chronic illness, of any stripe, should ¬†never talk about the hard parts of their life experience is just absurd. ¬†Chronic illness is a constant companion. ¬†If you are fortunate, your chronic illness may be well managed by lifestyle choices and medication. ¬†But even “well-managed” illnesses take a toll. ¬†So many of my clients are choosing between the progression of their illness or taking a medication that has significant negative side effects. ¬†And when you live with chronic illness, you can never be certain that you won’t have a “crash” day.

It does not support health to dismiss people’s experiences as “complaining.” ¬†It does not support health to diminish someone’s truth because it does not match your expectation of how things go. ¬†It does not support health to buy into healthy privilege and the assertion that health is a manifestation of virtue.

It is expectations like this, that people should suffer in silence in order to deserve our support, that further the many layers of stigma surrounding physical and mental illness.

So let’s talk about how we can create moments–in health care and in society–where we truly listen to the experiences people are having. ¬†When we trust that they are describing the truth of their experience. ¬†And where we choose to offer compassion instead of judgment.

Invisible Does Not Equal Imaginary

This week’s posts have developed a bit of a theme.¬†Health is not a virtue, pain shouldn’t be hidden in silence. ¬†Here’s another corollary of this line of thought.

When it comes to your health–invisible experiences are NOT imaginary.

There is a wonderful online movement based on the work of Christine Miserandino of the ButYouDon’tLookSick Foundation. ¬†In an effort to explain the challenge of living with fibromyalgia, she wrote an essay that she called “The Spoon Theory.” ¬†Essentially, the theory suggests that we each have a finite number of emotional & energetic “spoons” to get through our day. ¬†Some days, it takes every single spoon we’ve got to get out of bed. ¬†Other¬†days we have to ration our spoons to participate in something important.

The reality behind the spoon theory, and the #spoonie movement that has grown out of it, is that a majority of the most painful and debilitating illnesses that we face (Crohn’s, lupus, depression, diabetes, cancer, MS, anxiety, & RA–just to name a few) don’t have any visible signs. ¬†With the right makeup, clothes, and effort, a person with intense physical & emotional pain can sometimes look “just fine.” ¬†Looking just fine doesn’t mean that we feel just fine. ¬†In fact, that “just fine” face may hide a world of pain and suffering.

Since we live in a society where we are supposed to ignore our pain, many of us have bought into the story that we¬†should feel fine. ¬†That our pain is a sign of our weakness. ¬†That if we were strong enough, courageous enough, hard-working enough, virtuous enough, we would be able to do all the things that a healthy person can do, in the same time that a healthy person could do it. ¬†In short, we have bought into the story that maybe our invisible pain isn’t real pain. ¬†We begin to feel that maybe our invisible pain is “just in our heads” or a sign of our failure.

This makes me so angry. ¬†Unless you have ¬†a broken bone with a cast, a wheelchair or another dramatic physical marker like hair loss, most illnesses don’t have a visible indicator. ¬†There isn’t a pain rating scale flashing above your head. ¬†Fatigue and depression don’t show on your face. ¬†Almost all pain and suffering is invisible. ¬†AND it is real.

People who are struggling to get through a “normal” day because of pain or other invisible health issues do not need to have their struggle questioned or discounted. ¬†That kind of behavior is healthy privilege in action.¬†So, let me state this clearly.

Invisible suffering is real suffering.

Instead of questioning the validity of people’s pain, let’s work on creating support systems that help them move through pain in healthy ways.

Holding Your Light

At first glance, the American celebration of Veteran’s Day may not seem to have much in common with the Hindu celebration of Diwali. ¬†But, as Diwali, a celebration of light triumphing over darkness, ¬†overlaps with Veteran’s Day this year, I have been thinking about the fact that many people who join the military do so in order to stand against darkness in the world (the cost of that is a story for another day). ¬†I see these two celebrations, which seem so distant from one another on the surface, and I see the connecting thread of choosing to hold a light against the darkness.

I believe that each of us has the choice and the chance to hold our light against the darkness.  That light may be in the small choices that we make.  We can offer a smile to a stranger, or hold a door.  We can remember that everyone carries their own burden and choose to be kind.

I know that many of my clients struggle with the idea of holding a light for others, because they feel that they are barely holding on to their own light–or because others have actively pushed them towards darkness. ¬†The idea of sharing our light when we feel as though it is scarce is a challenging one. ¬†It requires us to trust that light shared isn’t light lost. ¬†And when you feel kicked around–by your health, or your losses, or relationship pains–trust of any sort is a big ask.

Here is the truth that I have experienced. ¬†Sharing light has never left me in the dark. ¬†In those moments when I felt the most broken, I shared my brokenness. ¬†That was all I had to share, but it connected for others. Our pain has a light too–when we share it, others can see and know that they are not alone.

So, today, I am inviting you to share your light.  It might be little and broken, but you have light. Your light makes a difference.  And our lights together can push back the darkness.

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