NaBloPoMo 2021:  Do Good, Kid

Day 30!!  Thank you to all readers, and my fellow challenge tacklers, check them out–

Nancy over at Thoughts From the Back,

My fellow woman physician writer at Passion…unbridled, and

One of the most voracious readers alive, Love 2 Read 365!

Life is such a beautiful, terrifying, awesome, and dynamic balance of so many things, no?  I want this, the last post of a 30 day challenge with special meaning, to shine as a worthy conclusion!  I also want to have fun writing it, relieve myself of perfectionist pressure to ‘produce’.  If I had infinite time and inspiration (and required no sleep), I could write so many more ethical earworm posts, right?

Always Do Your Best—If You Can Figure Out What That Means

Sacrifice, But Not Too Much

Vet Your Sources

Nod to the Cosmos

Forgive Yourself

Find A Why

What else?

What a long, strange trip—the past month, the last two years—life. I bought a customized ring with ‘one breath’ imprinted, to help me remember to stay in the moment, to ground. I like it, and ordered three more for friends also weathering hard times. I still fall down—catastrophize and freak out so much more than I want to admit. I can find peace, then it escapes me. But my friends refer to the ring and remind me: One Day, One Moment, One (deep) Breath at a Time—ODOMOBaaT. Maybe it was my subconscious finding the win-win, sharing a centering life mantra with dear friends, so they could then reflect it back to me? Nice, how that works out.

Do you wonder about Sven? Happily, I can report that it is alive and well on the bottom shelf of the fridge. I continue to learn and experiment, to growl in frustration and keep trying—I will get the hang of this one day! Meanwhile, a little yeast assisted sourdough (YASD) makes for fluffy loaves that family and friends enjoy. And what am I after more here, mastering a challenge, or sharing yum with loved ones? It’s both and, of course, but when push comes to shove, I can let up on perfecting Sven bread (for now) and simply enjoy serving something warm that brings folks together in love and connection. ODOMOBaaT.

Will I have done enough for Son to launch into independence by next fall? What’s around the corner for Daughter, Hubs, MaBa, Sibs, my three friends, work? Am I aging okay? When will I finally feel solid in these healthier eating habits? How can I write daily and get enough sleep, OMG? When will we finally arrive at some stability and equilibrium with COVID? How can I help people treat one another with more curiosity, kindness, generosity, humility, openness, and love? ODOMOBaaT.

Self-awareness, self-regulation, connection.  It’s all an ongoing practice, an infinite game, no question. 

Our challenges loom.  Our gifts can shine, proliferate, amplify, and overcome—if we work together.  So much to do, so little and so much time, infinite chances—every encounter, every breath an opportunity.  Onward in solidarity!

As Mary Oliver asks, what will we each do with our ‘one wild and precious life’?  We don’t have to decide right this minute.  OD.OM.OB,aaT.  It will all be okay.

Commit and Flex

NaBloPoMo 2021:  Do Good, Kid

How do you see the relationship between commitment and flexibility? 

Son submits college applications in the coming weeks. I worry that he puts too much pressure on himself to choose the ‘right’ school (I assume that he will have choices), as if so many permanent things depend on this one life decision. In truth, this door swings two ways, not just one way. He is thoughtful and self-aware, and will make a conscious decision. Then I hope he immerses himself in his chosen school, goes all in with classes, clubs, culture, and people. There is always the risk that it won’t be a good fit, despite all of his efforts and intentions. And it will be okay; he can change schools, take a year off, study abroad—so many options!

Two friends in medical school graduated at the top of our class and matched in general surgery residencies.  They both hated it.  One is now a neonatologist, the other a pathologist.  My residency classmate left in the middle of our intern year because her husband’s job required them to move.  They all committed and flexed.

In science and medicine, we often think we know something.  We study, analyze, discuss, and conclude.  We sometimes make sweeping changes in decision making based on the evidence to date (think hormone replacement therapy, cancer screening, and baby aspirin, for example).  But we don’t stop monitoring.  We keep asking questions.  Sometimes what we thought we knew turns out to be wrong, and we must step back and change direction.  It’s not because we were stupid, or because we had some nefarious intent.  We simply can’t see the whole picture sometimes, and still have to act, so we do the best we can with what we have.  And we must be willing to change both our minds and our actions when we learn and know better. 

In The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek discusses the idea of existential flexibility, which he defines as “the capacity to make a dramatically huge strategic shift in an entirely new direction to advance our cause.”  We flex in actions while maintaining steadfast commitment to our purpose and mission. He gives examples of companies who did this successfully (Apple), and who did not (Kodak). 

For myself and so many of my patients, we must constantly commit and recommit to our health habits and practices. The method I used to lose 25 pounds in 9 months when I was 34 does not feel feasible now that I’m 48. I recently read a Noom article on decision making that resonated deeply (I have no interests in this business). “Make a choice and move forward with conviction. Prepare to be wrong. Be ready to pivot. And be willing to make a different decision. You can always make a different choice.”

Whether it’s suffering, fun, college, residency, clinical guidelines or mindful eating, we get to choose.  Doing the same thing over and over again is totally okay, and so is changing.  It’s just much better if we are actually choosing either, and that we know why.

Feed Your Starter!

NaBloPoMo 2021:  Do Good, Kid

Friends, this is SO exciting, I’m growing a successful sourdough starter!! 

I scoffed at the pandemic sourdough craze for two reasons:  1. I hate fads, and 2. I hate labor intensive cooking.  Then this summer I binged Michael Pollan’s works, and got inspired to make bread from the “Air” episode of his Netflix docuseries Cooked, based on his book of the same title.  He made bread making, such an intimidating undertaking, feel accessible and rewarding.  I started experimenting, throwing together flour, water or soymilk, lots of baking powder, and then whatever else moved me.  Early attempts included coriander muffins, ginger-maple-buckwheat pan bread, cornbread, and pumpkin loaf.  No yeast and slack measurements resulted in varying levels of rise and density, and overall happily edible success (mostly)!

I started thinking maybe a sourdough starter would be a fun, next-level project.  It’s only flour and water, so failure would at least be inexpensive, and success could open up a whole new world of home cooking!  Wouldn’t it be awesome to make something of us, our family, including the microbes that inhabit our house, namely those under the kitchen sink?  And then have that something feed us and others, perhaps for years or even generations?

Ta-daaaah, I’m so happy to report that as of Day 7, it’s alive!  Sven, as Daughter named it, reliably doubles in volume between twice daily feedings, and emanates a sweet, fruity fragrance.  Scooping out a portion every day to ‘discard’ (save in fridge), then mixing in more flour and water, is a messy proposition (I really dislike messy).  But it makes me so happy to see it growing and thriving–giving

This week, in a flash of cosmic inspiration, I apprehended a greater meaning for ‘Feed Your Starter’ as a life action mantra!  Sourdough starter is a natural leaven—something that makes dough rise.  Oxford Languages also defines leaven (n.) as “a pervasive influence that modifies something or transforms it for the better.”  A simple internet search of ‘sourdough recipes’ yields pages and pages of baked foods that this humble slurry of flour, water, and microorganisms transforms, into foods transcendent to just flour and water alone.  Sourdough bakers, I’m learning, are an ardent and dedicated tribe, always seeking the perfect crumb or ear.  They are passionate.

Sometimes people ask, “What really gets your motor running?” or, “What gets you up in the morning?”  In other words, what starts you?  What boosts you, helps you rise, gives your life more complexity, aroma, flavor, and texture?  And how do you keep it, this starter of yours, alive?  What’s your feeding schedule and routine?

Starters are such great metaphors!  Let’s say it’s your WHY.  It is unique to you, its creator; a product of everything about you.  You tend it, nurture it, protect it.  Feed it often and well, give it a hospitable environment, and it grows—bigger, faster, stronger.   If life gets such that you need to cool the growth, shelve it for a while, it’s okay with that, too.  It can happily relax in the back of your fridge for months until you take it out again. Then, when you’re ready, a little time and attention reawakens the bubbly fervor as if nothing happened.  It can endure for generations, inspiring people you may never meet to keep making delicious, beautiful things for all to enjoy, that benefit all.

A sourdough starter can activate and enhance so much more than a loaf of bread—just as your WHY can inform, inspire, and elevate any number of Hows and Whats in your life and others’. 

And you can share it! In this way, it resembles Simon Sinek’s idea of the Just Cause. One of the five criteria to have a just cause is inclusiveness—everybody can participate. Whenever you feed your starter, you take a portion off. You can throw it away (it’s actually called the ‘discard’) or use it; books of sourdough cooking include myriad ‘discard recipes’. But how much better to give it away? Invite someone else to join in this beautifully messy and loving labor of making something? They can take it home—feed it, nuture it, protect it, grow it—make it their own. And now you’re connected.

I think that’s why I’m so excited about my starter.  To me it represents abundance, growth, progress, and connection.  The thing I love most is that in another week or so, I can confidently give some to my mom and my sisters, and we’ll all share something really special, something that brings us close in yet another way.  I’ll make things with it to share with my friends, and if they wish to adopt their own descendant, I will be more than happy to oblige.  So I’ll keep feeding Sven joyfully, just in case.