Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

Changing Habits

I started reading James Clear's Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven way to Build Good Ones and Break Bad ones, and it started with a really interesting premise... I do recommend the book, as it's got a lot of specific details on how to improve life with a lot of small, doable changes in the systems one has for doing things. But the starting premise that really struck me was that habits often change because ones self-definition changes. 

I really loved that. I had to drastically cut my sugar intake when I became pre-diabetic. And I realize now that "I AM pre-diabetic" became something of my mantra while I did all the small things I needed to cut nearly all the added sugar from my diet at that time. I lost 20 pounds, lowered my blood sugar, and even had half a dozen side effects that all improved my health; but none of those were what precipitated the change and none of those were my stated goal of the time. I just realized that I had become pre-diabetic and that my old self-definition of being someone with an intense sweet tooth was killing me. 

While thinking of self-definitions, it struck me that I've gotten out of the habit of writing every day, and even of journaling much past what a bullet journal does, which isn't nearly the same as my old blogging or daily journaling about what I could be grateful for each day was. My bullet journal HAS gratitude lists, but there's a huge amount of difference between two words saying, "Rhubarb lentils" and the whole story of how I made a huge pot of green rhubarb dal based on the recommendation and a recipe from our health care clinic. 

And, yes, my lack of writing has been because I stopped thinking of myself as "being a writer" and in particular "a fiction writer" after the breakup. I'm an artist now, a restorative justice practitioner, a 911 transcriptionist, a scientist, a gardener, a knitter with hands who fail more often than not these days, an introvert stuck in the house due to COVID, a mother of a son who was the RA of an entire floor of a dorm at the Colorado School of Mines and he had to basically be a quarantine worker while I could do nothing to help or protect him other than make hundreds of masks for him and his classmates and professors. Those are the stories I've been telling to myself and those other stories of what has never been and will never be... aren't as riveting as the stories that have been my life lately.

But when I really thought about it... I actually am a writer. I've put in my several million words written to actually make it so that *I* felt like I'm a writer for a while. I have crafted a great deal of fiction that has helped some people through some rough times, and entertained others in ways that pleased them and me in knowing that they liked what I wrote. I've written a lot about reality that has touched hearts and minds, and while that writing is not as popular, I'm good with that, as the important thing was what that writing was doing for me.

I'm climbing out of the Depression bucket and am slowly coming out of mourning. The mourning not only of those who have passed, but of the life we had before COVID. Five days after my first COVID vaccination, I had a huge panic attack in the middle of the night that had me gasping and crying and saying, "If I stay THIS scared I would want to die..." Luckily, I had woken up John and he held me through the whole thing and when it finally crested and fell (damn, meditation is amazing for moments like this, I have to admit, the mantra of "This too shall pass" was so useful) and I was left with body tremors that shook me head to toe, then John started going "Pew pew pew!!" 

It was in reference to XKDC's Death Star model for the COVID mRNA vaccine mechanism. Both of us decided that the whole episode was due to my body figuring out how to fight the nasty new proteins, and so, "Pew pew pew!" was what got me out of the spiral. It may not actually have had anything physically or chemically to do with the vaccine. It might have just been all the terror and fear I'd been feeling from the whole last year, which I held off with the Big Stick of Not Me, all landing on me at once due to the simple expediency of possibly NOT having to be afraid anymore with the vaccine working (even in part at that point) in me. A good thing to stop bottling, honestly. The second shot was almost an anti-climax after that, as I just had a little fever and chills in the middle of the night, and then just tired for a couple of days. And with that under my belt, I also went in, two weeks later, for my second Shingles shot, and that laid me out for two days, but it was worth it on the third day when I felt Just Fine and now I will not get Shingles for the rest of my life.

Which, of course, led me to thinking about the Marshmallow Experiment. I know, not everyone would think of that as an Of Course, but so it is. For me, it was inevitable, the whole idea of a delayed or even hidden behind pain or discomfort reward. The idea that those who are more successful are willing to let the reward be delayed if it's greater after, and my feeling that those who are willing to suffer for the long-term reward will be rewarded in multiples. So I kind of think of the vaccines as a hugely expansive Marshmallow Experiment. *laughs* And those who don't get it will have interesting consequences with their method of making life choice.

Sure there will be people who "cheat" the system, but there's no cheating the virus itself or the long-term health damage it does even if it doesn't kill you.

And it's all kind of vibing with the reality of Spring coming and being able, this year, to actually plant everything in the planters in advance of summer! I now have spinach, bok choy, garlic chives, and the rhubarb plant from George and Isabel's Somerset house has now had a full winter in the backyard and it's huge. It's producing so much that I was contemplating rhubarb custard pie, when John stumbled across a recipe for spicy rhubarb dal in our UCHealth communications!  The writer didn't like sweet rhubarb recipes, and since I've been avoiding sweets on the most part, it seemed a natural fit and the coriander (lemony and sweet) portion of the spice mix was amazing with the fruity tartness of the rhubarb and the texture of the long-cooked stems really went well with the stewed lentils and the whole things was spiced with turmeric, cayenne, garam masala, garlic and ginger, and plenty of caramelized onions.  Tomatoes added color and sweetness. It turned out delicious.

And I am grateful. *laughs* 

So now you have something to do with that extra rhubarb or the rhubarb your neighbor left on your doorstep.  It's fun. There's always someone with an abundance of the stems. I also learned that there just are some varieties that have stems that remain greener than others. It's still just as good, and it's like a green apple versus a red apple compared to the ruddier commercial rhubarb.

Which all ties back into the whole, "Things I think are true are only true until I learn more." Which may be the whole COVID experience in a nutshell.

I got to hug a friend this weekend, for the first time since March of 2020. He came over to buy one of my paintings as a surprise gift for someone else, and I answered the door with a mask in one hand and he had his mask on. I made to put it on, but we were both fully vaccinated and on seeing me hesitating he said, "You don't have to put that on for my sake." 

And we got to just hug. And it was so weird and so cool and I want to believe that I will never take a hug for granted again, but I do kind of hope that I will get enough of them that it may go that way. *laughs* But I think that one gesture signaled the end of the pandemic with regards to my life and experience in a way that nothing else could have.

Tags: cooking, processing, writing

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