"I write so that my handful of pebbles, cast into still waters, will create a ripple."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

When Your Body Says “No:” The Stress/Disease Connection

I came across this amazing link and I want to shout it from the rooftops. 

Vancouver-based Dr. Gabor Mate argues that too many doctors ignore the research. They’ve apparently forgotten the once commonplace assumption that emotions are deeply implicated in human well-being.

Well, HELLO! A couple of friends and I were discussing this very thing (we’re grandmas, but never too old to diss our upbringing!) 

Tina mentioned that her mother was an “I love you, BUT…” type. My friend grew up feeling she’d never quite “made the grade” with her mother. In her words, by adulthood this feeling had oozed out to include everyone in the whole world. She calls herself a Pleaser. Not surprisingly, she’s plagued with health problems. I love her the way she is, but I can see that she says “yes” way too often.

Our other friend, Mary, said her mother is a narcissist who manages to deflect every triumph back to herself. If Mary brought home a good report card, she was told she took after her mama who always got straight A’s. Mary’s fought a weight problem her entire life. Her mother, of course, is a perfect size 6. Her horror is that she will spend her golden years caring for her mother's dramatic, malingering passing. We coined an unflattering nickname for her mother that makes Mary laugh. After all, what are friends for?

My mom is a raver--in the good sense. She raves over us. Her favorite phrases involve, “Isn’t that beautiful!” or “You made this all by yourself?” Three generations of her progeny tease her about her attribution skills as we glow in the light of her appreciation. 

I took the joy of accomplishment for granted until I began noticing that not everyone had it so good. Dr. Mate says her joy helped me develop a sunny disposition that supports a healthy immune system. Were it this simple!

I inherited her attribution skills and for that I’m grateful. But my awful twin makes it easy to interject sarcasm and deflect attention to myself. My attribution skills come at a cost. I’ve had to learn to sit and really listen. To take a backseat. (See, not easy. Count the I’s and me’s in this paragraph and you’ll see.)

So what is this rant really about? To take it back to the top, I’m an expressive who apparently has been tending my immune system my entire life. If I live to be 90, I’ll have to thank my mom, my blog and everyone who has had to listen to me verbalize my feelings.

How about you? Any insights into your emotional/physical connection?
Don’t forget to check out Dr. Mate’s interview. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

"Chocolate Necessities"

I'm a lazy blogger this week. Here's an excerpt of my Baby Boomer memoir, Ordinary Aphrodite.   
Call me crazy, but I don’t like chocolate. Never have, even as a little girl. I know I’m supposed to—how can I call myself a woman if I don’t splurge on a chunk of Ghirardelli’s dark when my hormones are raging? How can I pass by the See’s booth on my way through the mall without veering in for a little pick-me-up?
Theobroma cacao. The Aztecs called it “fruit of the gods.” Who am I to spurn the naughty little aphrodisiac their high priests fed the royal concubines? Who to decline an intoxicate so indelicate that Victorian ladies had to nosh it behind their husbands’ backs? I swoon to imagine! So stimulating, sexy and addicting it shouldn’t be legal without a prescription—Spanish fly, thy name is chocolate!
I beg a question—is chocolate food or medicine? After all, it took a Supreme Court to decide about the tomato. Whichever, do I owe it to my kids to indulge in a daily ounce of chocolate so I don’t end my life a half-baked, confused old lady? Like my guilt isn’t bad enough, am I endangering my mental clarity without a daily fix?
But vegetable, candy or fruit, I’ll have to pass. Truth is—my body doesn’t process theobroma very well. Call me lily-livered; I was born with a raging case of jaundice. Some of my kids are just like me; they don’t like chocolate, either. That’s where the blame comes from—motherguilt for messing up their chocolate gene.
My life was one gooey mess. Then I saw the movie, Chocolat.
Chocolat was one of those movies I decided to watch after I’d seen the trailer. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but Johnny Depp was in it so how could I go wrong? Juliette Binoche wore a pretty dress and high heels, and she looked on the outside exactly the way I felt on the inside, so I knew she had something to teach me about myself. I was going to be glad I went.
And I went, and that’s exactly what happened. I emerged from the theater deliriously happy. I was in love with chocolate—and myself. I wanted to wear silk scarves in my hair and hug strangers, and meddle in everyone’s business and inspire them to be greater than they were. I wanted conservative men to fall into confusion when I was around. I wanted a wild young lover, and I wanted to weigh a hundred and fifteen pounds soaking wet and eat truffles without consequence.
The movie made me crave a bowl of the wonderful remedy our family uses as a curative for the blues. We call it “runny.” Runny is hot-fudge sauce we cook up whenever one of us comes home with a problem of the heart. Tea and runny.  My Great-aunt Josephine started the tradition: Whenever one of her daughters had a problem with a man or his money, she would make a batch of runny in her heavy steel kettle. Depending on how many sisters and daughters crowded around the table, she would spoon the batch into cereal bowls or saucers. When I was eleven I was invited to sit at the table and eat mine with a teaspoon along with the women.   
After seeing Chocolat, I rushed home and boiled up a batch of runny. And fanaticized about a wild young pirate licking it off my belly.

One day the Fates conspired to give me a Chocolat moment of my own. Opportunity arrived in the form of a gift from a dear friend—a dozen decadent truffles made with imported Belgian Callebaut chocolate. From first bite it was clear we were destined to be together—the chocolate, not the friend. With one passionate nibble, truffles and I began a wild, passionate affair of the heart.
I remember it was Thursday, my birthday. My husband Steve’s friends had given him a gift certificate for a night at the Parkfield Inn, a rustic log cabin Bed and Breakfast in Parkfield, the Earthquake Capitol of the World—Ground Zero for The Big One!
We were in the car, pulling out, when the UPS truck pulled into our driveway. The driver jumped out, ran over with a package that needed signing for, jumped back in and drove off. I opened the outer wrapper. It was a gift-wrapped carton with a gold sticker from Chocolate Necessities in Bellingham, Washington.
I ran back into the house, grabbed a bottle of Brandy and two snifters, and packed everything in a basket along with my CDs of Govi’s “Guitar Odyssey” and Emilio Castillo’s “Modern Gypsy.”
Fast-forward to late night.
We are sated by steaks and wine from the Parkfield Cafe across the road. We have thumb-tacked our business cards onto a naked spot on the ceiling, along with a prerequisite dollar bill. Now it is time to adjourn to the inn, where our room is furnished with a queen-size bed made of lodge-pole pine, with iron ranch implements hanging from a chandelier over our heads.
Around ten we break out the bottle of Brandy and slip the gold cord from the exquisite box. I feel like royalty that my friend has sent such an extravagance. Inside, two rows of six fresh, stunningly lovely truffles fill the long, narrow box, each one more beautiful than the next. Each is decorated with a squiggle of icing to differentiate it from its neighbor. At first I can’t imagine breaking up the perfect set, but then I remember the reason for the gift is to teach me to embrace luxury.
With one sniff the bouquet of the Callebaut invades my limbic brain and I am lost.
I bite into an Irish Cream liqueur truffle. Steve chooses a plain chocolate. We exchange nibbles, but he prefers his. With my second bite the Universe hits me with a star-bursting, lightning strike of esoteric clarity. It is a Nirvana moment when all the hidden knowledge of the Universe accrues inside my brain. For a moment I am Juliette Binoche

2 cups sugar
4 Tbsp cocoa
2 Tbsp butter
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
Combine sugar, cocoa, butter and mild. Boil until mixture starts to thicken. Let cool slightly and eat with spoons. 
(Pirate Optional.) Enjoy. 

Ahoy, Matey, what's your secret passion? Your secret's safe with us.  

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Singing Our Whine-Song

Not talking about a drinking song here. Every generation has something that drives them crazy about their mother. I call it the whine-song.   

My blessed mama probably won’t read this. And if she does, she’ll laugh. Because she knows there was one thing about her that drove me crazy. Her favorite theme was the twenty-seven years she went without a new coat. It was true. I was there and I saw her, always making sure her brood was fed and clothed—even if it meant doing without. 

Most of the time she was happy to serve. But every now and then something would remind her and out would come the pathetic coat story.  

Funny how things work out. Her lack of coat became a theme for my abundance. In college the family I cooked for gave me a beautiful red poncho that I wore through three years of college and another three pregnancies. On my first married Christmas, my brand new in-laws handed me a gorgeous Bullock’s box. In it was a fawn-colored faux-suede pants coat that made my heart sing.

In the intervening years a friend gave me her mother-in-law’s elegant emerald green overcoat (a serious East Coast wool garment.)  One Christmas I sewed five down jackets for Christmas presents. I live in Central California and it isn't even cold here! 

What is it about my mother’s lack that the Universe overcompensated with me? Was it some erratic force laughing at us? My mother-in-law left coats hanging in every closet. She hoarded them, child of the Depression that she was, and after her death I filled my car with them and distributed them to a homeless shelter.

So what’s my whine-song? Naturally it has to be different from my mother’s. And my daughters will have to find different yet. I think mine is the poor-me-I-don’t-eat-enough-to-be-this-damn-fat song. Yeah, that’s the one my daughters will remember. With a chorus of, “why me, why me.”    

They won’t remember the coats. Why should they—their closets are full of them. It’ll be something else, maybe plastic grocery bags or—here’s a good one—the unequal distribution of household chores.   

And, so the beat goes on.

What’s your whine song? Have a theme you’d care to share with us?  Come on--you know you want to!