Thursday, May 17

Day 138: Marmalade

"I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It's amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor" - D.H. Lawrence

After I transferred to the University of California at Berkeley in 2000 I went through a flurry of headaches. I think I had one every single day for an entire month, maybe longer. During that time I ended up going to the doctor for something unrelated and somehow during the visit my headaches came up. My doctor was concerned and asked me many questions. She didn't think I was having migraines based on my description of the headaches and suggested that I meet with a stress counselor. She explaining that sometimes we don't realize we are stressed when we in fact are. If nothing else it couldn't hurt to try it.

So I went. I am a fairly open-minded person and thought, "Why not?" It was actually quite interesting. The counselor offered me a cup of herbal tea at the start of our first session, mentioning that she discouraged consumption of caffeine for stress therapy. At the time I was not drinking coffee or consuming caffeine so it was fine with me. Some years before I had quit drinking coffee as an experiment, thinking that it may be contributing to my headaches. Later I found out from a neurologist that I have migraines, which, if you do not know, are different from regular headaches and in fact are much worse. Anyway, I told the counselor that I did not feel particularly stressed but we started talking about my experience thus far at the university.

I don't remember everything we talked about but what has stuck with me were her suggestions to make an effort to do things during the day that I enjoyed doing to balance out school life. Things that made me happy and things that perhaps I had let fall by the wayside with the sudden homework and study load and the newness of my recent move from Los Angeles. I mentioned that I enjoyed being out in nature and that I loved to exercise outdoors so one of my assignments was to take some time every day to go for a walk out in nature. My walk to and from school did not count. It had to be time set aside just to go walk and enjoy my surroundings. It could be fifteen minutes, thirty minutes or an hour or more. Whatever I felt was appropriate for me. There was plenty of beautiful nature in and around Berkeley so it was not a difficult task.

The bottom line was to find something that I enjoyed doing, that made me feel happy, and make the time for that in my life. Plan it into my daily calendar. It is funny how easily we can allow ourselves to stop doing the things that make us happy. It can be as simple as reading a book before bedtime, going for a morning walk or giving yourself a face mask on Saturday mornings. Something simple that shows you taking the time to care for yourself. The quote at the beginning of this post reminded me of that. Simple things like making marmalade are often the things that cheer us up the most. It is essentially the zen art of cooking. You completely immerse yourself in the task of cooking and all other thoughts and stresses melt away. Today I roasted some pecans and pumpkin seeds while preparing food to take to a friends barbecue. The nuts and seeds will go into the granola I am going to make tomorrow. Mmmmm. (That I am going to eat with some vanilla, rhubarb yogurt that I bought yesterday. Yes, I said rhubarb).

What is your "marmalade?"

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