Photographs by Meadow Linn

Friday, July 19, 2013

Be the Architect of Your Feelings

Do you know people who always seem to have bad things happen to them, or people who always seem to have good things happen to them? Some of this is luck or chance; some of it they’ve earned or created; and some of it depends on how they respond to the events in their lives. Two people can be at the same place at the same time and have completely different experiences. For instance, imagine you’re seeing a beautiful sunset and while you’re reveling in Mother Nature’s majesty, you hear someone next to you grumbling about pollution creating the vibrant colors. You’re both viewing the same sunset, though your experience of it will be dramatically different.

Sunset in Santa Monica during a wildfire
Sometimes when we look back on our lives we can see how an event that didn’t seem right at the time was a necessary steppingstone to bring us to where we are now, but often we don’t have to wait for hindsight. In the moment, we can choose how we frame an event. Believe it or not, we create the narrative that accompanies each and every moment. Did he actually glare at you? Or was the sun in his eyes, perhaps? You choose.

Many of the things that hurt us are neither good nor bad; it’s the way we react to them that can wreck emotional havoc.

In December a longtime friend told me she was getting married in a park near where we grew up. What joy! Like me, she spent much of her twenties looking for love. Seeing her in her wedding gown, flowers in hand, grinning from ear to ear was a moment I didn’t want to miss. However, a few months later, I learned that I hadn’t been invited to the wedding after all. As the color drained from my cheeks, I tried not to show my disappointment. I realized, however, that I could either react in a way that brought me joy or brought me pain. What story would I write? Would it be the one where it was a personal slight or would it be the one where the bride limited invitations to keep the wedding small and intimate?

Just by chance, the weekend of the wedding, a close high school friend came to visit. We spent hours laughing, collecting treasures at the beach, and reminiscing about times gone by. This is when hindsight is valuable. If I’d been at the wedding that weekend, I wouldn’t have had this other wonderful experience. Often life has a way of balancing out.

Watching wild zebras at Hearst Ranch with the dear friend who was visiting
The challenge is that no matter how much we know that we’re the architects of our reality, it’s not always easy to choose the narrative that most uplifts us. Hurt, jealousy, and disappointment sometime swoop in and take us unawares before we even have a chance to react rationally, in a way that supports us in joy and happiness. However, like anything, the more we practice the better we become.

A few years ago I decided to make a conscious effort to change my reaction to a situation. I was driving over speed limit in the left lane of the freeway, but apparently it wasn’t fast enough for a man in a red sports car. He passed me on the right while flipping me off. Normally, this would hurt my feelings. But, instead I laughed when I realized that although he was worked up, I didn’t have to be. It was his problem, not mine. This was a turning point for me.

As a suggestion, spend today noticing how you respond to situations. If at any point you notice your energy going down, try changing your reaction. If you’re having trouble releasing your charge, try finding a silver lining. This often helps me. Imagine that it’s a few days or years hence, and you’re looking back. Ask yourself, “If there were a silver lining to that event, what would it be?” If you can’t think of something, make it up.

Silver Lining Chocolate Zucchini Bread
(Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Naturally Sweetened)

It took me an entire day to make the first test batch of this bread, and I had to make two trips to the grocery store because the first bag of chocolate chips melted in my hot kitchen. It was finally time to take it out of the oven; it looked beautiful. But when I went to tip it onto the rack, half the bread stuck to the bottom of the pan. I was so disappointed. However, there was a silver lining. If this hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have known that it was a possibility and wouldn’t have been able to amend the recipe so it wouldn’t happen to anyone else. So, with the addition of parchment paper and an extra egg (to make the bread less crumbly), I was able to remedy the situation and create even better zucchini bread! I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Makes 1 deliciously decadent loaf

1 lb. zucchini, grated (about 3 cups)
½ cup almond milk
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1¾ cup brown rice flour (plus more for dusting the pan)
1/3 cup potato starch (not flour)
¼ cup tapioca flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. sea salt
½ cup coconut oil, melted (plus more for greasing the pan)
3 large eggs
¾ cup maple syrup
12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
Parchment paper

*Make sure all ingredients are room temperature. Otherwise, the coconut oil will solidify, and it will not bake evenly, affecting the texture of the zucchini bread.

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350ºF.

Prepare a 9x5 inch loaf pan. Grease the bottom and sides of the pan with coconut oil. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper: with a pencil trace the bottom of the pan on a sheet of parchment paper, then cut it out and place inside the loaf pan. Grease the parchment paper. Dust the pan with brown rice flour and tap out excess.

Grate the zucchini either with a box grater or a food processor fitted with a grating disc. Set aside. Measure the almond milk and mix in the lemon juice. Set aside to curdle. Over low heat melt the coconut oil.

In a large bowl, combine the brown rice flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk the melted coconut oil, eggs, and maple syrup together.

To remove the excess liquid from the zucchini, place it on a clean dishtowel, pull the sides up around it and squeeze. Once the majority of the liquid has been removed, mix the zucchini into the liquid ingredients.

Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Once fully incorporated, mix in the chocolate chips and pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake on the middle rack of the oven until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about an hour and 20 minutes.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Then turn out onto a rack and continue to cool for an hour.

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