Photographs by Meadow Linn

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Changing My Focus from "Wanting" to "Having"

My cat always sleeps on the back of the couch. Yesterday, however, I washed the slipcovers, so the living room was a big jumble of upturned cushions and assorted throw pillows. But this didn’t deter my cat. No way! He’s a creature of habit and wanted to nap in his usual spot, even though a seat cushion turned on end was in the place where he usually curls up. Somehow, though, he managed to straddle and balance himself on the top of the upended cushion. And, he did this despite the cone (e-collar) on his head from a recent trip to the vet.

I was impressed by his persistence; yet, at the same time I was perplexed. Why work so hard for something so mediocre? The house is full of cozy places for a cat to nap that would have been more comfortable and much easier. Watching him work so hard to maintain his status quo made me start to think about whether I do the same thing in my own life.

Aslan balancing on the upended couch cushion
And the answer was, “YES”!

Yearning for love has become a comfortable state for me. Just as my cat fought hard to sleep in his usual spot even though it was difficult and uncomfortable, I think in many ways I do the same thing. Of course I want to fall in love and start a family, as you very well know if you’ve read any of my previous posts; however, I wonder if perhaps subconsciously I’ve been working hard to keep things the way they are. Change can be daunting. Sometimes it’s easier to want than to have.

Part of my status quo also involves wanting to feel connected to my local community, though I always seem to keep myself a few paces away. Somewhere in the back of my mind I’ve decided to keep my roots shallow so I could follow the wind when it blew. Not certain what my future would bring or where I’d meet the love of my life, I’ve only been marginally involved in my present life in order to keep my options open for the future. The challenge is that the love and joy I seek in the future are possibly right here in the present, if only I would allow myself to dig in.

The happier I am, the more joy I feel, and the more love I experience, the more I’ll be able to attract and the more I’ll be able to share. So, lately I’ve been making a greater effort to play a leading role in my present life rather than hoping for things to be even better in Act 2.

Some of the bounty at my local farmers' market
As part of my new focus on the present, I made a plan to meet a local friend at the farmers’ market, and while I was there I bumped into an acquaintance, chatted with my favorite fruit vendor, and even caught up with someone I’d met years ago. I always love going to the farmers’ market, but there was something special about this particular outing. It was no longer just about procuring produce, it was a social event and I felt like I belonged to the community. It was amazing to see how quickly changing my mindset could change my reality.

Rather than working so hard to maintain a way of being that perpetuates my focus on the future as my route to happiness, I’m taking steps to live more in the present and expect joy, happiness, and fulfillment to come now rather than later. The future of my dreams is more likely to come to fruition if I’m content in my present. The more joy, love, and connection I experience now, the more likely I am to recognize it in the future.

So my cat might insist on sticking to his habit no matter what, but I’m going to try taking a chance on change, which for me actually means not looking for change but instead enjoying what I already have. 

Vietnamese Raw Vegetable “Noodle” Salad

Since there has been some uncertainty about my future lately, I didn’t put as much love and care into my vegetable garden this year. As a result, it lacks some of the vibrancy and bounty of previous summers. Despite this, I have a steady supply of zucchini and fresh herbs, which were the inspiration for this salad.

Generally, I don’t like to write recipes that require the use of a tool that can’t be found in a typical kitchen; however, these raw vegetable “noodles” are so much fun that I’m making an exception for this salad. I hope you don’t mind. To make the “noodles” you will need a julienne vegetable peeler. They’re available online for about $15.

The quantities in the salad are approximate, as vegetables (especially those from my garden) come in various sizes. I prefer having more zucchini than carrots, so you may want to adjust accordingly depending on the size of your vegetables. You may also want to throw in sliced green beans or halved cherry tomatoes.

To make this into a heartier meal, use the leftover dressing to sauté your favorite meat or tofu and toss it with the salad before serving.

Serves 2 as an entrée
Serves 4 as a side

¼ cup warm water
¼ cup coconut sugar (or white sugar)
¼ cup fresh lime juice
¼ cup fish sauce
1 tsp. red chili flakes

3 zucchinis
4 carrots
2-3 very large handfuls of assorted fresh herbs, such as mint, Thai basil, cilantro, and shiso*
¾ cup roasted peanuts (or toasted cashews**), roughly chopped

*If you can’t find Thai basil, replace it with Italian basil. If you can’t find shiso, you can omit it.

To make the dressing, in a small bowl combine the warm water with the coconut sugar (or white sugar) until the crystals dissolve. Add the lime juice, fish sauce, and red chili flakes. Set aside.

Using a julienne vegetable peeler, make long, thin strips out of the zucchini and carrots to create “noodles.” Combine in a large salad bowl. Add the herbs. Rather than cutting them, I pluck the herbs from the stem with my fingers. If the leaves are large, I rip them into smaller pieces.

To serve, drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss. Most likely you won’t need all of the dressing, so start slow. Since there isn’t any oil in it, it won’t stick to the vegetables. It will fall to the bottom. This is typical of Vietnamese salads. Think of it more as a delicious marinade for your salad than a dressing. Sprinkle the nuts on top and enjoy.

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