Photographs by Meadow Linn

Monday, October 13, 2014

Being in the Flow

Do you feel like you’re butting your head up against a wall and no matter how much you try, nothing seems to come together? This is what happens when you’re out of the flow.
Do you feel at other times as though your life is miraculously unfolding in ways that far surpass your wildest dreams? This is what happens when you’re in the flow.

Like a pendulum swinging to and fro, I’ve experienced both extremes. In recent years I’ve noticed this especially poignantly on my birthday.

My 36th birthday was a disaster. I’d had my heart broken by a man who I thought had potential to be “the one.” And no amount of birthday cheer could pull me out of the dark hole I’d fallen into. My mom tried absolutely everything to cheer me up, but it was for naught. As a result of my spiraling depression, there was no flow to the day. My mom had organized a day of pampering, but somehow nothing turned out as planned. We went to Sephora to have our makeup done, but the woman was out with the flu. As we were walking down the street, my shoe broke. Things that should have been simple appeared as massive hurdles.

I understand now that the day was mirroring the way I was feeling. There was no flow to the day because I wasn’t in the flow.

In bed on my 35th birthday with severe abdominal pains
My 35th birthday wasn’t much better. I spent that birthday in bed with excruciating abdominal pains that, after a trip to the Emergency Room, was diagnosed as ovarian cysts. I wasn’t in the flow then either. For a few years I’d been dreading 35 because everything I’d read said a woman’s fertility withers like a brittle leaf in the autumn sun at that age. So, rather than celebrating that birthday with cake and ice cream, I spent it worrying that I might never become a mother. Since I’d put so much charge on turning 35, I wasn’t in the flow. As a result, my body created a physical manifestation of the angst I’d been carrying with me. 

However, on the eve of turning 37, something seems different this year.

I feel as though I’m embarking on a new phase of my life. There’s nothing specific that I can pinpoint; it’s more of a feeling. And from what I’ve been hearing, it sounds as though there are many others who are also feeling this way.

Here’s an example of how things are currently in the flow. I’m not sure why, but a few months ago I got the idea that I wanted to celebrate my birthday at Disneyland. But, going to Anaheim was not in the flow. My autumn schedule was jam-packed, and finding a friend to join me would be difficult. Since it didn’t seem to be in the flow, I let it go. But, two days ago, an Australian friend out-of-the-blue said she was going to be in Los Angeles and was planning to spend a day at Disneyland, on my birthday! And then, as if by magic, everywhere I looked I saw signs that pointed me in that direction. When I turned on the television, there was a commercial for Disneyland, and I just happened to open a family album to a photo from a past trip to the Magic Kingdom. When you’re in the flow, life is filled with synchronicity.

Cinderella's Castle at Disneyland
Something shifted in me this summer when I was sick with whooping cough. After spending two months in bed, I’m no longer willing to just coast or wait for life to happen. I’ve noticed myself jumping more quickly on opportunities, and as a result there have been even more such opportunities. Joy and happiness beget joy and happiness. And the more joy and happiness you experience, the more you’ll be in the flow, and the more you’re in the flow, the more seemingly effortless life will be.

Action steps: When you’re out of the flow, getting back in the flow can feel like a Herculean task. However, you don’t have to build Rome in a day. Start small. Last year when I was in a deep depression on my birthday, my mom and I sat by the river and dangled our feet in the current. Although my heart still hurt, watching autumn leaves flow downstream was a spark that put me back on the path to regaining my flow. There was such wonderment in that seemingly small moment. When you savor the small moments, bit-by-bit you’ll get back into the flow, and miracles will abound. We’re on the precipice of something special…I can feel it!

Happy Birthday Applesauce Cake

This is the birthday cake my mom made for me every year when I was growing up. I was the only kid in the 80s with a gluten-free birthday cake, I’m pretty sure. But even when I started eating wheat in my teens, this remained a favorite. I hope you love it as much as we do. I’ll be enjoying a big slice on my birthday! 

I’ve written instructions for using a standing mixer, but this cake can easily be made by hand.

With my Happy Birthday Applesauce Cake
Makes 1 small cake

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup sugar
½ cup coconut sugar
3 eggs
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/3 cup brown rice flour
3 Tbsp. potato starch (not potato flour)
2 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 ½ tsp. ground cloves
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 325ºF.

Grease an 8x8x2 or a 9-inch round pan*.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachement, cream the butter and sugars on medium-low, scraping down the sides as necessary. Turn off the machine and add the eggs and applesauce. Mix on low until combined.

In a medium bowl combine the brown rice flour, potato starch, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cloves. With the standing mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until fully combined.

Turn off the machine and mix in the walnuts and raisins by hand.

Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan and bake on the middle rack of the oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. My mom’s recipe says to bake the cake in an 8x8x2 inch pan for 1 hour 15 minutes. However, when I used a 9-inch round spring-form pan, the cake only took 50 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature before frosting.

* Greasing with butter is probably sufficient; however, I like to use parchment and flour as well. To use my this-cake-has-absolutely-no-chance-of-sticking method, place the cake pan on a piece of parchment paper and with a pencil trace around the edge. Cut the parchment to fit into the bottom or the pan. Grease the bottom and sides of the pan with butter. Then place the parchment in the bottom of the pan and grease the top of the parchment. Add brown rice flour to the pan and tap the sides to evenly coat with a thin layer of flour.

Cream Cheese Frosting

My mom's original handwritten recipe

Makes about 2 cups

1 8-oz pkg. cream cheese
1 cup (8 oz.) sour cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Slowly bring the mixer to high, then beat until smooth, approximately 3 minutes.

Since I have an autumn birthday, my mom always decorated my cake with colorful leaves


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