I Hide My Chocolate

Midlife observations

Month: January, 2013

Waking from Anxiety


Letting Go of an Anxious Past

Sunday I woke.  That familiar feeling was there.  I didn’t want to face my day.  In times past (before children), I would succumb, lying in bed, staying home-bound, overwhelmed with the feeling that it was all too much to handle.  In times more current, I ignored the feeling, plowing through my day, my duties.  This time, I observed the feeling without getting lost in the feeling.

I lay there reconstructing my dreams.  All anxiety dreams.

Dream #1:  A classic – I forgot to go on my upcoming business trip.  After that horrible moment when I realized I had missed my plane and was supposed to be in Miami for an important meeting, I was rushing around trying to find another plane to get me there that same day.  New job performance anxiety.

Dream #2:  Our parakeet, Cooper (who I am ridiculously attached to probably because I feel guilty for not being a better pet care-giver as a child), was struggling up the stairs looking for me.  When he found me, something was the matter with him.  I looked at him and his body was missing.  Just his head and his tail feathers.  A big gaping hole where his body was.  He was going to die.  And it was my fault.  Parenting anxiety.  I am a terrible mother.  Especially when I am absorbed in my work.  See Dream #1.

Dream #3:  I had a tattoo.  I thought it was kind of cool that I had acquired this tattoo.  My having a tattoo would be quite out of character.  But the tattoo was of a stick dog with a skull.  I did not like it.  It was not my choice.  And now it was a permanent fixture of my body.  Anxiety over what?  Not having a say?  Elements of my past imbedded in my body that I don’t want – were not my choice. were inflicted upon me?

I lay there ruminating.  I made a decision.  I did not want to have a “generalized anxiety” fog of a day.  I decided to not succumb.  Time is too precious to waste a blissful day off feeling unsettled and blue.  I made an important discovery for myself a few years ago on a ski vacation that anxiety was a habit that I could choose not to give in to.  We had arrived at the top of the mountain.  The wind was blowing, which always increases my skiing anxiety, and we were going to do a challenging run.  I stood there looking down.  My heart was pounding and my breath was short and shallow.  “I can’t do it!  I hate skiing!  It’s your fault and you better notice how hard this is for me and take care of me!”  My husband, truly the perfect match for me, calmly chooses not to notice my panic, calmly chooses not to cater to my false victim-y incompetence.  And then the shift happens.  I change the tape in my head.  “I can do this run.  I did it several times last year and loved it!  I am a good skier.  Anxiety is a habit.  It got me attention as a child, as a young adult.  But it does not serve me well any more.  Let it go.”  I took some deeper breaths and felt my confident persona rise up.  There she is!  Let’s go.  And down we schussed, my confident persona and me, leaving the anxious child behind.

I left my anxiety dreams in bed and got up and enjoyed coffee with my husband and went to my Sunday yoga class with wise Alex.  I have worked hard to create a community of friends at my yoga studio.  But I regularly forget that they are there and that they notice when I am not there.  I walked in and was greeted with hugs and a genuine welcome.  Good God, I have friends.  Friends I have cultivated with care.  And then another shift happened.  During Warrior 2, where my left hand was my back hand, it started vibrating.  What was happening?  The only child of (anxious) cerebral scientists, I searched for a scientific and physical explanation.  Probably some mildly pinched nerve was being released.  But maybe, just maybe, there is a different point of view worth considering, worth being open to considering.  I wonder what the yogi’s have to say?  Some crazy hokum, I am sure.  Kundalini awakening or some such nonsense.  Oh yeah, I am a yogini.  I am supposed to believe this crazy hokum…right?  Skeptical, I ask Alex.  He suggests that my back hand represents my past.  I am releasing energy from my past.  The left side is my feminine side, my heart.  I am releasing energy from my past, from my past with my mother, my anxiety enabler – as I make the passage through mid-life and become more grounded in my confident self.  Good God, this resonates as true and believable!  Could it be that it is not crazy hokum?  Perhaps the logical explanation is not the only point of view?  I felt the decision I made that morning, to leave anxiety behind, in the vibration of my left back hand.

3 Adjectives


Wise.  Honest.  Compassionate.

The assignment I have been dreading and anticipating for 17 years has arrived.  It is time to help my first-born get ready to leave home.  To begin the college exploration process, the high school guidance counselor helpfully sent home a precise and systematic worksheet to distill the overwhelming and very emotional task into one page:  Choose 3 adjectives to describe your child.

Just three?  My daughter is the most amazing creature ever.  I cannot narrow her down into three adjectives.  She is beautiful, funny, creative, ambitious, curious, elegant, honest, meticulous, compassionate, disciplined, hard-working, eager-to-achieve, eager-to-please, smarter than smart, the life of the party, athletic, graceful, strong, willful, compliant, adaptive, loving, stylish, curious, culturally in-the-know, fast, careful, controlled, trusting, a rule-follower, capable, independent, determined, generous, mature, friendly, modest, empathetic, vibrant, serious, silly, spirited, grounded, loyal, wise.  An artist.  A teacher.  A leader.  Just three?

What stories will make her stand out to the college admissions committees?

Should I tell them about the day I took off from work to take her for her driving road test?  She was excited about making the leap into driving.  I was less so, but excited on her behalf.  I mainly wanted it to be over to get to our mother-daughter day.  Lunch and Christmas shopping.  She failed the test, perhaps the first test she has ever failed.  Crying…she sat in the passenger seat and I took back the driver’s seat cursing at the situation, in pain at her pain.  There was no way this was going to be a good day.  Shopping would not be girly.  Lunch would not be delicious.  Giving up, we transitioned into running errands.  Running to the bank that afternoon, I left her in the car texting.  When I returned, she looked at me with tears steaming down her face.  A gunman has massacred 26 people, most of them children.  The raw emotion of shock, fear, disbelief, exhaustion was up front and center.  I couldn’t believe it, couldn’t let myself feel it.  My deepest, most unspeakable fear – to lose a child.  These poor people.  I am too controlling and distant from my emotions.  She is my guide to how to feel.

Should I tell them about her participation in the peer mentoring program at school?  How the kids adore her because she looks them in the eye and treats them like one of the regular kids, like a friend?  The regular kids didn’t know what to say or how to behave.  One day, she was taking the bus home and she sat down next to one of the girls she mentors.  The girl was so pleased she gave Kiera a kiss and confided that she considers my daughter a friend. And my daughter IS a friend to her.  There is no status stratification in her mind.  Anyone who is genuine, nice, and funny can be my daughter’s friend.  When the kids she babysits want to sit and talk instead of go to bed so she can get her homework done, she sits and talks.  I was not that kind of babysitter.  I wanted those kids to go to bed so I could get my homework done.  No wonder she is asked back to babysit.  I was not asked back.  She is my guide to how to be a friend.

Should I tell them I am so glad she doesn’t have a boyfriend yet?  Unlike me at her age, she is not trying to find validation of her worth by the number of boys who like her.  She has a range of friendships from different aspects of her life.  Smart, funny, loyal friends.  Beautiful girls in all shapes and sizes, with all different personalities and temperaments, all contributing to the social support that embraces my daughter and keeps her grounded, more grounded than I was, more grounded than I am.  She is my guide to how to be a confident girl, a confident woman.

Should I tell them about her brilliant business idea?  Not only is she academically gifted, but she is culturally astute.  Not only does she have my husband’s math and science brain, but she is creative, stylish, and savvy.  Too bad she is a rule-follower spending all her time getting A’s.  She doesn’t have time to execute her business idea(s).  How do I tell her that A’s don’t make you happy, that A’s don’t guarantee success in life or money in the bank?  How do I encourage her to break the rules and take some risks when I am her role-model, a model of over-achieving obedience?  Be brave, beautiful girl, follow your path.  No one is more capable than you.

Should I tell them that she took on a job as greeter and administrator at our yoga studio to make money to pay for her school trip to Spain?  So determined she was to finance some of the trip to take the burden off of us and to show solidarity with her friends who are less affluent.  And now, she has insinuated herself into the life of the yoga studio.  The teachers count on her to get the computer system straight.  The students see her smiling, gracious demeanor and share how they are doing with her.  And when they see me, they tell me what I already know…”Your daughter is just wonderful.”

Should I tell them about all the reality tv that she watches and how I don’t understand this?  I hate tv.  Well, I did like our evenings watching What Not to Wear and Project Runway.  And I do think she could be the lead critic on Fashion Police.  And she has converted me to a diehard Ellen fan.  I suppose it is comparable to my hours reading novels as a girl – a window into other people and how they live.  She is different than me – as it should be.

Should I tell them about what a great tennis player she is but that she hates competing?  How my husband’s passion for tennis meant she has been playing tennis since she was 5.  Tennis is in her body but she has stage fright in a tournament.  She sprained her ankle playing a tournament and was sidelined for 6 months.  Coincidence?  Or is that how she communicates that she is done with tournaments.  Or needs to re-approach tennis in a way that works for her.  Time to build her own life and not live her parents’ dreams.

Should I tell them that when I found out I was pregnant with a girl, 17 ½ years ago, I prayed to raise a girl who was happy and confident – comfortable in her own skin.  That would mean raising a girl who listened to her body, respected her body, admired her body, trusted her body, her Self.  I prayed that I would love her the best that I am able.  I prayed that I would enjoy every minute I had with her.  When I found out I was pregnant, I couldn’t stand the thought of her leaving home 18 years later.  Here it is.  The Moment.  It is her time.  Heart in my throat, how can I hold her close while giving her the freedom to be a grown-up, at home – practicing before she has to do it for real?  How best to love and support her through this thrilling transition?  Somehow, we will find a college that is right for her.  She will be ready.  I will try to be ready.  To let her go.  To dream her dreams and live her life.   She is Wise.  Honest.  Compassionate.  Born with a soul older than mine.  She is my guide to how to live.

Lunch in the New Year?


Measuring Austerity

The Christmas tree is down.  I am sad.  My kids are sad.  It was a wonderful holiday this year, filled with love.  And now it is January.  Perhaps the best part of January is that my husband’s birthday is this month.  Not only do we have a family occasion to celebrate, but I can feel the days getting longer when his birthday arrives.

But the other truth is:  The Christmas tree is down – I am relieved.  SO relieved to be in the bracingly harsh disciplined January regimen!  No more free-wheeling nonschedule with access to an abundance of food and time on my hands to do nothing.  God forbid I should sit on the couch and watch tv and eat more than my austere allowable allotment of a 120-calorie treat of some kind (2 cookies or a yogurt).  January is the time for exercising more and eating less and feeling smugly virtuous with that twinge of hunger gnawing at me, telling me I am losing the holiday weight.  (Not that I allowed myself to gain any holiday weight.)

I am not proud to feel so proud and smug.

When Dr. Oz (Dr. Oz!  Am I a cliche?  50 year old woman blogs and cites Dr. Oz!) revealed (in the print edition of October 12 Prevention magazine – yes the print edition.  The full article is not online.  It has been bastardized into a slide show to generate more page views for ad selling metrics.  Long live print.) that one of his tactics for reducing stress and keeping slim was to eat the same breakfast every day, I smiled with recognition.  He’s one of us!  A neurotic disciplined ocd control freak.  Well, it does simplify life to have a specific repertoire of meals with a specific balance of calories, taste, and nutrition at your finger-tips.  I rotate between about 4 breakfasts and 4 lunches.  I truly feel unmoored when meals are too unscheduled.  While my methods may not be glamorous, they do work.

When I first conceived of writing about eating, I imagined myself writing an instructive self-help diet book.  As I reflected on my future as the next (wildly celebrated!) diet book guru, I couldn’t help but wonder at the irony.  Self help about dieting from someone with an eating disorder is absurd!  But hey, if you want to lose weight in., advice from a former ballerina should do the trick.

Brown-bagging lunch works better when you have more than one “course” so you feel like your getting a fully satisfying eating experience.  I always have a main course, followed by a measured allotment of dark bitterdark chocolate, and a large quantity of fresh fruit.  The chocolate is decadent and you don’t need much to feel like you’re having a treat (and it’s healthy).  The quantity of fruit is sweet, refreshing, takes time to eat, fills you up, and feels like dessert.  To drink, I eliminated soda (diet) several years ago and switched to homemade unsweetened ice tea.  My skin has improved texture and looks younger.  Amazing.

I estimate that by brown-bagging my lunch, I have saved well over $1,200 and easily lost 4 pounds annually.

While  you are experimenting with brown-bagging it at lunchtime (please use reusable bags), I plan to activate one of my new year’s resolutions:  to be more sociable and go out with a friend at least once a week.

Hummus and Feta Sandwich (a simplified version originally from Bon Appetit)


  • 1 14.5 ounce can of chick peas, rinsed and drained
  • 3 Tablespoons tahini
  • 3 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil

Blend together in food processor to make hummus – keeps for 2 weeks.


  • 2 slices whole wheat bread (I like Vermont Bread Company organic whole wheat.  The slices are not too big which means the sandwich is a normal portion size, not super-sized.  Also, there is not too much sugar.  Many of the more commercial brands add quite a bit of sugar to their whole wheat bread, so that people like my 13 year old son will like whole wheat bread.)
  • 3-4 Tablespoons hummus, spread across both slices
  • 2 ounces Feta

Turkey, Cheddar, and Avocado Sandwich

  • 1 slice of Mestemacher Natural 3 Grain Bread (this bread is tangy-sour), cut in half
  • Spread bread with plain greek yogurt (I use greek yogurt with everything.  It has protein and no fat.  It is tangy-sour, adding more flavor than mayonnaise, and is thicker and more spreadable than regular yogurt.)
  • Add 2-3 slices of turkey.
  • 1.5 ounces of Cheddar (My favorite is 7 year aged Old Quebec Vintage Cheddar – super sharp.)
  • 1/4 avocado, sliced

Peanut Butter and Jelly

  • 2 slices of whole wheat bread
  • 3 Tablespoons natural chunky peanut butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Simon-Fischer apricot butter

Almond Butter on Raisin Bread

  • 2 slices whole wheat raisin bread (Vermont Bread Company)
  • 3 Tablespoons almond butter

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • ½ cup prepared black bean salad (I cheat.  My local stores all have decent versions.)

Good as is, or enhance with some chopped radicchio and crumbled feta

Sweet Potato with Greek Yogurt

This is one of my favorite easy, quick meals and is very satisfying.  I microwave a large sweet potato for about 6-7 minutes.  It cooks more evenly if it is not to thick.  Spread the potato with a hefty portion of plain greek yogurt.

Ice Tea

  • Boil 1 quart of water
  • Steep 1 English Breakfast tea bag and 1 Green tea bag for 3 minutes
  • Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.  Bring with brown bag lunch in a thermos.


6 squares of Sweetriot Pure 85% Dark Chocolate  (It is very bitter, with strong and complex flavor.  My husband stole one of my squares and looked at me aghast, feeling betrayed.  I tried not to mind that he stole it, but generally wound up feeling triumphant that he will not steal from me any time soon.  So ungenerous.)



More Meatless

I love meat.  Juicy, rare, marbled steak is a favorite of mine.  Roast chicken, with the skin on, is another.  But when I hit my 40’s, a variety of disconcerting changes occurred.  15 pounds creeped on.  (The Perimenopausal 15?)  When I ate steak, my stomach complained, gurgling for hours and keeping me up at night.  Speaking of sleep, I couldn’t sleep any more.  Every night around 2 am, I woke up to go to the bathroom (beyond tedious) and then was UP for hours.  One (of many) tactics I employed to lose weight was to eat less meat.  While everyone else was having 3-4 meatballs with their spaghetti, I cut back to 1 meatball with my whole wheat spaghetti.  When going out, I split a steak entrée with my daughter.  Now I forego the steak entrée altogether, opting for fish or a vegetarian option.  My stomach stopped gurgling, I slept better, and the 15 pounds (and more) crept off.

Also around this time, I dove deeper into yoga and yoga philosophy. I studied the Yama’s and the Niyama’s, yoga’s ethical guidelines, the most famous of which is Ahimsa or non-harming.  This “Do/Don’t” is an overarching belief that one should live with love and compassion for all beings and not behave in any way that harms another being.  It is generally cited as the reason for yoga practitioners to adopt a vegetarian diet.

As this virtuous circle expanded:  I ate less meat, I did more yoga, I felt better and slept better, I loved more and stressed less, I ate less meat and did more yoga.  I became a big fan of Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman.  Both write with great conviction and adopt a pragmatic approach to eating less meat.  Pollan’s simple advice is to “Eat Food.  Not Too Much.  Mostly Plants.”  Bittman’s approach to eat vegan during the day and loosen the rules at dinner works for me, allowing for more flexibility with my family and our dinners together.

Because, you see, my family does not share my intense über desire to eat healthily and to eat as a responsible world citizen.  It becomes very challenging to eat nurturing meals together when family members have different ideas about what they want to put into their bodies.  We tend to compromise which works fairly well, but it does mean a lot of double cooking and other juggling and shopping for me, the one who is more determined to not just eat something because it’s easy or tastes good.  (My husband, the weekend Italian chef, cooks food that tastes very good.)

Eating less meat makes me feel better.  The health benefits are compelling.  The environmental benefits are compelling.  I made this soup/stew over the holiday break and the whole family enjoyed it (well, not my picky son).  It just got better and thicker as each day passed, a delicious virtuous circle. Turn it into more of a meal by serving over barley, brown rice, or quinoi.

Butternut Squash Soup/Stew

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups of butternut squash, cut into even-sized ¾” cubes
  • 1 large baking potato, cut into even-sized ¾” cubes
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped fine
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 15 oz cans cannellini beans
  • 1 14 ½ oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh thyme or fresh sage
  • 1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice (or more, to taste) – adds brightness

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place squash and potato on a baking sheet, drizzle with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, and roast in oven for about 35 minutes.

Saute onion and garlic in ¼ cup of olive oil until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

Add stock and bring to a gentle boil.  Add squash, potatoes, beans, tomatoes.  Simmer until squash and potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes.  Puree half the soup in a food processor until consistency as at desired thickness.  Add thyme or sage.  Stir in lemon juice.

Serves 6, gets thicker and tastier with time

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