Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Creamy Chicken Avocado Soup and Playing Chutes and Ladders with our Lives

Hello Friends!

Because July is a month for self-care (and really, shouldn't every month be that way?), I've been thinking a lot about how I can treat myself better. We all know what we should do. Eat our vegetables, get enough sleep every night, exercise, blah blah blah. Yeah, we know. But things get in the way.

Life gets in the way.

We get in our way. 

Oh yeah. I'm calling us out. You. Me. Our big old superegos.

We have all thoroughly mastered the art of masochism. We flagellate ourselves for doing less than everything, for being less than perfect. We push ourselves constantly to do and be more, and then punish ourselves because when we've achieved what we hoped to, we find there is more to be done. And so we tell ourselves we still aren't doing enough. And therefore we aren't good enough.

It just sounds so mean, doesn't it? Like the stepmother and stepsisters in Cinderella, always yelling, "Cinderella, Cinderella!" Except we are our own cruel task masters, and no prince on a white horse is going to save us from our deepest fears. And no fairy godmother, for that matter.

So how do we save ourselves? 

Let's start by playing a little game I like to call Catastrophizing. We all do it subconsciously anyway, so let's just make it conscious.

Here's how it goes:
  1. Pick one thing that is making you feel pushed to your edge. 
  2. Ask yourself what is the worst possible thing that could happen if you didn't accomplish that task or actively decided to let it go. 
  3. Then ask yourself what's the worst possible thing that could happen next. 
  4. And next. 
  5. Continue until you've reached the worst possible thing. Really dig down deep into your inner panic stricken self and make it as bad as you possibly can. Deep down, what is it you truly fear? Face it.
  6. Then do a reality check. Chances are, you're going to realize one of two things. Either the worst possible thing really wouldn't be that bad. Or there's absolutely no way the worst possible thing would happen and you're just freaking out over nothing.  If so, ask yourself what is actually likely to happen if you don't accomplish your task. And allow that to inform your decision.
Once you've played this little game, the next step is to simplify.

If you have determined through this game that you can let that one thing go, great! If not, ask yourself what is the simplest possible way you can accomplish your task. Simple, people, seriously, simple. Do not turn this into an opportunity to prove to yourself and the world that you are superhuman - or Martha Stewart. Instead, use it as practice. Every time you choose the easiest route from A to B, your brain breathes a little sigh of relief and you automatically move forward a step in your own health. If this were Chutes and Ladders, you would climb up a ladder for every time you take care of yourself. For every time you choose to make things more difficult, you're sent down the chute.

The prize at the end of the game?

Your life.

Want an example of how this works? Okay, here we go. This is me talking to myself:

Okay, Iris, so what's the worst possible thing that could happen if you don't get your recipe posted today? 

Well, my readers could all defect, proclaim me to be the laziest blogger ever, and only read the blog of my arch nemesis from now on. Who doesn't actually exist, by the way...

And what's the worst thing that would happen to you if you no longer had any readers?

Well, I suppose I would think I'm a horrible failure and lose all faith in myself and use that as a reason to stop trying to make a success of my new private practice.

And what's the worst thing that would happen if you gave up your dream of being a Women's Wellness Coach and someday owning a retreat center? 

I would hate myself for life, give up on everything, become broke, and be homeless. (Which in actuality would never happen because even if everything here were to be realized, I have amazing friends and family who would help me until I got back on my feet. My deepest fear of being homeless, frankly, is silly.)

I roll my eyes at myself...

(I've shortened this monologue because there are probably a lot more steps in there, but to make things easy...)

Now, simplify. What will actually happen in reality if I don't post a recipe tonight? 

a. Nothing. My readers will continue on with their lives because they have lives and aren't sitting around following my every move. When I manage to put up a post, they'll read it. 

b. I'll feel a little more stressed tomorrow because today's task will now be added on to tomorrow's list. 

Okay, Iris, so rather than letting a post go and then feeling more stressed tomorrow, what is the simplest possible way you can do a post tonight and feel okay about it? 

Answer: I can post the picture of my Creamy Chicken Avocado Soup which is featured on the Easy Eats blog today, share the link to the recipe, and climb up a ladder because I've decided to make things easier on myself. 

Problem solved. Climbing up the ladder!  

p.s. I had no intention of writing any of the above. I was simply going to post the picture, give Easy Eats a shout out, and then peace out. This is what happens sometimes when you take the easy route. You create something that makes you feel good without even trying.

Update: 2/10/14
I've added the actual recipe below because it is no longer available at the Easy Eats link. 

Creamy Chicken Avocado Soup

Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

1 carrot

1 stalk celery
1 medium sweet potato
1 leek stem
2 medium zucchini
1 large boneless skinless chicken breast
1 cup hemp milk
½ ripe avocado
Ground pepper to taste
Sea salt to taste 
(Optional) Minced fresh basil for garnish

1. Pour 5 cups of water into a large soup pot and bring to a gentle boil. Dice the carrot and celery, and add to the pot. Let vegetables cook at a gentle boil for 15 minutes. 

2. While the carrot and celery are cooking, prep the rest of the ingredients. Dice the sweet potato, leeks, and zucchini. Keep each separate, as they’ll be added to the dish at different times. Dice the chicken and set aside. 
3. After 15 minutes, add the sweet potato to the pot and continue to cook for 5 minutes. 
4. Add the chicken to the pot and cook for 15 minutes, continuing at a gentle boil. 
5. While the chicken is cooking, prepare the milk and avocado by pureeing the two until creamy in a blender or food processor. Set aside. 
6. Once the 15 minutes is up, add the leek and zucchini to the pot and cook another 5 minutes. 

7. Remove the pot from the burner. Puree the soup with an immersion blender, or blend in batches until creamy. Stir in the avocado puree, then add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve hot. 


Melissa @ Gluten Free For Good said...


Excellent post, all the way around! As a mom, I often went through that exercise with my kids. "What is the worst thing that could happen if...." And on we'd go until they (we) realized the absolute worst thing is usually not that big of a deal and that we are incredibly blessed because, as you mention, we have an amazing support network of family/friends, so we have a safety net and a way out of most predicaments.

Oh, and your soup looks awesome!
Peace, love, and radical self-care!

Cheryl said...

You are amazing! I love reading your thought processes. Oh, and I learned this same technique years ago. I wish I used it more often.

Tasty Eats At Home said...

Iris, so much good happened with this post! By having this self-talk, you removed that anxiety that was crippling your mind, and therefore allowed that creative spark to show and shine. And in that process, you gave your readers SO much more than they bargained for - The soup looks lovely, but this is the real takeaway for my day. Now I hope I can walk through this exercise and remove those barriers that inhibit MY creativity too! Thank you for sharing. :) XOXO

gfe--gluten free easily said...

You and this post are awesome. That is all.


GF Gidget said...

Amen! I beat myself up if I don't workout. I cry every Christmas because I committ to too much.... The list goes on. We are classic overachievers! My husband has slowly been teaching me to relax. He taught me to leave the dishes in the sink after dinner and to instead snuggle and watch a movie with him. The dishes can wait an hour. He has taught me that it's okay to say no. Just give an honest answer, that it's too much for you. I could go on and on. We are, all of us, a work in progress. You are doing awesome! ;)

Melanie said...

Thanks for being so real with us, Iris. Self-talk is so necessary and when we don't shy away from it we can actually grow and learn to accept ourselves even more. Your soup looks divine!

Cheryl Harris said...

Love it, Iris. We manage to blow everything up to super-sized proportions of significance...
for no reason at all.

Kelly said...

I second what Shirley said. True dat.

CJ - Food Stories said...

Thx for connecting with me on foodbuzz. I just subscribed to your blog feed and can't wait to see what your next post will be!

Heather @Gluten-Free Cat said...

You just make me smile. I love hearing how others work through their crazy. Make me feel a little more normal to know that we all go through it! Thanks for the strategy. I know it will come in handy too soon! xoxo

Farty Girl said...

This is really cute and funny. Catastrophizing! love it!!!!

But seriously - YES. Especially as AMERICANS we are constantly at our own throats to do MORE. The analogy of the stepsisters is PERFECT. It's like how Louis CK said on Conan: "Everything is so awesome right now, and nobody's happy." Why are we so unhappy? Because we are constantly trying to top ourselves, do more, be the best.

I'd like to strive for mediocrity and be happy, personally.

Literally, over the past week, I made the executive decision to start saying NO.

NO, I can't go get sushi.
NO, these papers aren't coming back to you with grades on them today.
NO, I'm NOT going to write or do yoga or do anything I should do.

Instead - I'm going to watch 8 episodes of Sex and the City and drink yummy lemon water.

It's kind of freakin amazing.


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