Sunday, 29 January 2012

Adapt. Improvise. Overcome.

One of my favorite movies is "Heartbreak Ridge" and it stars Clint Eastwood as Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway who leads a band of young Marines with a piss-poor attitude through the machinations necessary to excel in their chosen profession... eventually. One of his lessons to these young men was that they weren't held to a rigid set of rules. If conventional wisdom didn't work or make sense in a situation, they were expected to adapt, improvise, and overcome. We could learn a thing or two from Gunney Highway.

There are rules and concepts one should pay particular attention to as they have an effect on your life whether you believe in them or not. For instance, gravity. Gravity cares not if you believe in the concept. You can believe against gravity all you want but if you walk over a cliff you'll become a believer my friend, trust me. Other rules or guidelines have a bit more leeway because some things in life aren't so cut and dried.

Score of the day: celery and smoked cuttlefish!
The eating model I subscribe to says I shouldn't eat processed carbohydrates i.e. food with sugar in it a.k.a. PCs. Recently I found myself at a New Year's Day celebration with my Japanese hosts. Before me on the low table I was sitting at (cross-legged no less, no small accomplishment for me) was a very impressive spread of food: sushi on rice (PC), tempura shrimp (PC), assorted breaded and fried meats (PC), some type of potato salad looking thing (PC), etc. But there was a selection of cold roast beef and prosciutto ham slices and a wonderful dish which I later found out was sliced celery and smoked cuttle fish (uber yummy). I was able to avoid offers of soda and drank lots of water but felt compelled to join in the toast with saki. Sometimes you have to take one for the team, right???

Finally our host came out with a small bowl with dessert. Sweetened silken tofu with almond flavoring and orange zest. Not exactly the way I wanted to end my pretty darn successful meal, yet I saw the ladies sitting close to me observing my reaction so down the gullet it went. Smiles all around. Could I have deferred the dessert? Yes, but would it have looked less than ideal? Probably. In the grand context of my life will it be counted as a failure on my part? No. Sometimes you have to adapt to the day. So when I came home I had a nap since that was the only refined carbs I'd had in three weeks. Funny how far I've come.

To improvise means you work with what you have. We all have constraints on our lives, the most common is probably money (or the lack thereof). In an ideal world I would buy the finest cuts of grass-fed pastured organic humanely raised meats. I would enjoy eggs from chickens roaming around my yard eating what they found appealing and perhaps drink milk from my own goat. But hold onto your hats, the world isn't ideal. My access to prime meat is limited by what is available at the Commissary or on the local economy (at a premium price). Forget organic vegetables at a reasonable price. Fresh I can get at the local farmer's market and even reasonably priced if I drive out far enough, but not without fertilizers or pesticides.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a food-elitist by any means. I've known people who would turn their nose up at the thought of having a steak from the grocery store (how dare you?!?!?!). I'd love to have the best to feed my body with on a daily basis but I'm probably not going to drop dead tomorrow because my eggs came from a large-scale farm. I'm OK to work with what I have, especially considering I spent a few decades mistreating my body.

Of the three terms in the title I think this is the most important: overcome. It means to get the better of. I like that. I like the thought that because we can adapt to a situation and improvise with what we have, we can get the better of our situation. Don't let it become overwhelming. Look at your present situation in the grand scheme of things. If I have to eat this small bowl of pudding to honor my host, is it really going to matter? If I have to eat store-bought meat because of availability will it be the end of the world? Usually the answer is no. Can I still be in command of what goes into my body and what I do for activity? Yes. I shall overcome.

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