Recovery wisdom is so abundant that it is hard to find a conundrum or even a time of year for which there is no appropriate sober saying.
Recently, for instance, I have been looking for 12-step aphorisms to counter the intense cultural pressure to find a “New Me” in the “New Year.”
No one wants to find a new me more than I do, and the sooner the better.
But it’s a hefty, lofty goal–and this is why I am oh-so-grateful this January for one of my favorite recovery sayings:
Progress not perfection.
The importance of those proverbial baby steps was brought home to me recently by a seemingly small nutritional dilemma that turned out to have global implications. And that was:
What liquid should I pour onto my breakfast cereal?
Get a life? I desperately need to. Bourgeois problems? I got ’em.
But the decision turned out to be weightier than I could have imagined.
At this point, I must beg your pardon. Some of you are probably way ahead of me in medical, nutritional and environmental awareness and things that I am just discovering may be old news to you. I apologize. I am, however, trying, as per my sober admonition, to make progress in overcoming my ignorance in these areas.
The issue of what liquid to use in bathing my breakfast grains first arose a few years ago when I realized that I had to eliminate from my diet the beloved and creamy treat I had been splashing on my cereal since childhood–i.e. cow’s milk. I have been made increasingly aware in recent years that dairy products contribute mightily to heart disease and cancer.
What to do instead? I turned my attention to soy milk.
This seemed like a promising choice–until a few months ago when I read that there was some concern that the estrogen in soy might contribute slightly to the growth of breast cancer tumors. Other research showed that a lifetime of eating a diet high in soy protected against breast cancer. The most respected docs concluded that moderate soy consumption was the way to go.
Was a bowl a day moderate enough? Soy milk was confusing. So what next?
I searched the aisles of my grocery store–and I could not believe my good fortune. Dairy milk and soy milk were not my only options. There were also nut milks–cashew and almond, to be exact. My heart leapt with joy and relief as I loaded containers of almond milk into my cart. I was not doomed to crunch drearily through dry cereal after all.
Alas, my celebration of a Dairy Free Me in 2020 was cut short yesterday in the checkout line, when the young man behind me launched into a grim lecture on the mass extinction of American bees. The reason for this horror, he explained to his companion, was excessive demands on the little critters to pollinate almond trees–and subsequent exposure to pesticides. Thousands upon thousands of bees were dying from chemical poisoning, he said, due to burgeoning consumption of almond milk.
I looked guiltily at the cartons of almond product in my grocery cart, then turned around and asked my neighbor what he would recommend as a dairy alternative.
“You could try coconut milk,” he said.
Upon returning home, I reviewed what I had learned and pondered my options for healthy and eco-friendly breakfasting in 2020. I thought of the sober advice to seek “progress not perfection” and it comforted me.
Clearly in this situation, as in much of life, there was no flawless fix. I needed to look for baby steps on the breakfast front. After reflecting on the matter a bit further, and perusing a few more nutritional and environmental websites, I concluded that if I used soy in moderation it should not prove too risky and decided to keep an eye on the almond situation to see if worker bee conditions improved sufficiently to allow me a bowl of almond milk now and then. According to several reports, the nut farmers and beekeepers are eager to work things out and make life better for the insects.
As for next steps, it looks like I am headed to my grocer’s coconut milk aisle, and thence the oat milk selection. I will doubtless find imperfection, but maybe also a chance to do just a little better at my breakfast table in 2020.