Have you ever heard of “resistant starch?”
July was a month of mini-breaks: a long weekend in Omaha, two nights on the road delivering my peeps to camp, a working weekend at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, and a much-anticipated return to very near the boundary waters in Minnesota after I collected my camping peeps. As I nearly always do, for each of the trips I packed a work bag—overdue editing, financial papers I’ve been wanting to scrutinize, letters to write, my computer with its infinite access to concepts and things to read, two books because I might finish one.
On the second of these trips, the one where I was determined to have a “sort it all out” big picture meeting with myself, I couldn’t face spreading out all of the list snippets and partially formed goals on my hotel bed as I had envisioned spending the afternoon. It was past six when I arrived at the historic and lovely St. James Hotel in Redwing, MN, after a stormy day of driving and an emotional hour of settling my peeps into camp, Twelve away from home for the first time. I told myself I’d do it in the morning and took my legal pad to the hotel bar where I wrote a journal entry, most of a blog post and started a birthday letter to my pen pal of thirty years. That, for me, is sitting still.
In the morning I brought breakfast from downstairs up to bed and spread open the newspaper I had discovered outside my door. I skimmed through the news, read the funnies, and got thoroughly engrossed in an article about resilience training.
Referencing the work of The Chemistry of Joy author Henry Emmons, MD, the article explained resilience training helps people live through difficult times by attending to the needs of body, mind and spirit. It sounded to me a lot like yoga and to be sure, the article mentioned mind-body connecting practices like yoga and meditation as helpful in boosting our resilience.
The idea dovetailed with a physical concept I’d been thinking about since the first trip nine days before, resistant starch. I read the term “resistant starch” in a food column I was proofreading early one morning and thought, I’ve never heard of that before. Garbanzo beans, one of my all-time favorite foods, contain resistant starch, starch that I learned essentially resists digestion until it reaches the intestinal system where it helps to feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Cold cooked potatoes have resistant starch, hot potatoes do not. Cashews, another favorite, are loaded with resistant starch. Naturally, once I started looking on the Internet, there was a ton of information about this trendy topic and plenty of lists of foods to try.
On the drive home from Redwing, I started to see resilient and resistant as a pair, and they bumped around together in my brain. I wanted to pull over and look up their origins to see if they were from a common root. They are not, although they both trace back to Latin. Resistant is from the Latin re- “against” plus sistere “take a stand, stand firm.” Resilient stems from re- “back” plus salire “to jump, leap.”
In much more recent usage, resilience adds the sense of having the power of recovery. Thus, if we’re not able to resist and we get dragged through something awful, our resilience comes to the fore and we bounce back. Or at least that’s how I decided it should all work if I’m practicing regularly and eating well.
These two concepts were frontiers for me—new ways to examine what I eat and what I do and how such behaviors interact and bolster me. In one way they confirm what I already know; in another way they clarify, expand and even challenge my thinking. As the miles rolled by and the work in my bag stayed frustratingly unfinished, my brain got to riff between the ideas, blending them and pondering and wondering.
And it is then I stumbled upon the next understanding. My expectations are foolish; there’s no extra time when I travel. In some ways there’s less time because nothing is routine. Particularly as a parent, I find my awareness and attention absorbed by when and where and what to eat, how to sleep, and finding our destinations. Time is allotted to going the distance. But precisely because traveling energies are different, maybe more basic to survival, there is also more room in the brain to absorb and engineer new ideas, to refurbish old thinking. I can travel in my thoughts, reaching my own frontiers and adding concepts, not just bookmarking them for later. On the road, I think them through. Such mental discoveries, I decided looking at the summer greens of Minnesota, are one of the tremendous benefits of travel, even when getting things crossed off the list doesn’t happen.
The new moon rose a couple of days ago—the last moon cycle presiding over this summer’s fun. Hope you’re enjoying whatever you are doing. As ever, thanks for coming along on my journey with me, Rxo