I’ve never been much for making resolutions in January. I find the beginning of October a much more invigorating time for making grand gestures. January may have a new four-digit number after it, but really, what’s motivating about January besides that? The weather is still stuck in a perpetual slump, and me, I’m usually caught in some jetlag horror that pushes sleep way up to the top of the life goal list. This year, a lingering illness and late start back to work made my early January a less-than-inspiring start to 2015.
But for all that, I’ve really managed to make a lot of resolutions this year. And just as I type that, I swear to you, the gray clouds are breaking up and a bright blue sky is swinging into view. So maybe that’s a sign. (On a side note, the plus side to never seeing sun is that you never really know how dirty your windows truly are. Maybe I should add Windexing to the resolution list…
So here are my 2015/rest of my life resolutions:
Live more unplugged – or, live plugged in, but conscientiously
During the second month I lived in Berlin, I spilled a drink into my laptop and broke it. I was living in a new city, I knew almost no one. The internet was my crutch. I panicked until I realized this was probably the perfect opportunity to really do the things I’d moved to Berlin to do – read, write, and cook. Computers are totally great, but they make us approach multitasking in the worst possible way. A computer allows you to work in multiple windows at the same time. You can check email, write a blog post, nose around on Facebook, listen to iTunes and edit photos all at the same time. When you get bored of one thing, you just flip open a new screen and do something else. The problem is that we turn our brains into mini computer windows. I can’t just cook dinner, I have to cook dinner, listen to a podcast, Twitter about it, paint my toenails, and refold all the clothes on my shelf simultaneously. In the end, I feel frantic, and like there’s always something else I could be – and should be – doing.
It’s silly to say I want to live without the internet, or my computer. But what I do want to do is limit the time I spend on my laptop to work hours. By 8:00 pm, I want to shut it down and give my brain a rest.
Rediscover non-digital pleasures
There’s a favorite story my family likes to tell about the time my grandma took me to the dentist, and my directions got us so hopelessly lost, my little brother, preschool-aged at the time, had to direct us through town from his car seat. Famously, I always had my face stuck in a book, even on short car trips (like to the dentist, five minutes from home). I never had any idea where I was in my hometown because all my transit time was spent reading.
I still don’t go anywhere without a book in my bag, and I still read in transit, but now I find that’s the only time I read. Reading has become a space filler instead of the main attraction. So, since my plan is to turn my laptop off at 8:00 pm anyway, that gives me plenty of time to get back into booking.
There’s a theme here, no? In any case, I’ve always admired my grandpa for the way he approaches something. He does it slowly, without rushing, and he does it well. Sometimes I feel like when I’m trying to do ten things at once, I speed through them to feel like I’ve accomplished something – but at the end, I just feel scattered and overwhelmed by the things I still haven’t managed to do. I want to take my grandpa’s approach and live more like Beppo, the street sweeper in Momo (which also happens to be a great life-guide book):
‘You see, Momo,’ he told her one day, ‘it’s like this. Sometimes, when you’ve a very long street ahead of you, you think how terribly long it is and feel sure you’ll never get it swept.’
He gazed silently into space before continuing. ‘And then you start to hurry,’ he went on. ‘You work faster and faster, and every time you look up there seems to be just as much left to sweep as before, and you try even harder, and you panic, and in the end you’re out of breath and have to stop – and still the street stretches away in front of you. That’s not the way to do it.’
He pondered a while. Then he said, ‘You must never think of the whole street at once, understand? You must only concentrate on the next step, the next breath, the next stroke of the broom, and the next, and the next. Nothing else.’
Again he paused for thought before adding, ‘That way you enjoy your work, which is important, because then you make a good job of it. And that’s how it ought to be.’
There was another long silence. At last he went on, ‘And all at once, before you know it, you find you’ve swept the whole street clean, bit by bit. What’s more, you aren’t out of breath.’ He nodded to himself. ‘That’s important, too,’ he concluded.”
Care more about general health
Clearly, all my resolutions are connected. I think to live the way you ideally wish your life to be, you have to work at it. So last but not least on my list of resolutions is to take better care of myself. Not just exercise, though yes, I want to do a little bit more of that, too, but pay more attention to how I manage stress, make mental health a priority, and be more careful about what I put into my body. So on that note, here’s how this all ties in to food – I made kale chips the other day to snack on while I worked instead of eating chocolate or cheese or bread. And they were addictively good, sweet and verdant, like a freshly mowed late-season lawn. And that in itself was another revelation – it might be more work at first to live slower, breathe more, and cook healthier food, but it’s incredibly rewarding.
There are lots of different kinds of kale, and for this recipe, any kind of flat-leaf kale will do. I used dinosaur kale, also known as black kale. You can season the chips with other spices, like chili flakes or paprika, but I think plain old salt and pepper does the most to bring out the kale’s own sweet, grassy flavor.
1 bunch dinosaur kale (about as much as you can comfortably grab in a hand)
1 ½ tbsp. olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 275º F (135º C).
Clean kale, making sure to wash off any gritty sand or dirt, then remove the thick center stem from each leaf. Toss kale on the baking sheet with olive oil, then season liberally with salt and freshly ground (or coarse) black pepper.
Lay kale leaves flat on the baking sheet so that they don’t overlap. You may need to bake the chips in two rounds. Bake for 15 minutes, then agitate the leaves with a spatula so that the flip side of the leaves can bake too. Be careful not to break them, as they’ll have begun to turn brittle. Bake for another 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and eat immediately, or allow to cool. They’ll keep for at least 3 days.