Sunday, January 6, 2008

Wonderful Wheat-Free Weekend: A Creative Life Primer

On a wing of inspiration from CraftyPod, I just signed up for Creative Every Day 2008. Not that I necessarily needed another commitment (save perhaps of the psychiatric type) for the coming year - particularly after my Blogolutions. But something about Creative Every Day's philosophy resonated with me - and seemed so in alignment with my own ideas about creativity, my desire to live a creative life, and my mission to support the creative spark in others, that well, I couldn't resist being a joiner and signing up.

Besides, I clearly don't have enough blogs that I'm reading on a semi-daily basis.

Yup, the ennui is gone, the fog has lifted, the gloom has run its course. I'm back to my usual over-stimulated self, delighted and inspired by everything from a mote of dust to these mind-blowing birds by Ann Wood. Or this daft and dear bird with a thread nest over at WhileSheNaps. Or Tamara Mogendorff's nifty little birds with houses. Or food.

I just finished reading Gluten-Free Girl by Shauna James Ahern. Her foodie blog, a delight no matter what you eat, is here. And guess what? I found the book totally inspiring!

Like the vast majority of women born in the latter 20th century, I have a love/hate relationship with my body and its essential building blocks, FOOD and EXERCISE. I was a bookwormish kid in a family that leaned towards the large and struggled with weight. My early childhood is filled with memories of my mother's homemade chocolate meringue pie and grilled cheese sandwiches; my middle years dominated by microwave pastries eaten during Dukes of Hazard and chewy European breads; my later teen years a blur of Italian food and family conversations about restaurants, food, and diets.

In addition to a medley of body-image madness, I started getting chronic headaches as a teenager. Over the next 10-15 years, I tried everything to get rid of them: wearing glasses (even though I have 20/20 vision), regular massage, vitamins, hot/cold compress, steam, chiropractic, doing yoga, drinking more water. Finally, after years of snorting behind my hand at people who claimed to have "food sensitivities," I got tested. And then I stopped eating wheat. And then my headaches decreased. DRAMATICALLY.

On the one hand, it was a relief. Finally! I knew, at least in part, what was causing the headaches! I could stop most of them! On the other hand, it was one more way to make food the enemy. Food - which I loved, with whom I was having an illicit tastebud affair - could not only make me fat, it could make me sick. Now, I was "depriving" myself not only of "fattening food" because I had an unrealistic idea of what my body should look like and a fear of obesity, I was "depriving" myself of some of my favorite foods: pastas, quick breads, cookies, pastries. Foods I had only recently learned to cook.

A few of you may have followed along this little rant only to wonder, "Ok, but isn't this a blog about creativity? Hello?"

And that's exactly my point! Stay with me a few moments longer, oh gentle reader . . .

My attitude toward food at that point in my life - and frankly, for most of my life - has been antithetical to a creative life. Creativity is about making connections across boundaries, seeing possibilities within constraints. It requires not only cognitive skills - like having and evaluating ideas - it requires affective skills. Emotional skills like being open to novelty, curious, playful, or tolerant of ambiguity*. You know, all those things that allow us to be excited by and engaged in life rather than totally terrified by it all day long?

And Shauna, when she got her diagnoses - not just as "wheat sensitive" but "gluten intolerant" meaning that grains like wheat, barley, spelt, rye and their derivatives were off her list because her body produced gut-destroying antibodies in their presence - what did she do? She got totally excited about all the foods she could eat!

With curiosity and open-minded abandon, she ran headlong into the possibilities. She experimented. She tried new foods. She created, within the constraints her body required for health and pushing the edges, just as a painter creates within the constraints of the canvas and the pigments, always pushing them to do more.

I sometimes feel that if I could consistently cultivate this attitude towards food, I could unlock the whole secret of a creative life.

Baby steps. So, today, I made biscuits. Without wheat.

*for those of you who are curious about the cognitive/thinking skills theory of creativity (and the complementary affective/feeling skills theory), Creative Leadership: Skills That Drive Change by Dr.'s Puccio, Murdock, and Mance is a great primer (though spendy, as it's a textbook)


gl. said...

oh, no! i just discovered the "no-knead" artisan bread technique and it's -fabulous-! but this means i probably won't be making you a loaf. darn!

having said that, biscuits without wheat sounds fascinating. and i understand why it relates to creativity: i was put on lipitor briefly until i could modify my diet. this initially depressed me: sven and i had a whole cheese drawer! all of our favorite recipes have cheese in them! i didn't want to cook because it just reminded me of what i couldn't have. but eventually, i got back into it, figuring out new things and new ways of cooking, and it was sort of fun. learning to cook vegetarian was a similar experience, but i was doing it for loooooovvvveee and it was much more motivating. ;)

Leah said...

oh my, i'm totally loving you for this post!! i could relate on so many different levels. glad you've joined in the creative every day challenge and that it brought me to you! :-)

Bridget B. said...

gl - yes, the whole diet mod thing - when done for love or passion, very different than the medical "don't eat this" thing. Finding the fun can be a challenge! And as for the "no-knead" bread, spelt flour actually has enough gluten in it that you can get very similar results to wheat bread . . . hmmmm . . .

Leah - thanks so much! I've really been enjoying your writing, too - way behind on my blog reading . . . and other projects (as GL can attest!)