Nattering Social Justice Cook: Be Kind to Yourself

Picture of Cat Rambo in a Cthulhu ski mask.

Being a little silly sometimes is also good for one’s mental health.

Gail Z. Martin has organized the #HoldOnToTheLight campaign, and when she asked me about participating, it seemed important to add another voice. Here’s what the campaign is:

More than 100 authors are now part of the #HoldOnToTheLight conversation! Our authors span the globe, from the US to the UK to Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Even more exciting is that as the campaign picks up traction and visibility, more authors want to join, meaning a growing, vibrant dialog about mental wellness and coping with mental illness.

#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.

We’ve also been talking with conventions to encourage them to add, expand or promote their panel programming about mental wellness issues. ConCarolinas, GenCon, Capricon and ContraFlow have let us know that panels are in the works for 2017, and both Capclave and Atomacon are looking at options!

In knocking around this world, one of the few things that has sunk in well enough to make it a daily maxim is this, “Be kind to yourself, because you can depend on yourself.” Build a treat into your day that is aimed at increasing your happiness in some small way: lunch outside, a long walk, that book on Amazon you want every once in a while.

We all have a shitty time of it sometimes — maybe it’s something we live with all our lives, or something that intrudes and sends us for a total, utter loop: the event that causes PTSD, the relative with a terminal illness, some terrible loss beyond words that we carry around like a permanent gut-punch.

I’ve found that writers excel at angst and guilt, at worrying at 2 am over whether or not they stuck their foot in their mouth (human nature being what it is, the answer is sometimes yes), at being anxious and projecting futures far out of proportion to actuality in their degree of horror.

They’re also tough on themselves, holding themselves to sometimes impossible standards, trying to hit goals that are unreasonably grandiose or demanding. Writers need to cultivate a willingness to accept themselves as they are. Sometimes that means forgiving yourself and the illness you live with, to not just knowing yourself but being comfortable with yourself.

Be kind to yourself, because you’re the person you’ll be living with for the rest of your life. Be a good roommate, one who leads by example and keeps the place neat (or at least livable, since mileage varies.) Don’t go off on guilt trips that leave you stranded in the Land of Panic.

For me, that involves taking care of my physical health, since often your body affects your mind. I started eating a cup of plain Greek yogurt for breakfast every morning a few years ago, and found it keeps me cheerful, energetic, and a lot more stable mood-wise. At the same time I started striving to walk at least a few miles every day and found that a mood elevator as well.

I don’t by any means intend to say that this is the only way to assist with your mental health. But being kind to yourself is a fundamental way to do, no matter how it manifests. And in these days when politics leans harder and harder towards rhetoric of violence, we must be prepared to model compassion, to model unflinchingness in the face of bullies in the defense of the weak, even when the weak one is yourself.

This is why I tell my students not to punish themselves for not hitting their word count, but to reward themselves when they do. That’s a basic way of approaching it, and like many basics, it can have a profound influence.

So give yourself a treat today. Go ahead. You deserve it.

And to fill in the cookery part, I will provide the recipe for the muffins I make for my household, which make for a nice mid-morning snack providing fiber, protein, and a touch of sweetness to make them hit the spot.

It’s also versatile; you can add or subtract stuff to cater to individual tastes as long as you don’t go too far outside the wet to dry to fat proportion. The recipe’s based on the Orange-Scented Corn Muffins recipe in Breaking the Food Seduction by Neal Barnard.

Mid-morning Muffins

Makes 12 regular-sized muffins

Equipment needed: 2 mixing bowls, a mixer or blender for blending the wet ingredients, a way to zest the citrus fruit if using it, an oven, and a muffin tin.

1/2 cup mashed silken tofu
1/2 mashed banana (The riper the better, other fruit can be substituted.)
1/2 cup orange juice (Or other fruit. This is adding sweetness + liquid; keep that in mind when substituting.)
1 T oil
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
1 T orange zest (Or lemon/grapefruit/lime is nice too. This is optional but highly suggested.)
1 t cinnamon (1/2 t cardamon is also pleasant. If you’re doing lemon zest, try rosemary instead of the cinnamon for a more savory version.)
2 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

Optional adds: a handful of chopped up dried fruits, nuts, or sunflower seeds, a couple of spoonfuls of jelly or jam, 2 T honey/agave or 1/2 t stevia, 1/4 c chia or poppy seeds.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Oil/mist/whatever 12 muffins cups with nonstick oil or butter (coconut oil is nice).
  3. Blend tofu, banana, juice, and oil until smooth and creamy.
  4. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  5. Mix in wet mixture until moist but don’t stir very long, just enough to get stuff combined.
  6. Spoon evenly into muffins cups.
  7. Bake 20-25 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and loosen muffins in the cups, turning them on their sides to cool. Cover the pan with a clean kitchen towel. After 5 minutes, transfer to a cooling rack or waiting hands.


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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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