Lately I have been thinking a lot about old friends. As we move through different stages of life, it seems as though we leave old friends behind, and inevitably make new ones. It also seems that as we get older, meeting new people, and making new friends becomes more difficult. It’s no secret that as we get older our priorities change. No longer the carefree students surrounded by equally carefree peers, we take on financial responsibilities, responsibilities to a partner, or spouse, parental responsibilities, obligations to an organization, or charity, and the list could go on and on. The minutes of our day become occupied by what we think we have to do. Socializing, and keeping in touch with friends from another time in our lives becomes less important. Sure, we think about them occasionally. We wonder how they’re doing, what they’re doing, and are occasionally reminded of them. We may even think, “I should give so and so a call.”, but still they remain on the bottom of our list of priorities. We become, and stay isolated by our responsibilities, and as usually happens, forget how to take care of ourselves first.
If I haven’t made it obvious by this point, then let me say that I unequivocally believe that in order to be your best self for everyone else, you have to take care of yourself first. I have said that you can’t give from an empty cup, and I truly believe that. To my view, it is completely okay to take alone time for yourself. Take the bubble bath with a glass of wine. Take a trip to somewhere that you want to go, or have a worry free day, or hour where you do whatever you want without thinking about obligations. Eat nutritiously to keep yourself well fueled, and treat yourself occasionally to enjoy life’s pleasures. Exercise to keep yourself healthy and fit, but make it fun and rewarding. Finally, remember that no one is an island. I enjoy solitary activities. I like reading books and meditating. I don’t mind sitting alone in a coffee shop, and watching the world go by. I was always the person who would rather work alone than in a group, and one of the biggest gifts that I was able to have in my adult life was the ability to live by myself, and figure out who I am alone, but we all need people. We all need a tribe of kindred spirits. Some of us may have a tribe of many, or a tribe of only a few, but socializing is another way that we take care of ourselves.
My next point will undoubtedly ruffle a few feathers, but honestly I don’t care. Just like eating nutritiously, and exercising, people who say that they don’t have time to keep up with friends, are really saying that they don’t want to make it a priority. In college, some of my fellow students would be in relationships where the boyfriend/girlfriend would say something to the effect of, “I just don’t have time. I have to study/practice” when it came to spending time with their current partner. When those relationships inevitably ended, that same person would somehow have time for the partners that they eventually ended up with. What’s the moral? People always have time for something, or someone that they have decided to make a priority. Even as 30+ something adults with our multitude of obligations, this still holds true. Whatever your priorities may be is up to you to decide. You don’t owe anyone an explanation or an apology for them, but make no mistake that saying that you don’t have time to exercise really just means that you don’t want to take the time to exercise. Saying that you just don’t have time to eat nutritiously is really just saying that you don’t feel like putting in the effort to do it. Likewise, saying that you don’t have time for friends, is really just saying that they are not high enough on your list of priorities for you to talk to them. I have, in the past, put my health, friends, and, for lack of a better word, sanity at the bottom of my list. I eventually decided that I wanted something better. I have tried to move my health and well being back to the top of the list, and am now trying to reconnect with old friends. Whatever your priorities are, I urge you to take a good look at them, and figure out what does, and doesn’t allow you to be your best self. With the amount of video technology and video messaging technology it is easier than ever to have some face to face time with friends old and new. So, if you have a friend, or friends that you have been missing, make them a priority. Contact your best friends from another time. They may choose to reconnect with you, or not. If they don’t, that’s okay. This is your journey, not theirs. If you have moved somewhere new, and need some new friends, but don’t know where to start, then research special interest groups in your area. There are groups out there for stay-at-home-moms, hobby groups, fitness groups, and even groups based on enjoying a specific language and culture. The time has come to take care of ourselves by getting off of our islands, shirking the isolation that responsibility can bring, and reconnecting with our tribes.
Friends are one of life’s pleasures, and enjoying a special treat with friends is even better! But for those times when you want the treat without the guilt, I have a recipe for a cookie that will do just the trick. I call these cookies my “Cheater Chocolate Chunk” cookies. They took some work to get them to where I like them, but I feel like this recipe gives the best of both worlds. When compared to a recipe of regular chocolate chip cookies they have 50% less sugar, and 42% less calories. They are almost completely void of empty calories, and the ingredients used contribute something to the overall health of your body, and best of all, you know that you are eating a chocolate chunk cookie. They are soft and chewy, and using a broken up chocolate bar instead of chocolate chips give you more chocolate bang for your buck. Do they taste like Starbuck’s chocolate chunk cookies? No they don’t, but they aren’t supposed to. They are just supposed to taste good, and not be terrible for you, and I along with my husband, and 3 year old, think that these are delicious! Without further ado, I give you my Cheater Chocolate Chunk Cookies.
-1 ripe banana
-½ cup of creamy natural peanut butter (It should have two ingredients: peanuts, and salt. Smucker's Natural, and Kroger brand natural both fit the bill!)
-¼ cup + 2 tbsp of granulated sugar
-¼ cup + 2 tbsp of packed brown sugar
-1 tsp of pure vanilla extract (Not imitation)
1-½ c + 3 tbsp of white whole wheat flour
1tsp of baking soda
1tsp of salt
7 oz of 72% or higher dark chocolate bar. (I get two 3.5 oz bars of from Kroger private selection)
*If using the ingredients listed, each cookie is 108 calories per cookie when 32 cookies are made. The entire batch of dough yields 3,443 calories compared to a traditional cookie dough of 6,050 calories
*The darker the chocolate the less sweet the cookies tastes. Since the cookie dough itself isn’t sweet, if you would like a sweeter cookie, then try using chocolate with a lower cocoa content such as semi-sweet, or milk chocolate. More sugar can be added to the recipe, but I really recommend switching out the chocolate first. If you decide to add more sugar, then make sure that you use equal amounts of granulated and brown sugar. Do not exceed 3/4c per sugar, and keep in mind that the texture, sugar content, and calorie count will change significantly. Also, please remember before you add more sugar to the recipe that the name of the game is to try to cut back on the sugar.
*I haven’t experimented with this yet, but if peanut butter isn’t your thing, then you could try an equal amount of solid coconut oil. However, the calories are almost equivalent to butter, and while coconut oil does have healthy omega 3’s the jury is still out as to whether or not it is bad for your cholesterol, and if any health benefits outweigh the deficits. You could also use a stick of unsalted butter instead of peanut butter if cholesterol isn’t a concern for you. Peanut butter has less calories, and is better for cholesterol. It is also filled with protein, and when made with minimum ingredients, is a healthy fat.
*These cookies freeze well, and can be eaten right out of the freezer, crumbled up for an ice cream topping, or microwaved for 20-30 seconds.