Mediterranean Course Correction

I inquired of Google this morning: “What is the Mediterranean lifestyle?” The first answer I found—and the one I intend on adapting as my own—was this, from a blog entitled, The Mediterranean Dish in a post labeled Live the Mediterranean lifestyle. That lifestyle comprises the following:

  • Follow the Mediterranean Diet (more on that in a moment)
  • Be with Family & Share with Loved Ones
  • Move Naturally
  • Laugh Often
  • Live (More) Simply

In my opinion, the components of the lifestyle most impactful on one’s health would be the diet and the admonition to “move naturally.” The diet is nothing new and, in fact, probably shouldn’t be labeled a diet in the sense of weight-loss. It suggests a simple dietary regimen that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, olive oil, beans, nuts, legumes, seeds, and herbs and spices. That base is supplemented by occasionally enjoying fish and seafood, less frequent (daily to weekly) diversions into poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt. Much less frequently, meat (beef, pork, lamb, etc.)  and sweets are enjoyed; the “special occasion” foods. All of the dietary intake is washed down with plenty of water and moderate consumption of wine. Importantly, there are no food restrictions in the Mediterranean “diet.” It relies on common sense and moderation. The dietary regime, though, is not complete without the foundation involved in “moving naturally;” that is, being physically active.

I think the social aspects of the lifestyle, i.e., being with and sharing with loved ones and laughing often must contribute quite a lot to the lifestyle. And living simply, too. I am ready to adopt the Mediterranean lifestyle. One missing element, though, is this: the Mediterranean. More and more frequently, my mind wanders to the coastlines of Italy and Greece and Egypt and Turkey and Libya—all places I have never actually visited. But I imagine life in and around the Mediterranean. I dream of ready access to fresh seafood. I imagine myself strolling through olive orchards, filling woven baskets with fresh olives that I will deliver to olive processors in return for batches of processed olives. By the way, the olives we eat have undergone at least one of several rather time-consuming processes to leach away their bitterness; “natural” is not a term I would apply to table olives. And I wonder why olives are so expensive; well, there you go. But continuing on with my dreams, I conjure images of taking long, leisurely walks along the Mediterranean, watching and listening to the sea birds and “writing” poetry aloud, guided by the muses in the sand and warm salt water.

How long would it take, I wonder, to learn to speak Greek or Italian? I’m afraid I do not have time to live the Mediterranean lifestyle to its fullest. I am not interested in being a tourist. I’d rather be a resident, someone who adapts to intense summer heat without air conditioning and who relishes and takes great pride in a minimalist lifestyle. But that’s probably not who I am. I grew up in an intensely selfish culture, spending sixty-six years absorbing and perfecting an attitude of self-centeredness, greed, and gluttony. We, as a culture, take pride in accumulating things we don’t need in the light of global paucity and poverty, as a means of demonstrating to the world how utterly devoid of decency we can be. “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.” This is not the kind of mood with which I’d wanted to start the day. Perhaps I can change it?

How does the adage go? “I may not be able to change the world, but I can change myself.” Is that it? Not long ago, I read something about changing oneself for the better. It went something like this:

  • Stop comparing yourself to others.
  • Be as genuine and authentic to yourself as possible.
  • Adopt empathy as one of your most powerful traits.
  • Be generous whenever possible.
  • Improve or change the things closest to you that need to be changed and over which you have some control.

This post demonstrates the difficulty of getting out of the “I want” mindset. I’ve spent time and energy “wanting” what I don’t have, without shedding the things I have I don’t need or want. Ach! And, then, I turn on myself, whip and cudgel in hand, and beat myself mercilessly for being who I am instead of who I think I want to be. This is not a new scenario. It is an ongoing pattern that seems designed to illustrate and highlight failures. Is it possible I’m a very slow learner? The evidence suggests there’s something to that idea.

That last suggestion about changing oneself for the better keeps chirping at me: Improve or change the things closest to you that need to be changed and over which you have some control. Hello? What’s closer to me than my thoughts? Who controls them? I think I may be picking up on something here. This could be a “thing.” I might have something to work with. Rebuild John. From the ground up. Or from the mind down. Or just little pieces, one at a time, until the new model is like the old one, only dramatically better.

The idea has been planted. It needs nourishment. And action. And more than myself. So, I should share this seed with loved ones so they, too, can help it grow and can do the same. I do not think I am capable of writing a self-help book, but I may be able to write an autobiography one day.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
This entry was posted in Change, Compassion, Doing Without, Empathy, Essay, Generosity, Philosophy, Ruminations, Self-discipline, Selfishness. Bookmark the permalink.

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