Aprovechar

Taking the full measure of life

Aprovechar

September 23rd, 2007 · 43 Comments

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At the community farmers’ market in the park that I visit weekly, there’s a set of posters with questions on them and stickers for each person to put on the posters to answer the multiple-choice questions. One of the questions is, “Why didn’t you buy more at the farmer’s market today?” The choices are ones like, “Not enough selection,” “Too expensive,” etc.

What’s missing is the answer I always need to put: I bought plenty. Or, I bought enough. I bought what I needed and nothing more. I’m satisfied.

We’re missing a word for this concept in English. We need a word for getting the full use out of something, getting all the pleasure we can out of something, without being greedy or miserly and without going over the edge into excess. ‘Enough’ generally actually seems to imply not quite enough. ‘Plenty’ can mean enough or an overabundance. We need a word to use that means attaining a homeostasis of life, a state of abundance without overkill. See? It’s hard to even state it right with lots of words.

A few years ago I started to realize that I don’t need everything in the whole world. I just need enough to make me genuinely happy, and then I need to use what I have wisely. There’s a great book out there called The Paradox of Choice, and in that book the author, Barry Schwartz, argues that in the U.S. today, we have so many options for so many things that we are overwhelmed with them. We would, he says, be happier if we actually had fewer choices and drew more joy from the decisions we do have and the situations that life gives us without choices.

My life has grown more limited in some ways in the past few years. In the cause of living more sustainably, I’ve worked on cutting down on my consumption of the Earth’s resources. In developing the ability to feel in control of money (instead of having money control me), I’ve saved more and spent less. And in the process, I’ve realized that sometimes getting the most out of life doesn’t necessarily mean using everything that’s available on the planet. I can take care of myself best, in fact, if I concentrate on getting the most out of what I should use and leaving the rest behind.

I can get the best use of my body by exercising it regularly–to the point of growth but not to the point of pain. I can give myself a better opportunity for a long, fruitful life by keeping myself in motion.

I can make the most of the foods that are available to me by eating what will make me the healthiest and what will keep the planet healthiest–locally grown foods, organic foods, whole foods, foods with minimal packaging, foods without artificial ingredients, preservatives, and colorings.

I can reduce my consumption of resources, then reuse items when possible, and then recycle what I can’t.

I can get the most of out my financial life by focusing on saving for the future and for rainy days, spending money on what actually is important to me, giving some money away when it matters, and rerouting myself to what I really need when I am spending money for reasons that actually are not important to me or good for me–like buying because I’m upset, or buying because I am literally buying into some marketing. (Let me tell you, the peace of having money put away for a rainy day, after years of being terrible with money, is truly worth 1000 times whatever I could otherwise buy with that money.)

I can learn to make healthy foods that taste marvelous and do not contain my food allergens/intolerances (gluten, cow dairy, soy, egg, crab, lobster, oyster, tomato, white vinegar)–thereby keeping myself feeling good while indulging my foodie side.

I can make better use of money and the Earth’s resources by spending a bit more money on things I will keep for years and sharing, recycling, or doing without some of the things I won’t keep as long.

I can reach and maintain a healthy weight by eating foods that taste great and make me feel good.  I can reach and maintain a healthy weight not by punishing myself, but by taking joy in taking care of myself.

I can take joy in the things that I love and reserve time and energy to explore some of them. I can have the best opportunity to experience some of them by scheduling them into my life.

I can enjoy the first two bites of dessert and let someone else finish the rest, knowing I’ve gotten the maximum pleasure from it with minimal calories.

I can find a balance between spending and saving that leaves me happy–that leaves me neither a miser nor a spendthrift.

I can live a life of pleasure without taking too much for myself.

I can hold on to what is worthy in life and let go of the rest.

‘Aprovechar’ is the infinitive of a Spanish verb that encompasses these things. ‘Aprovechar’ is to get the most of out life, whether it’s a piece of clothing, a symphony performance, or a job. It’s “to take advantage” in the most positive sense of that phrase. It’s to put to good use. It’s to live a fulfilling life in this time on Earth. It’s to be frugal–again, in the most positive sense. It’s a word we’re missing in English, and it’s a word I’m working on making the choice to live by.

This blog is where I work on embracing the me that ‘aprovechar’ offers. Aprovecho, I say. I will take the full measure of my life to live it the best I can.

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43 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Julie // Oct 20, 2007 at 2:38 pm

    amen girl!

  • 2 Ellen // Oct 27, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    Dear Sally,

    I’m so glad I found your blog. You’ve articulated exactly what I feel and think and I thank you for that. Much continued success:).
    Ellen

  • 3 Meg Wolff // Nov 11, 2007 at 10:35 am

    I am visiting and enjoying your site very much. When I write my recipes I will try to remember to do them wheat and gluten-free, when I can. I do a cooking column and in the past I did do this. Thanks for the reminder!!!

    I like how you named your Web site … and I am inspired to get the book you recommended, The Paradox of Choice. Thank you.

  • 4 monica // Nov 30, 2007 at 7:27 am

    What ellen said – I wish I found this blog sooner. You’re full of so much wisdom, Sally! Thank you for sharing it with the world.

  • 5 Elana // Feb 5, 2008 at 10:40 pm

    What a beautiful post and wonderful concept. I often find that we lack certain words in English and have to go to German, Spanish or some other language to find them.

    Thanks for sharing your fresh ideas on living healthfully.

    Elana

  • 6 Ali // Feb 7, 2008 at 6:41 am

    Great post. I can’t make the move to flats. I’ve tried but all my pants are too long.

  • 7 ChocolateCoveredVegan // Feb 27, 2008 at 8:02 pm

    What a great, inspiring blog!

  • 8 Wardeh @ Such Treasures // Apr 3, 2008 at 1:55 pm

    Sally,

    I find I am in agreement with you on so many things. You said it all so beautifully! Thank you for putting these special thoughts in writing.

    Love, Wardeh

  • 9 julie // Apr 17, 2008 at 10:07 am

    thank you.
    I have been trying to find my way to exactly what you have expressed. Now knowing where to begin, hopefully I can express that joy in my life and bring this idea to my family.

  • 10 Daniela Magozzi // Apr 21, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Your story, struggles, and values are so similar to mine…I was so touched by my first visit to your blog that it brought tears to my eyes. I so badly want to live more simply in the midst of a hustle and bustle silicone valley life. I will definitely be checkin’ in on your blog for some inspiration.

  • 11 courtney // May 26, 2008 at 8:49 am

    What a great blog. I will be staying tuned as I can relate to a lot of which you speak. Thanks for stopping by mine.

  • 12 Gloria // Jun 12, 2008 at 10:21 am

    You are a person after my own heart in your thoughts and feelings. I am also like you in the necessity of staying away from gluten, dairy, and soy. Thanks for your ability to articulate your position in such a way as to inspire those who are like minded.

    Gloria

  • 13 Paige // Jul 8, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    Sally,
    I just discovered your blog, and am in the process of making many of the same decisions myself — luckily without the allergies. Organic, seasonal, local foods with no chemicals, no processed foods. This diet serves me best. I am so glad to have discovered your blog. My blog is just getting started, but I will also be blogging about some of my food choices and why. Thank you for some inspiration!
    Paige

  • 14 Jon // Aug 3, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    Wow, that’s quite beautiful. I’m grateful to have found your blog and will definitely be adding you to our blog list. Cindy and I approach life in a very similar manner — great to find like minds in the age of “silicon valley life”, as Daniela put it.

    Thank you,

    Jon

  • 15 Meghan // Aug 4, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    I know your post is from 2007, but other people have just commented recently so, so will I.
    It’s not only a beautiful, word, and concept, but a beautiful way to live your life. You are an inspiration.

  • 16 Mary // Aug 6, 2008 at 8:14 am

    Greetings,

    The word in English that you are looking for is “embrace”. Both aprovechar and embrace mean to avail oneself .

    All the best,

    Mary

  • 17 glenna // Aug 16, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Absolutely! So wonderfully expressed.

  • 18 Justin // Oct 5, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Hi, thanks for the blog.

    How bout sate?

    1. to satisfy (any appetite or desire) fully.

  • 19 dojski // Dec 7, 2008 at 4:37 am

    Amazing. What a way to live and look at life. I hope I can reach this kind of perspective, resolve, and attitude.

    This post is very inspiring. The conclusions you have on the ways of life (e.g., on personal finance) are truths.

    I think, ‘aprovechar’ is going to be a very important word in my vocabulary starting now. =)

  • 20 Waller McInnes // Dec 23, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    I love this site!
    i am a blogger–about health and wellness, all things simple, natural, yoga, meditation, gluten free and holistic health.
    i will add a link for you in my blog roll!
    blessings for a happy and healthy holdiay season!
    warmly,
    waller mcinnes

  • 21 gianna // Feb 20, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    wow, i’m thrilled to have stumbled upon your site. my daughter has a soy/ nut / dairy allergy and i find making meals so challenging — especially since i am italian and my mother was an awesome cook! it’s great to see lovely, healthy recipes on your website that are free of my child’s allergens. thanks for sharing this and your views and choices about LIFE.

  • 22 Linda // Mar 3, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    La verda se presenta al momento de la nessecidad personal. Nosotros somos de aquerdo de una vez con la realizacion verdadera que Ud. se nos presenta.
    Just look aroud and slowly take a good whiff of true opportunites that life offers one another.

  • 23 Cassie // Mar 16, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    Thank you for visiting my blog and subsequently make me find you. Your story rings very true to me. Good luck on your journey to a better healthier life. A ta santé!

  • 24 Gina // May 13, 2009 at 9:05 am

    I just wanted to say that I have really enjoyed your blog! I just found out that I am allergic to eggs, milk, garlic, onions and worst of all coffee :o). I was searching for recipes when I came across your site. It really inspired me and definitely cheered me up.
    Thanks so much!

  • 25 the troll witch // Jun 19, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    I think that it’s an amazing word that says so much; you’re the only person I know who could find it and create a life–and great blog–around it. Viva Sally!!

  • 26 imogen // Jul 18, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    Hi Sally,

    I stumbled across your site whilst looking for recipes on the internet. I am both wheat and dairy intolerant (since the past year), and for the first 6 months found myself really struggling to enjoy my food. I just wanted to say that, without sounding too cliche, your blog really is inspirational. Your attitude towards food, and being a “foodie” has greatly boosted my confidence in what I can cook, and bolstered the way I think about the situation I am in. I feel a great kinship (if I can use that word so freely) with people like yourself, going to farmers market and appreciating and getting the most out of food that is available to you, and not feeling like you are having to substitute, or miss out on things.
    I think it is wonderful that in doing this blog you are making so many other people aware of how you can treat your body.

  • 27 Ryan // Sep 13, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    dayenu

  • 28 Stephanie // Oct 20, 2009 at 9:25 am

    I really, really, really like your blog (how eloquent!). It very much resonates with me. Stop by and visit my blog at http://www.bodaweightloss.com/blog
    sometime and see what you think.
    All the best,
    Stephanie

  • 29 Liz // Nov 8, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    Sally, I love your blog. So much of what you write resonates strongly with me. I am impressed by your ability to put your goals, thoughts, hopes, dreams and plans on “paper” in such a meaningful way. I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog as I searched for Thanksgiving recipes that are free of my allergens and intolerances (gluten, eggs, dairy, soy, almonds, pecans, chocolate, most spices, pineapple, and some other lesser ones). It seems like there’s nothing I can eat, and yet, I too have been trying to focus on being grateful for a healthy body and the abundance of good, healthy, fresh food that I can eat. We are so blessed in the USA with abundance, that there’s no reason to whine about what we can’t have. We do have choices that not everyone in the world has. Thank you for reminding me how many options and blessings I already have!

  • 30 Edie // Jan 24, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    Hello Sally-

    I have always tried to live this way since coming out of college, and although there has been highs and lows, I cannot say that I have been deprived of anything worthwhile- clothing, housing, travel experiences and love of friends.

    It can be hard in this more, more, more society to be open and say “Okay, enough already”. But this is brave new choice of Americans.

  • 31 Melinda // Feb 1, 2010 at 11:11 am

    Well put! I love how you’ve articulated a national problem in such a life-affirming, positive way. I’m looking forward to following you on your journey.
    (http://dreamimaginehappen.blogspot.com)

  • 32 Joseph M Sanabria // Feb 12, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    I’m a live in caregiver for a lady who is Gluten,dairy,citrus,and tree nut sensitive. I also bake goods for diabetics. I would like to have information for both sugar free pastries/snacks and a recipe for a gluten,dairy,nut free fruit scone as well as other pastries.
    I thank you for any help you can give me.

  • 33 Xhakhal // Apr 29, 2010 at 8:05 am

    Interesting post, and interesting blog. I stumbled upon it at a friend’s house, and will have to remind her to send me the address once I get back home.

    However your talk about the missing word interested me, because the Swedes have that word you seem to be looking for, but with a more humble/humbly content tone to it than the Spanish one you found – it’s “lagom”, and it pretty much determines 75% of traditional Swedish culture. Pretty cool, I think, because I’ve always missed that word in ENglish :)

  • 34 Michelle // Jul 7, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Hi Sally,
    I came across your blog a long time ago and it’s taken me this long to refind it (pressing *favourites* now!!)…

    Anyway, reading this post made me think about a doco I saw today and I wanted to give you the link because I think you’d REALLY enjoy it. You can click on the ‘highlights’ clip if you only have 7 mins, but if you have time I think you’d love the whole thing! REally in line with your thinking :)

    http://www.abc.net.au/tv/bigideas/stories/2010/07/06/2945103.htm?site=centralcoast

  • 35 SarahB // Aug 22, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Hi! You left a comment on my blog just a bit ago with a smoothie suggestion for my son. That’s a great idea! I hadn’t ever thought about doing that before! His fruits are limited, and he can’t do berries, but I peaches would mix well with his coconut milk and maybe I could sneak in a little spinach to trial. Thanks for you visit and comment!

  • 36 Life of a Doctor's Wife // Sep 15, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Just found your blog and I find it wholly intriguing. Looking forward to reading more!

  • 37 Chriss // Apr 2, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    You know when you find something that you didn’t know you were looking for, but when you found it sounded/looked and felt so right. Thank you for posting this. It brought tears of joy and relief to my eyes to see that some one else is not afraid to put out how they feel. Blessings.
    Chriss

  • 38 felice lim // Apr 12, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    It takes a lot of courage to make certain choices in
    our life and Congratulation !! YOU HAVE DONE IT SO RIGHT!! Thank you for sharing your experience and encourage us so positively. I really
    appreciate your spirit and courage.Wish more people in my country get to know your site and be enriched by your philosophy of life ..
    felice, singapore

  • 39 Dee // Aug 11, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    I find your blog inspirational. These same testaments I am trying to make for myself. I applaud you and will continue to read your progress. Keep doing what you’re doing!

  • 40 Tree // Mar 9, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    How did you finally find that you were allergic to Tomatoes? I keep telling the doctor and they don’t really believe me, but I keep it out of my diet anyway. Have you found a difference w/ Goat milk vs. Cow?
    thank you

  • 41 Sally // Mar 18, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    I love this manifesto! I will keep reading on.

    I searched the internet for tuna salad without milk and your blog came up. The tuna salad recipe surely gave me good ideas for milk replacement but it’s your message on this blog that is exactly what I need to be reading right now.

  • 42 Irene // May 11, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    This really resonates with me.

    I found your website while searching for a gluten free and egg free bread recipe. I think there’s a lot more than food topics I’ll be interested in reading about here.

  • 43 Elsie // Feb 19, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    So glad I found this site! It’s interesting how words that encompass entire ideas and feelings in one language are completely missing in another. “Aprovechar” is one I’m going to remember.

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