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My writing partner, Joyce, is here from Virginia. We are creating a week-long writing retreat at my house. Last night, my husband, who loves to show people around our city, wanted to take Joyce out to Old Town. Old Town is the area where the Spanish first settled here. It is considered the “birthplace” of California. In Old Town there are dozens of Mexican restaurants, so we planned to go to one of the largest.

Joyce had never heard of or tried, potato tacos, and I happen to love potato tacos, so I told her all the wonders of them while we were driving in the car to the restaurant. When we arrived the line for seating was long, but we talked with each other and other people waiting in line, so the time went quickly.

Once we were seated and looked at the menu, Joyce decided to order the three taco plate, and she asked me if I wanted one of the potato tacos. I was going to order a side of refried beans and a taco, so Joyce’s suggestion was perfect.

The service was rather slow because the restaurant was packed (Spring break in Southern California), but when our food arrived Joyce offered me a taco off of her plate. There were tomatoes, and many other things mixed in with the potato that I can’t eat due to my diverticulitis. At first I tried scrapping the toppings off and away from the potatoes but there were too mixed up, so finally, I apologized and said, “I’ll have my beans. I’m sorry. I can’t eat that.”

In the past year, with health issues (diverticulitis and my back) I have had to say no, or no thank you, or sorry, I’ll have to pass, on more occasions than I can count. At first, I felt a lot of disappointment at not being able to indulge in things that I normally enjoy or consider my favorites. Now, I am so used to having to say no, that the disappointment doesn’t hit me very hard. Trust me, I wanted that potato taco, but for health reasons, it was a better choice not to take a risk and eat it.

I am learning through some of life’s challenges to be happy with what I can eat, enjoy, experience and not dwell on the things I miss out on. Not being able to eat popcorn (one of my favorite comfort foods), or tomatoes, or strawberries, or a whole list of other foods is not the worst thing that has happened to me. Me having to say no every day to things I want and enjoy has become like a meditation in gratitude.

I might not be able to have everything I want, but I am thankful for the things I can have, and I am starting to believe I take greater pleasure in the simplest things. Not being able to have everything I want is not a bad thing, it can build character and appreciation. I believe in self-care, but always saying yes to ourselves can lead to money problems, health problems, and other negative things. I’m getting good at looking for the positive in adversity and challenges, and I think it is serving me well. I’m happy, grateful and as healthy as can be expected and that is more important than handful after handful of buttery popcorn, or that scrumptious potato taco.