I’m glad that the resources I shared last week were helpful to some of you. I’ll keep sharing as I do my own work—today, that means recommending Ava Duvernay’s 13th. If you’ve had questions about mass incarceration and its place among other systems of oppression, the documentary will probably answer some of them, and it left me ready to learn and do more. Netflix recently made the it free on YouTube.
Speaking of work, I’ve spent the last week learning, listening and self-examining. I’ve made mistakes and self-corrected. The biggest mistake was to download and follow and share too much on social media, before I could thoughtfully explore the resources that I was highlighting. What was my intention, if not to pay close intention?
I should have been self-educating about anti-racism already, and no amount of quick studying will change that or the discomfort that I feel about it. The fact that I was sharing in advance of any real learning or change in consciousness felt performative at times, rather than personal, and it wasn’t useful. My focus now is in on turning anti-racism work into a steady, sustained practice.
And, in the blink of an eye, it’s another birthday.
In these birthday posts, which I’ve now been writing since I turned 30, I usually reflect on lessons learned through difficult experiences, or challenges. What I’ve been thinking this weekend is the fact that my life hasn’t always been easy, but it has always been privileged. I’ve faced difficulties, but nothing in my life has been difficult because of the color of my skin. When things have been hard, they’ve been less hard than they would be without white privilege.
When quarantine started, I was anxious, as most people were, and the prolonged solitude has been tricky. But I’ve been lucky. I’ve been safe, fed, connected, and able to care for my mom. I’ve had the steady assurance that, if I became sick, I’d have good healthcare. It’s all too easy to take these unearned advantages for granted.
Last year on this day, I was full of heartfelt words and life lessons. I’m not sure what to say about this year. It was strange even before the Covid-19 crisis. Completing grad school didn’t feel as transformative as I thought it would. Last summer, I had my longest and hardest bout of depression. Those months, and the experience of climbing out from under them, got in the way of many of the things I thought I’d be doing as a thirty-seven-year-old: writing another book, promoting my private practice, challenging myself to be braver with interpersonal stuff (dating, connecting, conflict, etc.). I’ve turned a corner, and I’m doing well, but there’s still a bewildered sense of not knowing where the time went. I hope I can do more in the next year, not because I idealize productivity any more (I really don’t), but because I’d like for my life to feel fuller.
The year gave me gifts that I didn’t expect. The main one is that I reconnected to a local yoga community that I hadn’t been a part of since before I moved to D.C.. It has been so special to have a homecoming in that space. We’ve been staying in touch virtually through quarantine, practicing together on Zoom, and it has been incredibly sustaining.
Tomorrow, New York City will finally move into Phase 1 of reopening, after more than three months of quarantine. This would have felt like big news three weeks ago, but the fight for equity is now at the forefront minds and hearts, my own included. There’s been a lot of tragedy in 2020 so far, but there have also been outpourings of love, and there’s now a rising consciousness about violence and injustice that were always there. I wish for more justice and compassion in the world, and I’ll do what I can to take part in creating it.
With all of this happening around me, I feel grateful to be alive, to be healthy, to be learning. I’m glad that I’m doing OK. Four weeks ago, I was speaking to a friend whose mother had suddenly become ill—not Covid related, but right in the middle of the crisis. She told me, “life comes at you fast.”
This year, and everything that happened in it, came faster than any other. I’ll never forget it, and I’ll never forget that I heard those words when I did. I appreciate the opportunity to take another trip around the sun, and I’m thankful for your company along the way.
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Thank you so much for this.
i always appreciate reading your birthday posts and hearing your thoughtful (and inspiring) reflections on life. wishing you a great year ahead!
I know I’m late but happy happy birthday to you Gena. Your posts give me light and lightness and hope. I wish we could be friends IRL. Thank you for sharing all that you do with us. I know that I have benefited immensely from your wisdom and vulnerability. The amazing recipes are an added bonus. <3
Happy Birthday. This has been such a positive and inspirational place for me with great recipes.
On my own birthday every year, my sister-in-law says to me, “Happy Birthday, dear girl!” And I will say the same to you! Congratulations on another birthday and another opportunity to keep going, to keep at it.
I keyed in on your comments about unexpected gifts. I thought your reconnection to your yoga group was lovely. I am also reflecting on your comment about wondering where the time has gone this last year. I am a little ahead of you on the birthday timeline (ahem! cough! cough!) and the passage of time, the shear length of it, how much is left and how much you really have, are all things that I continue to grapple with and to be surprised by. The grappling isn’t any easier at 50 than it is at 38 and somehow in a weird way, that helps me. Maybe it will help you too?
I hope the upcoming months for you will be good as New York City moves through phase 1. Who would have ever thought we would be talking about phases like this?
Happy Birthday then and here is to another year! Thank you again for your posts.
Happy Birthday Dearest Gena <3 You are doing some good work here, and as always, it's the process and the commitment to that steady sustained practice when it comes to seeing systemic racism clearly and our privileged place within it, so we can, each in our own way, work to derail what harms so many. 13th is stunningly good and eye-opening. Thanks for recommending it here. And as always I appreciate your honesty about where you are as you look back at the year and prepare for the one ahead. I for one, am glad to witness all of your growth and healing and I look forward to where this year takes you. Whatever comes, I'll be around to support you through it. And welcome to Phase 1! That's where we are all the way on the other coast. Much love and many more happy returns of this day!
Happy birthday, Gena! I am grateful for the recipes and wisdom you continue to share. Wishing you the best in the year ahead.
happy birthday Gena. this is indeed an unusual time. I really hope you got to celebrate somehow.
Happy Birthday, Gena! I hope all of your hopes and dreams become reality. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself.