Strength in What Remains

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When life gives us loss, or so the poets say, we learn to take strength in what remains. Life hasn’t given me losses this week—if anything, it’s given me a lot to be grateful for. But I have lost temporary access to all of my worldly goods, which are boxed up and waiting for takeoff on Saturday morning:

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I have also lost my bedframe, which doesn’t fit in my new apartment:

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My kitchen cabinets are so bare, it breaks my heart to open them:

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…and all of my favorite foodstuffs are waiting to be packed into the trailer. All, that is, except for the few things I saved for exactly 1 smoothie tomorrow morning:

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(Justin’s almond butter, cinnamon, frozen blueberries, frozen bananas, the last of a carton of Vega, flax meal, and some Navitas Naturals trail mix to layer on top)

…because you know that this is the last item I will pack:

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In this peculiar moment of transition, I’m trying to take strength in ritual and constancy—the things in my life that tend not to change very much. For example, my love of Joe coffee:

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Or the fact that, when I found one of my oldhigh school uniform skirts (please, don’t ask me why I still own this. There is no good reason, and certainly no tawdry one. I promise):

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…it definitely had coffee stains on it. The habit started young.

I take comfort in my Eat Raw, Live Long shirt, which I’m wearing on the day of the move because I think it’s a lucky shirt. Even if I wore it on the day of my finals and I don’t think it was very lucky:

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I take comfort in my polar fleece snowflake pajamas, even if the very idea of polar fleece makes me sweat right now:

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and in my beloved little netbook:

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…and in Joshua:

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I take comfort in reading, even if I’ve only been able to squeeze in ten minutes here and there this week:

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(The Cure Within, Anne Harrington’s wonderful history of mind/body medicine)

I take comfort in the fact that no matter what, I know how to laugh at myself.

For instance, I got a nice chuckle out of finding some ancient wardrobe items. GIANT HOT PINK SWEATER, anyone?

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How about a little sequin action?

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Or a really, really tiny tank top that actually could pass for lingerie?

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(I would like someone to tell me please when I wore something this skimpy in public. For real. Chlo?)

Most of all, I take comfort in the company of good friends and in good food, which are my two biggest pleasures in life. If we’re on the topic of the familiar, the constant, I can’t help but think of Candle Café and Candle 79, which have always been culinary havens for me (fact: Candle Café was my first all vegan restaurant meal). Lucky me, as part of my NYC dining bucket list, I’ve visited both outposts of the wonderful Pierson/Potenza enterprise in the past week. First, on Saturday night, my family and I dined at 79, where I began my meal with the seaweed salad:

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(carrots, radish, edamame, seaweed, cabbage, and a miso lemongrass dressing)

…dug into a second appetizer of grilled artichokes and asparagus with onion rings, grape tomato salad, and basil lemongrass dressing:

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And then had the raw “enchiladas,” stuffed with cashew cheese and covered in guac, as my entrée:

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…hidden under a mess o’ green:

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What a wonderful send off dinner!

Today, I enjoyed a more casual meal when I met my good friend Chris for lunch at Candle Café. The menu, we both noted, is overwhelmingly good, but I narrowed it down to a giant green juice:

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…spring rolls, stuffed with avocado and veggies and served with a spicy peanut dipping sauce:

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…and the crunchy live sprout salad with carrot ginger dressing:

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Chris, for his part, went with a wheatberry salad:

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And the famous paradise casserole, which rocked his world:

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I love how food can be an anchor of stability in times of change, how familiar flavors and textures and tastes remind us that life’s simplest pleasures are unchanging.

What do you rely on as a constant in your life? What habits never change?

I’m off to see if I packed all the dark chocolate.


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  1. Gena, I’m revisiting this old post as someone feeling particularly vulnerable and raw. So much in my life is changing–and most of it for the better–but I can’t help but feel frightened when I consider my impending move (just one week!). Your beautiful words articulate what I need most right now: strength in the constants of my life, and the knowledge that I can always harness that stability when faced with uncertainty. The truth is, I’m so excited to live in Boston and continue to speak on behalf of animals. But that anticipation is often eclipsed by a paralyzing fear of the unknown, and this is something I should recognize and accept without judgment. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

  2. I was so excited to visit your blog today and let you know that I tried my first ever all-raw meal on Saturday! We totally loved it and I can’t wait to go back!

    For consistency, I definitely rely on my weekly “eats” – Amy’s Frozen meals – and my morning coffee! Good luck on your move!

  3. I love this post Gena! I too am living furnitureless among boxes as my husband and I prepare to move from Massachusetts to Michigan for my medical residency. My Vitamix will be the last item I pack as well – and the first one I unpack! Best of luck with your move and getting settled in your new home!

  4. Wow, moving is hard! We had to stay an extra night in our empty Florida house before departing for California and it was depressing. Even though I knew it was the right choice, so many memories in that house. Great post and I’m so excited for you, you’re gonna have a blast! Constants for me are smoothies, coffee, hubby, and chocolate too. 🙂

  5. New York (both the city and the people) is going to miss you very much Gena! I don’t think there is anything shameful about what we take comfort in. And it’s different for everyone. For me, my biggest comforts are a series of small animals — a wind up otter the size of my thumb, a small plush elephant ornament, a palm-sized fuzzy loon. They comfort me, and that’s okay. I love how you included your bear! Hope the move goes smoothly!

  6. Thanks for this lovely post, Gena. I too am moving away from the city that’s been my home all my life to the city where my partner lives and works, and I have a lot of mixed emotions. I’m finding it hard to express any sadness or regret when I know that there’s so much good to come from moving: we’ll finally end two years of long-distance, and I’ll have a chance (be forced?) to step out of my comfort zone. But despite my excitement, I still feel a little anxious and lost right now, and this post was just the reassurance I needed. Good luck with the move and enjoy DC!

  7. Good luck with your move. It sounds like this will be a great step for you. I am jealous of your vita mixer. I want one soooo bad. 🙂 Also, that dish looks amazing. Best of luck to you and your new adventures.

  8. Such a beautiful post. I can’t wait to follow you on your next adventure.

    And I would totally wear that tank top. Just sayin.

  9. I still have one of my uniform skirts too, and it is even uglier than yours, if you can believe that, which is why I had it tattooed with the signatures of my BFFs at the end of senior year. I’m not ready to part ways with it. I may not be one for “stuff,” but there are a few mementos even I know are worth keeping. Darn that. 😉

    Enjoy your last few days, ma’am. xo

  10. Moving is tough, especially big ones like the one you’re about to embark on. I loved this post! It definitely had a lot of sentimentality, and I could definitely pick up your tone and feelings in this one.

    Best of luck on your next adventure!

  11. I love this post. Moving just plain sucks. It’s stressful, it’s hard work, and it’s hard to pull up roots, especially when you’ve lived in one city for your whole life!
    It’s exciting to start fresh though, and it looks like you’re handling it beautifully. Constants and comforts are vital with big changes like this. Personally I rely on my family, taking walks, journaling and lots of chocolate!

  12. I think we all have a Joshua (mine’s name is Boo Boo). There is a certain sadness and nostalgia as you move from one phase of your life to another, or from one place to another. But also a sense of excitement as you take a few precious things with you as ‘your constant’, and know that a few other things will become precious to you as you gain new points of reference in your life.

    If it doesn’t happen in actuality, I like to at least pretend to move every 5 years. Purging what you don’t really need is cathartic, and realizing what is really important to you is revitalizing. My life and space have become more sparse in terms of material items over the years as I realize that memories, experiences and friends are the constants that really matter. You seem to have no shortage of these things 🙂 Enjoy your move and what it represents.

  13. That was a really great post 🙂 I am sure your move will go smoothly. It is so funny what surfaces when you move. I’ve moved 3 or 4 times in the last couple years, and it always amazes me!

  14. Major changes can be so challenging and yet so inspiring; what an exciting time you’re going through! I tend to cling to good friends, good reads and good food when I want a modicum of constancy in an otherwise changetastic phase. Running too. Ok, and yoga as well. I guess there’s a lot to cling to! Best of luck with the move tomorrow Gena!

  15. What a sad, but sweet farewell. At least you are leaving one great apartment for another great apartment. Those raw enchiladas look to die for!

  16. I’m laughing because I, too, have a lingerie-style tank top that, appallingly, I used to wear out! What was that trend about? And, more to the point, why did nobody step in and stop me??

    LOVE the paradise casserole! I have your NYC restaurant bucket list bookmarked so I can make my way to some of the other great spots that I have yet to visit.

    Good luck with the move!!!

  17. Great post, good luck with your move!

    Love those enchiladas, good stuff.

    P.s. I think I owned that hot pink sweater too.. Lol

  18. It’s cool to get a glimpse of your life like this. I still sleep with my 2 favorite childhood stuffed animals, so that picture especially made me smile 🙂 (Their names are Baby Orangutan and White Monkey. Creative, huh?) I hope your move goes smoothly!

  19. his post really calls to me. I read your blog everyday and I have never posted a comment. The title of your post “Strength in What Remains” really moves me. I’m from Joplin, MO and I’m sure everyone has heard of the tragedy that took place last Sunday. We lost 126 people and over 200 are still missing and the whole community and the surrounding areas have banded together to help everyone in need. It is surprising how much help we have received from everyone. It is moving that in times like these people answer to the call. Joplin, Mo has found strength in what remains and we will move on to become a stronger community. Sorry to go off on a tangent but the title and your article really calls to me because everyone all over the world loses things, it doesn’t matter how big or how small, but always manages to find the strength to move on a be better.

    Gena- Thank you for writing and helping people heal even in ways you don’t realize.

  20. The people in my life are what I rely on as a constant. For one, my family. My mom in particular. She’s always here for me, and is one of those over-the-top incredible, nurturing, generous, and loving mothers. My boyfriend. Enough said. He’s my rock. And my best friend. I’ve had friends that come and go, but my BEST friend has been my best since I was four years old, and we’re like sisters. I try not to attach myself too closely with material items, because they don’t last. Although, I do have a stuffed animal duck that, if I were to ever lose, my life would be over. O.V.E.R! Haha.

  21. I agree with averie — what a lovely post, a peek into your life, and your transition. Best of luck with your move and new adventures! That mind-body-medicine book looks interesting…off to amazon to check it out….

  22. Running and yoga, definitely great food and fabulous friends, and now my hubby and son are my constants in life! Oh, and let’s not forget good coffee 🙂

    You so made me miss Candle Cafe (again!), I wish they had one where I’m at 🙁 Love the post and good luck with the move Gena!

  23. Wow, this post is so moving! I think if I were making a big move I’d probaby pack my blender and smoothie ingredients last too – since I changed my lifestyle to a much healthier one, green smoothies and green tea are my constants, my ultimate comfort food that seem to make me feel balanced and whole no matter what 🙂 Good luck with everything in DC!

  24. Love this–so glad you have Joshua! My ‘teddy from toddlerhood’ (yellow, with only one ear) doesn’t even have a name, but he’s been with me across continents and through a crazy number of moves.

    So smart to lay out ‘exactly one smoothie’s worth’ (it’s something I totally relate to).

    I love that you emphasize the pleasure of good time with friends over food.

  25. uh, i think i had that same sweater. express?!

    hmm, my constants are people and places: my best friend, my quirky family and crosby street (where i grew up). and the catskills. and more.

    i enjoyed this post. a nice twist off of the usual CR-style insights. where’s the like button?!

  26. You sure know how to send yourself off well in the food department. Clothes are fun reminders of the past. I went through some today too and wondered when I even wore certain pieces. I have the same lucky duck shirt. Packing always unearths interesting things from the past, but moving leaves potential for rebirth.

  27. Good luck with the move! I lived in DC for years and really enjoyed it. As you have already stated on your blog, DC is nowhere near NYC when it comes to vegan dining, although I do understand it’s improving. But, in addition to all the value your blog brings to its readers every day, I’m sure that your sharing how you handle the dining scene will be of great service to your readers across the country who are dealing with limited restaurant options.

    Thanks, by the way, for sharing those beautiful shots from Candle Cafe and Candle 79. It is just comforting to know that such high-caliber all-vegan establishments exist and can thrive.

    All the best as you embark on your new adventure. I’m sure it will be a great one.

  28. Gena this post was awesome!

    First, the snapshots into the world in which you’ve lived, your apartment, for the past two+ years that I’ve been reading about your life on your blog..this is the first time you’ve ever shown it in that much detail and I feel like I just stepped into your world more fully (not to sound all stalkerish…lol) but it just one of those faces/with a name things or apt/with a person that are so great!

    I love your skimpy black number that you wonder where you wore it and the old uniform skirt. Keep those!

    And I love the teddy bear and the hot pink sweater and the book. All gems for various reasons.

    What’s a constant for me…I’d say yoga. My practice. It centers me and grounds me and gives me strength to keep on keeping on, even when things are dicey.

    If you’re asking who is a constant, my spouse and my child. Always present and there for me.

    Best of luck with this move!!!!!

  29. This is a beautiful post – I’m glad that change is bringing you closer to your centre, in a way. That self-knowledge is a really valuable thing!

    Also, now I really want coffee. 🙂