As I write this post the wind is howling furiously outside my window, and my apartment, which usually manages to stay pretty warm no matter what’s going on outside, is decidedly drafty and chilly. It’s a true winter’s day in New York City. Because of that, because of recurring sinus stuff that won’t quite quit me, and because tomorrow is the very first morning of my new DI rotation, I’ve barely stepped outside today.
Years ago, a day like this—sedentary, indoors, very sleepy—would have felt threatening at best, intolerable at worst. I’d have forced myself to move more, and if I couldn’t do that, I’d have forced myself to do more. My ego would be challenged by the lack of doing, my ED by the lack of movement, the terrible feeling that I had to earn my right to eat.
Most of the time, I find that growth and evolution happen so gradually and in such small ways that I can only take stock of them when I gaze back over a lot of personal history. Lying on my sofa today, I realize how different a person I am (in many ways—certainly not in others!) than the person who started blogging nearly ten years ago. That I can give my body permission simply to be—especially when being looks like hours of lying down, sitting still, eating what I want, ignoring work I don’t have energy for—is, when I think about it, pretty enormous.
This perspective is all the more poignant to me in the wake of Mary Oliver’s death. I, along with so many people, have been feeling grateful for her poems and her legacy. “Wild Geese” has a special place in my heart, because for many years it was an ED recovery anthem of sorts for me. If you don’t know it, here it is:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
When I first read this poem, I was so intertwined with my disorder that the very word “soft” was triggering for me—let alone “soft animal,” which had the additional, threatening implications of instinct and hunger. (“Full” used to be a trigger word, too, which is part of the reason I reclaimed it in my blog title.)
I said a prayer that time, faith, and many re-readings of the poem would give the word new meaning, and they have. Nowadays I love the words “soft” and “softness”; I especially love to think of them as an approach to living. “Wild Geese” gave me a much needed push to recognize and respect the wisdom and necessity of my body’s wants when I was in recovery. It continues to teach me a lot about allowing myself to go with the flow of things, to ease into life’s greater rhythm rather than conforming to a frantic, self-created one.
Challenging as the hours and schedule of the DI have been so far, they’ve tested my capacity for self-care. I’ve been surprised at how well I’ve passed this test (OK, maybe not the best metaphor) with lots of lovingkindness and self-compassion. I’ve managed to take as much rest as I can in the moments when I can, reserving my energies for the work that needs to get done. I’m cutting corners that can be cut. I’m skipping what doesn’t need doing. I’m getting better at knowing when to call it a day.
This may sound very obvious—shouldn’t self-care be second-nature? But I guess the point is that for me, taking care of my body hasn’t felt like instinct until recently, and I’m still learning how to do it. I’m thankful for the artists, poets, songwriters, fellow bloggers, and other creative spirits who have guided me along the way.
In the spirit of wise self-preservation, I’m publishing this post in spite of the fact that I was too busy resting yesterday and today to hunt for articles and links. You might be unsurprised to learn that I was not too busy to look at food photos and recipes 🙂
Here they are.
There is nothing I love more than a good, old-fashioned vegan bowl with lots of hippie vibes. Hannah’s got a recipe for a great one: the Mother Earth Bowl from the restaurant Flower Child.
With the DI recommencing, I’m thinking once again about good, homemade snack ideas. I love Kiersten’s caramel nut granola bars!
Exactly the comfort food I wish I had on this freezing cold night (I’ve got this soup, which is pretty good but not as good): Jess’ buffalo cauliflower mac n’ cheese.
New Year’s celebrations are over, but I always love a bean and collard dish, and right now I’m all about Traci’s Hoppin John stew.
Finally, a perfect, earthy grain dish for winter (starring farro, which is a personal favorite of mine!), courtesy of the lovely Erin.
And in lieu of the regular reads, a link to Rachel Syme’s tribute to Mary Oliver in The New Yorker. It resonated with me; whether or not you’re a fan of her work, perhaps it’ll resonate with you, too.
Happy Sunday, friends, and take good care. I’ve got an easy rice-and-lentil dish to share with you this week.
As you may have noticed, weekend reading is a little bit late this week. I tried to get it up yesterday, but work got in the way, so we’ll call this the Monday edition. What better way to get a new week started than with some gorgeous food photos and some new reading material? St. Patrick’s Day is a week from tomorrow, and I’m already starting to see a glut of green-themed recipes on and around the web. These green tea pancakes–which use…
When I was a kid, according to my mom, I used to spend hours at a time lying on the floor and staring up at the ceiling. She was the sort of parent who gave me plenty of space to do my own thing, but this habit was so pervasive that she finally asked my pediatrician about it. “She can stare at the ceilings for hours at a time,” she told him. “Should I be worried?” My doctor—an older Greek gentleman whom we…
Happy weekend to you all, and to those of you who are celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah, I wish you a wonderful holiday! I spent last night and this morning with my mother and Steven, and I’ll be gathering with a small group of family friends later today. I haven’t done much cooking–I’m still climbing back from some post-cookbook burnout–but I do have my lentil and sweet potato loaf ready for sharing. I’ve had mixed feelings about the holiday season this year, for reasons…
Early this week, I was flipping through Yoga Journal and found an article from the magazine’s archives, written by Keith Kachtick, about impermanence. It was written in 2008; in it, Kachtick recalls being on a trip to Miami, shell-shocked by the realization that his marriage was ending. Ambling through South Beach by himself, he stumbled on an exhibition of Tibetan art and culture that featured six Buddhist lamas completing a sand mandala in public. “[I]t was the first moment of genuine ease I’d…
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Hi Gena, I absolutely love the Mary Oliver poem you quoted in this post — I didn’t know it it at all, and when I read it, it moved me to tears. What a wonderful poem to have chosen as your own ‘anthem’ in your ED recovery. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. Rebecca xo
You are so kind to share, of yourself and inspirations equally! Thank you for including my post here; I’m truly grateful as always. <3
Why is it that self care seems to only be discovered once we’ve exhausted ourselves. This is a skill that needs early attention… and regular revisiting to make it a habit. I’m getting better at it and allowing, but it has only come about as my late 40s have crept in. Thank you for your generosity and link love Gena! xo
Lovely writing, Gena. I found your recipes via VegNews, and gave the Food52 vegan cookbook to an omnivorous cousin (who also enjoys plant-based cuisine): I’m currently cooking my way through Power Plates (a 2019 resolution is to make all of the recipes!) and loving it. I am now thoroughly enjoying reading your blog frequently-keep the wonderful recipes, ideas, and beautiful writing coming-you are making people’s lives the richer for it!
Dear Anne, thank you so very much for these good words. They mean so much to me. I hope you get a lot of pleasure from Power Plates! <3
I already have! I’m training to run a sub-2-hour half marathon this year, so power foods will be a necessity-this book was a timely purchase for me. 🙂
~Gena, I don’t say this in jest: you have inspired me to change my life. I truly believe your gift of authenticity is from God. I use you as a role model for my (now) evolving life! ~thank you~
Well. I guess 1030 pm is really too late to go make those granola bars, but I sure am tempted.
Anyway, as a reader from almost the very beginning, it’s been so great to see you grow and evolve. Almost every week there’s some small detail that makes me smile because I know it’s related to growth or evolution. Oh, I’m not saying this very well, but I hope you know what I mean!
But how did I think you were done with the DI in December? Wishful thinking I guess, but best of luck with the new rotation.
Gena i begin to like you very much.thank you!
Such a meaningful comment, Ali, especially since you’ve been reading since the very start.
The DI finishes in late July 🙂 I finished my clinical rotations in December, which are in some ways most demanding. But community rotations (this semester) will be a lot, too!