First, a heartfelt thank you for the kind, supportive words about Power Plates this week. I’m so grateful for them, and to those of you who have been cooking and sharing on Instagram, I can’t tell you how much joy it gives me to see the recipes take life in other peoples’ kitchens.
It’s been interesting to observe the feelings that have come up since the book came out. I felt a little jittery before the release, which is probably normal, but the flow of support I’ve received in the last few days has brought up some different and interesting fears. Specifically, it has invited me to think about my relationship with abundance and celebration—with letting goodness flow.
This brings to mind a broader internal dialog I’ve been having lately about my relationship with hope and gladness. I’ve noticed that it’s often easier for me to write or speak up about strife than it is for me to articulate things I’m happy or expectant about. It’s not that I don’t welcome good things with open arms; I do. I try to, anyway. It’s just that receiving them is a process complicated by fear, which of course seems unreasonable or even ungrateful when I write it down.
I think it’s fear of a loss, of becoming attached to goodness or love lest they slip away or change shape. I tend to develop outsized expectations and hopes easily, which leaves me vulnerable to equally outsized disappointment. I wonder if this tendency is rooted in childhood, when my wants and desires were often problematized if they didn’t align with what those around me wanted or liked for me. I learned to become protective of my hopes, to hold them closely and privately, which may have been fertile ground for my amplifying them too much.
I’ve spent much of the last year learning to focus in on the present, on small pleasures and daily rituals, to stop grasping at lofty goals or expectations. I’ve recognized the ways in which grandiosity crept into my thinking in the past and to soften this tendency. I’ve found a humbler and more grounded way of being.
Still, I don’t want to let go of hope, or excitement, or the capacity to visualize a bright future. What I want is to develop hopes that are tempered by the ability to be open-minded and flexible and un-clingy, so that when and if things do change—or turn out differently than I’d hoped for—I can adapt.
I’m very far from knowing what all of this will feel or look like, but I’m trying to cultivate the balance in small ways. My therapist encouraged me recently to share positive events or small hopes with friends more often than I do, and I’m trying that, even when I’m nervous about jinxing things by verbalizing them. I’m trying not to catastrophize loss or the unexpected, trusting that when one thing doesn’t materialize, something different will.
Most of all, I’m making a promise to myself that I’ll accept and receive sweetness without questioning it or darkly imagining its disappearance (which makes me think back to this post, right before the new year). Anything less is such a shame. In the last few days I’ve been doing more gratitude journaling than usual and stopping very often to savor the good stuff.
If any of you has a practice or source of inspiration in the realm of accepting happiness without fear, or a tempered experience of hope, I welcome sharing. In the meantime, here’s something that stuck with me.
I recently asked my mom about her own experience of hope. Like my late grandmother, my mom has a profoundly optimistic outlook on life, which doesn’t prevent her from acknowledging hardship honestly. When I asked her how she maintains this perspective without tending toward attachment (or retreating into discouragement when hardship strikes), she said, “I wake up each day, and there’s the sun and the air, and I’m alive. I’m alive.”
There are certain things loved ones say to us that we know right away will always be with us. For me, my mom’s bright-eyed, animated utterance of “I’m alive“—her capacity to practice hope through the simple fact of being present at the start of a new day—is one of them.
Wishing you all a bright start to a fresh week. And I hope you’ll enjoy the recipe roundup and reads.
First, Kimberly’s easy vegan cauliflower curry is a perfect, flavor-packed meal for a weeknight schedule. I love the crunchy cashew garnish, too.
Comfort food cravings? Jess’ hearty lentil bolognese, which features umami-packed mushrooms along with the lentils, is winter dream-come-true food.
I use barley all the time in salads and pilafs, but I love the idea of piling it on top of a hummus for a textured dip. Sasha also adds roasted squash wedges and pomegranate seeds to this colorful creation.
Finally, Emily’s black bean sweet potato grain bowls with herbed tahini dressing is exactly the kind of balanced, nourishing meal I love. Can’t wait to make it soon.
1. This is a short video—almost a fragment, especially given all of the long-form stuff on Aeon—but I was so touched by it. A nine-year-old boy recalls taking in a wounded bird, illustrating what it’s like to learn the art of letting go.
2. It’s so important to ensure that teens get enough Vitamin D in their diets as their bone matrix develops. This article reports on the potential injury hazards of D deficiency in high school athletes. I’ve seen similar coverage of the deficiency among track runners, but this is the first I’ve seen that pertains to football players, and I’m glad it’s out there.
3. Katie Hawkins-Gaar shares open, brave reflections on how the loss of her spouse actually helped her to heal from sometimes crippling anxiety and to embrace life in a new way.
4. An interesting Q&A with neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, whose most recent book is called The Strange Order of Things. It explores the intersection of mind, feeling, and body, and while I haven’t read it yet, the interview has me intrigued.
I Damasio’s thoughts on what love is for, from a neurological perspective: “[t]o protect, to cause flourishing, to give and receive pleasure, to procreate, to soothe. Endless great uses, as you can see.”
5. I know I don’t usually link to audios or podcasts, but I’m really interested in Frank Ostaseski’s work, and I so enjoyed Vox’s recent conversation with him. Ostaseski runs a Buddhist hospice in San Francisco, and he has rich and interesting thoughts on what death can teach the living.
On the cooking agenda for this week is a savory, one-skillet meal featuring seitan, bulgur, and what I hope will be a flavorful mix of seasonings. I’m trying it out tomorrow, and if all goes well, I’m excited to share. Happy Sunday.
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the tug-of-war between knowing when to persist with something and when to let go. Years ago, I wrote a post about not getting into med school. When I was writing it, I thought that I was telling a story of failure, of things not going the way that I had wanted them to go. As is so often the case, readers pointed me to a different, underlying meaning in the post. It wasn’t about failing…
Oftentimes when I read about the importance of saying no and setting boundaries, the advice seems to assume that the things being declined aren’t all that desirable: unmanageable amounts of work, exhausting social commitments, and so on. This week, I learned how hard it is to turn down things that might be very enjoyable, but yet feel like too much. As soon as I was on the mend, I wanted so badly to connect with friends, get back to work, and feel more…
Happy Sunday, everyone. In spite of the arrival of April on Friday, it’s suddenly very cold and windy here, which makes me glad that I had the instinct to whip up a big pot of soup this weekend. I’ve spent this early morning doing some reading for my Food, Nutrition, and Behavior class; we’ve transitioned in our coursework from what might be called more biological studies (appetite, cravings, nutrient acquisition) to a more anthropological focus. Right now we’re reading Sydney Mintz’s fascinating book, Sweetness and…
Happy Sunday, folks, and I hope that you all had a nice weekend. To those of you who have been celebrating Passover, a very happy Passover. The month of April has been whizzing by, and I can’t help feeling that I’m just trying to keep up with things. I’ll be taking one summer class in May-early July, and then I’m hoping that I’ll have some time to focus on my business and on diving into recipe testing for the new cookbook in earnest!…