Weekend Reading, 11.18.18
November 18, 2018

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

My next door neighbor—I’ll call him Glen—passed away recently. I’m not sure when. I’d known he wasn’t well for a long time, based on our passing encounters and the haunting sound of his cough echoing through the hallway we shared late at night. For the past few months I suspected things might have taken a turn, since I didn’t see or hear him. But I didn’t know for sure that he was gone until my management company started gutting the kitchen in his apartment this week.

Glen was always friendly to me. “How’s the world of nutrition?” he’d ask me with a wink every time he saw me bounding up the stairs of our brownstone, or passing by him in the hallway. He had plenty to say about food and words and the publishing industry, which he’d also worked in once upon a time. Glen had a soft spot for Steven, too, back when we lived together. He always inquired after Steven’s graduate studies and future plans, and I remember a look of sincere sadness passing over his face when I told him that Steven was gone, and I’d be living on my own from now on.

Life in New York city is so odd sometimes. There are always people around, and it’s also so easy to disappear—especially for those of us whose tendency it is to isolate or turn inwards when something’s troubling us.

Glen and I slept less than a hundred feet away from each other every night for four years, and yet we didn’t interact as neighbors in a traditional way: I know so little about him, aside from the tiny bits and pieces he shared. I brought him food, but only once or twice. We rarely checked in with each other, even when the water was off, or the heat was being fussy.

Glen had a lot to say, once he started talking. I’m remembering now that I’d sometimes feign being rushed when I saw him, even if I wasn’t, because I wasn’t in the mood or feeling up to a chat. I very seldom took the time to ask him anything aside from a polite “what’s new?” or “how’ve you been?”

I know that this is how things are. Many of us feel that our time is scarce, or our energies only go so far, and we act accordingly. But since I found out about Glen this week I can’t help but feel ashamed of those hurried encounters, my lack of curiosity about the person whose front door was a few steps away from mine. Time is scarce, but not in the way I often think that it is. It’s life itself, and life experience, that’s really precious. Not each passing minute in my seemingly oh-so-busy life.

It’s Thanksgiving this week. The holiday holds mixed associations for many of us, but the spirit of the day is to recognize gratefully our blessings. It’ll be a quiet holiday for me as far as plans go—dinner and TV bingeing with mom—but right now the meaning of the day looms large in my heart.

I’m giving thanks for the sheer abundance of good fortune in my life, past and present. And I’m thinking about how I might honor my blessings by sharing myself and my time a little more readily than I do now. Not with grand gestures, but with small acts of kindness: warm smiles, texts to my friends, saying “I love you” rather than letting it be assumed.

I’m thinking most of all about the need to offer up my attention to other people, rather than allowing it to always be tied up in me and my . . . stuff. Work in progress, but if there’s anything I can do to recognize my neighbor’s passing, it’s to be neighborly with others, in every sense of the word. I have five weeks left at my current acute care rotation, and if there’s any place to practice attentiveness, it’ll be there.

I’m wishing you all the attention you deserve this week. Starting tonight, with my love and gratitude and recognition for the time you take to visit this space. Thank you. Here are the week’s recipes and reads.

Recipes

The pre-Thanksgiving side dish love continues! Currently crushing on Lindsay’s creamy sautéed Brussels sprouts salad with mustard sauce.

Not a Thanksgiving side, per se, but a perfect, all-purpose, easy-to-batch-cook lemony lentil dish from my friend Shira.

Loving these autumnal chili vegetable tacos with a tangy sunflower seed sauce! Just my kind of #tacotuesday meal.

A perfectly simple, simply perfect beet dish inspired by a local NYC eatery.

Finally, Sophia continues to dominate vegan pre-Thanksgiving recipes! This time, she’s folding leftover cranberry sauce into tasty, healthful cranberry oat crumble bars.

Reads

1. There’s a lot of early and suggestive research about the link between meditation and slowing of the aging process. Jo Marchant—author of one of my favorite books about mind body medicine—takes a closer look.

2. National Geographic has put together a visually stunning, longform story on how climate change is impacting life in Antarctica.

3. Appreciate Ellie Krieger’s take on the importance of not skipping breakfast, regardless of what many popular eating styles prescribe.

4. Working in a hospital setting, I’ve become familiar with opportunistic fungal infections like C auris. Maybe that’s why Maryn McKenna’s new article on antifungal resistance caught my eye. Frightening stuff.

5. Ending on a light note, a quirky and eclectic list of tips for de-stressing before Thanksgiving.

I know well that Thanksgiving, like other holidays, can be laden with mixed emotions and experiences. Whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving this week or not, I wish you peace and self-care, experienced privately or shared. And I wish you nourishing food, always.

xo

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    5 Comments
  1. Dear Gena,
    Thank you for always reaching deep and sharing important, intimate thoughts in your beautiful writing. I’m sorry to hear about you neighbor. This reflective piece is a nice tribute.

  2. ~dear Gena,
    My sweet condolences about your neighbor.
    As I reflect on the things I’m grateful for; I can say this in all sincerity-you are at the top of my list. Your honesty, compassion and expertise have changed my life. You are a gift from God!
    ~fondly, Sparkle B

  3. Hi Gena. Very sorry to hear about your neighbor. I think this is a really important reminder for this time of year – to be more generous with our attention and kind deeds, versus focusing too much on our own “stuff” and running away from connecting with people. Thank you for sharing.
    And thank you for giving my beets a shout-out <3

  4. Gena,

    I am sorry to hear about your neighbor. I had a similar experience when I was younger and you really wonder how you missed what was happening.

    Because I am at home alone during the day, sometimes the only in person interaction I have with people is while I am walking on our local trail. When I see people coming, I have to remember to slow down, put my own agenda aside, and interact with them. It takes a lot of effort not to rush folks along when they are talking to me. Freely giving your time to someone, making them feel as if there is all the time in the world to talk, is really a learned skill. I think it must be a quality of graciousness and something that isn’t easy for me personally.

    Looking forward to reading Ellie Krieger’s article. I really like her and used to watch her on the Food Network.

    Have a lovely Thanksgiving, whatever you are doing. Enjoy!
    Thanks,
    Libby

  5. Dear Gena, What a lovely heartfelt piece about your neighbor. I value neighbors highly–they are an essential part of creating place and feeling at “home” for me. I like how your view about this is evolving, and yes, it’s always a work in progress. I thank you for reminding me of all the times I’ve learned profound things about neighbors by taking the time to visit for a few minutes, and of the neighbor I cherished but didn’t always see in Moscow who died alone in his flat. Today I was regularly “delayed” by conversations with . neighbors I ran into while out walking and it was all quite good, and not worth worrying if I was going to be able to fit one more “task” in before getting a ride to the store instead. Here’s to taking the time to connect! Very thankful for all you share here and for our friendship across the continent! much love

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