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.
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.
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.
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