Weekend Reading
October 2, 2022

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

I ran out to do a quick errand on Thursday. As I was dashing back home, I heard someone shout my name on the street.

When I turned around, the woman who had called out to me had her hand over her mouth in disbelief. She told me she couldn’t believe that it was me and that I had responded.

She said that she’s a longtime reader, visiting some family in NYC. Over the years, she’s come to feel as though she’s a long-distance aunt in my life. She told me that she observes the ups and downs that I’ve written about with love and goodwill.

It turns out we’ve messaged on Instagram before, and I knew exactly who she was.

I found myself starting to cry as I tried to thank her for her loving presence and support all this years.

In spite of the many rich friendships and connections I’ve made through blogging, I can’t always wrap my mind around the generosity of spirit that compels total strangers, people whom I may never communicate with at all, to check in here, week in and week out.

It blows my mind when I consider that some longtime readers have literally watched me grow up: ED recovery, two career redirections, two big breakups, one relocation, one recent apartment move, four cookbooks, one deep spell of depression and the slow climb out of it. And all of the lessons, big and small, learned along the way.

There’s really no adequate way for me to pay it forward, so to speak. I have no way of thanking each person who reads with a hug or my words or some grateful tears.

However, I was able to give this one reader, my “aunt,” those very things. And I did.

Later that day, I reflected on the crazy odds of our meeting.

Actually, I’d been having a hard day and a hard week. It was my lowest moment in a while. I’d been keeping to myself, and when I ran that errand on Thursday, part of me was thinking, “it’ll be healthy for you if you get some fresh air.”

In other words, it was the “go for a short walk” that everyone tells you to do if you feel depression creeping around your periphery.

My aunt, my longtime reader, said she could have taken one of many routes to her destination that day, but she happened to choose the street that we bumped into each other on. At the exact right moment for crossing paths.

When we said goodbye, she told me that she is always sending “big metta” my way.

“Metta” is the Pali word for loving-kindness. In Sanskrit, the word is “maitri.” The sanskrit word is derived from mitra, which can be translated as “friend” or “well-wisher.”

Metta meditation is a practice of open-heartedness and amity. Typically, it involves sending wishes of love, peace, health, and ease to friends, loved ones, acquaintances, and even—perhaps especially—difficult people in one’s life.

I’ve practiced metta meditation for non-human animals, too, especially in the wake of natural disasters.

My aunt figure sends me big metta, and I send it back to her.

I also send metta/maitri to those folks who have cared enough to read this blog through the years, through good times and bad, joyful posts and despairing ones, and everything in between.

My urge to isolate can be very strong. Yet I’ve always longed, as people do, to connect, to love and be loved, see and be seen. This urge, thank God, grows stronger lately.

Writing and connecting through words and recipes is an expression of my most healthy, whole, human self. It’s the part of me that generates loving-kindness and receives it gratefully in return.

And I believe that it’s the part of me that told myself to take that walk and run that errand on Thursday afternoon, not knowing how profound an antidote to loneliness the excursion would be.

Happy Sunday, friends. I’m very lucky. Here are some recipes and reads.

Recipes

Temperatures have dropped in NYC, and I’m ready to make myself a batch of Adrianna’s acorn squash soup with my cashew cream.

I don’t say no to big, simple pots of vegan pasta.

A very good looking white bean kale salad.

Ever collecting air fryer recipes. The simpler the better. This air fryer cauliflower recipe is being added to my list.

It’s October! Spooky szn has arrived, and it’s just about time for some vegan pumpkin snickerdoodles.

Reads

1. A powerful statement about the the whitewashing of eating disorders in popular and media narratives. The need for greater representation and storytelling is dire.

2. I’m a dietitian who had some good training in Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes management, and I still find it tricky to calculate the right dosing for bolus and basal insulin. I continue to be excited about the bionic pancreas, as it would take the burden of calculation off of patients’ shoulders.

3. Who knew that the world of vintage cookbook collecting could be so cutthroat?!

4. I guess you could say that this blog is my diary. At the same time, I’m sort of fascinated by how inconsistently and unsuccessfully I’ve ever been able to keep any other kind of diary or journal, which is why I was interested in Will Ress’ essay on the same topic.

5. On today’s topic, it’s sometimes easy to talk about the value of loving-kindness, yet difficult to put it into practice.

I’ve gone through phases of genuinely struggling with metta meditation, even questioning it’s value when it comes to the “difficult people” we’re encouraged to send beneficent thoughts to. Is this appropriate? Does it erase our own experiences of hurt or harm?

I find this essay by Sharon Salzberg to be helpful and clarifying, not to mention deeply human in its approach and tone.

When Salzberg gets to the person or people with whom there’s difficulty, she offers this:

If you can find one good thing about this person, in the midst of everything else, if you focus on that one good thing, just reflect on it for a moment, you’ll find that there’s a feeling of drawing closer, opening up, and all the rest can be seen in that light.

My yoga teacher often tells us students to “find the crack of light, then move toward it.”

I think about that invitation in so many difficult or seemingly hopeless situations. I’m trying more than ever to look for cracks of light even when I doubt I’ll find them.

The more I look, the more I see. And I can’t help but connect those “cracks of light” to the “light” Salzberg mentions.

Sending “big metta” to you all tonight.

I’ll be back soon.

xo

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  1. Gena, you have many, many “aunts” out here — and probably plenty of “uncles” too! Your recent meeting with your aunt figure was meant to be. It was certainly not random, in the least. Thank you for “metta-ing” us — as we “metta” you!! Sending HUGS from Ohio!

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