I’ve had two conversations with complete strangers in the last few weeks that have stuck with me.
This seems to happen more and more these days, perhaps a sign of increasing openness and curiosity on my part. It’s a good thing.
I’ll share about one of the exchanges today and the other next weekend.
A few nights ago, I ended up speaking with a woman who’s a generation above me; she has a daughter about my age.
We got to talking about work. She had plans to work over the weekend, but she said that doesn’t mind because she has a month-long trip to visit family planned for right after.
I mentioned that this was the first Memorial Day weekend that I could remember taking off in…a decade? Probably longer.
The conversation deepened. My new acquaintance told me about the years in which she worked relentlessly, helping to put her daughter through school.
I spoke a little about my grad school years, trying to keep up my website while making my way through the various stages of my training.
I admitted that I still work every weekend and many evenings. The woman I was speaking with told me a cautionary story.
She was going through a particularly unremitting phase of work, seven days weekly. She told herself that it was a matter of financial necessity, and there was truth in that reasoning.
Part of her work involves manual labor.
First, she developed an elbow injury, which kept her off the job for four months.
When she returned, she worked even longer hours, trying to compensate for the lost time.
Then she broke a wrist. It was a complicated break, and it kept her away from work for even longer than her hiatus with the first injury.
This, according to her, was a sign. It was a message from the higher power she believes in. She concluded that she needed to start prioritizing rest as seriously as she prioritized her job.
Today she works hard, but she takes her time off seriously. “You have to enjoy life,” she told me.
I’ve been pretty tired in these past twelve months. It isn’t the fault of my work, which is meaningful work. It just needs to be meaningful work with boundaries.
I could easily blame myself for the lack of boundaries, but what good does self-blame do?
And the continuous work isn’t without good motivation: I’m trying to enjoy life, as my new acquaintance said. Financial freedom is what makes the activities I enjoy in my free time possible.
My long hours are also in service in creating a stable future for myself and building the capacity to be supportive of my mom, as needed.
Still, balance is important. For me, it has been the work of a half-lifetime to learn the art of dwelling softly between extremes.
Right now, I have the capacity to focus on professional growth and hard work. But I need to start taking weekend time off and evening rest more seriously.
And I need to keep enjoying my life.
It’s funny how I cringe a little as I write that. I’m afraid to say it out loud, as if I’m going to be punished for wanting to feel good.
It’s an old fear, I know, which has driven a lot of unnecessary suffering.
But here I am, less than two weeks away from turning forty-one. I have the awareness and ability to release that fear.
One thing that my new acquaintance and I spoke about was how fast life comes at you—faster and faster these days, it seems to me.
I’ve had many phases of avoiding the pleasures and joys that were available to me.
When I was younger, I did this through trying to keep my appetites and body imprisoned. Depression stole a lot of happiness from my thirties.
Throughout all of it, I’ve sometimes found it easier to burrow deep into work than to do anything else.
I’d sure hate to miss out on another drop of the enjoyment that life offers up to me.
All year long, I’ve been saying that I’m going to start drafting these posts on Friday, so that I can publish them on Sunday without necessarily having to write them on Sunday. The writing itself is fun sometimes, but there are many Sundays that I’d like to spend with my laptop closed.
I did actually write this post on Friday. For the first time. And I’m currently enjoying a long weekend in Portland, Maine, a city I’ve meant to visit.
I’ve napped a lot, strolled around, eaten some very good food, and read a couple books. It’s been lovely.
Next weekend, I’ll see my best friend and her kids for the first time in months.
And there’s a whole summer ahead of us. So much possibility.
When I rebranded this blog years ago and titled it “The Full Helping,” I sat down and tried to articulate what I was hoping to help people feel and experience with food.
I said, “I believe that when we satisfy our appetites, the fullness of our lives expands.”
The desire to lead a fuller life was what made me recover from my eating disorder. It remains my North Star, an intention that guides me specifically because I have a capacity to be overly constrained in what I imagine to be possible.
So, here’s to the fullness of life. More enjoyment, more rest. And the right amount of hard work to balance it out.
Less fear and worry, too. As my new acquaintance and parted ways, she said “it’s important not to worry too much. God will take care of things we can’t.”
I heard and felt her words.
Happy Sunday, friends. Here are some recipes and reads.
I love Sarah’s idea to make a za’atar-spiced pasta.
Jenn’s buffalo chickpea sandwich is just the kind of summer lunch that I love.
Can’t wait to try Rene’s chipotle tofu, which swims in a creamy poblano sauce, over some rice. Yum.
Erin’s babaganoush with chermoula makes a wonderful bowl for summertime dipping.
Finally, Lisa’s miso caramel cookies have me drooling.
1. A new meta-analysis of 32 studies, encompassing 63181 participants from 32 countries, concludes that eating disorders among adolescents and children are a global emergency. 22% of the studies reported that children showed signs of disordered eating.
It’s scary, it’s sad. It’s reason for all of us to participate in creating a more food-positive, body-respecting, and self-compassionate world for young people.
2. Ashley Broadwater has written a lovely reflection about how yoga helped her with many years of body image struggle.
3. When I was doing my clinical training, I worked at a hospital that was hit with a serious outbreak of Candida auris. Years later, The Last of Us has put the threat of infectious fungal outbreaks on more peoples’ radars.
I was interested to read this article on why creating a vaccine for fungal infections is tricky—but may not be impossible.
4. I sort of love the notion of filler episode days. Excitement can be great, but long live the quiet and ordinary.
5. A beautiful reminder that it’s hard to believe in things until we give them life.
And I suppose that’s what I’m trying to write about today. Giving life to my life.
Have a good Sunday, and I’m wishing you a nice Memorial Day, if you observe it somehow.
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