Weekend Reading
May 24, 2020

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

Well, I had a week!

Nothing truly worth worrying about. A crisis like the one we’re living through casts a fresh light on everyday stressors. And my week was full of those. Some were work-related, but most of it was actually household stuff.

Early in the week, the patch of peeling paint in my bathroom that I’d been suspicious of for a while—but had of course procrastinated on investigating—turned into a major ceiling leak. Because everyone is working remotely and in a limited capacity, it took a few days for the leak to be looked at, the source of it located, the problem fixed. There’s still a big hole in the ceiling that needs drying and patching up, and it’s not yet clear when that’ll happen.

There was also a broken front doorknob in my building, an issue with the mail, an AC unit that finally gave out after nearly nine years of use, and a few other things. None of it a big deal, really, but in the aggregate, it all got under my skin. After plenty of miscommunication and stalled communication about the wet bathroom, which is still full of dust and plaster, I found myself on edge. I left my management company worried, frustrated voicemails. I dashed off gruff responses to a few friendly texts. I snapped at my mom when she checked in about the repairs.

I felt crummy about this, of course. Throughout the current crisis, I’ve been lucky enough to shelter in a livable home space, within a walkable neighborhood. I’ve had the ability to get essential supplies, healthcare, and enough proximity to distantly care for my mom. I’ve had community, friendship, continued access to therapy. It’s not the time to get worked up about disruptions within the apartment that has kept me safe.

But as I found myself sinking into embarrassment and regret, I also remembered some words from Pema Chödron’s Start Where You Are, which is a really good read in those moments when you look in the mirror and don’t like what you see. Chödron writes, “Tonglen practice (and all meditation practice) is not about later, when you get it all together and you’re this person you really respect . . . Just where you are—that’s the place to start.”

She also says, “It is unconditional compassion for ourselves that leads naturally to unconditional compassion for others. If we are willing to stand fully in our own shoes and never give up on ourselves, then we will be able to put ourselves in the shoes of others and never give up on them.”

I’ve probably shared these quotes before, and if I have, sorry for the repetition. But if you’re the kind of person who makes challenges harder than they need to be by applying a layer of self-loathing to your own responses, they’re words worth re-reading.

When the people I love are a little snippy with me, or even when they do things that hurt my feelings, I always try to better understand what’s going on with them. It helps me to remember that people sometimes behave irritably or aggressively because they’re in pain or feeling threatened; maybe there’s been some misunderstanding that triggers an old, deep insecurity or wound. Being willing to imagine (or better yet, listen to) another person’s experience allows me not to take things more personally than I need to. I can process the misunderstanding or hurt and move on.

Lately, I’m trying to extend this same kind of thinking to myself. Home is a lifeline for all of us right now, since it’s really the only place that we can safely be. Given what’s going on outside, it makes sense that disruptions to my home space made me snap. I felt worried, and I also felt powerless: unable to fix the problem and not sure when or if anyone else could help me.

I prefer myself when I’m acting rationally, calmly, and patiently. But it’s important to look at myself gently and compassionately when I’m not being that way, just as I’d try to regard another person who was acting frustrated or upset. Cultivating that sense of compassion, gentleness, and humor has been very healing, and what Chödron says is true: the more self-compassionate I become—the more I’m able to forgive my foibles and moments of weakness—the more able I am to love and embrace others.

Wishing you self-compassion in the moments when you need it the most. Here are some recipes and reads.


Super eager to try Lindsay’s mushroom pesto bowls, but may test out the tempeh version first!

The ladies at Hello Veggie made Lauren’s collard green carbonara from her new cookbook, Southern Vegan. I think Lauren is awesome, and this recipe looks stellar.

Think I’ve found my next comfort food feast: Hannah’s awesome looking chicken potato pot pie.

…maybe I’ll make that a double comfort food feast! Pia’s heavily layered lasagna also looks incredible.

I’ve made berry muffins and chocolate muffins before, but I’ve never tried the combo. This batch is calling to me.


1. Elise Hu reflects on what she learned from writing letters to strangers during the crisis.

2. Linking to this article, if only because I laughed out loud at “Blursday” (and I need to get better at getting dressed these days).

3. I didn’t expect to find myself reading up on space travel right now, but this article looks at space missions as a window into the impact of isolation and homesickness on mental health. It’s timely and interesting.

4. When I was living in DC, I had the pleasure of connecting with Dr. Gregory Katz, who was at the time juggling medical training with being the cofounder of a plant-based snack brand. Greg works as a cardiologist in NYC now, and I was touched by his meditation on how it feels to be greeted as a health hero.

For what it’s worth, I do regard doctors as heroes through all of this. But I really like Greg’s point about the importance of widening our circle of appreciation to include and celebrate health care workers who have fewer protections than physicians.

5.  As we move into Memorial Day, a sad, sobering, and important tribute from the New York Times to the lives lost in the coronavirus crisis.

Happy Sunday, friends. And to those who’ll be finding some socially distanced way to celebrate or observe it, a happy Memorial Day. I’ll be back here with a nice, summery dessert.


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  1. hi Gena–what a resonant post! I’m sorry about your ceiling troubles. Back in early March as the lockdowns began, I realized that my bathroom sink was getting more and more slow to drain. I had been putting off doing something about it, kind of waiting until a neighbor who helped me with it last summer would be back. But suddenly no one was coming or going. least of all from Arizona to Oregon. So I lived with it for quite a while and even hurt my knee trying to get underneath it. Ultimately liquid plumber came to the rescue, much to my surprise. I know the feeling of living with little things like that when suddenly people coming in is off limits. It can make one very crabby, so I appreciate how honest you are about that and how you sought advice from Pema Chodron, too. I love all the comforting food you picked and that you acknowledge all the lives lost as we experience an unprecedented Memorial Day Weekend. I look forward to purusing the reads and I send you my love and the vision of your ceiling completely repaired and your bathroom restored. xoxo

  2. Hi Gena,
    I have followed your blog for years, not only for your recipes (which are unfailingly delicious) but also for posts like this. So much of what you say resonates deep within me, and you have a knack for saying the right things at the right time for whatever is happening in my life. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself, particularly for introverts like me who are extremely private and often have difficulty articulating to others what I am feeling — it has always helped me to know I am not alone in my experiences. I have always found you to be brave and generous in your willingness to share yourself with your readers — and I thank you.

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