Weekend Reading
October 8, 2023

The start of fall has been, as the start of fall usually is, pretty busy.

I’m not feeling as overwhelmed as I was over the summer, which is a good thing. Yet having more capacity means that I’m doing more. The days fly by; I blinked, and September was gone.

With lots of autumnal colds and viruses going around, some of my evening plans got canceled this past week. I had a bunch of nights at home.

I told myself that I’d use the time to continue catching up on work.

Then I checked myself.

Yes, it feels good to catch up on work. But if there’s any lesson I insist on learning the hard way over and over, it’s that I’ll never “get it all done.” There has to be a moment in the day when I decide to stop doing.

Instead of sitting on my sofa with my laptop each night, trying to check things off of the infinite to-do list, I put a little extra love and care into making myself dinner this week.

Technically speaking, I make myself dinner most nights. But it can look more or less ceremonious.

Last year, when I found myself especially busy with work, the vast majoring of my dinners looked like scarfing down leftovers at 8:30 or 9pm, after I finished for the day. I was meeting my nutrition needs, sure, but these “meals” were rushed and perfunctory.

This past week, I “set the table,” which means that I used a pretty linen napkin and a slightly nicer plate. I lit a candle. I ate earlier than usual and didn’t rush. I was in a groove with cooking and recipe testing, and the food was good.

I realized that feeding myself is one of my strengths.

My therapist once checked in about my self-care when I was going through a period of depression. She asked whether I was staying socially connected. At the time, the answer was no.

She asked if I was staying on top of cleaning and other household duties. Again, the answer was no.

She asked about sleep hygiene and bathing. Was I getting enough sleep, or too much? Not enough, I told her.

And was I managing to shower, do laundry, and so on? Yes I was, but it felt like effort. So much effort.

Then she asked me whether I was eating meals. “Of course,” I said.

My therapist pointed out that eating consistently isn’t anything to take for granted during a depressive spell. Nourishment is one of the most common things that depression will disrupt.

I told her that the reason mealtimes don’t feel expendable, even when I’m not well, is that honoring my meals is a promise that I made to myself in eating disorder recovery.

A lot of my memories of early recovery are memories of making myself dinner in the small, oddly shaped kitchen of my first solo apartment.

I didn’t know much about cooking, and at the time, I’d forgotten a lot of what I knew about eating. But I was motivated; I knew that my life and my body would both change as a result of getting better, and I was as ready as I could be for that to happen.

The ritual of making myself dinner became a big part of my process. And it’s a ritual that stayed with me through subsequent periods of change and growth.

I learned to cook dinner for two people when I got into serious relationships. I brought my dinners to the library when I was in grad school.

And during that very tough period that I just described, those years in which I was not myself at all, I still managed to eat.

I’m realizing as I write this that my commitment is really to the eating, not the cooking.

I wish I could tell you that I love cooking, but increasingly, I don’t. It’s not a zen activity for me; I find it tiring and tedious, and I hate the cleanup.

But whether I’m in a phase of loving cooking or being driven crazy by it, I do consistently love the end result of cooking.

I love sitting down to a homemade meal. I love thinking about a recipe in my head, then turning it into something real that exists on my plate.

Many people have said to me that they have a hard time cooking something if they’re going to be eating alone. I understand this in the sense that I love cooking for others, but in my mind, it’s a separate and unrelated pleasure. It’s nice to feed people. It’s also nice to feed oneself.

I read so much stuff about how important it is to eat without distraction—no TV, no phone, no computer, etc..

I don’t eat in such a sacred fashion.

I eat most of my dinners in front of the TV and most of my lunches while scrolling. It’s fine with me, honestly. I’m mindful enough, if mindfulness is the point. And I really enjoy my food, which is what I care about.

I’m not a perfect self-care-er. When I’m sad or overwhelmed or angry, I procrastinate. I let tasks pile up. Sometimes I isolate myself, sometimes I over-schedule myself, and most of the time, I oscillate between the two. I often don’t sleep well. I resist moving enough.

But it’s so easy for me—for many of us, I think—to fixate on where I struggle without acknowledging where I do a good job.

This past week, I realized that I do a pretty good job of feeding myself.

You know that exercise—the one that’s supposed to be an antidote to negative self-talk—in which you’re supposed to talk to yourself as if you were talking to a dear friend or loved one?

I feed myself as if I were feeding a loved one. Most of the time, anyway.

Happy Sunday, friends. I hope that you can catch a little time and space in which to feed yourself lovingly this week.

If not that, then I hope that you get to eat something really delicious and enjoyable that somebody else made and shared with you.

You deserve it.

xo

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    3 Comments
  1. This: ‘I feed myself as if I were feeding a loved one. Most of the time, anyway.’
    I agree with all of that, Gena (epecially the ‘most of the time’ bit!).
    I don’t always enjoy cooking, either — in fact, I enjoy it less as I get older — but like you, my commitment to allowing myself to eat well and with enjoyment will be with me for the rest of my life.
    Take care xo

  2. Having grown up in a house with ten people & several cats, I can attest that mealtimes without a TV on were not meals with less distraction! Especially for an introvert like myself. When I can eat alone watching a movie or show I’ve waited for, I’m savoring EVERYTHING– the blessed peace, the food, the show that is just for me. As in most things, there is no one perfect way to dine that fits us all. Happy week to you, Gena!

  3. This was a powerful post, Gena. Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I also live alone and having (mostly) homemade meals is definitely my way of loving myself. I often dread the actual cooking process, but I feel so much better having nourishing meals to look forward to.
    I hope this week is a gentle one for you.

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