Weekend Reading
December 31, 2023

Heading into the holidays, it was my intention to greet Advent as a season of hope and joyful anticipation.

I’m not sure how well I did on this front. It was an emotional holiday, and as usual, I created unnecessary internal drama by allowing old stories to loop through my mind.

There were so many moments when I thought to myself, frustratedly, “how many more Christmases will be like this?”

“Like this” is a concoction of all of my usual stuff: longing for a partner and family of my own, feeling disappointed in myself, being worried about the future, and then feeling exhausted and fed up with the worry.

When my wisdom—or my higher self, or whatever you want to call it—is in charge, I can interrupt this kind of thinking.

But I suppose that nobody’s higher self is in the driver’s seat all the time, and the poignancy of Christmas tends to bring out our wounded parts.

Finally, an interesting counter-question crossed my mind: “how many more Christmases am I going to ruin with this kind of thinking?”

There it was: the question worth asking.

Truthfully, there were so many high points in the last few weeks that were unique to this moment in time.

For example, my best friend’s two little kids will never be this young again. Who knows how many years we’ll have to watch their faces light up with joy during a performance of The Nutcracker, as we did the week before Christmas?

How many more special, totally low-stress holidays will I have with my mom?

Our Christmases are cozy, local, and relaxed. We laugh, we watch TV, we don’t fuss about food or preparations. In many ways, we have the kind of drama-free holidays that other families long for.

Will I have this much independence in five years, or ten?

Freedom can be lonely, yes, but it comes with perks. I got to plan and do a lot of nice things in December. I didn’t have to run my schedule by anybody else or sacrifice my plans in order to accommodate others.

Among the fun plans were some dinners with friends. We checked out new restaurants and enjoyed the festive quality of New York City at this time of year. I have to remind myself that restaurants were all shuttered a few years ago at this time.

While I had a lot of moments of worry and discouragement, I also had reminders of the strong support system that I have right here, right now.

And so, when I polished off the melancholy lens, I could see that I’d be lucky to have more Christmases like this one.

I can’t think of a single challenging moment in my life that I don’t now look back on with some amount of appreciation.

Grad school was sort of a gauntlet for me, but it was a time in which I felt a lot of clarity about what I wanted and what was driving me. Sometimes I miss that razor sharp sense of purpose.

My late thirties were a period marked by depression, but they were also powerfully introspective. I had a lot of time and space in which to turn inward and get honest with myself.

Right now I’m having a tough moment within an otherwise fresh and energizing season—a season that has brought me new surroundings, new friendships, and new hobbies. I know very well that I’ll look back on this period fondly one day.

But there’s really no reason for me to value the present moment only in hindsight. I can cherish it right now, and that’s what I’m going to do.

The start of a new year tends to bring up a lot of aspirational thinking. Let’s dream big, by all means, but before we charge into the first week of 2024, let’s also take a moment to be at peace with how things are—and how we are.

Happy Sunday, friends, and Happy New Year. Here are some recipes and reads.

Recipes

1. Christina’s vegan sausage rolls are the festive, fabulous homemade holiday fare that I didn’t cook this year. But hey, there’s always next year.

2. I had the most wonderful roasted maitake mushrooms at a restaurant recently, so now I’m ready to try Rachel’s simple recipe at home.

3. I finally created a perfect, classic vegan French onion soup at home and was reminded of what a wonderful thing caramelized onions are! I’m excited to try Jess’ French onion pasta.

4. I want to eat Lindsay and Taylor’s winter citrus salad all season long.

5. Smashed Brussels sprouts seem to be trending, and I’m here for it (and will use my vegan cashew parmesan when I make them).

Reads

1. The ten most significant science stories (according to Smithsonian) of 2023.

2. I was touched and inspired to read about Japan’s dementia cafés. The concept is more nuanced, and its impact more profound, than I realized it would be.

3. Some good tips on taking rest for us (lovably) anxious folks.

4. This story about the “Thanksgiving strangers” made me very happy.

5. Author Jay Shetty says that this is the best advice he’s gotten in his life, and it’s up there with the best advice I’ve gotten in mine.

By the way, you’ll notice that I didn’t include recipe photos today.

I know it sounds silly, but even rounding up and including those images adds time to drafting these posts.

As anyone who checks in regularly knows, I’ve struggled to publish my Sunday roundups consistently, and one of my resolutions for 2024 is to establish more sustainable work goals. So, the formatting of weekend reading will continue to shift around until I land on something I can stick to.

Here’s to realistic intentions! And again, a happy start to the new year to all of you—and may all livings being be happy and free.

xo

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