Weekend Reading
March 1, 2020

I’ve been reading Frank Ostaseski’s wonderful book, The Five Invitations. It’s a compassionate and sensitive meditation on what can happen when we allow ourselves to acknowledge, and even to befriend, the reality of dying. Ostaseski is the cofounder of the Zen Hospice Project, and he’s dedicated his life to being a companion to those who are at the end of theirs.

The book is making me think back to my long-term care and acute care rotations last year. I didn’t witness a lot of death, but it was an ever-present possibility. Many of my senior patients were at the ends of their lives, or their present lifetimes, or their current incarnations; I thought about life and death in many different ways that year, never really landing on one in particular. (I’m still not sure what I make of these big questions.)

My internship year came at a good time. I’d gotten very wrapped up in my own stuff, and it gave me an important sense of perspective. I finished that year with increased self-compassion on the one hand, and a lot less self-pity on the other. Part of why the year had the impact that it did was that it taught me so much, so quickly, about the impermanence of life. Not just living and dying, but also the impermanence of living in a body, which is always changing.

NEDA Week is a good time to think about this particular kind of impermanence, since so much of disordered eating resides in trying to freeze the body in time, to micromanage its functions as if it’s an appliance, rather than a complex, dynamic, and unpredictable living being. But I haven’t given too much thought to how impermanence actually intersects with food, and Ostaseski has given me a wonderful prompt.

He writes,

I love baking bread—the measuring, the mixing, the juggling of pans, the kneading, the cutting of the loaf, and the buttering of it. Then the bread is gone. We partake in a mini-celebration of impermanence with every well-prepared meal consumed with enjoyment.

I love baking, bread, too, and Ostaseski’s words ring true.

It’s funny: during my eating disorder, I had no capacity to celebrate the impermanence of eating at all. I allowed myself so little that every meal became ritualized and protracted, stretched out in time, almost agonizing in its obsessive attention. Cutting food into tiny pieces to make it last longer, taking forever to eat: these were all my ways of trying to fight against the scarcity I’d created for myself. It would have been impossible for me to celebrate the fact that a meal was over and had been pleasurable while it lasted, because I was always aching for more.

Ostaseski’s invitations include “don’t wait” and “welcome everything.” He explains that embracing life as it is allows us to let go of our fixations and obsessions and worries, to move with more humor and ease through the world. Partaking in life is precisely what enables us to let go of it with gentleness and grace.

It’s a little roundabout to connect this all to food and recovery, I know, but somehow the book feels like a good read for a week in which I’m commemorating my own journey of learning to heed my hungers as a means of getting free.

The willingness to taste and enjoy food really is connected to a broader willingness to live and experience. In allowing myself to eat until I’m satisfied, I’ve developed the ability to move on from my meals lightly. There’s no reason to obsess; I’ll eat again soon. And whenever I come to a point in life when the meals I have left are numbered, I’ll be able to celebrate all of the delicious ones that I had. They’ve given so much sweetness to my life already.

NEDA Week wraps up for 2020 today, but I won’t stop allowing impermanence to teach me how to live fully and openly. Wishing you all the richness that every moment has to offer. Here are some recipes and reads.

Recipes

I’ve never tried everything bagel hummus, but I see everything seasoning everywhere these days, and maybe this recipe is the place to start.

A layered and flavorful new savory toast idea, featuring two of my favorite wintery things (leeks and mushrooms).

Speaking of savory, I love savory breakfast, and I love this morning meal with rosemary olive oil biscuits!

Even though my oldest friend lives in NOLA and I’ve come to love the city dearly, I don’t think I’ve ever tried making a vegan étouffée. Glad I have Tessa to show me how 🙂

Finally, carrot cake is probably my favorite cake (I’m forever tweaking this recipe), and I want to add these marzipan carrots next time I make it!

Reads

1. A short but (I thought) interesting look at the benefits of optimism, especially as it relates to the aging process. The good news, if you find optimism challenging, is that its benefits might be contagious! The article focuses mostly on the benefits of living with an optimist, as the study it references was done on couples.

2. Molly Seidel nearly lost her running career to disordered eating and other mental health battles. Yesterday, she placed second in the 2020 US Marathon Olympic Trials, earning herself a place in the Tokyo Games. And it happened during NEDA Week 🙂 I thought there was something poetic about that, and it’s a great story of bouncing back.

3. Dietitians Carrie Dennett and Jennifer McGurk have an important conversation about why disordered eating can’t be managed through willpower, and how shame is a significant barrier to treatment.

4. I’ve always thought that the link between gum disease and stroke was really interesting. For those of you who haven’t read about or heard about this, here’s a quick primer.

5. A sad and troubling look at the disappearing songs of Hawaii’s native bird populations—but gosh, so interesting to learn how their music is passed from generation to generation!

That’s it for this Sunday, friends. See you soon with an easy comfort food meal.

xo

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    2 Comments
  1. Dear Gena, The Five Invitations sounds like great meaningful reading. I will have to look for it. I love what he says and what you say about food and impermanence–that resonated with me, as well as the notion that there’s always a next time–sort of like a sand painting.I didn’t think the connection to disordered eating recovery was a stretch either. Beautiful connections all around. Thanks! xoxo

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