It’s obviously not Sunday, but this is the weekend reading post that I meant to write yesterday. Last week, after I shared my broccoli Caesar, a wise friend gave me the reminder that we’re all exhausted and emotionally pummeled by 2020. It’s important than for us to be more forgiving of ourselves than usual.
I needed to hear it. I’ve been giving myself permission to work and create slowly, to spend some time away from my computer and phone. But I’ve been feeling guilty about it, too.
All of that said, the last couple weeks have been valuable. Professionally, they’ve made me realize that I’d rather create recipes slowly and deliberately than quickly and carelessly. The latter isn’t ever my intention, of course, but it happens when I feel as though I have to keep up with a certain pace.
And of course, it’s been important to focus on things outside of work. My main priority has been to support my mother. But I’ve also realized just how tired I am, how seldom I unplug in order to recharge, and how much that slows down my productivity in the long run.
Encounters with mortality tend to make us pause and consider how we’re living. For me, the pandemic this year has already been a call to do that. But the sudden death of someone close to me is yet another invitation to ask myself tough questions about how I’m spending my days. I fixate constantly on things about my life that I want to change. I brood about what I don’t have. I download and read books about transformation and growth. I make lists that are meant to be organizing and motivational, but which ultimately amount to a set of expectations that I can’t live up to.
It’s all so well-intentioned. I’ve got plenty of patterns and habits that I can identify as being counter-productive to my own happiness, and I want to change them. But why is so much of my energy directed toward what isn’t working?
The last few weeks have felt like a jolt, a reminder that any day could be the last. It’s human nature to dwell on the past and future, but the present is all we’ve got. I often let it to slip past me, sometimes unintentionally and sometimes out of a stubborn refusal to accept who and where I am.
My mother lost a dear friend two weeks ago, my godmother. In the few days after I found out that she was gone, I thought about the fact that my mother has always been blessed with strong, enduring, close friendships. My godmother was one of a small circle of friends that my mother has known since childhood. Mom has many other close friends from subsequent phases of her life.
They say that kids do not what their parents say, but what they model. I’m so lucky that my mother has always modeled the art of making and sustaining friendships. And it is an art: keeping a friendship healthy requires effort and attention. It’s not an easy thing to do when life is busy and preoccupying. I know for a fact that mental health challenges can get in the way of sustained efforts at connection, too.
Last weekend, I put my computer down and went upstate to visit my friend Ali. It’s something we’d been meaning to do, and it felt like the right moment to actually make the trip, which isn’t far. It was a wonderful couple days, full of homemade bread and chatter over hot cups of coffee and Ovenly chocolate chip cookies. I didn’t look at my phone very much, except to check in on my mom. I breathed fresh air and enjoyed being away from my four walls in Manhattan.
I came home rested. I resisted the urge to make a laundry list of new initiatives to improve on my every day. Rather, I felt a quiet commitment to living with an awareness that life is short and worth enjoying however much I can.
Happiness and peace don’t always come easily to me, and the last few years of my life have been a lonely, difficult time. But 2020, with all of its unanticipated tragedy, has reminded me that I love being alive. The past three weeks have shown me that I love not just life, but my own life, no matter how often I pick at its flaws and mourn its empty spaces. It’s the life that I’ve created, and its beautiful in its own way.
This life of mine is populated by some wonderful people. That includes you.
Happy Sunday, friends. Here are some recipes and reads.
Speaking of Ali, I want to make these dinner rolls of hers immediately! They get baked in a muffin pan. As Ina Garten would say, how easy is that?
Never not on the lookout for new, go-to tofu recipes, and these crispy triangles look amazing.
Love the look of this tomato three bean salad.
Brit’s already got me thinking about Thanksgiving options with her beautiful stuffed acorn squashes!
Finally, I love the look of this creamy, plant-based brussels sprout pasta.
1. More than you ever wanted to know about the true lifespan of Twinkies.
3. An important article from The Atlantic‘s Ed Yong on how we frame and describe the experience of being sick.
4. More on the long-term effects of Covid-19. I appreciate that this piece focuses on the lived experience of “long haulers,” or patients who experience symptoms long after they’ve survived the worst of coronavirus infection.
Hope your week is off to strong start. I’ll be back soon with a flavorful, fast, semi-homemade recipe!
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