Weekend Reading
November 15, 2020

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

I got a call from my uncle this week. He let me know that a family member of ours, who lived overseas, had passed away.

Another loss. This one wasn’t entirely unexpected, but I was still surprised to hear it. My heart ached for the family of my cousin, who was gone. I’d thought she would have more time.

As my uncle and I chatted a bit, I was aware that he was in no hurry to get off the phone. We don’t speak on the phone often—I’m not a phone person, so I don’t catch up with many people that way—and our chats are typically short when we do call each other.

This time, we spoke patiently, with a lot of long pauses. We veered off into weighty topics, which was perhaps no surprise given the nature of his call. We talked about anxiety and fear, the preciousness and precariousness of life.

My uncle and I had an interesting, candid back and forth about gratitude. How does one strike a balance between giving thanks for what is, while honestly acknowledging suffering and unhappiness?

My uncle and I have different approaches to our spiritual lives, but we’ve always been able to speak about spirituality and faith. There’s a lot of overlap between my practice of yoga and mantra and his own practice of prayer.

We talked a little bit about prayer. I haven’t prayed in a formal way since I was a kid, enveloped in a religious tradition that I no longer connect to directly. But lately, this year especially, I’ve felt the impulse to pray, without even knowing what prayer would look like at this point in my life.

At one point, a little while before we hung up, my uncle took a long pause. He told me that he’s always thinking of me, even when we don’t speak for a while. He said he’s sorry that he doesn’t call more often.

I had to chuckle: I’m terrible about picking up the phone, and if anyone’s to blame for infrequent calls, it’s me. But I knew what he meant. He was saying that I’m on his mind, even when we’re not in contact.

I told him that I feel the same way. And while it’s most important for us to know and understand that we’re always thinking of each other, we should really voice that more often. You never know what the future will bring.

2020 has me thinking about the many things that I leave unsaid, assuming that there will always be more chances to express them. It makes me consider the experiences that I keep delaying—places I’d like to go, things I’d like to learn, parts of myself that I’d like to express—as I try to manage my everyday life.

I’m not sure what would need to change for me to become a little better at acting on feelings, desires, and plans. I know most of what needs to shift is internal. It won’t hang upon a change in circumstances or timing.

But the losses of this year, coupled with the travel and social restrictions of Covid, have been an important catalyst. They’ve compelled me to think about living in the present, being a person who has, in the words of Mel Robbins, a “bias toward action.”

I can’t help being the considered person and slow processor that I am. But life moves quickly, and I want more than ever to live mine with a spirit of fullness. That effort can begin, as most change does, with baby steps.

So, here’s to a week of doing at least a few things each day that feel a little new, a little uncomfortable, and a little off script. It won’t be a great adventure, but it’s the place to start.

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

Recipes

Always delighted to have more inspiration to try new things in my air fryer! Amanda’s garlic herb butternut squash looks so good.

Francesca’s hearty seitan comfort stew is the winter food of my dreams.

I’ve been meaning to try Brandi’s no oil roasted Brussels sprouts for ages now, and the upcoming Thanksgiving will be a perfect opportunity.

Another holiday classic: scalloped potatoes. Marly’s version is vegan and looks so good!

Finally, why choose between something chocolatey and something pecan pie-ish? Hilaire’s double chocolate pecan cookie bars are both.

Reads

1. Eight chefs and food professionals reflect on the meaning of Diwali this year.

2. Could the Chilean soapbark tree help human bodies to respond more strongly to vaccines?

3. Space junk. Who knew?

4. Via The New York Times, one writer’s moving essay about connecting to her father through song as his Alzheimer’s Disease takes over.

5. On the same theme, a meditation on grief from writer Matthew Bremner. This observation stuck with me: “Grief starts off as a fear of absence and then becomes the acclimatization to it.”

Some low-key Thanksgiving inspiration coming your way, this week and next. Till then,

xo

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  1. Dear Gena, Thank you for this beautiful account of your soulful conversation with your uncle. It was beautiful, and reminded me of when my Dad died, and his best friend and cousin, Nick, who I had only seen in pictures, called a few times to talk to me and to make sure my sister and I were alright.It was comforting to talk to a man who had stood up at my Mom and Dad’s wedding and knew my Dad as a boy. It also reminds me of a conversation I had with my Dad after my Mom died. My Mom and I had a regular long distance phone relationship. My Dad and I didn’t talk on the phone as much but he said, well, I can try and call you more. It was very moving. Those moments of honesty and reaching across differences are moments of grace. Thank you <3

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