Weekend Reading
November 29, 2020

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

I hope those of you who were celebrating Thanksgiving this week had a lovely holiday. Mine was quiet, but my mom and I are accustomed to two-person celebrations, and we had a nice time.

As I expected, I overshot on food: a Gardein roast, stuffing, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and Nantucket cranberry pie. It was more than we needed, but the result is that we’ve both been able to take an entire weekend off from cooking as we enjoy the leftovers.

On Thanksgiving evening, I was telling my mom about doubts and negative thinking I’ve been grappling with lately. She observed that the outlook I was expressing was different from the perspective that I so often share in these Sunday posts.

It was interesting to consider this—the relationship between what I feel and how I write about it. I’m never conscious of forcing myself to look on the bright side when I sit down to write each Saturday or Sunday. Rather, these weekend reading posts are a reflection of how things seem to me once I’ve processed them through words.

The angriest, bleakest, most confused sensations hit me differently once I’ve found language for them. Writing doesn’t make them go away, but it usually relieves whatever sense I might be having that the feeling is unbearable.

Writing also gives me perspective. It helps me to put my feelings into some sort of intellectual or emotional context. In doing that, I’m usually able to reason with myself in the gentle, reassuring way I’d speak to a friend.

It’s more than that, though. This is a blog, not a diary, and so anything I write is part of an exchange between me and the members of this community.

As it happens, I’ve been making my way through Emily Nunn’s memoir. It’s titled The Comfort Food Diaries, which is an apt title for a year in which many of us have craved comfort food more than ever.

The book begins when Nunn finds herself at a painful crossroads. She’s just lost a brother to suicide, and she’s navigating profound grief.

That isn’t all: the relationship she’d arranged her life and future around ends. She feels herself succumbing to the alcoholism that runs in her family. Her financial security is gone and her sense of professional direction has lapsed. She’s losing, as a friend puts it, “respect for your own life.”

In a moment of despair (and after too many drinks) Nunn takes to Facebook and pours her heart out. She wakes up in the morning embarrassed, expecting to be chastised online for airing her sorrows.

Instead, she’s surprised to open her computer and be greeted by an outpouring of kindness. Friends whom she has lost touch with take the time to reassure her. Many share their own stories of adverse life experiences, moments of feeling lost. Quite a few acquaintances offer her a place to stay.

I haven’t read very far into the book, but this unexpectedly generous response inspires Nunn to spend some time visiting people she loves, and I suspect that the narrative will unfold around that journey.

As I was reading, I thought to myself how much I’d love to do that kind after this lonely, isolating year: to make my way from place to place, seeing old friends. Something to look forward to in a post-pandemic world.

But without any physical travel, I can relate to Nunn’s feeling of being surprised by human kindness and connection. I experience that in a different way each week, when I write this short reflection.

I feel it every time I get an email or comment from a reader who has gone through something similar to what I’ve written about. It comforts me to realize how much we have in common, even if our particular histories are different.

Sometimes I worry that these posts come across as being negative or sad. Sometimes I feel that they’re actually too upbeat and contained in comparison to what I’m really feeling. I often wonder what I’ll think when I read them ten or twenty years from now. I hesitate to say that I hope I’ll be happier then, but I can say assuredly that I hope I’ll feel less adrift.

What I know is that I’ve been able to make sense of these past few years, culminating in the wild ride of 2020, because of this blog. Not just the act of writing, which helps me to understand what’s going on, but also the perspective I’ve gained from being in conversation with others. The comfort I’ve found in connecting with this community. No reader is a stranger to me, even if we’ve never met.

I love holidays, but they make me melancholy even as they touch my heart. This post is a reflective thank you note to those of you who check in each week, who bear witness, who empathize and reflect.

This would have been a very different year—a much harder year—if it weren’t for this space. I’m more grateful than I can say.

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

Recipes

My pumpkin pie has been eaten, but I’m not even a little over pumpkin season. I can’t wait to make Isa’s pumpkin spice pancakes.

Whole roasted lemon tahini cauliflower is one of my all-time favorite holiday centerpieces. Sara’s tahini glazed roasted cauliflower is along similar lines, but probably a bit quicker to make!

I may never have the courage for homemade ravioli, but when and if I do, this tutorial from Erin is what will guide me.

Shira’s Greek lemon potatoes look almost like the ones my Yaya used to make.

After a week of baking casseroles, pies, and cakes, I’m ready for a hands-off dessert. These pumpkin pie stuffed dates are just the thing.

Reads

1. I was moved by psychiatrist Anjani Amladi’s reflections on navigating the current holiday season. Especially her reminder that many holiday tables will be emptier not because of physical separation, but because of loss. It made me give thanks for my blessings, which is what this week is all about.

2. A scientific inquiry into the anosmia (loss of smell) that so frequently affects those who are recovering from Covid-19.

3. A lot of us are feeling anxiety about how the upcoming winter will feel with Covid safety precautions in place. I liked this article, via Blue Zones, about how some older adults are carefully forming pods in order to ward off isolation.

4. A comforting, short article for anyone who is at a career crossroads, considering a transition, or making sense of the fact that something once fulfilling has ceased to feel that way.

5. I was really inspired by this article about mutual aid networks, which are growing stronger and ever more important during the pandemic. The article includes some links on how you can support mutual aid networks in your community.

I had a really slow, quiet weekend, and it’ll feel good to greet Monday in a rested state. Hope you’ve all had a chance to rest, too.

xo

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    4 Comments
  1. Hi Gena, I read your Weekend Reading posts weekly and often find myself thinking about your words during my week. I look forward to these posts as I often find myself nodding along or learning something new about myself through your words. You posts are honest and thoughtful. I don’t keep up with many blogs, but yours is the first thing I read on Monday mornings with my cup of coffee (and I love so many of your recipes). I’m navigating my own journey, but I feel inspired by your insight, kindness to yourself, and open-hearted sharing. Thank you!

  2. Gena, I don’t always comment, but I always love receiving your posts in my inbox. I can tell that you go through good times and bad times – as we all do – but your posts never seem saccharine or overly negative to me. Just thoughtful. And often very touching. I started reading your blog for the recipes, but your writing is so wonderful, too.

  3. ~i am humbled to be one of your biggest fans. This is not because of a confetti party thrown each week. Your writings are my deepest empathetic comfort. Not only did going vegan and choosing compassion attitude towards food save my life. Your current parallel situation assures me I’m not alone. I recently lost my father and brother and holidays are also “celebrated” with just my mother and I. I’m sending YOU prayers of comfort today. Yes, we can still be “positive people” and help others. But your being real about the inability to feel the same is another expression that makes myself, and I’m sure other readers feel a sense of compassion. ~we are grateful for you~

  4. Hi Gena, I am always impressed by your introspection, self+awareness, willingness to share and your writing style. I enjoy your weekend readings very much. And I’m really happy to hear that writing them is helpful to you, too!

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