Weekend Reading
December 6, 2020

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

I’ve been finding it hard to maintain a positive outlook lately. I’ve been worried about isolation this winter, especially given the spikes in Covid cases nationwide. Monotony and loneliness are starting to wear on me.

As I mentioned last week, I love the holidays, but they also bring up a lot. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. And this is a holiday season unlike any other.

Then, only a few days ago, I got news that someone close to me is seriously ill with the coronavirus. It’s touch and go for him, so my mother and I have been trying to stay positive while also preparing ourselves for the possibility of letting go.

By Friday, I felt overcome by fear and anxiety. I’d had a sense of hopefulness before Thanksgiving, but it was getting lost. Worry was (is) affecting my sleep and my work.

As it happens, I had plans yesterday to catch up with a friend who’s a physician here in the city. We got to know each other during my clinical internship year, and I hadn’t really checked in with him since the pandemic began.

He told me about how difficult things had been in March and April of this past spring, when cases were at their peak in New York City. I know the hospital he works at—it’s where I spent my acute care rotation—and I know that its resources were limited even before this crisis.

“However bad you can imagine it being,” he said, “it was worse.”

As I listened to him describe makeshift PPE and to recall the loss of patients and colleagues, I couldn’t help but be grateful that I was as shielded as I was in those months. It was a little frightening in the city, but at least I had the option to stay home.

I often hear and read about how things can always be worse. I also read assurances that it doesn’t make sense to try to rank suffering, because whatever we experience as being painful or distressing is real to us.

I think that both are true. Whatever we feel is real and valid. But, even as we suffer, we can remind ourselves of what we have to be grateful for. A sense of perspective doesn’t need to compete with honest acknowledgement of what’s troubling us.

That’s the space that I was in yesterday, as I talked to my friend and listened to what he’d been through. Sad, scared, stressed out. Discouraged.

Yet also aware of the fact that I have so much to be thankful for at this point in 2020: the roof over my head, the food I eat, the fact that I’m alive, the company of everyone I love.

There’s been a lot of duality this year. Moments of deep appreciation, coupled with so much grief. There are things about quarantine that have been genuinely good for me—clarifying, calming—in spite of the loneliness. I’ve gotten more peaceful with some things, more deeply troubled by others.

It’s not one or the other. It’s both. And if nothing else, it will always be my work to lean into shades of gray, to wrap my mind around dualities and nuances, rather than succumbing to the all-or-nothing, black-and-white thinking that comes easily to me. The truth of one thing doesn’t negate the truth of another.

This week, I wish you the space and ease to welcome everything that’s truthful for you. Here are some recipes and reads.


I keep hearing great things about the miso butter onions from Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest cookbook. Loved reading about Carolyn’s experience cooking them.

Amy’s hasselback veggie winter tray bake is so colorful and festive.

I could go for a warm bowl of vegan minestrone right now.

Bianka’s vermicelli stir fry looks easy and flavorful.

Ooooh, vegan oreo cupcakes!


1. Speaking of my friend and what he’s experienced this year, a powerful op-ed on healthcare worker burnout.

2. An examination of supplemental vitamins and their effectiveness in protecting against Covid.

3. A deep dive into the science of nutritional yeast (and marmite and Vegemite!).

4. I’m feeling a lot of worry for independent restaurants right now. But I was heartened to read about how pizza parlours have been staying alive—and comforting us all—through the pandemic.

5. I was fascinated by the New York Times Magazine‘s essay on the “social life of forests”—that is, how trees communicate with one another via subterranean fungi.

In a couple days, I’ll share the cozy, warming beverage that’s been getting me through the early days of winter here in New York City. Till then,



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  1. Hi Gena!
    This post really helped me this week. I have had a tough time feeling positive this week and reading posts like this one definitely puts everything into perspective. Thank you for being so honest but also optimistic. it definitely helps to know we are all in the same boat but will get through it together.

  2. Hi Gena,

    Thank you for featuring my minestrone recipe! How lovely.

    Sending love and warmth during these difficult times,


  3. Gena,

    I read your post and thought (again) how hard it is to let everything exist at one time: all the negatives and positives and everything in between. We want so badly for things to be better all the time, to have a kind of even keel experience, and it just isn’t possible, in my opinion. The richness of life is multi faceted, for better or worse. It’s the price we pay for being human. (Again, my opinion.) I think as long as there is a little tiny sliver of hope in your mind running underneath everything, then you can exist with all of those possibile emotions and outcomes.

    I am so sorry about your family friend who is sick. These are unimaginable times that we are living in.

    Take good care of yourself this week. Thank you again for your post. It always helps!

  4. Holding space for you in my little heart, dearest Gena. May you be safe, be happy, be healthy, and live with ease ♥️.

  5. I enjoyed your post. I don’t like to make too many comments that start with things like “I’ve been going through that too” or somehow worse “I know just what you mean!” because I feel like it barges into the unique feelings that we all have. But I also think there’s something fascinating about the way that when feelings are put forth in a thoughtful and somewhat vulnerable way it’s very relatable…and that sense of relation helps to put your own feelings in perspective and almost feels like physical comfort. Rather than seeming crazy or childish, ungrateful or just out of control, our most difficult emotions can instead resonate with those experienced by others, helping to combat a sense of psychological isolation that makes the wide spectrum of natural human emotion seem weird. In fact, we really are all in this together. That really helps me when I have a day where night worries or irritation makes itself at home rather than fleeing with the sunrise!!
    So, fellow strong and fragile and thoughtful human being, I wish you a sense of peace or anchoring when the difficult thoughts and feelings come along. I hope that knowing that your readers can resonate with your feelings, while not experiencing them EXACTLY as you do, gives as much comfort to you as reading someone else sharing their responses makes me feel a little less alone in some of the feelings I’ve been being juggled by (or am I juggling?!)

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