What an idea.
I keep reading or hearing about the unexpected ways in which people thrived in 2020. A lot of folks, it seems, took up new hobbies, reorganized and deep cleaned their homes, got fit with at-home workouts, took up or improved at cooking, got more done with their time at home, savored family life in spite of the quarantine stressors.
Not me. I made and ate a lot of cake, gained a few pounds, practiced yoga more inconsistently than I ever have, didn’t meditate at all, slept poorly, allowed my apartment to become incredibly messy, fell behind on work, missed a few deadlines, forgot to respond to more emails than I probably even realize, had a giant case of writer’s block, and tested a lot of recipes that were, honestly, gross.
And you know what? None of it matters that much. Because I’m here. I survived 2020.
To be alive, to have survived a calendar year, wouldn’t be something to take for granted under any circumstances. But it’s something worth celebrating in particular this year. A year that taught me and a lot of other people just how precarious life really is.
It’s fine, I’m learning, to have periods of life that amount to treading water. It’s OK to not always be thriving.
There’s so much noise out there about personal growth, self-improvement, good habits, the optimization of this or that. And I’m as susceptible to it as anyone. But in my heart of hearts, I don’t think that life is supposed to look like linear growth all of the time. There are seasons of flourishing, and there are seasons of falling apart. We wouldn’t know what either looked like without a point of comparison.
There are also seasons of stasis. I got through 2020, but it took all of my energy to do that. I maintained my mental health, fed myself three times a day, and did as much work as I had to do—not more, not as much as I wanted, maybe not a lot.
And it’s OK. The amount of pressure we put on ourselves to maintain personal excellence in all parts of our life—health, relationships, work, fitness—is too much.
I’ve wasted so much of the last thirty years wanting to be different—in my mind, better—than I am. Specifically, I’ve spent the past decade wishing that I were somehow more normal, that my life more closely resembled that of my friends and peers, that I could achieve more success professionally and in relationships, that happiness came more easily to me, that I could accomplish more of what I set out to do.
I’m sure that some amount of self-evaluation is healthy. So far, though, all of the second guessing and browbeating hasn’t turned me into the much improved person that I hope to become.
So I’m taking Jamie Varon’s advice. I’m not going to look back on this year and notice only the ways in which I fell short. If I absolutely must make an assessment, I’ll just be glad that I made it here. With my sense of humor, and—amazingly—my sense of self-compassion intact.
I wish you the same kind of self-acknowledgment today. You’re here, you’re breathing, you’re carrying on. No matter what else you did or didn’t do this year, it’s enough.
Happy Sunday, friends. Here are some recipes and reads.
Jess’ vegan white chili looks so cozy and tasty.
A beautiful puff pastry mushroom and onion wreath.
A beautiful chickpea, kale and sweet potato salad.
…and the prettiest, most festive vegan scalloped potatoes.
Finally, I’m more obsessed than ever with gingerbread this year, and Gina’s gingerbread crème brûlée has me so intrigued!
1. How to keep your brain healthy at any age, according to neurologists.
2. A thorough explanation of some of the “long-hauler” Covid symptoms.
3. A harrowing, raw essay from a neurology resident on surviving the last year in hospitals.
4. Aging cake! (Come to think of it, I do prefer my cake on the second or third day after I’ve made it.)
5. And finally, if you’d like to hear about the silver linings that others were able to distill from the mess of 2020, the New York Times has a funny, touching roundup.
This week, a last minute holiday recipe. Or two 🙂
My next door neighbor—I’ll call him Glen—passed away recently. I’m not sure when. I’d known he wasn’t well for a long time, based on our passing encounters and the haunting sound of his cough echoing through the hallway we shared late at night. For the past few months I suspected things might have taken a turn, since I didn’t see or hear him. But I didn’t know for sure that he was gone until my management company started gutting the kitchen in his apartment…
Ah, Sundays. I’ve just gotta say it: I kind of hate Sundays. The malaise, the anxiety about the work week ahead, the frantic attempt to catch up on editorial deadlines and reading. Blech. But it’s not all bad. A couple of nice things manage to squeeze into the picture: extended and leisurely morning workouts, early dinners with my Mom, the occasional Sunday night movie. Most importantly, Sunday is my kitchen day: it’s the day I put aside to cook, cook, and cook some…
Happy weekend to you all, and to those of you who are celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah, I wish you a wonderful holiday! I spent last night and this morning with my mother and Steven, and I’ll be gathering with a small group of family friends later today. I haven’t done much cooking–I’m still climbing back from some post-cookbook burnout–but I do have my lentil and sweet potato loaf ready for sharing. I’ve had mixed feelings about the holiday season this year, for reasons…
Lots of big firsts-in-a-while this week and last! First few subway rides. First couple of al fresco meals at local eateries. First indoor visit with my mom, though we still wore masks and kept distance. First time seeing a close friend or two. I’ve been building up to this, along with other New Yorkers. Grocery shopping has gradually gotten less tense and scary. Errands and walking around outdoors feels normal-ish again. Wearing a mask has simply become part of my routine; I hang…