Happy Sunday, all, and a very happy Mother’s Day to those of you who are celebrating today.
This day has me thinking a lot about my mom and how grateful I am to her right now. I know I haven’t made things easy for her in the last year or so. I did a lot of soul searching last spring, as I waded through the mucky waters of depression, and much of that work involved delving into parts of my past I’d never really dealt with. There was no way to share that process with my mother without drawing her back into the past, too—a journey she may not have wanted or been ready to take.
In the last couple of months, post-breakup, my mom has seen me at my most vulnerable. It’s not a pretty sight. I’m sure she didn’t count on watching me fall apart this spring, and I hate the way I’ve had to depend on her at times. I’d rather my mom be getting a good night’s rest than getting hysterical phone calls from me, her thirty-five-year-old child, at 2am, because I’ve worked myself into a panic with anxiety and insomnia. I hate that I’ve lashed out at her at times, blamed her for not saying the “right” thing, heaped my grief at her feet—especially since she’s grieving, too. Like me, my mother had great faith in my relationship, had welcomed my partner into her (our) tiny family. She wasn’t ready for the the dissolution, either.
In spite of the fact that my mom would never want me to feel ashamed for needing her so much, I do. I always imagined that, at this point in my life, I’d be ready to take care of her a little more, and lean on her a little less. I thought I’d have more figured out, that I’d be in a sturdier, more solid place, and that she could take comfort in my competence and strength. I didn’t expect to so often feel like a scared, vulnerable kid, still trying to orient myself in the world and wanting a mother’s guidance.
But I know how deeply fortunate I am to have that guidance, that love, in the first place. Reading Lily’s essay last week was a reminder to give thanks for it. It’s not often in life that we’re given permission to fall apart by someone close, someone who will be there to help us when we’re ready to pick up the pieces. That kind of love is such a gift, something that comes around only in the strongest friendships and partnerships. If we’re lucky, we find it in our family—chosen or inherited family—too.
I have a small family, and many of the people I think of as family are not people to whom I’m biologically related. But I have been blessed many times over with the fierce friendship and bond I share with my mom. I know I’ve given her a hard time this year, that I’ve asked a lot of her, pushed her away sometimes, let her bear the brunt of a lot of angry feelings. She has never stopped trying to understand. I can’t really repay her, except to tell her again and again how grateful I am and how much I love her—and I know that, if she were reading, she’d tell me that there’s no debt to be repaid in the first place.
Whether you commemorate Mother’s Day or not, I hope you can spend time today with people who make you feel unconditionally embraced and accepted. On that note, onto some new food finds and reading material.
One of my own nutrition goals this year is to eat more fresh fruit. I know it’ll get easier as we move into warm weather, and salad is a great vehicle. I love the vibrant combination here: mango, roasted sweet potato, flaked coconut, and chopped herbs. This recipe is going on my list of summery food to make as soon as it actually feels like summer (right now NYC is still firmly planted in April/May drizzle and chill).
Having friends over for brunch anytime soon? Alissa’s chai coconut French toast will probably make you the most beloved host or hostess in town.
Babamesco is exactly what it sounds like: a genius hybrid of romesco sauce and babaganoush, garnished with parsley and za’atar. Nice one, Anya.
The Sarno brothers are working wonders in the kitchen (as usual!) with this recipe for vegan carbonara. Cashew-cauliflower alfredo sauce, sautéed shiitakes, peas, garlic…this is my idea of springtime comfort food.
More springtime goodness, and more za’atar spice. This bamboo rice and za’atar tempeh bowl is fully loaded, but the ingredient list totally manageable. And I really love the idea of adding za’atar spice to tempeh.
1. First up, an article about the need for greater PTSD awareness and treatment interventions in disadvantaged neighborhoods, especially those in which gun violence is common. It’s a fine piece of local reporting, yet I’d imagine that the issues journalist Grace Wong describes are widespread.
2. Fascinating information on how the “soundscape” of oceans—that is, the whole collection of sounds made by animals, waves, weather, and human beings—can give scientists clues about the health of a coastal ecosystem, especially in the face of climate change.
I’ve never exactly imagined oceans as being quiet, but the article paints a vivid picture of just how busy and alive they are. “People often assume that oceans are quiet, aside from the noises made by whales and dolphins,” author Roberta Kwok writes. “But small animals chatter too. For instance, damselfish open and close their jaws with a brrrp brrrp, triggerfish brush their pectoral fins against their bodies to produce a keek-keek-keek and drum fish contract muscles around an organ called the swim bladder to make a drumming sound.”
During toxic algae blooms and other natural disasters, these oceans go eerily quiet. It’s worth listening to some of the recordings in the article, which capture the web of sounds that Kwok describes.
3. A beautiful, surprising essay about how a prolonged experience of aphasia—the loss of speech or understanding of speech—gave one woman a drastically different experience of life. The author, Lauren Marks, had a stroke at the age of twenty-seven while traveling abroad. It left her with deficiencies in reading, writing, and speech—an event that might well be seen as catastrophic for an actor and PhD candidate. Marks’ experience, though, isn’t what you might think: in the wake of the stroke, she experienced a transformative “quiet” that she’d never known before:
Marks attributes much of this experience to the fact that she was “no longer the narrator of my own life.” She notes that she is still reaching out for language, working to gain it back day by day. But “the quiet” was illuminating in its own way:
The essay gave me so much to think about; I can’t imagine going a moment without the narrative voice Marks describes (which for me is often a very busy, boisterous chatter), but I was fascinated by her account, and I’m definitely interested in checking out her new book.
4. Also thought-provoking: Sarah Todd’s reflections on what it’s like to have a very popular name. Todd’s main point is that having a common name can be freeing, a way of moving through life without having too much significance or connotation attached to one’s moniker. She writes,
I have an unusual name (Eugenia) and a nickname (Gena) that tends to confuse people because it isn’t spelled the way it’s pronounced (like “Jenna”). I don’t mind any of it, but I’ve definitely wondered what it might be like to have a name that’s more inconspicuous, and Todd’s essay is fun food for thought.
5. Finally, I’m super proud of Abby—whom some of you may know as the author of Abby Has Issues—for speaking up about her struggle with exercise addiction. It’s a struggle that doesn’t get enough attention, but I see it all the time in my work. Kudos to Abby for having the guts to share her story and shine some light.
On that note, I’m off to spend some time with my mom and to deliver her weekly loaf of peasant bread. See you soon, with an easy, flavorful, crowd-pleasing pasta salad recipe.
My current internship rotation is a pretty big departure from the last one. It’s outpatient nutrition counseling at a community health center with multiple locations around the city; I’m splitting my time between Harlem, Chelsea, and the Bronx. The work is nearly all diabetes management, with some weight management and general nutrition guidance thrown in. The work often feels repetitive, and in some ways I miss the intensity and variety of intellectual challenges that I had working in the hospital this fall. But…
Happy Sunday! I hope you’ve all had nice weekends so far. Yesterday was all drizzles here in the NYC, but today has delivered that wonderful fall weather I’ve been pining for. I also took a little time away from work this weekend to relax with the boy, and I’m feeling so glad I did. While I was at it, I found some delicious recipes and reads for you all. I love, love, love the combination of tomatoes and rice. I think it might be…
Now that my post-bacc is years behind me (I’m realizing as I write this that I began it in 2010, which is nuts), it’s very easy to tell an elegant story of adversity being channeled into growth, or about the benefits of experiencing rejection. I’ve been aware for a long time that I was probably spared a life that wouldn’t have been right for me when I didn’t get into medical school, but the passage of time has made it easy to forget…
I’m perched upon my sofa right now in a sea of pre-holiday mess: as-of-yet-unwrapped gifts, Scotch tape and scissors on the floor, a Christmas tree that needs watering and has been shedding needles without subsequent vacuuming from me, a countertop covered in flour for the bread that probably needs longer to proof than I have time to give it. There are unwashed dishes in the sink, work emails I meant to send before Christmas and didn’t, cards I wanted to mail to friends…