Happy Sunday, friends. It’s been…a week. Nothing insurmountable, just a pile-up of a lot of things at once. They all had one thing in common, which is that they were largely outside of my control.
It started last weekend. A relationship that I’d actually been hopeful about (the first in a long time), came apart. Its unraveling felt as sad and mysterious as its beginning had felt bright and surprising. I guess it’s a mark of some sort of progress that I understood all along that I couldn’t really change the outcome.
As the week got underway, I was surprised to find myself in a particularly challenging professional/academic situation. This, too, lay outside of my control. “They” say—and I tend to believe it—that we can’t control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond. Even trying to control my responses felt like a lot of work. By the end of the week, all I could do was acknowledge that things were difficult and I was doing my best to get through it.
Through all of this, I was waiting on health-related test results. They were fine, thankfully, but the experience was a humbling reminder that our bodies are vulnerable, and there’s really only so much we can do to take health into our own hands.
There were other things, too. Small reminders that, no matter how hard I try to create a life that is safe and bounded and peaceful, I can’t fashion a cocoon for myself. Life has other plans. Work intrudes. Other people have intentions and needs that vie with mine.
By Friday, I’d entered a state that’s pretty foreign to me, which a kind of passivity. Or perhaps a better word would be acceptance. I wasn’t fighting anything that was happening. I wasn’t trying to change it. I wasn’t even trying to manage things with particular elegance or grace; oftentimes when I’m struggling, I try to wrestle back control by crafting the most “admirable” response I can, whether it feels genuine or not. This time, I gave myself over to everything: to the fact that things were hard, the fact that I was struggling, and the fact that I didn’t have the energy to pretend otherwise.
I can think of times in my life when resistance felt important and useful. I’m thinking especially of moments in my life as a graduate student, which has been marked by a lot of discouragement. It’s been very important for me to fight against the impulse to give up; I’d never have gotten through my post-bacc or my masters program if I’d allowed the dissapointments to get the better of me.
For the most part, though, I tend to overestimate how much conscious control I have over things. This is especially true in relationships, but it can also be true at work and in life as a whole. There are forces at play that have little to do with me. I can craft responses to my circumstances that feel healthy, honest, and kind. And—as I learned this week—I can also let go, stop trying to come up with the “right” responses all the time, and simply allow things to be. Which means allowing myself to be, too.
This shift in perspective has happened quietly, internally, and, until now, pretty unconsciously. No matter how subtle, it feels significant. I wonder how things would be if I allowed myself to feel this way—not indifferent, but unresisting—more often. I guess there’s only one way to find out, right?
For now, happy Sunday. Here are some recipes and reads.
I love the looks of Sarah’s brown rice and sweet potato sushi.
A great, all-purpose plant protein option: sesame tempeh crumbles.
Not sure how I missed these in December, but Sophie’s cauliflower steaks with pine nut salsa are so beautiful.
I’ve got a bag of whole wheat couscous that I’ve been wonderful what to do with. I think these FOK bowls just gave me an answer.
Finally, the vegan paella of my dreams.
1. A new study shows reduced risk of breast cancer death with a low-fat diet.
2. Interesting: the Guardian has changed its style guide to introduce language that accurately represents the environmental crises facing our planet. “Climate change” will now be “climate crisis,” or “climate emergency,” and “global warming” will be “global heating.”
3. Would you see an AI doctor for diagnosis of a routine illness?
4. I’ve had the Sunday Scaries all year long, and they’re particularly bad right now. Maybe Joanna’s strategy of ending the weekend with a bang will work?
5. Finally, I love my friend Erin’s essay about why she and her partner whipped up biscuits and gravy on the morning of their wedding. Here’s a sneak peak:
…[T]here was no moment more perfect than our breakfast together. We sat in comfy chairs in front of our fireplace wearing regular clothes, eating piping hot food we’d made ourselves. It could have been any other day of our lives up to that point—and that’s really what was so special about it. This day wasn’t the day, or the only day. It was just a day.
Here’s to a week full of everyday breakfast. Have a wonderful rest of the day.
I got into a long conversation about adventures the other day. I was chatting with a friend–a friend who happens to fit my very definition of an “adventurous spirit.” She loves trying new things, taking calculated risks, traveling to new and interesting places. Her curiosity and thirst for new experience is clear in everything she does, whether it’s flying up into an inversion she’s never tried in yoga or tasting an exotic ingredient at a restaurant. Me, I’m a different story. It took me years and…
I feel as though I’ve been talking a lot about the weather lately, but it’s been so unpredictable that it gives me and fellow New Yorkers plenty to say. It was mild and sunny last weekend on Easter Sunday, which made Monday morning’s rapidly accumulating snowfall a surprise. It was balmy on Friday, and it’s in the thirties now. Go figure. My internal and external state seems to be ebbing and flowing with similar lack of predictability. My emotions have been all over…
Last weekend, I mentioned that I have a tendency to try to fix or manage difficulties as soon as they arise. This can be a good thing, at least when it comes to concrete problems that demand ready solutions. It can also be a handicap, especially when the issue at hand defies easy troubleshooting. In trying to “fix” something that’s inherently complex, I sometimes create difficulty, rather than alleviating it. When this happens it’s often because I appeased my aversion to discomfort–I wanted the problem to go away quickly, so…
Happy sunday morning, friends. I’m in New York, spending some time with my bestie, Chloe, who’s in town to help prepare for her little sister’s wedding. It’s been dry and sunny and not-too-hot here, which is a delightful change from last week’s heat wave in D.C. I hope you’ve had nice weekends. Here are some recipes and reads to enjoy as you transition into Monday. Coffee freak that I am, I’m sort of perpetually on the hunt for a perfect vegan coffee creamer….
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I look forward to Weekend Reading every week. I’m reading this on Friday morning, and this week has felt about 4 months long. I really resonate with what you wrote, about how even though you try to make your life bounded and peaceful, we can only control so much. That was the reminder I needed this morning. Thank you for your vulnerability.
Thanks so much for featuring my sushi in your round-up, Gena! 🙂 I’m sorry to hear you had a rough week but I love your words on unresisting…. that is a practice I am trying to implement in my own life as well!
First and foremost of all, Dearest Gena, I’m just glad you made it through such a week. Period. And extra glad that you came to do that the way you did. Sometimes those quiet acceptances and realizations are more powerful than ones that present more obviously. In the end it’s never about control of what’s outside of us or even control within, but more this kind of profound acceptance that helps us, in the end, choose the best path available. I send you my love and support. And thanks for all the delicious recipes and reads, too. xoxo