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 often read about the power of choosing one’s thoughts, or something along those lines: shifting perspective, flipping the script, quieting negative self-talk, and so on. It sounds so compelling and empowering, yet so elusive. Most of the time, I feel that my thoughts choose me. I often wish—especially when they’re particularly exhausting—that they’d choose someone else. Once in a while, I’m able to choose different thoughts, or to change a gloomy perspective. The amount of effort that it takes to do this…
In the last few days, New York has transitioned from hot, muggy weather to a cool, dry, and breezy climate that hints at September and October to come. Everywhere I go, people are talking about it. I think we all feel grateful for the tiny glimpse of fall, even if no one is ready for the hustle of back-to-school season. So much of life, at least here in the Northeast, revolves around the rhythms and patterns of the seasons. They organize our experiences…
Hey all! I’m writing from New Orleans, where I’ve had a great weekend visiting Chloe. Here’s a sampling of the reading material I’ve been looking at today. I would like to eat this cheesy farro bake with mushrooms, tomatoes, and shallots right now, please. Thank you. I adore delicata squash and totally overlook it in my cooking. These salt and pepper delicata squash rounds are a lovely reminder to have some soon! This sweet potato and wild rice salad with chili lime vinaigrette…
Happy Sunday, friends, and happy Easter and happy Passover to those of you who celebrated over the weekend. I had something to celebrate in the form of a visit from my best friend, Chloe, who came up from New Orleans for a couple of days. It was great to see her, and it even compelled me to take some time off yesterday, which felt very…healthy. And sane. Now I’m refreshed, ready for a new week, and enthralled by these recipes and reads. I’m…
Leave a Comment
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