Weekend Reading, 6.17.18
June 17, 2018

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

I’m drafting this post from a room that’s only a few blocks away from where my old apartment used to be in Washington, D.C.. I’m down here because my cousin’s twin babies were baptized over the weekend, and my mom and I made the trip to celebrate them.

It’s a short trip, only two nights. My hope was to come down earlier and spend time catching up with my friends here, but with all of the recent feeling unwell, I wanted to spend more time at home last week, resting and catching up on work in a peaceful, gradual way. It was the right choice: my usual instinct when I’m in D.C. is to see as many people as I can, recognizing that we no longer live nearby, but this makes for sort of frenzied weekends.

The other upside of planning a short, family-focused weekend is that I’ve had time to experience the city quietly, privately, and reflectively. Being here brings back so much nostalgia and gratitude; every time I’m in the District I feel bowled over with the memories of how many people made me feel welcome and at home when I moved here. My time in this city was difficult in a lot of ways, but it was an incredible lesson in how generous and full of grace people can be.

In the past few days, I’ve also appreciated how rich and adventurous my time here was. Moving four and a half hours south of one’s home town for a few years may not sound very daring, but my post-bacc really was—and still is—the great adventure of my life so far.

It was something I could never have imagined doing until I did it: learning within a completely new set of disciplines, allowing myself to struggle, rather than yearning for mastery, and surrendering my need to be an “expert.” It taught me how fun it can be to learn from younger peers (as opposed to being the quintessential teacher’s pet, which had been my posture as a student in the past).

So much about that time in my life was foreign and strange. As I wandered the streets of D.C. yesterday and early this morning, I wondered how I—as a person who who tends to fear and resist novelty and change—managed to do it at all?

It took me a few steps more to recognize that I wasn’t giving my identity enough credit for being fluid. Right now, emerging from the various challenges of my last five years in New York, I’m craving stillness and grounding. But there’s a part of me, too, that’s bold and daring, and that part was in the driver’s seat during my post-bacc years.

After picking up a cup of morning coffee today, I sat on a stoop near Dupont Circle, smiled gratefully at the familiar scenery around me, and I silently thanked the part of myself that allowed me to be brave and take so many personal and professional risks when I lived here. I marveled at this “self state,” at her energy and endurance.

Then I took another moment to acknowledge where I am right now. It’s a different place, a little more bittersweet and uncertain and humble. But there’s a lot I like about it: I’m moving through life slowly and consciously, which wasn’t possible when I was careening through organic chemistry and microbiology classes and trying to keep up with work at the same time. I’m more rooted in the familiar and everyday, not out of fear but because I appreciate how vital they are to my happiness and health. I’m more attuned to my body and its needs. I’m less grandiose and more content.

It felt poignant to acknowledge past and present selves and inner capacities at once, recognizing that they’ve each served me well, depending on where I am in life. I hope I can take stock of my experience like this again in a few years, and that I’ll have interesting contrasts to consider then, as I do now.

Wishing you a gentle start to the week—and a happy Father’s Day to those of you who are celebrating.

Recipes

The first recipe that caught my eye is a quinoa salad with a tropical, summery twist: the addition of coconut flakes, mango, basil, and dried fruit.

I love my friend Emily’s simple, springy, one-pot green farro, which is easy to veganize with vegan parm or nutritional yeast.

I stuff potatoes with cooked fillings all the time, but I hadn’t thought to load them up with salad or raw veggies. These salad stuffed potatoes are such a fun idea!

My packable lunch pick of the week: protein-rich ginger peanut tofu wraps. Yum.

For dessert, I’m drooling over Tessa’s vegan (and gluten-free!) peanut butter pie. Any dessert with PB in it knows the way to my heart.

Reads

1. I love Kelsey Miller’s tribute to the company and solace of cooking and cookbooks. I spend plenty of time exploring and downloading recipes online (as these weekly posts illustrate!), but I agree with Miller that there’s nothing quite like a cookbook and its guidance. I was touched by her appreciation of Anthony Bourdain’s cookbook writing in particular:

Cookbooks are a particular comfort, on bad days or during times of grief and loss. It’s not only that they help with the cooking of comfort food — though there is healing in that, certainly — but also the people they bring to life. That’s why, I realized, I didn’t reach for Bourdain’s famous essays, but for his old cookbook. I don’t mean to knock the rest of his work — the man never wrote a boring sentence in his life, as far as I can tell — but his recipes are different. In them, Bourdain is at his most joyful.

I’m my most joyful self when I’m creating recipes, too; I think many of us are.

2. Supermarket led nutrition education interventions seem like such a smart idea to me (a captive audience, an opportunity to highlight products or ingredients in real time). How cool that Weis Markets is instituting a plant-based program in its stores.

3. A new weight loss procedure—the gastric balloon—is proving to be far more hazardous than its marketing would suggest. I’m glad that this article is publicizing the risks.

4. Pamela Druckerman offers up some wise and (for me) relatable tips on time management, which aren’t only about time management: they’re about self-knowledge and the process of identifying and prioritizing what matters.

5. A lot of healthcare practitioners, in spite of many years of training, are never really prepared for handling personality mismatches or interpersonal conflicts with the individuals who are under their care. It can be a jarring experience for a person in a helping profession to realize that he or she is grappling with feelings of discomfort or dislike around a patient.

This essay, written by a resident, captures the experience humbly. Of a patient with whom she did not easily or readily connect, and who ultimately passed away under her care, she writes,

What I remember most about Mrs. G was how imperfect our interaction was and how little it had to do with the mistakes I thought I would make — wrong medication doses or a procedure gone bad. Our relationship was rocky, our attitudes clashed, and the clinical outcome was not what any of us wanted. It was imperfect but it taught me the importance of being honest with yourself about the way you feel when you interact with others, especially patients. This will help you to both forgive yourself and others such that you can form powerful and needed relationships during difficult situations. It was a first in many ways but certainly not a last as the human interactions in medicine are part of the healing we do every day.

What an honest and human reflection.

Switching topics completely, is it officially too hot for soup? I hope not, because I have a pretty delicious one to share in the coming week. Happiest of Sundays to you.

xo

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    3 Comments
  1. Boy am I late to this Weekend Reading party, but just wanted to pop in and say I love your reflections on past and presents selves here. Always so rich and profound to experience that, wherever it appears. Now I’m off to read the piece about cookbooks and their comfort–I couldn’t agree more! Thanks Gena, and much love!

  2. FYI: Your link to “Time Management” by Druckerman brought up another article.

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