Weekend Reading, 6.2.19
June 2, 2019

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

I can’t believe it’s already June—it seems as though last August was only yesterday, and I was staring down the long road of the dietetic internship. Everyone assured me that the year would fly by, and in the aggregate it has, though some of the rotations have felt endless. My current rotation is one of those, which makes the DI finish line of late July feel farther away than it is.

The only way out is through, so until this rotation is behind me, I’m taking it one day at a time—and celebrating the completion of each week. I’m also taking a posture that’s completely new to me, which is one of not trying too hard.

Trying too hard is one of my specialities. There are times when it serves me well; in the past, it was an asset to me as a student. Sometimes it pays off in my professional life. It’s probably, occasionally endearing to my loved ones.

A lot of the time, though, trying too hard is just what it sounds like: too much. It means that I blow out my energy reserves more often than I need to. It means that I get done whatever needs doing, but all of the time I spent obsessing and fixating on the particulars is sort of a sunk cost—no one knows, no one cares. Trying too hard in relationships, meanwhile, can be alienating to other people. It comes across as controlling, which in my case, it often is—my persistent illusion that I’m solely responsible for (or to blame for) dynamics that involve two people.

It’s easy to talk about letting go of perfectionism, overreaching, and trying too hard, and it’s really difficult to actually do. When control has become a source of strength and identity, and maintaining control has become mixed up with “hard work” that verges on overextending nearly all of the time, it’s hard to imagine what a proportionate amount of effort even looks like.

I’m issuing myself a challenge, though—the challenge of giving things only as much effort as they merit, and not more. It’ll be pretty interesting to see how it unfolds in various dimensions of my life. For the time being, I’m applying it to my current work situation. I’m not slacking off, but I’m not going above and beyond to “fix” an inherently vexed scenario, either. I’m giving it a level of effort that feels proportional.

This feels incredibly liberating, if a little scary. It makes me notice how often I give too much—and when I say that, I don’t mean giving my best and more to pursuits that are truly worthy, meaningful, and important. I mean squandering my time and energy on stuff that doesn’t need 110% of my efforts, the consequence of which is having less stamina for the things that really matter.

With two more weeks of this rotation to go, we’ll see how this little experiment unfolds. I’ll let you know. For today, I wish you a week a week of well appointed energy. Here are some recipes and reads.


Just in time for summer cookouts and gatherings, Lauren has created a delicious and hearty cheeseburger pasta salad.

I love the looks of Marly’s green monster hummus—so perfect for using up fresh herbs this summer.

This spicy chickpea stuffed potato skins are just about the definition of wholesome comfort food.

I’ve never made, or even tasted, Takikomi Gohan, but this vegan spin on the Japanese recipe looks so good.

For dessert, Tieghan’s chocolate covered creamy peanut butter cup bars look insane.


1. A firefighter’s thoughtful, eye-opening essay on climate change and the rising threat of wildfires in the west.

2. I really like professor Sheena Iyengar’s three questions for helping to make meaningful career choices.

3. A brave, self-aware essy on OCD, and obsession in general, as a double-edged sword.

4. I’d never given thought to how cancer treatment might be retraumatizing to those who have experienced sexual abuse, so this article—which is sensitive and thought-provoking on many levels—gave me much to consider, especially as I prepare myself to enter a helping/healthcare profession.

5. Finally, I was touched by Barry Eisenberg’s op-ed in the New York Times on lessons he learned from his 106-year-old Aunt Doris.

I wish you a good start to this first week of June. I’ve got a birthday on Friday, which I’m having mixed feelings about. But I guess that’ll give me something to write about 😉


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  1. Hi Gena, I always read your “Weekend Reading” posts; thank you for putting yourself out there. While I often find at least one article to click through to, what resonates with me most often is your intro. I often feel like you are right there with me, going through similar experiences. Your self-awareness and insight are fantastic and speak to me so clearly. Just wanted you to know I appreciate you and your being vulnerable and authentic!

  2. Hi Gena,

    Your post resonated so strongly with me. I recently read a NYT article that chronicles what you and me and so many girls and women do: try too hard. It studied why all the unnecessary extra effort girls put into school can get them straight A’s, but no longer pays off in the “real world”. Please read the article when you have a chance and share with your readers if you think they could benefit. It has helped me see that sometimes doing only what is required is best because it lets you invest all your remaining time and energy in something else!

    Why Girls Beat Boys at School and Lose to Them at the Office

  3. Ahhh…this place of practice is near and dear to my heart, Gena! I’m consciously practicing purposeful imperfection and “good enough-ness” – not in a way that’s sloppy, but rather, with intention and care. I’ve gotten way more skilled than my default mode would be up to on its own…but it’s still very much a practice.

  4. Hi Gena,

    I don’t think I’ve ever commented but always enjoy and appreciate your thoughtful reflections and commentary. Today, though, I wanted to share a counter thought to the oft-repeated dictum to “do your best.” (I work with kids and hear it from parents often – that they just want their kids to “do their best,” which actually causes or feeds so much anxiety, as you seem to be noticing is what happens for you). How about, “just do what you can”? Whatever you can do, that’ll do. Maybe it’s just a little bit, maybe it’s just a start. Whatever you can do 🙂

    Keep taking good care.


  5. Hi Gena,
    I’ve never commented here, but I wanted to let you know that I really appreciate your weekly posts. Your words are always so honest and real. You may not realize that what you write is helpful to someone else, so I wanted to let you know that it is. One phrase in particular struck a chord with me – ‘The only way out is through’ , Thank you – I”ll take that with me this week and remember it when some situations feels pretty impossible. Be well.

    • Linda, thank you. This comment means so much.

      And I’m so happy that quote resonates. Lest you think it’s mine, it’s inspired by Robert Frost and his poem “A Servant to Servants,”

      “Len says one steady pull more ought to do it. / He says the best way out is always through. / And I agree to that, or in so far / As that I can see no way out but through— / Leastways for me—”

      Thank you for reading.

  6. Oh Gena, with you all the way in your journey to practice not trying so hard! It is such a necessary art of discernment for those of us who feel so responsible and try to fix things we can’t fix. I have been working on it for decades and I still have to work at it– ironically enough it’s often because I think I “know” where I will see it pop up, but instead it pops up where it’s much harder for me to recognize. (i’m likely in the health fix I’m in precisely because of that, but thankfully there’s a recovery in progress). I thought you might be anticipating a birthday–I always deeply enjoy your birthday posts, and I have no doubt this upcoming one will be a treasure as well. Dreading birthdays has its own special creative and insightful mojo. Also, I just read the piece on Eisenberg and his aunt–tears in my eyes–one of the best picks ever here on Weekend Reading. I will keep it in my heart always. xoxo

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