I was chatting with a friend—a new friend, but she already feels like an old friend—a few days ago, and it became clear that we’ve visited some similar emotional and psychological territory in the last few years. “There’s so much goodness right now,” she exclaimed (and I think I’m paraphrasing a little). “But at the same time, all of this stuff is coming up that I need to reckon with.”
She paused, and said, “I guess that’s life?” We laughed.
I’ve been thinking about her words ever since. It sounds like such a simple truth, the fact that life is patchwork. Loss and abundance coexist, along with pleasure and suffering, struggle and ease, sticky challenges alongside pockets of flow.
Yet it’s funny how readily I tend to compartmentalize my experience into good and bad categories. I do this with stuff that’s happening in the present moment, and even more when I look back on my past: I identify good years and bad years, happy times and rough ones.
Of course we can all recall particular periods in our lives that stood out as being especially hard or painful, for whatever reason, just as we can probably point to times that were especially joyous or full. But I’m all too quick to sanitize the “good” times—choosing not to remember what was painful or problematic—and to write off the “bad” ones.
I thought about this a lot on my recent trip to DC. I’ve fallen into the habit of saying that my time there was very tough, very difficult, which is true in many ways. My post-bacc itself was difficult, and there were other things: personal losses, family losses, health challenges.
Being back in the city reminded me, though, of how vivid and alive my time in DC was. The struggles that came along with the post-bacc education were met with a lot of curiosity and even some thrilling acquisition of knowledge; feeling adrift and far from home meant that I sought out new friendships, which was exciting.
I felt as if I’d left a part of myself behind in New York, and the transitions between the two cities were always a little disharmonious. But being in a new place meant letting go of a lot of components of my identity that had become stale and no longer felt authentically like “me”; I was able to grow and evolve in ways I might not have back home.
It’s easy to look back on those four years and remember the all-nighters, the poignant breakup, or the feeling of panic and grief I had when my mother endured a shocking loss over two hundred miles away from me. But how can I forget all of the excitement? And why would I want to?
My mind loves to categorize things. It feels like a relief when I do it, as if I’ve found my bearings. But categorizing encourages me to rewrite my history in such a way that I forget a lot of details. It leaves me with a story that’s neater than the unedited one, but which exists at the expense of consciously forgotten memories.
The more I grow, the more I want to hold onto all of those memories, the painful and bittersweet ones included. I’m starting to realize how precious they all are, and how precious is their coexistence. That’s life, as my friend said.
Wishing you a week that’s full and whole and spacious. Here are my reading and recipe picks from the past week.
I’m loving Kim’s summery raspberry almond snack bars—perfect for picnics, hikes, road trips, or long days spent outside.
Emilie’s veggie dog game is seriously on point.
Refreshing eggplant and pomegranate lettuce cups from my friend Izy. Perfect for summery gatherings with friends!
I’ve been revisiting a lot of the bowls from Power Plates lately, which means that I’ve got bowl recipes on the brain. I was excited to find Erin’s flavorful sesame tofu quinoa bowls.
Finally, I can’t resist the beautiful colors of Sophie’s tie dye raspberry mango paletas (and I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to resist the flavors, either).
1. An interesting look at how brain imaging is elucidating the neuroscience of pain.
2. Boy, do I wish I’d had a tool like this when I was taking Orgo. Visualizing molecules and how they’d be oriented in three dimensions was my biggest challenge!
3. A sweet profile of Clara Cannucciari, who became a YouTube star at ninety-one years old with her show, Great Depression Cooking. The article turns a loving lens on Clara’s life story, the role of her grandson, Chris, in bringing her recipes to the world, and the power of the online world to help preserve culinary traditions.
4. I was intrigued by Laura Khoudari’s look at why the suggestion to “take a deep breath” isn’t always a helpful means of relaxing or easing for certain people with PTSD. Khoudari is a trauma informed coach and has really useful suggestions for alternative ways of getting grounded.
While I don’t have PTSD, I have found that paying attention to inhales and exhales can sometimes heighten or even trigger anxiety when I’m meditating. With the help of some good teachers, I’ve found other ways to anchor myself in meditation practice (or when I’m simply trying to relax), but it took a while to accept that breath focus isn’t always the way in. It’s nice to know that there are so many ways for different people to move into their bodies.
5. I loved Steven Petrow’s op-ed on the medicinal value of talismans, amulets, and cherished objects. He wisely frames the important roles that ritual and belief play in a person’s experience of illness, wellness, and the complicated passages in between.
Happy Sunday, friends. Before I go, I want to mention that I’m offering a giveaway for Wolf Gourmet’s new multifunction cooker on my Instagram feed right now. It’s a beautiful appliance, and if you love slow cooking as much as I do, check it out!
I’ll be back with a simple, savory breakfast recipe this week.
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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…
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…
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Wow, Gena, this is a lovely lovely reflection on taking the good and the bad together, and the limitations we can place on ourselves if we categorize what has happened to us too severely. Very wise words. Sometimes when I miss the house on Asbury Street I know I am missing a particular time, when circumstances were different than they became, and then I think about how I have grown, how my art has grown, as a result of the tumult of moving in “steps” all the way to the Oregon Coast. It’s all good, even the loss and the painful stuff. Slowly rereading my blog is helping me to feel that yet again. So thank you for the reminder. I liked all the summery looking eats and I’m intrigued by this list of articles and hope to peruse some in a few minutes once I’ve got my bowl of oatmeal all plated–or “bowled.” 🙂 xoxo
i very much enjoyed your thoughts on categorizing memories. I had recently become aware of my habit of doing this and it left me with a depressed feeling. i didn’t understand why until i read your analysis of it. thank you! i can relax now! 🙂 Also, LOVED the link of the depression era grandma cook. love love love. thank you for your blog – i often enjoy these round ups and i do not believe i’ve ever commented. 🙂
Everything looks so delicious and thanks so much for including my raspberry oat bars!