One of the questions I asked and was asked most often as quarantine lightened was what I planned to do as the world reopened. After the strictest stages of lockdown, it was tempting to scheme up big, bold plans for travel and adventure.
As we all know, reopening has been piecemeal and non-linear. So the fantasy of quarantine precautions being lifted in one fell swoop is now gone. With it goes the hope that our lives would be divided into a very neat, very delineated pre-Covid and post-Covid.
Even so, this summer feels different from last summer. When I say this, I don’t necessarily mean that it has been a better summer. In spite of the fact that last summer was much closer to the pandemic, it was a vivid and memorable time for me.
When I look back to this time last August, I can see how my sense of joy and appreciation had become scaled down. Things that I had taken granted before the pandemic, like the ability to go out to dinner with a friend, suddenly seemed dear.
When life did start to reopen a little—when I could sit outside at a restaurant, meet a friend for anything other than a distanced walk, or go someplace other than my small apartment—it felt glorious.
I now remember that summer as a series of sweet, grateful moments: my first coffee shop latte in months, my first dinner out, baking a carrot cake for a friend and being able to give it to him in person, going away for a weekend with two girlfriends and being amazed to realize how much I’d missed that kind of camaraderie and company.
Everything seemed precious, because it was. It is. Covid made me realize how much there is to cherish in my life.
I’ve done my best to hold onto that sense of appreciation in 2021. But it’s tricky, of course. The more familiar things become, the easier it is to take them for granted. Depression has crept around the edges this summer, and while I’ve managed it well, it thwarts my capacity to take joy in the everyday.
The last two weeks, though, have been special. First I was in Asheville with my oldest friend and her two kids.
It was a short trip, and for my friend it may have been a pretty routine family getaway. For me, the time spent with Chloe’s two little girls, surrounded by the Blue Ride Mountains, was life-giving. I felt a kind of peace and sense of fun that I had been losing sight of in the weeks prior.
The trip happened to be a series of best laid plans going awry, which is probably how it is when kids are young. For every planned activity that fell through, though, another experience unfolded. In those five days, I was reminded of how wonderfully surprising life can be, if we allow for spontaneity and change.
This past week, I visited friends near the beach, two hours away. It was a short trip, and I was working for much of it. But working in the company of people I love, and the sense of support that comes with that, felt good.
Once again, planning proved to be pretty ineffective. The weather was rainy, so beach plans were canceled. We made a mad dash to the beach when the rain let up unexpectedly, so that we could squeeze in a few clear, breezy hours. It was all a little haphazard, and that was fine. The topsy turvy quality was something to laugh about.
I haven’t done anything very exciting in my post-lockdown life. I’ve been laboring under the weight of a big, imposing deadline, working on a book project that has been unexpectedly difficult. Covid is still with us. And I’ve been balancing my desire to get away and see friends with the need to keep my travel costs low.
Within these constraints, however, I was able to do and see a whole lot this summer. I flooded my time with friendship and connection, which was intentional. I stayed in motion. I didn’t let inertia get the best of me.
Last summer felt like a reawakening of sorts—like stepping outside to warm sun after a long winter. This summer has been more complicated, a mix of old and new, dark and light, joy and pain. I’ve felt simultaneously weighted down and free.
But I’ve found a lot of happiness within the moments of difficulty, and that’s important. I think I’m learning to balance struggle with ease. And I hope that ability will continue through these last few weeks of summer, into autumn and beyond.
Happy Sunday, friends. Here are some recipes and reads.
It’s a good time of year to kick off a meal with hot, juicy blistered shishitos. I’m loving Jeanine’s recipe.
Buckwheat risotto is a cool idea.
I love raw cauliflower, and this vibrant salad is a lot of fun.
I’m eager to try Katie’s lovely zucchini soup with vegan yogurt.
I’ve got almond flour in my pantry that needs using up. Now I know what I’ll do with it!
1. I’m slowly making my way through this creative, ambling, remarkable essay about peaches.
2. This article shed light for me on the experience of eating disorders and disordered eating for soldiers.
3. The fight to save coral communities in the Gulf of Mexico.
5. Finally, I loved this profile of a mother and son who became closer through quarantine cooking.
I might as well call this “weekend reading, express edition!” I’m buried under deadlines tonight, so this one has to be short and sweet, friends. Here are the recipes and reads that have my attention this week. My idea of heaven: Sherrie’s avocado toast with cilantro lime cashew cream. I’ve got a taco/tortilla recipe coming up this week, but in the meantime, check out these awesome lentil tacos with tomato radish salsa. Substitute cashew cream or soy yogurt for the creme fraiche in this…
Lots of big firsts-in-a-while this week and last! First few subway rides. First couple of al fresco meals at local eateries. First indoor visit with my mom, though we still wore masks and kept distance. First time seeing a close friend or two. I’ve been building up to this, along with other New Yorkers. Grocery shopping has gradually gotten less tense and scary. Errands and walking around outdoors feels normal-ish again. Wearing a mask has simply become part of my routine; I hang…
Hi friends, and happy Sunday. I hope you’ve all had nice weekends. Mine has been busy, but I’m looking forward to a quiet, homey day of work. In the meantime, here are the recipes that have been catching my eye lately — and the articles I read this week. Irish soda bread recipes are all over the web this week, in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day, but I thought these Irish soda bread scones (vegan + GF) were a particularly creative and tasty spin on…
I’ve been thinking a lot about taking responsibility lately. For the past few weeks, the process of slowly and patiently taking care of my responsibilities—academic, personal, business, financial, and the tiny tasks and duties associated with everyday living—have been a big part of staying healthy and engaged as I weather a patch of depression. It’s not about keeping busy, which has been my way of trying to outrun sadness in the past. It’s about reminding myself of my own capability and efficacy, proving…