When you’re studying for a big test, which I am, you spend a lot of time thinking about focus. You have to: concentration and focus are huge parts of test preparation. No amount of study hours matter unless the quality of one’s attention and immersion is strong, a distinction that’s sometimes summed up as studying smart vs. studying hard. (For the record, I tend to need to study smart and hard to get anywhere!)
In the past few days, I’ve given more thought to focus in other dimensions of my life. Specifically, I’ve had a few interpersonal exchanges that shook me up. Processing them involved a willingness to listen as well as the ability to stay focused on my own narrative, so to speak. I’m susceptible to second-guessing or even rewriting my experience when it conflicts with another person’s account of things. My goal isn’t to become closed-minded or unable to hear, because there’s never a single truth in the complexities of human exchange. But I am working on staying true to myself in a way that feels self-compassionate as well as compassionate to others.
These incidents asked me to give some thought and attention to the kind of person and communicator that I want to be. Life has been so solitary lately that I haven’t had to do this very often, but it’s an important exercise.
The upshot of it all is that today, as I write, I’m in a process of quietly considering what matters most to me. This includes the wish to be thoughtful and kind, aware of others and what they feel. But it also includes the hope that I can continue to stay with myself when my instinct is to separate from my feelings and affirm what other people think or say. It’s hard for me to fight the urge to please, appease, and impress at all costs, but loss of authenticity and presence is too high a price.
I’m learning how to show up honestly while also being gentle and kind; I also continue to learn the hard lesson that it’s impossible to avoid hurting or displeasing other people sometimes. It’s not a lesson that gets easier with time, but shrinking away from it doesn’t ease its fundamental difficulty.
I have a lot on my mind these days, and my tendency during such times is to isolate myself protectively. A little nurturing solitude is A-OK, but my way of being out in the world deserves attention, too. It deserves focus. And it’ll continue to get it.
I’m wishing you all a great week. Here are some recipes and reads.
I’ve seen many a recipe for cauliflower steak, but none made with jerk seasoning. I’m intrigued!
Speaking of cauliflower, and of being intrigued, I love the looks of Kristen’s cauliflower salad with avocado pesto.
Liv had me at “bagel bomb.”
A perfect hot and sweet eggplant dip to make while eggplants are in season.
Let’s make all the fruit crisp/crumble/slump/buckle/cobbler before summer ends, right? This blueberry version is calling my name.
1. It’s never easy to reconcile strong ideals and the compromises that are sometimes necessary to see them become realized. I was struck by how sensitively Brian Kateman described how this conflict can affect vegans who are watching plant-based options continue to take hold in a non-plant-based world.
2. Wired profiles loving parents and researchers who are fighting to make DNA sequencing more accessible to kids with illnesses.
3. An interesting (and scary) look at the impact of AC on climate change.
4. I’m always fascinated to read about the global history of plant-based eating, and I loved RD Ginger Hultin’s history of vegetarian diets in Food & Nutrition Magazine.
5. Finally, writer Kelly Corrigan’s hilarious and humble advice to her college freshman, via The New York Times. I really enjoyed Corrigan’s book Tell Me More, and I felt the same way about this warmhearted essay.
Speaking of warm heart, offering up a little piece of mine to everyone reading tonight. See you with a new recipe, soon!