Shhh #nofilter Do I dare tell the truth?

Usually I post a blog when inspiration strikes which has been happening about once a week for several months now. Ideas flow, words come, and a somewhat cohesive piece of writing materializes.

This week arrived.

I waited. Fished around in my subconscious. Looked at old notes jotted on random scraps of paper. Pulled tarot cards…

The cards had plenty to say, but the messages were personal, nothing anyone else would find interesting.

Today, still at a loss, I took time to reflect on the weeks leading up to 2020. What thoughts circled as I approached my 70th birthday? What questions followed me to Italy? What conflicts arose? What has resolved? What’s still bubbling in the stew-pot?

Relationships. It’s been all about relationships.

I’m a listener, non-confrontational, looking out for the emotional needs of others, rarely revealing my own. My mother’s instructions have dictated my behavior for sixty-nine years: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. And this one: If you listen, Sherry, you’ll always have friends. People aren’t really interested in what you have to say.

Double whammy. Ouch! Ouch!

Mom was a product of her upbringing and raised ‘Minnesota Nice’ daughters. I don’t fault her. But approaching the seventh decade of my life, all that listening began to feel like really old news. There was something deceptive about it and the more I watched myself in that role the more disgusted I became.

In my fifties I did a fourteen-month course in grounding meditation. During a one-on-one session with the leader she asked me, What do you want more than nice? I answered, Truth, then went on my merry way being nice.

That element of my identity was obsolete. It needed to be let go and mercifully allowed to die.

Facing the momentous birthday looming ahead, self-loathing bubbled within. Why hadn’t I changed? Why was I still being The Insipid Ms. Nice? What part of myself didn’t I want others to see? Nothing seemed to have more urgency and importance than transparency and honest communication. I craved it with every cell in my body.

I told my daughters I loved them but I was on a truth-telling rampage and I hoped they wouldn’t hate me forever if I actually spoke what I was thinking at times. During a conversation with my youngest a few days later, I was clicking along the old track asking questions, hiding in the shadows, when all at once she said, Mom, stop. Tell me about you.

With her words a layer of my psyche that feared rejection, confronted me.

I saw in a flash that I couldn’t just snap my fingers and, presto change-o, the authentic and honest-to-a-fault Sherry would show up. I committed to doing the work, whatever it took, to stop playing safe and get my skin in the game.

The Universe took note and brought me face-to-face with people who challenged my intentions in the most unique and unexpected ways. There are methods for handling honesty with diplomacy and grace, but like a toddler taking her first wobbly steps, it was a skill-set I hadn’t mastered. And yet, the feeling of embodying my whole self for perhaps the first time ever, helped me see beyond the collateral damages of those first disappointing attempts.

Then I left for Italy.

If ever there was a culture of direct, honest communicators, Italians epitomize it. They’re open about their emotions, state their points clearly, and expect the same in return. What that accomplishes is an atmosphere of relaxed acceptance. You know where you stand and what you say is taken at face value. My visit there couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. I had exceptional role models for exactly the kind of transparent person I hoped to become.

As I returned to Bali, COVID hit hard. That was five months ago. The pandemic hasn’t let up and as physical masks go on, psychological masks come off. People are ground down to their essence. Everyone is living closer to the bone than ever before. It’s bringing out the worst and the best in us but rarely anything lukewarm. Truth is raw and exposed. We’re learning what’s important and who our friends are.

But here’s the thought I want to leave with you.

This is not just a random difficult time. It’s a destined milestone along our soul path. In relationships the other person is not the point. If we’re triggered by them, they’ve poked at a wound and it’s time that wound was opened, scraped clean, and healed. We’ve been given a rare, once-in-a-millennium opportunity to recognize how human we are, to see our warts laid bare, and tend to the business of emotional accountability.

It’s time for truth-telling – especially to ourselves.

The mind on COVID – What’s happening?

I want someone who has studied the workings of the mind to tell me what’s going on with mine.

In the last few months I’ve become a fascinating creature very unlike my former self. Fascinating to me, that is. I doubt anyone else would find me particularly remarkable. It’s just that in less time than it takes to grow an onion, I’ve morphed into someone I don’t recognize.

I like things I didn’t like before. I take pleasure in doing things I didn’t want to do before. On the flip side…I’ve no interest in projects that used to absorb me for hours.

It’s involuntary. That’s what’s so weird. If I’d decided to take up cooking because I had time on my hands and it made sense, fine. But it wasn’t like that. I just woke up one morning with a maniacal urge to cook. There was no forethought, no pre-planning, only a fierce, single-minded compulsion and I knew if I did nothing else that day, I – would – make – food.

Crafty projects? Just shoot me.

That was before. Inspiration strikes frequently now. There was the plastic bag flag-string to deter bats. I had a hoot making it. I refinished my table top. The design for a veggie garden I dreamed up was implemented by Ketut – I was quite happy to delegate the actual work!

And today…

Stencil the steps.

Where did that come from? This isn’t the States. I can’t run out to Hobby Lobby, Craft Warehouse, or Michaels and pick out a stencil that tickles my fancy. If I want to stencil my steps I’ll have to come up with a design, find a piece of heavy plastic, transfer the image, cut it out…

By this time the old Sherry would have said, #@&%$ the steps! (The new Sherry doesn’t swear…HAHAHA!) But, no! The challenge energized me. By noon I’d Googled stencils, found one I loved, made a copy, taped it to an old laminated flier, and…

stopped.

The more I studied the image the less I knew how to proceed. Where did I want the paint to show up? Where should the concrete be left bare? How could I cut it so the holes were where I wanted them without the entire thing falling apart? Am I boring you yet?

Somehow I figured it out.

Several hours later I’d stenciled the left side of the steps, taken the paint-covered template upstairs, washed it, dried it, and flipped it over to use the reverse pattern on the right side. One more step to go…

And…

done.

My makeshift stencil worked. I hadn’t been one-hundred percent enamored with Ketut’s whitewash. It needed something. The indistinctness of the butterfly isn’t too dressy but it brings closure to an otherwise unfinished thought.

Which reminds me of my original question: What’s going on in my head?

It’s kind of fun being a stranger to myself – disturbing, too. What if I began changing in radical ways over which I had no more control than I do over the wild inspiration to cook or craft? Whoa! Way too much fodder for the imagination – scratch that.

I was starving after I finished the paint job. Google had a recipe for adzuki bean hummus. My mouth watered.

In no time I’d whipped up a purplish-brown bowl of the beany paste and sat down with crackers and a crisp, pinot grigio to write this post.

I’m sure I’m not the only one questioning my sanity after months of COVID craziness. What I’ve emphasized here are more-or-less positive manifestations of a mind deviating from its norm. Don’t misunderstand. It deviates in negative ways, too. But I keep those meanderings caged. I’d rather laugh, wouldn’t you?

After the dream…what?

Sometimes I feel almost normal. I wake up without hyperventilating. The sunrise is splendid. Roosters crow and doves coo. The aroma of my neighbor’s coffee prompts me to brew my own. The beans are organic Kintamani Arabica and they’re almost gone. Mental note: order coffee.

By this time I have a plan for the day. I’ll take a walk.

Trust me, it’s a plan. For three months I barely left my house. Now there are a few – very few – cafes opening and I’ve begun to venture out. First there was Monsieur Spoon for coffee and almond cake. I was a bit traumatized – can you tell?

Then a daring evening out at Mingle.

So far so good. This week I tried Tropical View, a picturesque restaurant overlooking a rice paddy next to Monkey Forest. The nachos were great.

Perhaps you’ve noticed a consistent theme…

No people.

Today my walk took me along Monkey Forest Road. Normally at 2:00 in the afternoon this time of year the sidewalks are crammed with tourists and exhaust from cars and motorbikes inching their way along Ubud’s narrow streets clogs the air. COVID has changed all that.

There wasn’t a single moving vehicle on this stretch, and I was the only pedestrian.

It takes a fair amount of numbing to manage the silence without feeling like a dream has died. So many dreams. I tell myself to enjoy the peace while it lasts only to remember the article I read that said recovery may take two years.

That’s a lot of peace.

It isn’t just here. Ubud is a snapshot of the rest of the world. As I walked I tried to imagine how I could force a positive spin on this situation, at least for Bali. There are thousands of unemployed who are in desperate need of the basics for survival. Some have gardens so food for them isn’t a worry. The ingenuity of others has spawned new services. But for the vast majority…

As I passed the soccer field I had my answer. If there’s no work, there’s an over-abundance of one commodity: time.

Plenty of time to fly kites.

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