HOLES

I feel like I’m trying to stitch up the holes in this new reality with old thread. It’s weak. The colors don’t match and it breaks when I pull it tight to close the gap. I have the sense that the holes aren’t meant to be stitched. That this is different cloth designed to expose what’s been ignored and wants to be seen.

It seems the whole of humanity is wearing this same cloth. Some are clawing at it, trying to tear it off. Some are gazing through the holes seeing parts of themselves they’ve never seen before, awakening to new passions with purpose and zeal. Others, like me, are slowly relinquishing the needle and thread and opening our eyes.

I think it’s begun to sink in that what once was will never be again. There’s no going back, and the way ahead is as obscure as San Francisco when the fog rolls in. There’s no new normal – only new.

We have a window of time, right now, to prepare.

At least some of us do. Others are rushing out every day, exhausted and sleep-deprived, to care for the sick. Some are running herd on children who would otherwise be in school, possibly trying to squeeze in a full-time job that also has to be managed from home. Many others have lost jobs and are homeless, struggling to survive.

The rest of us wallow in an abundance of time that arranges itself differently than before. I’ve become accustomed to Bali’s ‘rubber time.’ I’m used to losing track of days. Sometimes entire months go missing. But COVID has brought an additional level of strangeness to the equation. Now there’s an absence of time. We’ve been sucked into a vacuum that feels endless and motivation stagnates.

So when I say we have a window of time to prepare, it’s prudent to ask, ‘Prepare for what?’ No one can answer that question. It’s the HOW that’s important. HOW do we prepare ourselves for the unknown ahead?

Raw material is plentiful. We’re it.

Our minds, bodies, and emotions are ripe for new management. We can’t approach a paradigm shift with old expectations and worn-out patterns. In many cases, even our dreams must be revised or replaced.

It’s an opportunity to reflect on the past and assess what we want to carry with us into the future and to determine what is excess baggage and has to go. The current chaos is calling us to center and conserve our energy – to form a sea of tranquility in the eye of the hurricane and that’s no easy task.

I’m paying far more attention to intuition than ever before, heeding subtle nudges, seeking to increase awareness and strengthen deeper ways of knowing. By so doing, I’m creating a version of myself that will survive the challenges of this unparalleled time. I’m revising hopes and rewriting responses. I’m seeing that NEVER was yesterday and no longer applies. Options I wouldn’t have considered a week ago are now viable. I’m studying this unfamiliar person with befuddled curiosity.

Under pressure, rigidity breaks. Flexibility bends.

I want to learn this lesson the first time. I know a bit about lessons: if we don’t nail it, the next will strike with force so brutal there may be nothing left to salvage.

This reality that covers us with a strange cloth full of mystifying holes is urging us to take stock of ourselves. To view this as opportunity rather than disaster.

I, too, have lost a dear one to the virus. I’m on the other side of the world from my children and grandchildren and all plans to visit are cancelled for the unforeseeable future. Thankfully, my home here is secure. But there is a deep sense of grief and loss every day.

And yet, another part of me sits in awe at what I’m being allowed to experience in this lifetime and I’m determined to make the most of it.

Fly Your Freak-Flag High

There’s no denying it. The past four months have changed us.

Knowing what we’re all dealing with in some form or another, wouldn’t you think everyone would be a little kinder? A bit more compassionate? Patient? Longsuffering?

What I see isn’t quite like that.

The proverbial rubber, it seems, has hit the road. There’s a don’t-mess-with-me attitude weaving its tentacles into every area of life: friendships, partnerships, work, driving, waiting in line. It’s as though our BS meter is set on high: If you’re not going to level with me, don’t waste my time.

Irritation prickles on the skin – I feel it the instant I wake up – like a racehorse harnessed to a plow.

I’ve been doing things every morning to convince the horse that the plow is a good thing, that plodding instead of galloping makes time for a rich inner life. But in spite of that, too often I say Screw the plow! and mad-dash through the fields with that worthless piece of crap bouncing off every furrow behind me while I’m flying my freak-flag high.

And you know what?

It feels good. It feels good to shock myself, to think something I wouldn’t ordinarily think, say something I wouldn’t ordinarily say (like screw the plow), do things I didn’t do before (like cook), and stop doing things that once defined my life.

That’s the more difficult part to come to terms with – a loss of interest in what once occupied most of my waking hours. It’s like I went into the cocoon as a caterpillar but I haven’t yet emerged. I’m still marinating. The words of the woman who read my astrological chart in March of this year, haunt me. “Even if you thought you knew what was ahead for you, Sherry, you’d be wrong.”

That could apply to any of us and it’s probably the reason we feel a little strange in our own skin. It’s not knowing how to plan, not having a predictable future, not being certain that the virus won’t arrive in our homes on a lettuce leaf or under a fingernail, or wondering if maybe it already has. Things like that mess with the mind.

So here’s my challenge to you…

Fly your freak-flag high. Be the out-of-the-box wild-child you always wanted to be. Embrace whatever random ideas float through your mutinous mind and try them on for size. Trust me, they won’t all fit. But you get to choose.

Suddenly, in the middle of writing this post, I had to stop and actually make a Freak Flag. I don’t do crafts, right? That’s what I mean. Where do these compulsions come from? It took about five minutes to know exactly what I wanted.

Why don’t you make one, too, and let me know what yours says.

Guilty as charged!

There’s a guava tree in my garden. I’m not a fan. The fruit is loaded with disagreeable little seeds. On the way to the compost bin I glanced up at its branches bending under the weight of ripe abundance and felt judged. In these strange times, why wasn’t I utilizing a natural source of nutrition that required nothing more than the energy to pluck it?

So pluck I did, out of guilt, then probed the internet for a recipe that would turn it into something edible. And there it was. Guava cheese.

In regard to cheese, I’m a solid thumbs down on Velveeta and varieties that fail the ‘smell’ test. Otherwise I’ll try anything. Guava cheese piqued my curiosity.

The instructions called for two ingredients, guava pulp and sugar, in almost equal amounts.

I wavered. Some people are sweets addicts. Some prefer salty treats. I’m the latter. But in the dark recesses of my refrigerator were two atrophying lumps of palm sugar left over from a brunch buffet (a year ago?) when it had been sprinkled atop banana fritters. Getting rid of the sugar while assuaging my guilt over the garden guavas had the intriguing potential of making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

The entire process took an hour – that’s when I decided to quit stirring. But when I poured the hot sticky mess into a buttered pan to harden I had doubts. At 93% humidity, a temperature hovering upwards of 85 degrees (29.4 Celsius) and a 90% chance of rain in Ubud, the so-called cheese was a long way from solid with little hope of achieving the desired outcome.

Six hours later its consistency hadn’t changed. It seemed I’d made a batch of guava paste. I invited my neighbor for tea to sample my efforts.

We’re in isolation, me upstairs, her downstairs. We haven’t been off the property for many days. In a world where people eye each other suspiciously and pass giving wide berth, it’s a comfort having someone to interact with semi-normally knowing that neither of us carries the dreaded virus.

She accepted my invitation.

At the appointed time, Kaye arrived and seated herself at the table. “So this is guava cheese?” she said, poking suspiciously at the uncheese-like substance. “It looked different in the pictures you showed me. Like fudge – you could pick it up and…”

What could I say? She was right. “Yes, yes. Maybe think of it as guava butter and just taste it.” She spread a dollop on a cracker and took a tentative bite.

“What do you think?” I asked. She chewed thoughtfully and swallowed.

“Hmmm.”

Her hmmms can mean anything, hmmm good, hmmm bad, hmmm-I-don’t-want-to-disappoint-you-but…

“Well?”

A look of surprise crossed her face. “It’s really quite good, isn’t it?” she said.

We decided it resembled cranberry sauce and would be a tasty accompaniment to turkey – or spread on top of cheesecake – or with real cheese and crackers. Before she left we’d polished off the lot.

Even though my failed guava cheese was a hit, I don’t think I’ll be wasting my energy making it again anytime soon.

The only other edible growth in the garden is a chili plant.

There’s no guesswork involved with those little firecrackers. What you see is what you get, hot, hotter, and hottest in direct proportion to the amount added, no blending, straining or endless stirring required.

I’ll leave guavas to birds and squirrels. Going forward, chilies will be my guilt-assuaging choice.

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