I would like to share with you one of my favorite poems in the whole world.
in the gold light
turning this way
it was one
like any other.
the veil had gone
it must have been the quiet
that filled my room,
it must have been
with which I breathed
myself to sleep,
it must have been
the prayer I said
speaking to the otherness
of the night.
this is the good day
meet your love,
this is the gray day
to you could die.
This is the day
how easily the thread
between this world
and the next
and I found myself
in the quiet pathway
the tawny close
me like fire
and all the angels
of this housely
through the first
roof of light
the sun had made.
This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.
This is the temple
of my adult aloneness
and I belong
to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.
There is no house
like the house of belonging.
'The House of Belonging'
From The House of Belonging
Poems by David Whyte
©David Whyte and Many Rivers Press
s-The last week has been a tsunami of emotional upheaval for my family.
I remember when I was a kid, my mother worked for a Japanese hedge fund kinda company. She loved her job, she had no idea about finance per se, but she was the equivalent of the head honchos personal assistant/company manager. Somewhere during her time of working in this small company that did investments for a number of Japanese people with money to play around with, her boss' wife passed away from cancer.
It was an insanely stressful time for her boss, an older Japanese gentleman who likely had spent the last three decades in an office, supporting his wife and kid, and suddenly his wife was dead. He was overwhelmed by decisions about the future but also with decisions more immediate such as "what kind of casket did he wish to choose for his wife to be cremated in"? Things he stood around, numb, incapable of making a choice because what the hell kind of casket did he actually think someone ought to be burned in?
Where I am going with this is...that for all those hard decisions, from the choice of flowers to the notices being sent out to clients and family, even down to the kind of coffin, my mother helped unburden him of these decisions. In many ways, my mother lightened the load for her boss.
Right now, my mother is 70 years old and trapped in India with my 75 year old father, locked down and social distancing, and I have no idea when I will see her again, but dammit I could sure as hell use her advise right about now!
My mother was about the same age as I am now when she helped her old boss through the sudden death of his wife. And as I sit here, just having had my 44th birthday, I feel painfully unprepared for what is essentially the greatest upheaval to happen at the middle of my life at a time where I feel woefully unprepared.
I have to remind myself of every obstacle in my life that I have overcome, all the way from childhood until now, so that I can become present to what I am capable of and the strength that lies dormant within me that will get me through this shitstorm unscathed.
So how about a quick trip down memory lane to remind myself of everything I have overcome in life? You up for this? Its gonna be a hilarious game of "Who knew!"
When I was about 11 years old, I remember injuring myself pretty bad. I had used a pumice stone (basically a volcanic rock that you use to scrub off dead skin cells) to try to sand off the hairs on my legs. Yes, that is actually a thing, hey, I grew up in India and I was in boarding school from when I was 4...plus, you know, being part Indian, I did have to deal with the shy embarrassment of having hairy legs and wishing I didn't!
Anyway, long story short, I over scrubbed...and I essentially scrubbed a lot of the skin off my shins. Not good. These two shins of broken skin then became a right messy wound that simply wouldn't heal, and I would quietly put whatever I had in my tiny school first aid kit (we were at boarding school) and I would then cut a piece of cloth from an old shirt, and cover it coz thats what was on hand, and I would pull my socks up to my knees.
Why I didn't just go to the school nurse had to do with one single fear: Tetanus injections.
If you have ever had a tetanus shot, you will recall that its almost impossible to raise your arm for a day or two after. They hurt, a lot! And in India, a country where dirt and rusty barbed wire are a thing, any kind of open wound would have you send for a tetanus jab just to be safe. I didn't want one so I ended up taking "care" of my own wound, in the most substandard and likely unsanitary way possible, for two whole months! Two months of oozing shin wounds and borrowing other students first aid kits once mine ran dry...and then for a weekend my mother finally took me home from school. She discovered these pus covered "cloths" in a bin and asked me what happened!
Ashamed, I told her, and she immediately chided me on why I had kept this secret from her, I had no real answer. Anyway, she cleaned my shins, raw and open as they were inflamed, and she used all these fancy imported sterile dressings and ointments, and in two days, the wounds were closed and healed!
I think back to that experience and I am just grateful I never had to get my legs frikken amputated because what the hell was I thinking??? Seriously, that could have gone so badly! But I survived it, and I still have scars on my shins, a constant reminder of the shit I went through, mostly alone, in fear, until my mother just gave me some proper care.
Fast forward some more. When I was 18, I lived in Austin, Texas. I was riding my bicycle towards somewhere downtown when I hit a curb head on...I flew over the handlebars, something hit me square in the face, I began bleeding something fierce...its when i learned even the smallest cut on your face or head bleeds a lot, way more than anywhere else!
So, I had to get help from passers by, I was taken in an ambulance, my face was stitched up, I was given crutches, I didn't know it then but I had basically torn my ACL in my left leg and likely torn the meniscus as well.
I had to pay for a cab from there...back to my Co-op, and then I called a friend who took me clubbing, crutches and all. I found that more than the Vicodin they gave me, what stopped the pain was MDMA.
Yep. You read that right. It was the 90's, I was a college student in Austin, Texas. Club kids were a thing, you got paid to go clubbing and be sparkly and cute. So yeah, I basically danced my way through every weekend, no need for crutches as long as you had Ecstacy.
Now, I can't use that trick now, mainly coz I know better, and I finally had surgery on my ACL and my meniscus some 20 years after that accident that I cured with Molly!
When I was 20 and finally getting my life back on track, I found out I was pregnant with the bubba who is now my oldest son. I didn't have a clue what I was doing with my life, but I knew that I was ready to be his mother. I didn't have a job, his father had a shit job selling weather information, my parents were livid, but somehow I went through with taking responsibility for the consequences of our actions.
Was it the best decision of my life to get married and try to pretend it would all be ok? Probably not, but damn we did try our best. I started working as a data entry clerk at my parents friends new start up, and two years later I was the manager of a team of nearly 20 people...before I finally made the choice to leave my sons dad, got laid off when the company had to cut costs, and then taking a job as an assistant teacher which essentially meant changing diapers for kids who wore pull ups (worst diapers for poopin pants!).
I moved to Lamma to save money, I had to pay for a maid, I had to split time parenting with my ex husband, and times were frikken hard! Holy moly, but I was happy inspite of it all.
I have dated abusive partners who I have had the luxury of kicking out of my home. I have dated abusive partners who have tried to suggest they are kicking me out and I have been more than happy to leave. And each time I have landed squarely on my feet, helped by kind friends, kind moving van guys who sneak into a house and leave with only my intended belongings on their shortlist, kind bosses who have bought me TV's for my kid or shoes for me to feel special in....I have experienced so much kindness amidst great heartbreak and upheaval.
I went back to University when I was 30 only to come back 2 years later to a contentious custody battle that, in retrospect, was so wholly unnecessary, and yet, I survived that. I spent over HKD70K purely to keep my rights and to request things stay the same. I never tried to fight for sole custody, especially since my ex and I were already divorced years prior and our agreement was joint custody...but people do strange things when they feel they are right, not merely in their own choices but in making choices for others, and as painful and confusing all of that was, I am glad I went through that because it taught me that no matter how you wish someone to treat you with respect, you can't control that...and you also learn that if push came to shove, you can fight tooth and nail for what you believe is worth fighting for.
When my son was 17, we went through a painful process of rejection by him, only for him to come back and regret making that decision, by which point it was almost impossible to turn back the hands of time. The pain we both experienced took us years to overcome, but we overcame it nonetheless. We are close, we love each other, and we are able to speak of those memories with honesty and openness without the accompanying bitterness that the experience once held. I love my son, and I understand every single step of the process we both went through, the rejection we both experienced in solitary and together, and the forgiveness we each had to choose to gift ourselves and each other.
Here I am now...and I am dealing with a future that holds nothing familiar to me. I don't have a home to go to, a job waiting for me, a school to send my children to, a car or a bank account, a language that is common...
What can I do? What am I good at? What will become of us? Where do we start? When do we start? How do we support our lives?
Its insane how I have no mental map for this because I have not been here, not like this, not with this many dependents, and not with someone else who is also doing everything he can to cope with these very same sheets of blank paper that is our future.
Here is what I know.
I don't have a tumor.
No brain tumor. No lesions. No shadows. No visible damage or irregularity of the nerves that connect to my brain either. So the Ménière's disease is here to stay, but it can be managed. The doctor believes I can still freedive, I can dive, I can swim, and there is technically no reason for me to give up those possibilities in my future.
Yeah, its not great, but its not over the top. I am only classified as borderline hypertension at the moment. My question to the doc was this, "What will happen if I do nothing about this?"
Well, heart failure, kidney damage, and I think there was something else...maybe a stroke, who knows, I wasn't paying attention by that point coz heart failure and kidney failure was bad enough for me to consider that running for 30 mins a day may not be so bad despite me swearing I would not frikken run ever since it took me a year to fully recover mobility after my ACL reconstruction and Meniscus tear repair.
30 mins of jogging...to bring my blood pressure down by 5-10 points.
So here we are, all our belongings worth moving have been packed and shipped to the Netherlands. 40 boxes of "stuff", no furniture, just stuff...so they will likely go from the port in Holland to a storage unit, coz, lets face it, its not going to be fair to expect my father-in-law to store that much stuff for an undisclosed amount of time!
My 9 year old asked us how we felt the other day, with the apartment being as empty as it is...and we had to admit it felt like there was a void of sorts, in our chests...
"Yeah, right?" he said.
"Its like...its empty. The house is empty. The shelves are empty. It feels empty in our heart right now, at least it feels empty to me. Isn't that right, Mama? EMPTY!!!"
My husband and I looked at each other and we had to smile...kids. They really say some damned crazy stuff, but they are generally spot on!
That is kinda how I feel right, like a piece of me has been just ripped out of my chest, and yet, I don't know what is missing just yet.
I mean, as a human, I have birthed a baby not once, but three times. I have been through birthing at least one of those humans with zero epidural and just pure breathing that life into the world. I am sure I can handle being jobless, homeless and purposeless for a few months, right? Pshhh, how hard could this be? Lol.
As I ask around through friends about if they know anyone in the industry looking for a fully kitted out restaurant space with a license, I realize, anyone taking on a restaurant right now is either wet behind the ears or overly optimistic...plus I know my landlords are unlikely to negotiate the lease down that much further for new tenants, so I am just kinda biding my time until the lease is up.
Its just time now...time to see this all conclude. Hong Kong is now going into what they are calling the 4th Wave. Another wave of Covid19 infections, another round of "lets shut everything down" with zero promise of funding to come, so expect the restaurants that were already struggling to struggle some more. I am proud of us lasting this long, under these insane circumstances, and who knows, maybe we will be able to open Confusion in the Netherlands...but more importantly, I need to remind myself that I have been through so much horrible stuff in my life and always came out the other end and went on to thrive.
So this, this is shit, yes, but its all going to be ok.
We will survive this, we will come out the other side intact, and we will have one heck of a story to tell!
I do hope we can share our journey with you, in a way that flows, like a natural as possible transition from restaurant to sailing and cooking classes online. Who knows what we will end up doing and excelling at, but for now, I am going to stop worrying about something I have no control over.
I remember a saying from way back when, "When you spend your time with one foot in the past and one foot in the future, you will piss all over the present!' So yeah, for now, I kinda have to focus on the good that is right in front of me, or I am gonna wish I had done so, and regret is not something I am signing up for.
To the future, and to gratitude for lessons learned...and to grounded awareness for the present moment.
Thank you for letting me share.
When I started nearly three years ago, never in a million years would I have thought that this is where I would be, this is how things would turn out, and this is what I would become.
Things have been immensely overwhelming this past month and as much as I would love to pretend I am ok, I am barely holding it together.
Where do I start?
Well, how about I start with Cathay Dragon shutting down overnight. A 35 year old company with an outstanding record of service, and nearly 6000 staff all made redundant overnight. The kicker was that many of them found out they would be jobless from the press leak the day before! Once they got the company emails telling them that they were out of a job, they were sent a QR code for them to courier their uniforms, lapels, pins, belt, you name it, all back to Cathay City.
14 years of service, many of those as a Captain, and just like that, my husband was out of a job and we were left with the scramble of a logistical nightmare that is ending a life lived in Hong Kong.
We are lucky, as a family, we made the switch to a minimalist lifestyle quite some time ago, so we have no furniture to ship, only personal belongings, our beds, sofa and dining table we will likely leave for the next tenant if they want them, if not, we will just have to send them to the tip.
Anything else of value, we have either sold are in the process of selling.
We gave the school notice and our kids will cease going to school by the end of the month, the same time that we hope to be able to hop a plane and make the move back to The Netherlands.
The shop will continue, the team is staying put, and they are the most dependable team I have ever had the luxury to train, share ideas with, learn from and work with, so I know they will be fine until I can return to Hong Kong alone to ensure a smooth transition when we either return the key to the landlord or we find someone to take over our license & lease. That date comes by the end of March 2021. At this stage it feels like a lifetime away, but 2020 has passed by in the blink of a lazy eye and I know that March will be upon us before I have a second to practice gratitude or to continue feeling sorry for myself.
The same day my husband found out he was out of a job, October 21st, a day that nearly 6000 people will remember forever, is also the day I received a message from my mother telling me my fathers PSA numbers were high for the second time in 6 months and that they needed to get an appointment with a specialist to confirm whether or not my father had Prostate cancer.
Yeah, that was NOT a good day for my family.
I cried...a lot.
I was scared, helpless, just...I felt useless. I had no means to get back to India to be with my 70+ year old parents and I had no way to help my husband feel better about the very real prospect that the aviation industry is unlikely to recover for another four years at least, by which time it would be a miracle if he can get a job flying planes again!
My husband has wanted to be a pilot since he was four years old.
You know how many people dream a dream and actually make it reality? From four years old!
Now at 46, I have to watch his heart break...
And it breaks my heart. It just breaks my already broken heart. It hurts so much, I don't even know how to make the pain go away.
So here I am, trying to pick up the pieces, put it in boxes, to cargo what is left of us, and to top it all off, I got diagnosed with Ménière's disease! Like, seriously, double wtf with a side of fries, please! I would like a rare disease that has no cure and may possibly be managed by avoiding alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine and SALT!
Seriously, no soy sauce, Lis, no frikken soy sauce for an Indian Japanese Vegan Chef who cannot survive on a diet of "eat high protein, eat meat, meat, more meat, nuts, seeds, veggies and fruit"
Yeah, sure, like I can manage that and it won't depress the crap out of me!
Man, I could do with a drink right now!
I can't though...coz I know what will follow...loss of hearing, pressure in my left ear, vertigo, nausea, dizziness...and much as I would love to say, "just this once won't hurt", I have felt the pain, I have felt the almost instant pressure in my ear, the loss of hearing...and the nausea that is constant like the last dregs of a bad hangover...oh, and don't forget the fatigue, its like being pregnant without the joy of expecting!
I know, I am trying to be cheerful about this, but add a scheduled contrast MRI coming up this Monday to ensure its not a brain tumor I am contending with and you get the icing on that cake with, "Oh yeah, I forgot, look Ma, no insurance!!!"
Yeah, we had insurance with Cathay Dragon...and just like that...we don't. Ain't that how it always goes? You have brilliant to semi brilliant health, all the while that you have insurance, then once its gone you get diagnosed with a rare disease, your blood pressure scoots you into the "borderline hypertension" category, and you have to pay for a stupidly expensive MRI just to make sure you don't have a brain tumor which, holy crap, lets hope I don't! Pfft.
The silver lining in all of this is that we finally got news last week that my father has been confirmed by a specialist who shoved him into an MRI as well to be cancer free. Praise the forces of good!
We are doing our best, as a family, to be grateful for what we have and not dwelling on everything that is lost. Still...there are moments that I stop during my work and just begin to cry, not ugly sobbing, although I do have a lot of those moments too, but tears just begin to roll down my cheeks and I can't stop them. Its important to cry, I know this...just let it out, right? Besides, when you can't stop it, what choice do you have but to just go with the flow!
Our kids are just looking forward to no more school and making the monumental shift to home schooling. Yeah, I bet they are! Lol. Little do they know that this tag teaming duo of Mom and Dad are gonna be busting their asses to make sure they are ahead of the curve. Its going to be a whole new world for them...and for us.
People keep asking me, "so what are you guys gonna do?"
Well, what can you do when the primary breadwinner has no future job prospects in his field? Well, you adapt or die.
The restaurant may be seeing daily diners but we are nowhere near returning to pre-covid, pre-protest numbers. We are running on fumes. The team has been whittled down to bare bones staff and I can see that the fatigue has begun to set in for all of us. It starts with feeling run down, it continues with poor sleep patterns, and then all we need is one person to get sick from being immunocompromised and its game over for the rest of the team.
That is where we are right now.
One person finally got ill, and that means I have to step up my effort a bit more, that means other team mates have to cut short their days off and wait till we have a replacement, and all the while my heart breaks for my team even though all I want to do is close my eyes for a short break and forget about the immense stress we are all under, but more importantly, my own personal stress.
Damn. This year has been a hell of a year, eh?
To think we said, "Happy New Year" back when this year started! Pshhh, thanks for the punch in the face is what we should have said!
Nah, it will get better. I mean, maybe I have said it before, like...if you are at rock bottom, the only way to go is up and all that jazz...
Sometimes the worst stuff happens to you as a means to teach you how strong you are and how capable you are of keeping your shit together and lifting others up while you lift yourself out of the mosh pit of self-pity!
I have been fortunate this year in many ways. I have been able to make new friends, build lasting bonds, my husband and I have weathered the ultimate perfect (shit)storm and we have come out of the other side still holding our heads high. We have each other, we have a lot of people who have reached out to just share a kind word of encouragement or simply to quietly say they are sorry we are where we are but that they believe if anyone can survive it, it would be us...its a vote of confidence in our resilience, I guess, and I will take what I can get, coz I need to know we got this.
I need to know we can do this, not for us, but for my team, and for my kids.
How we deal with this will teach our children how to cope with extreme circumstances and to come out on top no matter how that looks. We don't need much money, as long as we can manage to home school our kids, earn a living through creativity and we do our part to live a sustainable life that is kind to the environment, the animals and to our bodies, we will be fine.
So whats the plan?
Well, we sell all our stuff, we buy a second hand yacht, we shove all our stuff and our kids in said yacht, and we spend the next decade making videos about sustainability, about living on the ocean, about the changing environment, about cooking with local produce from every stop we make on land...and about teaching our children about the world they live in, first hand and not from a book.
Are we any good at making videos? Not yet, but we will figure it out. Have we done any ocean crossings? Not yet, but we will figure it out. If there is anything we have on our side, its time. The world has slowed to a standstill thanks to Covid19. People have had to improvise, do a 180 degree turn in life, reassess their priorities, and we are not the first nor the last family to be dealt the hand we have. We will survive.
As for Confusion...
Yeah, I burst into tears from time to time about Confusion too...
Go big or go home...or just go quietly into the night...and say that it was good while it lasted, we did our best, we gave it our best shot...
Maybe one day we can open one in another country, but Hong Kong is no longer our home.
I grew up here. I went to school here. My children are all born here.
After 30 years, I am finally leaving and it feels surreal, if feels like nothing, it feels like I won't realize I have left for good until I simply realize I won't return. How many times have I taken a plane out of Hong Kong? I have always returned. Lived in America for four years, I still returned every year. Lived in Japan for two years, always returned, nearly every month!
So yeah, it is a bit surreal...that this time...there is no coming back. There is no reason to come back. My parents left here so many years ago. My brother left here so many years ago...and now...its my turn.
Now its our turn.
My oldest son is still at HKU...he has another year to go, so he will stay to complete his Undergrad and then he is planning on going straight into a Masters program. I don't think either of us has really registered that we may not see each other for a few years. 22 years in his life...and then who knows when I will see him again, I hope its not too long.
He's grown into a fine young man. I am so very proud of him. Working with me for nearly three years, I have seen him go from a clueless, entitled little teenager to a man with a fully developed prefrontal cortex, someone I can actually have deep and meaningful conversations with without calling him an idiot, lol. I am going to miss my boy, but I also know I can be confident he can manage just fine without me. He knows he is loved, deeply, and always will be, and he can always come sail the oceans with us when he wishes to take some time off from the real world.
The plan is to pick up this sailing vessel in Sweden come the end of winter in Sweden. We will then either sail it via Denmark and through to Holland, so as to avoid the possible rough North Sea, or we just brave it and sail the North Sea down to the coast of Holland, that plan has yet to be decided. From there we spend a few months altering the boat to install a water-maker, a desalination set up, put in more solar panels so we can comfortably run on solar for all our needs, and also to get lithium batteries so we could even run more energy taxing items on the solar without having to use fossil fuels to run the generator.
Once that is all done we will cast off and sail to the Mediterranean.
My husband says we can spend a year or two there to get our sea legs and once we are confident that we can handle ourselves as a team, we will make the ocean crossing towards the Caribbean Sea. What do they have there? Saint Kitts, the Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia, Antigua, The Bahamas....Cuba...shit, I don't know, its like all make believe for me right now because its about as real as dealing with the fact I have lived in Hong Kong for 30 years and may never return!
This all sounds so awesome and all, but deep down, I am scared shitless!
I am scared I won't be good enough. I am scared I don't know how to sail. I am scared for my health. I am scared for the safety and welfare of my kids. I am scared about money. I am scared about the oceans turning on us. I am scared of so many things that I don't even know I am meant to be scared of.
All I have is a very recent Ocean Survival course that I took with the RYA, so basically I know how to bust out the life raft and how not to abandon ship unless I absolutely have to. I know that if we were to abandon ship and end up in a life raft, don't eat a thing for 24 hours! I also took an Ocean First Aid Course....also very fresh in my memory, and I know now how I can set a broken leg or arm, I know how to clean a wound, I know how to do CPR and what brand of shock emitting thingy I may need to buy and how to administer it to jump start someones heart!
You can imagine, all that knowledge did not make me feel better whatsoever! I hope I never have to deal with a lion fish spike or one of those funky small blue dotted octopuses poisoning me or my family! I am just scared to death about the future and yet...I know I was built for this. My family is ready for this, ready as we will ever be, I mean, what else would we do? Sit in Holland, send our kids to local school while my husband works in construction and I work in a restaurant busting our asses, paying high taxes and doing the same old thing everyday?
I am not built for that, we aren't built for that.
So for better or worse, Fear can hop in the back seat with us and as long as he stays silent, he will be with us for the whole journey. The future is wide open...literally!
So I want to say thank you to everyone who has helped me along the last three years. I want to say thank you to my team. I want to thank my business partner for taking a chance on me. I want to thank everyone who continues to come and eat our food and to support us in any way they can. We will remain open until early next year, March at the latest if all goes to plan, so if you are wondering how much longer you can still dine with us, you still got time!
I will try and post again once my MRI results come out, lets hope we have some good news. I am as optimistic as I can be right now.
So thank you, for being along for the ride, and thank you for hearing me out.
With kindness and heartfelt gratitude.
My name's Lisa. I love to cook, I love to laugh, I love to write. I don't always believe I have the time for creating, and now I am going to work on simply going with the flow, with the food, the restaurant, the writing...and if I can, for one moment, spread a little joy along the way, well, its worth the effort.