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.
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.