Lessons from Nana

Last night was the first time I have dreamt in six months. Or let me say, it’s the first time I vividly recall dreaming. The memories I hold may be non-sequential, but I don’t think that matters since the image shards my brain was tossing at me had very A Clockwork Orange story lines.

Beauty in the changes.

One minute I was both a Trump-Esque-Biden messaging campaigner with environmentally endangered snapping turtles guarding my podium. Yes, I know snapping turtles are not endangered, and it’s illogical to be both Trump and Biden on the campaign trail, but it’s my dream. At one point in my dream state, I had to leave the stage with my snapping turtle guard maneuvering over steps made of metal paint thinner buckets – some rusted and upside-down, others upright with plastic spouts sticking up like hydrostatic skeleton statues. The bucket path led through a murky wetland exit with what I assumed were crocodiles swirling in the dark water beneath me. At that point, my small Jack Russell Buddy appeared to lead the way, only to make matters worse.  Buddy’s feet kept slipping from the buckets teeter-tottering in ways that made me sure he would be dinner for whatever invisible monsters awaited below.

So that’s just one dystopian shard that came to mind when I awoke. I don’t know why I suddenly have these dream memories. It could be because I practiced Yoga Nidra for the first time in months last night and achieved a deeper level of sleep. Perhaps, it’s the fact I haven’t taken down the hurricane shutters yet and am happily enclosed in this protective concrete cave. 

In a softer dream fragment, I was swimming with fish in a very relaxing cartoonish unreality. 

This cartoon dream is more easily translated. You see, I have been reading messages from NEMO (yes, our national emergency management organization’s name is suggestive of the clownfish Pixar character) for days as the island awaited Nana’s arrival.

I think that sentence alone is illustrative of both landscape and mindscape. We are all battling the surreal reality of worldwide COVID19 restrictions, political and social unrest in the United States, and an utterly destructive global economic slap in the face to working-class people. There is little for empathetic people to hold on to for hope for humankind – other than a wish and a prayer.

This week, Belize had message after message and image after image of a hurricane making a direct hit on this little country. We all settled to the reality Nana was coming and prepared for the worst prediction model. I was fully prepared and very apprehensive until I got our fifth message from NEMO:

WARNING #5 TROPICAL STORM IS EXPECTED TO BELICE AS A HURRY BEFORE THE FALL TO EARTH.

I have no idea why this rushed, misspelled, and awkwardly translated headline made me so happy. But it did. I mean, it made me giddy-happy, and it still does. The rest of the press release also, for some strange reason, made me relax and smile.

“Nana was moving west at 18 mph with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph. Nana is expected to turn into hurricane tonight or tonight…The public should monitor the progress of this system, but don’t be scared!”

The warning summed up the year for me. Nana falling to earth as a hurry and landing tonight or tonight, and the final note to not be scared. It just made me happy and relaxed.

It’s been a scary year.

Our restaurants are struggling to keep up with continually changing public health and safety strategies. Employees are simultaneously eager and unwilling to work.  Our thinly spread management team is left to take on new responsibilities. Responsibilities they were never equipped to handle, such as being public mediators with disgruntled guests that can’t be pleased and have no respect for what our team faces daily.

If you are in the hospitality world and honestly give a damn about the industry and your customers, it’s a pretty shitty time to be in business.

And for me, my world is filled with unfamiliar paperwork and legal forms and insurance debates and labor disputes and government lobbying and navigating a new world of finances and loans we should have never needed.

And for my partner, it’s been living without his human ballast.

As Nana approached, the island prepared and shut down. We were spared. Belize, for the most part, was spared. The storm came in overnight. I stayed in my cave. And although the winds were whipping outside, I wasn’t scared. I knew what it was, and I was well-prepared for whatever level of danger it might bring.

I slept so soundly. It was not until Danny called in the morning that me, or the dogs, even stirred.

The next day, no one on the island went back to work. It was an unofficial day off, post-hurricane preparedness relaxation. The country took a collective deep breath and exhaled and thanked God.

I could not figure out what to do with myself that day. I worked a bit. I wrote. I played with the dogs. I watched TV. 

But mostly, I pondered what it was I was feeling. And I had an epiphany.

This year sucked. 

Yes, I know that’s an understatement. But aside from a deadly virus sweeping around the world and, well, you know all the rest of the shit going on, it sucked because we could not prepare.

No one knew COVID19 was falling to earth, and even when we started to get a glimpse of its arrival, we didn’t know what the storm would look like, what it would encompass, how to prepare for it, or how to clean up after it. 

We have stopped and started and stopped our “normal” lives over and over this year. Some of us have never had the chance to begin again. This constant state of being scared but having to present a face to the world that this new state of affairs is easily surmountable takes its toll. 

When I awoke to the dreams today, I recalled my recent stop-start suckdom epiphany, and my dreams made perfect sense. I realized that I had lived this year in this constant start-stop state. Whether or not we all live in this stop-start state, we are all living with the knowledge there is an invisible monster out there. We simply don’t know how it might impact us individually.

For me, I don’t have a fear of the invisible COVID-19 monster. I do what I need to prepare and move on. But I think even for people like me who don’t fear it, knowing it exists or working hard to pretend it doesn’t exist, these subliminal arguments must be taking a toll whether we will admit it or not.

And the waiting is also making an impact. Like a hurricane coming to shore, it erodes our self-built stability, toppling our life plans, and reshaping our futures.

I keep waiting for the world to start again so that I can figure out what to do next. It wasn’t until my hurricane day off that I realized the world never stopped. It just changed. And it is not changing back, at least for most of us, and so it’s time to rebuild our worlds with whatever lies in front of us at this moment. There are more hurricanes on the horizon. You just can’t stand still and wait for them to hit.

What will my world look like? I have no clue. And I am not holding myself steadfast to anything, because I don’t know what’s falling to earth tomorrow. But it’s okay. I will just prepare and fortify, and if the storm changes course, I will be ready.

Because I am not scared, and no matter what the challenge, I am as determined as Dory.

Thank you, Nana and NEMO, for the inspiration.

Published by The Chef & The Writer

Michelle has covered the specialty food industry for more than a decade traveling everywhere from Spain to Singapore in search of great eats, beautiful table settings and the best kitchenware. Her partner, Danny Mellman, is a James Beard Chef, Cakebread Cellars alumni and more...his remarkable ability to pair ingredients and flavors with passion and creativity brings joy to the kitchen, the plate and the diner.

2 thoughts on “Lessons from Nana

  1. Well said. We cant change the circumstances but we can do our best to learn how to live in this new world. My fear is I hope this just isn’t the beginning of changes we will see.

  2. Michelle, aside from appreciating Scotch whisky, I also like a lot of Bobby Burn’s poetry. Do you know “To a Mouse,. . .” The most often quoted, and misquoted line is “The best laid schemes o’ mice and men gang aft’ agley, And bring us naught but grief and pain for promis’d joy.” But the next, and last stanza was called to my mind by your post. It is; “But mousie, thou art more bless’d than me, The present only touches thee, Whilst backward I cast my eye On prospects drear, And forward tho’ I canst not see, But guess and fear.” Seems pretty appropriate to your mood. Take care and stay safe. Get home to Danny, and recover when and as you can. Our thoughts are with you both. M

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