Drawing on the right side of the brain

My son Carlos started asking fairly complex questions at about the age of three. I didn’t think it was unusual that he could grasp my explanations, and was actually quite surprised when my mother told me she’d never seen a little boy who could follow reason and understand abstract concepts. “He’s always thinking; he always has ideas,” she said, “and I guess you were a bit like that, but not nearly as much as him.”

All through his boyhood and teen years, I had many stimulating conversations with Carlos, and now that he’s “all grown up”, he still has the same meditative manner. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic and its repercussions (immediately and for the future) is our present topic.

Carlos loves history, and I surprised him when I told him I knew about the first recorded pandemic in 430 BC during the Peloponnesian War. The disease (probably typhoid fever) made its way through Libya, Ethiopia and Egypt, and it crossed into Athens, just as the Spartans invaded; probably two-thirds of the population died. Many more massive annihilations followed; usually separated by roughly a century. Between 1918 and 1919, the “Spanish Flu” is thought to have infected a third of Europe’s population,killing at least 50 million people, making it the deadliest pandemic in modern history.

We feel so insecure and puzzled; how does this happen? It’s as though we periodically open Pandora’s Box, and then have to suffer before we find a way to lock it back up. Less than five months ago, in November 1919, the first case of COVID-19 was reported in China. The previously unknown virus spread rapidly, and by the time the World Health Organization received the alert, it had extended far beyond its host country. Highly contagious, and with no vaccine available, it has now invaded about 170 countries. Life as we have known it has come to a dead halt.

Carlos and I worry about all our loved ones, especially Emma… “This is a total game changer,” I said, “just as 9-11 brought in hyper-exaggerated security measures into play; this will cause a complete overhaul of sanitary and medical treatment procedures. Virology and scientific investigation will re-claim their former importance.” Carlos added that the days of huge sporting and entertainment events will probably not return; Mega cruise ships and planes that can squeeze in 850 passengers will go the way of the dinosaurs. Restaurants will have lower capacity seating, and many people will work remotely.

Profit for BIG corporations and governments should not remain the focus of every action carried out by the powerful. Developing better and more humane models will require much “drawing on the right side of the brain”. There are many experts who could design ways to stop herding people like cattle; we should not be tricked into believing that strict governmental policy is our only hope. Sooner or later scientists will find the key that closes Pandora’ Box (this time). But if we don’t respect and heal Mother Earth… another scourge will be released. We need to use our creativity to make sure the world will be fit for Emma and all the grandchildren of the world.

It’s time, said she.

Since Jorge and I began our voluntary isolation, I have tried to look at this as a bonanza of free time, and use it well. I have been writing and painting, which I totally enjoy.  As well, I have reacquainted myself with housework. Actually, I rather like tidying and sorting; as well as cooking. The mopping, dusting, bathroom cleaning, and laundry never held any appeal for me, and Jorge feels likewise about his daily garden raking, watering, doing dishes, and garbage detail. But it’s good for us, my mother would have pointed out.

And this week I faced another challenge as well – one I’ve put off for too long – I am back on the low-carb diet. In the past, I have lost many kilos by following this eating plan, but when I introduced other foods, I could not restrain myself from indulging far more than I should have, and in about 6 months, I gained back the 17 kilos it had taken me a year to lose. Of course I put on a few more as well. Our current “house arrest” has spurred me forward; of course I worry that I’ll lose again and then gain back again. But – woe is me – is self-defeating and I have to banish the thought. Eyes on the prize – Yes you can – and a whole bunch of other catch phrases are now my mantras.

In my last post I laid bare my dread of the unknown and my fear that we are in for another tough round. And now here I am again, revealing another personal issue. Too much information? Maybe so, but I have decided to stop self-censoring.  I will need to deal with lots of changes brought on by the COVID-19 virus, and to face this; I will need all the strength I can muster.

I am not able to influence the politicians’ decisions. And despite my concerns about the weakened state of Mother Earth, I can’t stop people’s wasteful ways any more than I can control looting and other havoc in the streets.

My creative expression, a clean house, and a more fit body are elements I have a say about. And this will be my focus for the next while.

I am an experienced home cook and I my sister is a chef. She often shares her recipes with me, but I often have to modify them because of the ingredients I have on hand. I made these easy low-carb stuffed mushrooms yesterday. The  recipe contains under 10g.of carbohydrates, and makes a satisfying meal for one person.

7 large white mushrooms                                                    4 – 5 g. carbohydrates

2 Tbsp, minced onion                                                              less than 1 g.

4 Tbsp. tomato sauce                                                                2 – 3 g.

¼ cup of shredded cheese (I used aged manchego)         0 -1 g.

Clean the mushrooms, and remove stems. Chop the stems, and brown them with the onion in a non-stick skillet. Add the tomato sauce, mix, and fill each mushroom cap. Top with grated cheese, and toast for 10-15 minutes (depending how well-browned you prefer) Serve with a a multi-veggie salad.


When the going gets tough…

Since Jorge and I began our voluntary isolation, I have done my best to be cheerful, keep busy, stay organised, and not to think too much about all the ramifications of the COVID 19 pandemic. But yesterday I felt like a bird with no branch to land on, and let myself feel the worry, fear and helplessness. Completely overwhelmed by all the unknown challenges that are surely waiting for us, I went into my room, closed the door and had a long cry.

Each tear drop was huge, and they absolutely poured from my eyes. Using the sleeve of my shirt, I tried to wipe them off my cheeks, but my nose was running too, and the saliva that had collected under my tongue also mixed into the mess on my face. I felt like all my vital fluids would soon be gone and I would just dry up.

But I didn’t care. I kept sobbing. Moans and laments came from a deep, sodden place and they made me gasp. I didn’t know I could produce such an awful, sorry sound.

And then the unhappy memories came flooding to my mind and got all bunched up with my current state of utter collapse. Sad events, slights, disappointments, betrayals, broken promises, unfulfilled expectations… losses of every kind… filed their way through my consciousness. Like a grim slideshow.

You are a mess, I said to the person in the mirror.

I have a right to be, she answered.

And as I sat there, all hunched over on the edge of my bed, I heard a pair of sensible shoes tip-toeing onto the scene. Those are nurse’s shoes, thought I. And a soft, strong voice asked me, Do you think maybe you should wash your face?

And of course I did that.

My mother was always at her best when everyone else was falling apart, and as I dabbed warm water over my swollen eyes, I remembered, Now I am the mother and I need to do what she did; I need to be at my best right now.

I decided the square of terry towel was not doing its job, and I turned on the shower full blast. Afterwards, I curled my hair, applied light makeup; I put on a dress and shoes, not flip-flops. I was about to leave my sanctuary but turned back for my pearls and two dabs of Channel’s “Chance”. There, I felt a lot better.

I found Jorge … sitting on the front porch of the house where we’ve lived since1976. Our chairs are old; as we rock them back and forth, they groan or they chirp, depending on the humidity. Mine has a cane back, and like the chair from “Goldilocks and the three Bears”, it is just right. Jorge’s has a back with curved slats, and he says it never fails to soothe the worry out of his back.

“We’ve spent many a Saturday night just like this,” said Jorge, in the most contented voice imaginable. I nodded and I felt so grateful to be beside this man. Despite the chaos around us, he always finds a simple pleasure to use as a cornerstone. Oh he can obsess and fall to pieces too… make no mistake about that… but NEVER when he can see my fragility.

The arrival of the COVID 19 virus into our world has forced us into tough times. I believe it is OK to let the tears flow, to curse at the moon or whatever object (not person) is nearest.

And when the fear has been purged by the tears (for a while anyways) we need to remember…
When the going is tough, the tough get going.