Not-So-Sufferin' Succotash / Embracing the Shadow
The world is on fire.
Quite literally. Wildfires along the coast and across the state have enshrouded my fair city in smoke. And it has plunged her people into a haze, like running underwater, fighting so hard and yet moving so slowly; dazed and confused, enveloped in a thick cloud that clogs our lungs, permeates our airways, turns the sun blood-red, blots out the heavens and filters the scenery through an apocalyptic half-light. It's only fitting that this fallen upon us during a period of intense spiritual upheaval, when the forces of heaven and earth have been testing our resolve, taxing our psyches and pulling our hearts in all directions.
But times like these can also bring to the surface deep truths and act as the catalysts for great change, and this walk through the fire has been no exception for me. In fact, events and insights of the past month have brought me to bear with The Issue: The Big One, the driving theme behind all the chaos of my 33 orbits around the sun, the funeral durge underscoring every challenge I ever faced and hardship I have ever endured. I've been tugging these past few years on the thread that connects it all, and as it slowly unravels, I can see what lies beneath.
The Fear. It has been a part of life since before I can remember, taking different faces and forms, from hell and the devil to places and times to family members and ex-lovers. But it always comes to me with the same feeling and presence. The blackness, all-consuming; the solitary and endless night. It is the smoke that envelops my soul, that seeps into my core, suffocates my heart, blots out my senses, clouds my vision and sticks in my throat. It is the darkness hiding around and inside and behind and through everything I hold dear, threatening to suck it all into the void.
The Fear comes to me as an unstoppable force. It is relentless in its pursuit to destroy, whether by way of eternal damnation or the death of a thousand frothing, vicious VPN-blocked emails. Wherever you go, it will be there. Where you hide, it will find you. You will be trapped in its clutches long past when time has lost all meaning. No escape.
These are the lies I grew up learning to tell myself, when I was afraid to stand on my own two feet. These are the feelings when I enter into the state of my shadow self: the long-suffering, the put-upon, the beaten-down, the hapless and helpless, the all-star martyr, the Most Victimist: she who hath been victimized like none hath ever been victimized before. She who suffers the slings and arrows of so much outrageous fortune. O, woe is she!
Indeed, at least once a month, at some moment when I'm trying to shlep too many groceries in at once, or fly through the house because I'm late yet again because LIFE IS SO HARD AND I HAVE SO MUCH TO DO and I spill or break something in my haste, I quite literally find myself stopping and literally crying to the heavens:
"WHY WON'T SOMEONE HELP ME?!"
The answer to that eternal question is, of course, because I must learn to help myself. While this is not a new concept for me, what is new is that what I thought was a new path forward is simply a parallel track to the same destination. I now see that the only paths I've ever known have BOTH been the paths of the victim. When I thought I was changing the paradigm, I was merely rearranging the same pattern. Whether sitting idly by or raging against the machine, you're giving your energy and your power away to those who would seek to oppress and intimidate you—you're shadowboxing, where the opponent is your shadow self.
I'm finally starting to see that it isn't a fight at all. The answer isn't to cast the shadow out; to leave the darkness behind in search of a lighter place. The answer is to embrace the shadow, to let the warming rays of the sun illuminate it, until what looks like darkness inch by inch becomes light; until you see that, in fact, you've been in the same place all along. The desolate midnight, the barren clearing, is merely a glen in the forest, and as the light filters through, you can begin to see the plants, the trees, the ferns and the moss; you can hear the birds in the air and see the animals scurrying about the forest floor. It is the same woods you were always in. The same life is always here. You must simply learn to look for it. The shadow and the light are all one. The thing is always the same, and it is merely a question of the angle you view it from.
The smoke will clear from our city. The sun will shine upon the evergreens once again; the moon will glint off the glassy early-dawn lake; the birds will come out and sing; the people of Seattle will breathe free and easy, and life will return to the world. So too will The Fear clear from my soul; the light will illuminate the darkness of my mind; the smoke will evaporate from my heart, and I will see it all in the light of day. I will breathe in the pure air of life and liberty by stepping off the path of the victim, walking into the night, embracing my shadow and reclaiming my birthright as Woman, wild and free. The warrioress who dances. The queen who kicks off her heels and runs barefoot through the woods.
The shadow is within me, but so is the light. By calling the shadow forth and embracing it with love, I may yet set it free. I am the midnight and the midsummer. I am the earth and the moon and the sun and the lake and the plants and the animals. I am every star in the sky. And so is everyone I've ever loved. And so is everyone I've ever run from and elevated to the dubious honor of the Bearer of the Fear.
And so I learn, slowly, to let go of control. To realize that the dawn is coming, and let it happen, without panic, without careening from one worn path to another. To wait until the light illuminates the new way forward. To flow like the water, like the wind. To let the wild in.
And so, the universe brings me little opportunities to test my new mettle, throwing little winks my way. And so I went to make dinner, and realized that somehow, a few days back, between Frank's Produce and my apartment, an entire eggplant had disappeared. This was to be a crucial ingredient of the succotash I was going to prepare. At first I was confused and infuriated. How does an EGGPLANT just disappear into thin air? I tore my kitchen apart, tore the fridge apart, looked inside every bag twice, looked under and behind everything in the room. Clearly, I had either accidentally thrown it out with the compost, or it had rolled away on the bus, or I only thought I'd seen it in my bag and it had, in fact, never left the counter at Frank's, but regardless, it was no longer in my possession.
In this past, this would have brought everything to a grinding halt. I would have either run to the store, and thrown away much of the rest of my night, or I would have tried to force the same old plan forward, inevitably ending up with a disappointing pile of mush. So, instead, I decided to see the disappearance of the eggplant as an opportunity. A fun challenge. What light could I shine upon my kitchen? What could I concoct with the ingredients I had all along?
As is so often the case in circumstances such as these, the end result far surpassed my wildest expectations. It was simply incredible. Savory. Buttery. Melt-in-your-mouth delicious, with a richness of flavor that can only come from slow-caramelizing red onion and garlic while digging through produce drawers for something that isn't there. Nothing tastes so sweet as when it is forged by walking through the fire of loss and confusion to land, unscathed, clear-headed, on the other side. Sometimes you have to lose your pretensions, you have to destroy the old patterns and create an entirely new paradigm, in order to create something of real beauty. You may have never followed this path before; you may have never put these ingredients together in the past; but it just might be the recipe for a new life.
1 red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves smashed
1 ear corn, blanched for 2 min amd cut from cob
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 can garbanzo beans
Handful baby spinach
1/2 cup minced parsley
2 summer squash or zucchini
1-2 tbsp of apple cider shallot vinaigrette
A few pieces of pan fried halloumi, crumbled chunky feta or fresh Mozzarella, whatever suits you!
Caramelize onion and garlic along with salt and pepper on medium low heat until soft, translucent and aromatic, about 20 minutes. Add squash and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes (drained) and cook on medium high until reduced slightly, about 5 more minutes. Add the chickpeas, corn and spinach and cook until heated through and the spinach is wilted. Stir in the parsley, add more salt and pepper if needed, toss with 1-2 tbsp of the vinaigrette and top with cheese of your choice. Taste that sweet victory, my friends.