Some of the nicest things in life are simple, like a gentle, summertime breeze. Like this recipe for fish baked in a salt crust. The common, everyday salt. Nothing fancy. No Sous-Vide machines required.
There is a Burmese saying that goes, “If you want good tea, let the picker climb the slope slowly.” Allow people and events to unfold in their own time. Don’t rush.
Which is why I am a coffee addict instead. Which is probably why Myanmar has been taking this long to hold (semi-)democratic elections or legislate basic social measures. Not in a rush at all. The country laid dormant for a good chunk of the 20th century and awakened to a new world of smart phones and severe opposition against genocides.
If you are like me, a third world native in and out of separate worlds with multiple visa stories, you will likely already have a degree of patience for ambiguity. Things take longer at checkpoints. Your weekend getaway plans have to be laid out with some advanced oversight. Waiting is part of the game. You are somewhat used to it.
Yet, my patience for ambiguity has never been tested to this degree as during this period. It is a common feeling for others right now. I have been trapped in dire circumstances before, even worried for my personal safety but there was also some novelty and adrenaline involved. Right now, it is just going through a protracted transitioning process day in and out. I would rather a quick snap, like ripping off a band-aid. People, teams, and flights are just taking a little while longer to get back to me. Just have to wait them out. Waiting.
The thing about waiting only for a future outcome is that you cannot find happiness in that corner of your head space. Happiness is neither in the past nor the future. Pursuit of happiness is present. I think I will be happier if I start viewing the act of waiting as an act, rather than just something that happens to me.
In the Burmese saying, you are allowing the tea picker – the external circumstances – to take their time and fall into place. Sometimes, you forget that you are that tea picker. You have to wait on yourself, too. Stillness is the move, but I just do not know how come I view my own time as so limited. It is a type of mania – this worrying about how I am running out of time to do and see things I want.
As I type this, I am waiting on my laminated dough so I can make breakfast croissants on this cool, rainy morning here in East London.
Whenever I am letting the dough stretch and rise, or when I am pickling something in a jar, or watering my seedlings to grow, I am usually able to practise what Buddhists call Upekkha – a form of gentle and loving detachment. I am not ignoring the dough or the plant. I am not trying to fight off something in fear or in restlessness. This is not a fight or flight mode. I am in care of a certain part of the process, while keeping my distance but switching my focus to something else that requires more active attention…like washing the dishes or writing this note while letting the dough thaw or rise.
Why can’t I do more of that in my day to day life?
Except probably for introverts with a steady job and without underlying health conditions in a comfortable lock down arrangement, this has not been an easy year.
My lock down experience has been both healing and growing. Crazy homesick for Yangon, separated from loved ones and physically alone, fending for myself here in London. With a ton of walking; so the new HAIM album is literally my quarantine summer anthem this year.
All this time in hand and a dearth of distractions make for a perfect storm for self-reflection … and overthinking of my life choices dating back to my college graduation year. Down the rabbit hole of the Quarantine Subconscious, I wake up at 5am these days when I’d rather stay asleep with questions like:
Is impact investing a hoax? Is climate-financing the new green washing? Is it too late? If so, should I be caring more about money?
Should I cut some slack with boys, or am I right to protect myself? Did I fold too soon when I could have just checked? Would I care without quarantine?
Would I have been happier as a suburban mom in the American South vs. my lonely quarantine existence in London with an expired Schengen visa?
How would my life be different if I had taken the offer to work for a hospital chain or a Fintech company close to family in Myanmar?
Have I been living my best life? Have I been true to myself?