Year of the Rat
I was only five days into January when I realized that 2020 was going to be a pivotal year for me. I actually sensed the changes coming even before the ball had officially dropped, but January 5th quickly confirmed the feelings. And then, so did the days of February…and March…and April. Some pretty significant changes arrived in May, too. And not to be outdone, June’s been working on me since day one. Honestly, the year hasn’t really let up, and I don’t really expect it to. Things had to radically shift in my life, and the year of the Rat came along just when I needed it. (Interesting side note, I just read that a Rat year is a year of renewal. How appropriate.)
But what I didn’t realize–what I hadn’t sensed–was that it wasn’t only a critical year for me, but for the whole world. And while I know that from the outside things can look kind of bleak, 2020 has been persistent in reminding me not to judge a book by its cover. Change after change, I’ve come to realize that the storms always precede the rebuilding–almost as if I need them to dismantle what I’ve grown too comfortable in. Because even though my “home” is unsound, too small, there aren’t enough windows, and I hate the entire paint palette? Well, I’m still not ready to leave of my own volition. So a storm has to sweep in and force the demolition for me.
But each time, no matter how hard they pummel me, the winds eventually stop blowing and I pick myself up from the rubble. And then, if I’m able to refrain from resisting too much, the blessings and the rebuilding will quickly follow. You would think that with all of the practice I’ve had, resisting would be a thing of the past for me, but alas, some rotten habits die hard. And even after being repeatedly shown that the storms are actually gifts, I still find myself wanting to initially fight the inevitable pain and confusion. Which seems crazy, really. Because in the end, I always find myself in a new and roomy home, one made entirely of windows. And the paint? Well, it’s my favorite shade of blue.
Tired of the Noise
As I’ve watched my life unfold, especially the events of this year, I’ve noticed a pattern: the bigger the storm, the bigger the blessings. And if that’s true on a small scale, then I figure it must also be true on the grander, worldly scale. So this pandemic, with its waves of death and uncertainty, has the potential to be a harbinger of enormous blessings. Can you even imagine what could happen if we surrendered to the lessons it’s pressing us to understand? I mean, it’s been like a Category 5 hurricane, leaving vast amounts of body bags and grieving families in its wake, rattling our faith in the government (if we had any to begin with), taking away our basic freedoms, and questioning just about everything we thought we knew.
But as with all violent storms, we wish it would end already because we’re tired of the noise. We’re tired of the uncertainty and the chaos. We’re tired of the shortages and the restrictions; tired of the people who are taking it too seriously and tired of the people who aren’t taking it seriously enough. Unfortunately, though, none of those things matter. Can we move on just because we want to? The answer to that is obviously no. The virus is done when the virus is done, whether we accept that fact or not.
And just as we have no say in the duration of the storms, we have no say in their frequency, either. Because even though we’re not yet cleaned up from COVID-19, the next storm has already rolled in. And as overwhelming as a global pandemic has been, I found the murder of George Floyd to be exponentially worse. The pandemic faded into the background as I watched the US explode into rage, riots, and looting. And as the realization sunk in that our country was in a really dangerous and inflammatory situation, I had to question if we’re even capable of making the necessary changes. Are we finally ready to surrender to a new way? A better way? A kinder way? Honestly, I have some serious doubts.
Because here we are, one hundred and fifty years after the Civil War, and black men are still being lynched in the streets. Are you freaking kidding me? How the absence of certain skin pigments equates to white supremacy will forever mystify me; it’s so ludicrous that there’s not even a word strong enough to describe the dysfunction. It defies explanation and reason. It defies plain old common sense. And if COVID-19 is a Category 5, then George Floyd is a Category 10, and so much more dangerous on so many levels. Why? Because what those eight minutes and forty-six seconds did was to clearly illuminate that the foundation of our “house” is critically and fatally unsound. I’m not sure it’s even strong enough to weather additional storms. So now the looming question is: How are we going to remedy that?
I desperately want to believe that we’re brave enough to scrap what we have and start fresh. I’m cautiously encouraged when I see some of our leaders willing to do just that. Because there’s no denying that our current system is broken, shamefully broken, and yet…here we are. So many of us are still huddled in our decrepit houses, holding onto beliefs and outdated ways that stopped serving us long ago. Wait, correction: That have never served us. If it’s enough to make me–a middle-aged, middle-class, white woman–want to rage against a system, then how does the Black man feel?
To me, the riots were the inevitable eruption of a wound that’s been festering since the first white man caught the first Black man and decided to sell him. It pains me to write that, but what pains me even more is that with all of our “progress,” some still feel invincible enough to kill a black man, in broad daylight and with onlookers recording, because there will be no repercussions. No repercussion for murder? Especially when it’s the murderer’s job to “protect and serve” us–all of us? A job where they signed on to catch the homicidal maniacs, not become them? What kind of an ass-backwards world am I living in?
The First Winds
It seems obvious that the storm had to be a violent one. Violent enough to wake us up to the everyday reality of life for our Black brothers and sisters. Maybe we had to be shocked and disgusted and horrified out of our complacency because we’ve become far too comfortable there. And truthfully, we’ve done a really terrible job of listening. George Floyd wasn’t a one-time occurrence. George Floyd wasn’t a first-time happening. The Black community has been trying to tell us that for forever. We ignore the George Floyds of the world because their stories don’t touch us personally.
Until they do.
Until we’re forced to witness the brutality and sheer nonchalance of a deceptively cloaked killer. Because what we forget–but need desperately to remember–is that what affects one, affects all. A little drizzle and a smattering of distant thunder wouldn’t have been strong enough to remind us of that. So in steps a brave seventeen-year-old girl who didn’t know that she would become a messenger. Could she ever have guessed that walking out her front door that day meant she was accepting a heartbreaking task? But together with George Floyd, the two of them became the first visible winds of a gathering and potent storm. Personally, I feel like we should thank her for that. If it wasn’t for her courage, this would have become just another “incident” swept under the rug. Another white man for the win. Another invisible crack in our crumbling foundation.
If we’re going to fix our problems, then they first need to be brought out into the light. But even understanding that and knowing the necessity of these storms, I’m still never prepared for the weight of them. Maybe I’ll never be prepared, and that’s the whole point and purpose. The pandemic was something I could roll with; being a planner like I am means that I’ve foreseen disasters and calmly prepared for them. To me, it’s just the nature of nature–unexpected storms can pop up at any time. I wasn’t afraid for myself because if the virus was going to take me, then it was going to take me. And I can accept that. This journey was never promised to be an infinite one.
But George Floyd? The suffocating sadness I felt was almost too much for my Piscean heart to take. And I remember that the journey was never promised to be an easy one, either. And slowly, I start losing faith in the capacity of humans to be decent. I start to doubt that people will choose to do something as basic as put kindness and compassion first. And love thy neighbor? Some days we seem impossibly far away from that. And I echo what I can only assume is the question on everyone’s mind: Can things change? Can they ever change? And in those moments when I want to forsake the world and all of its ugliness, God makes sure I remember one very important thing: just as there is dark, so also is there light.
So I watch, almost with bated breath, as one after another, towns, cities, states, and even countries raised their voices in peaceful protest. In solidarity, they stood against injustice. United in the belief that Black Lives Matter, humans rose–together. They rose, knowing that to gather put them at risk from a deadly virus, yet they donned their masks and did it anyway. They rose, knowing that to do so might incur the unprovoked violence of police, yet they did it anyway. Even knowing that maybe nothing would change because of it, they rose. They rose worldwide, by the millions. They joined, signs raised high, making history as the largest protest ever. No longer at the mercy of this storm, they became the storm. Only now, instead of hatred fueling those gusty winds, brotherhood was somehow miraculously sustaining them with love.
Black lives matter? Of course they matter. I’m sad that we need a sign to state the obvious. But now I remember, as I’m always forced to remember, that while the storms may roll in with the darkness, they always bring out the light. 2020 is hellbent on cleansing us. She raged in, tearing down our ramshackle huts weakly disguised as mansions. She’s humbled us and reprimanded us and opened our eyes to so many things that we’re ready to see. 2020 is fiercely challenging us to change, and while I can’t answer for everyone, I feel there’s only one real choice here. So I accept. Because once we pull ourselves up from the rubble? I dream that the world will be painted my favorite shade of blue.
In love & light ~ Melinda
- 3 cups raw almonds
Preheat the oven to 325°
1. Spread the almonds in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet.
2. Roast the almonds for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir before putting back in.
3. Roast the almonds for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and stir before putting back in.
4. Roast for another 3-5 minutes, checking to make sure your almonds aren't burning. You're looking for lightly browned almonds.
5. Remove almonds from the oven and leave on the baking sheet until cooled. They'll continue to cook if left on the hot sheet, so if you don't want your almonds to further roast, remove them from the sheet to cool.
6. Add the almonds to the food processor and begin processing. They will go through several stages, from crumbly to chunky before they start smoothing out. Stop your processor to scrape down the sides as needed. Process until the oil from the nuts has been released and your butter is smooth and creamy. This can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes (the butter in this post took 8 minutes to reach this smooth consistency). It seems that the more roasted your nuts, the creamier and more flavorful the butter.
For more tasty vegan treats, please visit my Recipes page!