Photographs by Meadow Linn

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Blessing in Disguise: How Whooping Cough Kicked My Butt & Brought Me Back to Myself

You’re probably familiar with the expression, “A blessing in disguise.” However, sometimes that blessing is so well disguised that no matter how hard you look, all you can see is the anguish that’s ripping at your heart and shredding you into tiny pieces. This might sound a bit dramatic, but that’s truly how it can feel when you’re mired in a difficult situation. No matter how much people may tell you that you’ll be grateful one day to have had this experience or that it’s preparing you for something greater, sometimes you just can’t see it.

Earlier this year, I went through a really difficult patch. This is the first time I’ve talked about this publicly, but I want to share with you what I learned, and so I’ve decided to write about my experience.

Have you ever been so frustrated by your inability to function and be a party to your own life that you had moments where you found yourself pleading with God for it all to be over? That’s what my journey with whooping cough was like. Although most days during my two-month convalescence were passed contentedly watching Sex and the City and Law and Order SVU marathons, there were other days when quelling my tears of frustration took every ounce of energy I could muster.

The most difficult time wasn’t when I felt the worst, because during those weeks I didn’t have the energy to be emotionally involved in my situation. It wasn’t until I was starting to heal that I was aware of how hard it was to have no income and no social interactions. This is when I began to feel the weight of my circumstances. However, this is also when I realized that there had to be a reason, some sort of blessing in disguise.

The months I spent in bed were during the time period I’d originally set aside to jumpstart my career. But when you barely have the energy to feed yourself, spending time figuring out your Life Plan and implementing it is not exactly top on the to-do list. So, I had to let go. I had to go with the flow and allow my body the time it needed to heal.

I began to see this journey as a chrysalis phase, leading to an eventual metamorphosis. I pictured myself cocooned by my surroundings. And when the time was right, when my energy returned, I would soar like a beautiful butterfly. I fully believed this, and this knowledge helped me through the rough days.

The problem was…when I finally felt better, there were bills to pay, articles to write, e-mails to return, and home repairs to do. Nothing felt different. If anything, life felt ho-hum and tedious because there was so much catching up to do.

How could I have made it through such a trying time and feel no different? What was the point? Of course, germs were the reason I was sick. But, wasn’t there a greater reason, something that made it all worth it? Where was my blessing in disguise? 

Gravely disappointed, my heart ached. I was lonely, way behind on work, and as of yet, I couldn’t see any type of personal or professional metamorphosis taking place. My voice shaking, I lamented this to my mom while gasping for air between sobs.

My mom reminded me that even after the butterfly emerges from its chrysalis, it doesn’t immediately fly off to sip a flower’s sweet nectar. Before it spreads its beautiful wings, it first hangs on the branch and waits. The metamorphosis isn’t complete the moment the butterfly breaks through its shell. There’s a waiting period, while it adjusts to its new surroundings and its newfound identity.

Miraculously, from that moment onward, I began to see butterflies in droves, and not always in places where you would expect them.

It’s been about six weeks since I regained my strength. My life hasn’t changed dramatically since my illness; however, once I understood that I needed to be patient, the urgency for transformation was gone and I was able to relax. Once that happened, amazing opportunities began to fall into my lap. I feel more content, sure-footed, and hopeful than I have in a very long time.

Of course, I wish I hadn’t gotten sick, but I am now able to see the blessing in disguise. Had I kept to my plan of vigorously seeking my life plan during the early summer months, I wouldn’t have been in the right frame of mind to open myself to accept the blessings of the Universe. I would have been struggling to attain something, whereas now I feel like I’ve planted some seeds that with gentle care and nurturing will eventually grow strong and vibrant. It will all unfold in due time.

Life throws us curve balls. And although it may not seem like it today, tomorrow, or maybe even a few years from now, eventually you will understand what your challenging experiences taught you and discover the blessing in disguise. Here’s to being patient! Here’s to keeping on keeping on, even when it feels like you’re heading nowhere! Good things are coming your way!

Grilled Chicken Marinated in Mustard-Thyme Sauce

While I was sick I had plenty of time to aimlessly surf the web. I learned a lot! However, the thing that got me the most excited was an article on the ancient mortar and pestle. I immediately ordered a granite one with 3-cup capacity. As soon as I was well enough to prepare food, I began using it to make marinades. Since its arrival in my life, I’ve made some of my very best marinades ever.

The instructions in this recipe are for using a mortar and pestle; however, if you don’t have one, mince the shallots and chop the thyme. Use cracked black pepper in place of the peppercorns.

Serves 3-4

1½ lbs. of boneless skinless organic free-range chicken breasts (2-3 breasts), each one sliced horizontally into 3 thin cutlets

1 lg. (or 2 small) shallots, peeled and rough chopped
¼ tsp. French gray salt, Himalayan pink salt, or other favorite artisanal salt
6 peppercorns
2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, stripped from the stem

1 Tbsp. spicy French Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. olive oil 

In a large mortar combine the shallots, salt, and peppercorns. With the pestle, pound until a paste is formed. Add the thyme. Pound the thyme just enough to release the natural oils, but not so much that it’s pulverized. With a fork, whisk in the mustard, vinegar, and oil.

To create thin cutlets, with a sharp knife slice the chicken breasts horizontally (just as you would cut a cake to make layers). I discovered this trick when I only had two chicken breasts, but four surprise dinner guests. Not only is this a good way to stretch the meat, but also it absorbs more marinade, cooks faster and more evenly, and the leftovers fit perfectly in a sandwich.

Put the chicken in a gallon-sized resealable plastic bag and pour in the marinade. With clean hands, massage the marinade into the chicken. This is a good time to imagine love flowing from your heart, through your hands, and into the chicken. Seal the bag and refrigerate for a couple hours or overnight.

Preheat gas grill to medium.

Grill approximately 4 minutes on one side and 3-4 minutes on the other, though this will depend on the heat of your grill and the thickness of your cutlets.


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