I’m a homebody these days. Maybe most people are. After all, the message pumped out through the media is that there’s risk and disease out there. I was never anxious about being in new situations and meeting new people in the past. I would have identified myself as an extrovert and I see that’s no longer the case. Awareness of other people’s hang-ups, judgments of me, inner conflicts, unexpressed sadness, insensitivity towards each other has me considering that perhaps the life of a hermit is more suitable for me these days.

And as you will hopefully see, stepping outside of my home delivered a growth experience I would not trade for any amount of time sitting within my four walls and writing, stewing in the staleness of the past.

This Christmas, like many Christmases of the past, there were invitations to venture out into new experiences. A night of Singaporean chili mud crab cooking was my call to an adventure, one that involved stepping into the life of the humble crab, who carries his home with him and has a reputation for, well, crabbiness.

My partner and I were gifted this seafood experience by another crab, a Cancer to be precise. My rule of thumb is that one should never use the Zodiac to unravel anyone else’s personality but their own and I was startled to be confronted by my own crabbiness.

Let me take you back to seven years ago…

A Birthday Bomb

I was an immature 35 year old and one of the stories I was telling myself was that I had to be a sales superstar to prove myself valuable at my new role at a marketing agency. The point of the story is not to say that there was anything wrong with that business or their business model. I’m sure they were doing lots of good for most of their clients and somehow, I was only focusing on the times they were selling false hopes to small business owners. There were at least a couple of incidents that I witnessed where they took their last savings in the bank promising they could turn around a troubled business.

I had a terrible inferiority complex following me around at the time. I’d always imagined I’d have a creative career, that I’d be discovered and saved from a life of mediocrity. Without any reservations, I can say that I am one of the most creative people I have ever met (and that just means there are people around me whose creativity is stuck). Despite this, at work, I was never invited to the “adults table” to tackle promotional campaigns.

That fateful evening, my partner, the Cancer and his friends, we all went to a crab house in Redfern and things got very messy. It wasn’t just the crabs slathered in sauce we were trying to crack. There was at least one more person in that group who was struggling with his own creative gift.

I knew he was involved in organising a festival, working with other artists.

Just because I could, and I was frustrated with myself and my life, I decided to drag him down with me. I knew my marketing agency had promised them the world and the campaign was failing miserably.

“You’re not gonna have your fancy job for much longer” I heralded the terrible news.

“What?” He looked at me in surprise.

“Yeah, the tickets aren’t selling at all” I spilled the beans and all hell broke loose.

We both felt let down by our creative gifts (which were proving to be useless time and time again) and like that, our Cancer friend’s birthday was not to be a pleasant memory. But it was a necessary confrontation with my crabby self.

Hard to Crack (Worth the Effort)

Friday evening, the crabs were back. Fiona, a hardy woman, demonstrated how to kill the sleeping crabs with one stroke of her knife. She then cooked them in a fragrant concoction made of fish sauce, garlic, ginger, green onions, ketchup (not tomato sauce, it’s less sweet) and rice wine.

After the demonstration we walked into a Masterchef type of setting with our own bench and another couple joined us in killing, chopping and stewing the crab. I blessed the spirit of the crab and hoped it would bring all of us a delicious experience.

We plated up, garnished it, (not with parsley) but coriander and were shown our table to enjoy the dish we’d all worked on.

With the help of beers and wine, we started coming out of our shells. It would’ve been very easy for me to feel like a complete loser, what with not having built a career for myself, but I didn’t.

That day, I’d accompanied my very creative daughter to her first day of Kindergarten and in a way, the energy was how I imagined Steve Jobs presenting his very first computer, Lisa (named after his illegitimate daughter) to the world. I’d launched a brand, and wasn’t every child really a living, breathing, change-making brand in this world? At least that’s how I’m seeing it.

The tastiest morsel was not the crab meat, which was sweet and worth the effort of cracking the shells and scooping them out, but being our whole selves. I was a happy, satisfied nobody who was using her creative gifts in a way that was bringing pleasure to herself (and change in the world, one word at a time).

There was pain too. One of our fellow diners was experiencing his business going through a difficult time and the risk of losing the business was very real. I didn’t see him or his partner as people with careers, accomplishments, losses or anything else. They were people I felt at home with because we were all talking about everything without holding back and that’s truly delicious. Without that sort of earnest conversation, a safe space, no meal is truly satisfying.

Over to you…

What are some foods that bring back bittersweet memories for you? Do the smells, textures and flavours remind you how far you’ve come in accepting yourself? Do you see that acceptance is like the rain, it washes away the dirt and allows seeds of beauty to flourish in the world?

I would love to hear from you, e-mail me Eda@WritePublishGrow.com