I was sick this past week, and it just about scared me to death.

It was a sinus infection, I was sure, and the Nurse Practitioner I had a video consultation with seemed to agree. She called in an antibiotic, suggested some ways to relieve the pressure and left me to convalesce in the time of corona.

I decided it was wise to quarantine, and to get one of those swab tests, just to be safe. I didn’t think I had the virus, but you hear of so many different stories that you really have no way of knowing.

I was thrilled when my negative results showed up. It was such a relief to know I hadn’t exposed anyone to anything and that I could go back to normal, or whatever you want to call life these days.

Thanks to this long undistracted time to myself, I had an opportunity to “think.” There is so much going on these days, so many things about which we must find our position, so there was lots to “think” about.

It feels like there are more questions than answers these days and, from what I can tell, none of us are very happy with the state of affairs. We are afraid and angry and worried and seeking solutions, and it has us all creating our own recipe for how we feel we can best navigate this crisis.

I was sick once, when I was little, and my parents were scheduled to go out of town. I guess my sister went with them, but I was too sick to go, so they asked my Maw Maw to come stay with me.

Maw Maw was my dad’s mother. She was a sweet, demure, snuggly woman who giggled easily. She had flaming red hair until chemo caused it all to fall out in her 70s, only to be replaced by the most lovely shade of orange sherbet that I have never seen again.

You could only love Maw Maw; she never did anything cross, at least not that I ever witnessed, except that one time for which I was completely responsible. I feel terrible to this day for the way I pushed her patience, all over a simple bowl of her potato soup.

You see, I loved my mom’s potato soup. Soft chunks of potato smashed just enough to thicken the milk broth. Little bits of onion, with just the right amount of celery salt and pepper. It was simple and comforting and it was all that I wanted to eat that evening.

I was more sad than I expected to see my family go, so I was feeling particularly sorry for myself by the time Maw Maw set her bowl of potato soup in front of me. I stared down at a buttery yellow broth with grated bits of potato and not one ounce of resemblance to what I was anticipating.

I immediately told her of my disappointment, and I’m sure it was in that most whiny and belligerent tone that children seem to be born with and bring out especially for moments like these. I refused to eat it. I sulked, I cried and I waited for her to understand her egregious error, until she finally sternly insisted that I eat at least a little. I forced her to be mean because I couldn’t muster anything other than terrible.

Sadly, it was years later that I was mature enough to acknowledge just how awful I had been, but I knew it in my heart all along. She simply had a different recipe, and I wasn’t willing to try something other than what I was used to; I couldn’t let go of what I wanted and receive what she was lovingly offering.

I recently joined a new group on Facebook called “The New York Times Cooking Community.” I love to cook and have enjoyed exploring the posts. One thing that has really struck me is how many different perspectives there are on how to make things, and how kind and open everyone is to hearing these differing views.

One recent post asked, “Looking for a pesto-like sauce (ie, using fresh basil) that doesn’t use pine nuts?” When I last looked there were 287 comments and counting. Many of them were recommending different nuts to use in place of the pine nuts, but there were also lots of unusual variations, many of which started with, “ I always do …”

As a beekeeper, I often get questions from people about how to do things and I always start by acknowledging that there are 16 answers to every question in beekeeping. My recipe that I have developed over 10+ years of experience and 25+ years of watching my dad is going to be very different from the next guy’s.

We BeeShees follow the same formula because we keep bees together and have developed much of our recipe together. But, we would never presume to say that our way is the only way because we know there are people out there ending up with honey, just like we do, that do things completely different from us.

Knowing how to respect each other’s formulas for success is what makes a diverse and civilized community work. I think some of us could do well to remember that these days.

How you make your burgers, what goes in your squash casserole, whether you peel your potatoes to mash them or not, will never be grounds for ending my friendship with you, I promise.

When all of this is over we are still going to have to live with each other, so perhaps we could just decide to respect divergent journeys.

Do your thing the way you want to do your thing, but if you try to force me to eat anything but Duke’s mayonnaise on my tomato sandwich, them’s fightin’ words, and we’re going to have to take that out back.

Monica Sheppard is a freelance graphic designer, beekeeper, mother and community supporter living in Rome.

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