creation.

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I love watching the painful process of people creating things.

The “making of” on TV shows and movies. I love watching artists, directors and producers thinking their work is garbage and having to question everything about where they are.

Mostly because it doesn’t make me feel so alone.

I do not consider myself an artist. I do think that I am someone who creates. Not sculptures or things made of glass. Honestly most of the things I make turn into shit, eventually.

However, I do think humans are persistent animals. A lot of us are stubborn. A lot of us have always been our own worst enemies.

Self-love goes out the window when I begin to work on something. I often think it’s the worst thing I’ll ever do.

“Why do I keep doing this to myself?”

No matter how good a thing is and no matter how many people tell me how good that thing is, I go home and I doubt myself into a corner where I really don’t want to turn around and face it. I wish I was being dramatic, but there’s not a dinner that goes by where I imagine I did everything I could to make it my best.

And then the pendulum swings back the other way. I take a step back and look at the things I’ve helped create. I look at the sweat and blood and bones of a thing. Hard work doesn’t often pay off for people, but it so many ways it has for me.

I’ve had some luck.

There have been more than a few times in my world where I have left a thing when I’ve needed to leave, and maybe times that I’ve should’ve stayed longer.

You don’t always get the opportunity to know these things in a lifetime.

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Most recently, I received an award for being ‘Best Local Chef’ in my city, and other surrounding smaller cities. It was an award I had been nominated for a few times in the past years, but lost to folks who had bigger followings.

I got kind of lucky this year. Granted, most chefs believe they deserve it and they do. We all work hard. We all sacrifice for the things we want to create. I wish people knew the creative process that has to unfold for us to make things happen.

There isn’t a lot of self-love in the industry. I think maybe that’s why we do it sometimes. It feels good to love others and sometimes it’s harder to love yourself. After all, we don’t know the minds of others.

It’s easier to take care of others than it is myself. That has always been true.

That’s why burnout happens so much in my world.

Lately I am thinking about other ways to be creative with the things I am made of. Perhaps this ooey-gooey heart of mine won’t always be able to stand up to the stresses of a kitchen or the weight you have to carry.

I would love the words, “I’m tired” to not always be the first thing out of my mouth when catching up with a friend.

Being tired is like a coat.

It is just a thing that I wear. (more often for other people to see.)

When I won that award, it was fun and terrifying to speak in front of all those people. But it always feels good to win, right? It feels even better to shake hands and receive hugs from people who told me “You deserve this.”

My sister was with me that night, and as we drove home I put the windows down and put on the Cranberries, “Dreams” – because it felt a little like heaven. My sister has seen me at my darkest and I was so happy to share with her in my light.

Perfect things rarely occur, but for a moment, it felt good to have my mind rest on the things that were good and that I was good.

It all takes time.

In fact, life is harder as it goes by. But there are plenty of surprising moments where a pure joy exists and things feel elevated. Lighter.

There is breath and forgiveness,

and in between,

the creation of all things.

 

star

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Would you do it all over again?

The things that made your heart so hard

then soft,

then hard again?
that is all I feel,
each day is your story, forever.

you will never gain back your innocence
when you didn’t know
when you didn’t know what things felt like
what they took from you,
and your wild wild heart.

now, those things make you tired
they make you scared
sometimes they make you want to be someone else,
somewhere else.

some times,
not enough can happen.

The Calabash clash

like when a star begins to die,
it pulls pulls pulls,
it swirls like a sink draining water,
dirty oily water, littered with every little thing

faster and faster the closer you get,
and not enough things can happen,
in fact, everything happens,
nothing escapes (not even light, they say.)

light is heat and radiation and safety,
hot and red and full of fury.

like you.

it has its own pull,
one day, not in my lifetime,
our star will collapse
and every atom of our memory will be pulled into some greater mystery.

but not yet.

the fire and rage and furnace of your heart is still here,
as is your memory and your heart as it pulls pulls pulls

you are also made of the cosmos,

so yeah,

I would do it again.
including the pain,
because it is where everything began in me again

as it pulled everything into my universe again

everything

every. little. thing.

you are made of this.

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I haven’t felt this full in a while.

Saturated.

Like a rain soaked coat it weighs on my shoulders, and I remember other lives, most of them mine. How do you say you’ve been the same person your entire life? I know I cannot and I will not be this same person next year.

I got to spend some time with a few folks from a past life here — I don’t know. Things are always moving, so to say a past life means it’s something I’m done with when clearly I’m not. Either way, my thoughts go deep into the rhythm of who I used to be, and I’m constantly making amends to the person I am now.

The person I am now.
More gray hairs then I’d like to comment on. Tired looking face, every so often. My brain has been messing with me lately — a mixture of anxiety and nervous anticipation — something I can’t say I’ve dealt with very well in the past. It felt unbalanced. Shook. Highly aware.

I speak on these things because it helps. My dreams as of late have been vivid. Some awful. Some digging up things I haven’t thought about in years. Whatever has been going on in my head broke down a wall and I’ve been flooded out — up to my neck in all the scary things.

I want to talk on the pressure of things, but I don’t know that I’ve ever felt them this strong until my body couldn’t take it anymore. I would notice my foot and leg nervously rocking while I was laying still — and I would wake up at 3am thinking I’d forgot something and couldn’t fall back asleep.

I went to the doctor. Luckily, he said, I wasn’t dying. (Not yet, at least.)
But the things I used to cope with stress, I’ve quit and no longer take part in.

So, I’m learning how to cope without the things I’ve always had. As it turns out, it is extremely difficult to move forward without them. They almost feel like friends. Things that I could reach to in the midst of a crisis — not knowing the places they were settling in my mind.

I feel so much better, as of today. Though the people who have spent time with me the past month or so know, I’ve been heavy with worry and stress. Mostly on myself and with the changes I’ve been taking. I’ve been coming to conclusions I would’ve hated in myself a few years ago. I cannot have it all. I cannot control it all. I cannot let it control me.

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I am constantly reminded of this life, and how tiny it is in the midst of millions of years of this world groaning with melted rock and steam, war and peace, time and pressure.

I’m not a person who will ever say a person is not special, or unique (or as we’ve been tagged as a snowflake generation) — I don’t know. I do value what I see in others and their potential. I see our ability to grow with each other and settle conflicts — and fall in love and love each other so, so well.

I know things are also really f***ing hard. People cheat on us. And lie. Let us down and break us into a million tiny pieces.

We also stand up again.

We breathe deeply and soundly.

We move forward, inevitably.
You are not going to lose the pains of your life and former lives. I am sorry if this hurts, but we don’t forget what moves us deeply — and we don’t forget the ones we’ve kissed — the ones who we have seen their shape in a mirror or standing in the light of something larger than this world.

We make them our own.
We hold them on our shelves with the other things in our lives. The books and songs that have moved you and the ones who gave us our noses and our toes.

You are made of this — billions of atoms comprised of the stuff that make stars explode and expand and form into new beautiful things.

It takes time – you know this.

but you are worth the time it takes to grow deeply into your place among the things that breathe here, and your light is strong.

keep moving.

 

pressure.

Food

Walking back and forth between the two dinners we were working, I could smell the way the sun warmed the flowers that grow in between the movement and stillness of wood and brick and people that walk around the walls of this building.

I used to lean against these walls years ago, wondering if the hustle was worth it — barely making enough to pay my bills and have a life here. Those are the times that define you the most. The sink or swim moments where you are so grateful, but also so tired of taking people’s money — food — personal time. Sometimes I think luxury is not having to bother people for their things.

The conversation in my industry, especially now, is not so much talking food or trends, but stress, anxiety, addiction and depression.

On my drive to Louisiana today, I listened to a few chefs talk about their demons and the demons that haunt the restaurant world. The pressure to perform and what that pressure does to the cooks they employ. Cooking has never been an easy thing. In fact, it’s always a lot of work, you just get better at doing it and doing it faster than anyone else.

There’s the pressures to compete, to transform expectation and to evolve with the people that eat your food.

At what cost?

That’s the question now.

kitchen-fire

I am currently battling a lot of anxiety. Do I feel stressed? Sometimes. But now this toxic stuff has become a bit more of my life — recently working a 12 day stint on the line got me a little fried. Every day, you work to outsmart your customers. To prepare for their questions or their worries about what they’re paying for — often times you feel successful. Most of the time, you learn to be flexible and to just move on.

Sometimes, it’s easier to give the customers what they want, but sometimes it’s at the cost of something you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. Tasting. Testing. Running through the mill.

There’s so much pressure in that.
There’s pressure in people wanting more and knowing you may be one of the only people who can give it to them.

I’m not sure of the cost of coming home every day and collapsing on the couch, forcing myself to take deep breaths to calm my pulse and come back to Earth as quickly as I can. I know I that I have to, and that I have to focus on bringing myself down in order to function.

I walk fast. Everywhere. A lot of times impatient. Things I feel are so unlike me.

Some days, I walk away feeling sad that I push for so much hustle — so much performance. I fight the line between wanting to be the best and wanting to be realistic. I am always trying to find the balance of healthy and hustle. I’m not sure if there is one, at least not to me right now.

I listened to these chefs speaking things that brought tears to my eyes. They were right in saying that food and cooking is the easiest part of our jobs. Other things like conflict and interpersonal relationships are hard, hard, hard to navigate. It gets hot and fast and you have to remain a good person. You just have to. IT IS JUST FOOD.

Customers also have to help us. We all have to shift to make restaurants a place where people can work and not go home every single day to get stoned and drink away their tips just to cope with the stress of other human beings. A lot of the pressure comes from chefs and business owners, but also customers.

We all have the ability to create and alleviate this toxic thing.

I am lucky to have such a wonderful, hard working and kind crew. I am not always the best human being to be around — especially as of late.

I put so much pressure on myself — to be better than the place moving in down the street and to make sure we are staying on top of our game. But at the end of the day, I would give it all up if I knew it was completely destroying someone’s life.

I believe this industry can change. I believe we can be healthy people that also love to cook and eat and serve other people. In fact, we are changing this world. I have so much work to do on myself, and how I see this for myself, but I’m noticing. I’m shifting. I’m growing.

Food is so important to me. People are more important. I am more important.

The future of food is always shifting, and it’s going to ask you to lower an expectation. It’s going to ask you to pay more, sometimes.

But at the core of what we do, is to take care of you. Sometimes we need your grace and you need ours.

So, we invite you in to eat our food and talk to our servers. Let’s disarm each other whenever we can and make this thing work.

We have to.
The future of food depends on it.

I was met at my destination today to my nephew, throwing me a baseball glove to play.

It was just what I needed.

A breeze that moved the trees,

the sun that warmed my face,

and the feeling that everything was going to be okay.

 

cooked.

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I’ve gotten lost in it.

The sound of tickets printing — the inevitable feeling of drowning in the things you cannot control. Lost in the sizzle and pops of eggs frying and timers ringing, knowing that at some point it’ll be over, but it won’t be any time soon.

That’s how it feels, sometimes.

It takes a lot out of ya.

I question myself always, if I’m doing the right thing. Am I doing a good job? Does it matter? Does the hustle really pay off? So many times I find myself running circles in my mind of whether or not my coworkers think I’m a doofus. Or if my silence is hard for them when I’m trying to figure something out.

Truly I am not the best cook. My passion for such things fails, at times. My inexperience shows still and I wish I could always do better.

When food becomes a business, things change. It becomes so much more about the hustle, about as one person calls it his “piece of the pie”. I’m tired of shitty restaurant gossip. I’m tired of knowing who does what. We all have the same bills to pay.

All I want is my tiny corner of the world, to have people eat food and to say it was good, as the saying goes.

I don’t need an award.

How infuriating it is at times to be pressured to want things you never needed to know you had to have in the first place.
Pressure. Pressure to do more, always.

And I am guilty of putting it all on myself. This is what I’ve learned these past years in the times of Great Hustle, as I’m learning to call it. Nonstop, it feels. A few breaks to travel here and there, but mostly building and building and building.

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I have failed in some of my relationships. I have loved well, regardless. I have seen so many things I cannot stand in myself. Things like pride and power.

There is a price to pay. That price looks a lot like anxiety. It looks like stress and quiet tempers, all because of this tiny corner of the world.
If you ask most chefs to speak, we groan at the idea of having to be that vulnerable. Partly because we do it on a daily basis. There is no greater vulnerability to me than having someone mess with your food because they don’t like it. It means much more to a cook than you can ever imagine. (maybe that’s why I’m afraid to have kids. :\ )

Maybe I am tired and worn.

I am not shiny and polished. I do not have a good side for pictures. I will not be on TV or write a cookbook. That’s alright, too.

At the heart of what I do is always for you. Even in my deepest lack of patience and exhaustion, I allow you in daily — and some of you I feed and some of you I hug and some of you I get aggravated with.

From the depths of my what I consider my soul, I am here with you for this time.

And maybe we can change what we need for ourselves when the times comes.

But for now —

Let’s eat each others food

and say that it was good.

shift & settle

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The space next to me is familiar.

Right now, it is filled with the comforts of being alone. A book. A computer. Headphones. Maybe some of yesterday’s clothes.

For me, the idea of jumping back into the state of my singular mind is momentarily easy. The more I think, the sadness finds its way in, reminding me that it’s not that easy, and that finding someone you can really do life with is rare.

I have opened myself — and have poured myself between two glasses, back and forth. Spilling and making a mess and not ever having as much as I started with. That’s kind of what it feels like to care for someone when you are also learning what they need and what you need.

I feel a shred a failure.

More so, a deep crack in the state of my world, one that you build so strong when you’re alone for so long.
But I also think that maybe this crack is good. It allows things to shift and settle.

Looking-up-from-my-resting-place-on-the-snowbridge-at-the-hole-I-fell-into-and-the-ice-I-slid-down

Shifting and settling.

Maybe that’s what this is.
It does hurt. But most things that require growth require digging.

Digging and lots-of-tending-to, water and air.

Oh. And light.

So where do I stand now?
My brain immediately tells me to dive into my work. It makes things easier. Put it all aside and go back 100% into what works, and maybe what is easy.

Maybe you do this too.

There is no model or manual for heartache, there is also none for the baby steps of love. It is wobbly and scary and you fall down a lot.

You hit your chin on the coffee table and look at the person who was supposed to be holding you. How dare you let this happen to me…again?

Today, I will do what I can to be good to myself, and try my best to keep my bridges up.

Timing and life are certainly unpredictable, but to know myself is to let both of those things go.

Things take time.

And I’m letting it take me,

wherever,
whenever,

to shift and to settle.

 

 

knotted up

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I find myself lost at times, swimming through the waves of doubt and the mystery of countless unknowns.

I know that I am at the mercy of everything.

I find answers in the midst of treading through the hard things — the things that exhaust me the most. When I confront the world in front of me, I am reminded of simple truths, not that they’re any easier to obtain. Loneliness, being one. Loneliness is a thing that comes at us like a train, even when we are in a room full of people.

Our brains have a bad habit of being mean to us sometimes. It can create so much fear — fear of being unloved, unwanted and wasted.

My fear is that of letting others down. Not being talented or strong enough to make things work. I am often tired of the hustle that is keeping something above water. This includes relationships and business. We all wish it were easier to be human. Now we know it can be expensive. Tiring. Frustrating. Unfair. Polarizing. Painful.

My hope is that you don’t see this as too dark. I’m just exploring the hard things, as I have to do from time to time. I do not live in it. Sometimes that is a choice. Other times it is necessary.

Some of you have so much pain, here.
Here, in this big world.

I can hear the moaning, the gnashing of teeth. I see so much regret in the people that occupy my heart. I see so much in my own.

Cassandra-Smith-nautical-knot-Haus-Interior-5-via-Remodelista

What I want to say, is that you are free to explore. You are free to drop everything and be present for what is good and right in front of you. It is not easy to lay down weapons. It is not easy to lower your guard, especially as you’ve held it up most of your life.

I am learning that being vulnerable, and moving forward with a thing is worth the time. I realize that going through some of my most painful days, involved many of the people I love having to carry it with me. And I see it when they look at me, how deeply we are all tangled with one another.

I guess, what I always try to come back to, is how necessary we all are to each other’s survival. It is a constant thing — to love and understand the people you find yourself knotted up with — the menders of the broken Beloved.

This stuff isn’t easy. In fact, it’s the hardest thing in the world. You also have to remember your worth. That even though you are one of billions of people, you are still worthy of dignity and love and forgiveness.

That is what I want to say to you.

small.

poem

Drying out.

Or at least that’s how it feels when you go without.

(for such a long time.)

I have every reason to be terrified, skeptical, doubtful,
though I know none of those things are who I am, really.

More so, I welcome what may come. It may not be how I thought,
but it’s here, right in front of me,
the whole time.

I make room for the unknown; the wild.

I shift,

and lift my head.

The broken Beloved, right in front of me.

We sit with our failures like old friends,
reminding us of what we’ve been, what we don’t deserve
and maybe why we can’t move.

I’m telling you that you can,
and that you deserve to thrive, and have good things,
because there will always be a reason to doubt.

I challenge you to move.

six seedlings growing from soil

You’ve helped me notice words again. and patience again.

how easy it is to lose yourself in the lonely times,
to think too much of yourself and why you aren’t enough.

Whoever is enough?
And then you learn it’s not about being enough.

it’s about the calm, and the fading of fear into small hopes,
small joys, small everything.

everything starts small.

and grows,

and grows,

and grows.

 

 

put together

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I am a builder of pieces.

They all come in heavy boxes with my name on it.

It is all familiar and part of the process.

I cringe.

I don’t really have time for this, I think. I whine. I get over it. I build the damn thing.

I pull all of the pieces out and lay them on my floor. I get my tools. I do have a few to my name. Then there are the pictures and steps and I begin the process of putting it all together.

It’s just a big puzzle, yeah?
I have become a student of deconstructed furniture. I know all the weird bits. I know that eventually it will become something whole. Something useful. Something that is mine, that will move where I move.

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I take a glance at a year that sits at my feet. It has my name written all over it. I see the pain. The pressure. The weird looking pieces that are all familiar now. The success, the failure. I think of all the lumps in my throat and the heaviness in my belly.

I’m putting it all together now.
Opening a restaurant.
Losing a friend.
Losing my mind (maybe not as much as I think)

Gaining a few pounds.
Gaining a few friends.
Gaining some peace.

Moving my small world. Transitioning from survival. To living. To thriving.

The phrase “zero sum” isn’t quite it. I don’t really believe in zero sums. Putting a number with human loss and gain is unfair. The truth is, you gain a little bit from any small thing that happens to get pushed into your orbit. You are an attractor of objects.

You and your many, many moons.

I’ve felt giant, and I’ve felt so incredibly small.

I fumble in the dark. I keep my eyes on a horizon. A sun and a moon. A guide to the great unknown and that which makes me hopeful about a new day. A new person. A new feeling. Or maybe something you used to feel, but buried it to survive.

I assemble it all in my mind. Thousands and thousands of pieces. Once scattered at my feet, I build into something bigger, something that stands on its own.

all put together.

standing on its own.

 

shape of things

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I saw circles under my eyes.

Maybe they’ve been there for a while, but some days they look darker and I feel worn. It’s getting older, I know. Late nights. Early mornings. Gravity. The inevitable pull to the center of the Earth.

I stare into myself, at a body recently making 33 years around the sun. I’m not doing so bad. I think that if I play my cards right, I can make it another 33, but imagining a whole other life in my state of consciousness seems like a lot. I know it goes fast. It’s also slow sometimes, and I am impatient.

It becomes increasingly more important to know your body. To know when to speed up and when to slow down. I sit across from my dad and see myself. I sit across from my mom and I see myself.

There are things I know they want for me. To be happy. To be with a person I love. I want those things too, mostly.

I can’t begin to explain the way my mind shifts — the people I grow closer to and further away from. Everything looks different to me. Also, change, is a two-way road. As much as I’ve changed, you’ve changed too.

I fumble around in the dark, attempting to remember the shape of things — the shape of myself and the heaviness of my head as it hits the pillow.

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Another night and another bag of food, as I spend most of my days cooking for others. I don’t always have it in me to do it for myself, and that’s okay. We all get tired from the things we love.

I sleep through the night these days. Maybe because I’ve moved further away from the trains that used to jolt me out of myself. They reminded me of powerful things. The slow roar and the warning noise, letting you know to stay put, wherever it is you are.

Life is still very rich with the people I spend it with. Maybe I’m being patient for something, maybe I’m being stubborn. I’m not sure which, yet. Probably both.

When I write, I always try to be honest about what hurts. Beyond the pains of my body, my shitty back, maybe.

I teared up watching Ratatouille last week. Because I love to cook and I know what food does to people.

I buy fresh flowers every week, because they remind me of people that I miss and love.

I carry the guilt of my attitude, my greed, my small amount of power.
When I walk into my little house, the quietness sets in and I pour forgiveness into everything. Not enough for me to forget, but enough that I move forward. Enough for me to be good.

I am always feeling for the shape of things.

my heart,

and your heart
and everything in between.