hold fast

Story

It’s hard to be inspired right now.

A friend of mine said it best: “I’m not a fan of anyone who it too pessimistic right now. Then again I’m not a fan of anyone who is too optimistic, either.”

Most of the conversations I have with the people I love weigh heavy on me. Some of them, I hear tears being swallowed down as they (like all of us) march through the fog of uncertainty.

A few of my people are really hurting right now. They are quite literally falling around their own heart of darkness and when you love people, you can’t help but to fall with them.

It is too easy to be hard on yourself right now. That dense fog that looms over the next few months is so heavy and I feel it in my lungs, just like you. I fall asleep reading the same gut-wrenching stories and wake up with the hope that my morning coffee feels perfectly hot against the back of my throat.

fog

I spent an evening this past week visiting my sister recovering from surgery. My dad was in town helping so I decided to make some pizza with my niece and nephews, while also catching up with my parents and hoping to get a few laughs in the process.

I’ll start out by saying I’m not great with kids, especially the smaller they are. I just don’t use that part of my brain very much. (Though being silly is so needed right now)

I don’t consider myself a good uncle, but I’ve always felt that as my sister’s kids get older, I’ll be better at it.
As I was getting things ready to make pizza, my niece Anna came and sat at the bar. I know so much about her but rarely do I get to see her face and hold a conversation for more than a few minutes because generally adults are boring and I don’t blame her for wanting to do other things.

But I asked her about cross-country and school and show choir. All things she’s really good at. I listened to her sound so bummed out that she wouldn’t physically be going back to school for another month at least and it equally bummed me out.

I looked at her and saw someone who is so much older than I had realized.

She is a person that is beginning to understand the weight of things and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Not only is she entering the weirdest time of becoming an older human being, but in the middle of a pandemic — not being able to be with her friends as much as she wants and the uncertainty she also faces in her own future.

I felt some of my own anxiety die down a bit.

I’ve always seen this pandemic as a “row your own boat” sort of thing. The sea is whatever tumultuous thing we are facing. Between a depression, pandemic and civil rights movement, we are all clinging white knuckled to the sides of our vessels screaming:

HOLD FAST.

I was thankful to hug my mom. My sister. My dad. Very rarely do we get those opportunities, as I am just as nervous as you to travel around and possibly expose either my anxiety or germs to other people that do not deserve them. But it’s good to air out your grievances. And it’s good to be respectful of others’, as well.

If you see another boat taking on more water than your own, help them. (But don’t sink yourself in the process.)

To my niece, I would tell her this:

It won’t always be this hard. Things will lighten. You will come out of the fog on the other side, thankful and cautious and ferociously hungry to experience more.
The things you’re learning about yourself now will stay with you forever. This year will be the year where everything changed — and it will be a pillar built on your foundation.
You will still have to move around those large rocks sticking out of the fog — some, you won’t see til’ it’s too late, but there are others that will help you — and I will help you when I can.

Hold fast, love.

The light will inevitably cut through,

and I will meet you there.

 

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.

 

survival.

Uncategorized

I’ve been trying something lately, with my writing.

I’ve been letting it sit. So often, I write with abandon. In the moment. A lot of times, it’s good. Sometimes, I think, “Dude, you need to chill out!”

And for this week, I’ve written at least five different posts. Either I’ll save them for a rainy day (which is coming much more often here) or I’ll trash them or stick them in my angst file. I realize, that sometimes the things that make sense in my head do so given a certain context. They don’t often translate that well when I read them, say, twelve hours later.

Lately, I’ve been clinging to single words.

Virtues, and such.

Words like: goodness, strong, fierce, Love, forgiveness.

And something I’ve been holding on to much closer:

survival.

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I know that seems kind of dramatic. What am I trying to survive from?

Well, everything.
My life has been turned on its head.

When this happens, you grab aimlessly at things that make you feel better. Food. Alcohol. Mindless self indulgence.
And they work. Really well. For a little while.

What I’m coming to learn is that alcohol makes me sort of sad. And keeping my mind busy, is helpful when it’s about constructive things. And food? Well, I’m working it out. To say this is the season of the cheeseburger, might be an understatement. Fair enough.

Usually what I need, is to dull the edge. I wrack my brain, trying to not think about sh*t that has hit, is hitting, and will hit the fan. (Oh verbs, how I love you. I think if I were a verb, I’d like to be a helping verb.)

And on the horizon of all this, is an image. Something I recently saw. A poster by a local artist in which the word, “Survive” is embedded deep in a storm. On the horizon, you see the sun breaking through. For me, right now, imagery is huge. I’m rebuilding my writing desk with such things.

You do what you gotta do to make it through those storms.

But stand back, and look at yourself, if you can. Think about all those other times you weathered more than you thought you could handle.

When I say survival, sometimes I conjure up images of those Discovery Channel dudes, or Tom Hanks in “Cast Away”. In which case, neither of those people are actually needing to survive all that efficiently, considering there are cameras.

Then, there’s the real stuff. Folks with addiction, depression, loneliness, poverty.

The stuff you really have to dig deep to get out of. The things that take a village to change. Thinking you can change any of this by yourself is asking for too much.

To survive, you need others.

You need love, and forgiveness.

You need to fight.

You can never give up.

So to those out there, who feel like they are surviving, whether it’s relational, physical or financial, hold fast!

You are so much stronger than you think.

When your world collapses on you, remember this,

you are strong,

you are good,

you are fierce,

and you will, without a doubt,

survive.