anchor.

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Like most of you, I spend a large part of my day wandering around in my head — thinking about the last year and a half (or the last maybe 20 years or so).

Sometimes it’s hard to process a life publicly and having your friends and parents worry or take some sort of blame for who you are and how you turned out. I’m not saying my family didn’t impact the person I am today, but at some point you shift over into your choices and the events that made you who you are today.

There are plenty of people that I love that hold the impossible weight of their failures and short comings. I watch it weigh them down like an anchor slogging its way on the sea’s floor, whipping up bits and pieces of a scattered old world.

I’ve had to drop a lot of things to keep up forward motion. These days I just don’t have much room to hold on too tightly to anything. A lesson I learned early in my life is that heaviness and heartbreak are blind and reckless and fall on anyone, at any time. Learning that there isn’t a rhyme or reason for the world (or your tiny world) to fall on your shoulders holds some kind of strange creature comfort.

Most things are not your fault, and just by existing you are enough for this world.

Yeah, you’re going to whiff some things. You’re going to screw up and break someone’s heart (ultimately your own). Maybe one of the biggest things I’ve learned lately is that people are resilient as hell and most feelings really don’t last forever. Some of us are just wired differently. We hold on to things longer while still feeling them deeply — sometimes there isn’t justice.

Sometimes, we just have to live with a thing.

Being alive on this planet comes with responsibilities. One of the better ones is leaving it better than you found it.

Along the way, you’re going to find yourself wrapped up in impossible things. A work load that is too much — a failed relationship — maybe letting down your kids.
(In fact most of you have already done these things and will continue to do these things because being human is a lot of responsibility and messing up is part of the gig.)

I feel like it’s important to create the space to mourn your losses. You can even keep them to yourself as wisdom. I would ask that while you hold them to not let them hold you back from experiencing more life.

I have seen grief and I have seen grief lived.
What I want to say is that joy (and forgiveness) rips grief apart.

We’re all tired from *gestures broadly at everything* this stuff.
Some days getting out of bed feels like chaos. That once my feet hit the floor you are moving and moving into something you can’t control. Make sure you give yourself some space from the chaos to collect yourself. Truly nothing gets better unless you do.

This is mostly my reminder to be good to yourself even with all the odds stacked against you. To put down arms and stop lobbing grenades for a while.

As my little friend Birdie says, “Hey guys. Stop. Just breathe.”

Take it from her.

stop.
(and breathe.)

war and peace

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I often start to write because I feel things swirling around in my head. Usually, a string of events that are somewhat related to one another form some sort of deeper feeling for me. I’ve had a few of those things happen recently — some of it related to war and peace.

It should be noted that I am Russian by ancestry, but I’m not getting into it that way.

Let’s start with taking out the trash.
I live in a quiet neighborhood. Well, mostly, until the guys across the street start revving and working on their old trucks that backfire and spill black exhaust into the air. That’s okay. A more wild thing unfolded yesterday when I witnessed the neighbors a couple of houses down yelling, which led to an all-out brawl. I sat the lid down on my trash can just in time to see them push one another. They rolled around on the ground, yelling, crying out. I stood by just in case I (maaaaybe) needed to call.

They finally settled down. I watched one man head back into his house, and the other make his way back into his truck. He had taken a beating. I usually think no one wins in these matters, but this guy definitely lost. Fighting has always been scary to me — it puts a knot in my stomach and stays there. I felt bad for both of them. It has to be so exhausting and emotional to fight someone. I’ve been super lucky in life not having to find out for myself.

Either way, I’m glad things didn’t get too rough. I’m sure at some point, they were friends.

Another part of my day was spent wandering around the Mississippi Armed Forces Museum at Camp Shelby just down the road a bit. Sitting out stationary in the field near the museum are the bigger machines of war. Tanks, airplanes and artillery.

I do have a soft spot for these kinds of things. I have been fascinated with war history since Jr. High and not much has changed. While I am usually drawn to weapons and other machines of war, I was led a little closer to their stories. Men and women from my home town — the places they traveled — the battles they won (and lost.)

Being so close to history always moves me, deeply. Whether I’m wondering who used to wear that Nazi officer’s coat or if these weapons actually ended the lives of people, I am moved by their weighty ghosts.

It’s hard to shake.

The business of war.
(Or fighting another man on your front lawn.)

To quote Gen. Sherman,
War is Hell.

It is easy to numb the things our walls help us block out. Then, out of nowhere, you remember that there are small (and large) things happening every day that carve out the Earth. Maybe you retreat; maybe there’s a victory. Sometimes you lose. But it is almost always hard fought, regardless.

Keep moving towards peace. That’s what I say.

The fire and noise and smoke stay with you.

Not all things that move us are kept behind glass,

and most things aren’t easily forgotten.

No Man’s Land

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I feel parts in me breaking every day.

For as long as I can remember that’s what I do. I break completely into pieces so that I can fit into a thing. I lose a thing here or there in the process.

Being an introverted single person, living alone in this pandemic has been met with a lot of doubt. At least when things are “normal” I had the option of giving more of myself. Now, I don’t know where to be in all of this. I hesitate to say we are in the same boat, because as I’ve said before, we are all in own lifeboats during this thing.

Some days I feel like I can rise above it all and be the person I’ve worked so hard to be. More often then not, I find myself being the person full of doubt and criticism. For example everything I cook now I deem is absolute dog shit. It piles on my shoulders. I’m missing the connections. Like neutrons and electrons firing into some black hole forever and ever.

This is a time of year that I love. (Though, with everything in its current place, I’m slightly dreading the next few months for reasons those of us living in the U.S. know to be true.) But damnit if I’m not an optimist by nature. I am also incredibly hard on myself.

I think about the billion ways I can go but when I feel like I’m only doing things one way, I get stuck. I get stuck on myself and whatever it is I’m doing and dreaming about a different time. For something that doesn’t exist, I surely think about it a lot.

Physically I feel tired more often. We are lucky to have a lot of business during this time. I am grateful, but I am also very aware of the weight it puts upon me and my friends. When you are successful, you tend to tie yourself up with your business. I don’t think we agree on what success looks like, and when we’re talking about the city I live in, I always feel like the underdog.

I wonder if the hustle will slow even after the pandemic clears. I wonder if I’ll fall in love again. It’s in my biology to have kids, but I’m really not sure if that’ll ever happen. (Yeah, ya know, I do have the urge quite often to have a kid, even if it doesn’t fit the kind of person I am.) What kind of person am I anyways?

Maybe that’s the question I’ve been asking myself the most.

I don’t know anymore. Certainly a pandemic causes me to shift inward — to question every single decision I’ve made — every person I’ve kissed — every person I’ve hurt. As much as I preach that life is all forward, I find myself the most being stuck in traps that I continue to set for myself.

As far as I can tell, none of this is final. There’s a lot of things moving right now and we’re all really uncomfortable. There’s a sense of unease we aren’t accustomed to. Maybe sometimes I feel the moans of my own ancestors in my bones.

I guess what I try to look for in all of this, is that things never really settle and truly, you won’t feel this way forever. Look for the people helping and ask them for some relief. Then, help someone yourself. We are all borrowing each other’s grace and more often in my life, tupperware.

There is still plenty of beauty here to discover. There are still ways to move beyond the toxic — the great lies and the great thieves of your own joy.

Remember you are here, now. Living in a time you might never see again. This is your season to move through No Man’s Land,

where I will move
(and move with you.)

rage.

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I get so tired of falling asleep with rage in my belly.

I envy those who let things pass so easily and with grace. Sometimes I can, but my patience these days is wearing so thin. I used to be so good at holding things in and during a younger season in my life, learned about the wild things I could no longer contain.

I learned about the airing of memory filled with grief and sorrow, but also a lot of goodness.

The kitchen brought me some rage, as with any high stress job where your margin of error seems almost unforgivable. There is no shortage of things that fill me (and most likely you) with some deep glowing fire.

That kind of rage stays with me. It lingers, mostly into the dark. Sometimes, my only option is to drown it with sleep. I know it’s not good, but sometimes it’s also inescapable.

The last thing I want to do is drag someone else into the things that I feel.

I’ve been learning to navigate some anger — in general I direct it at myself for allowing something to get to me so quickly, but also most of the time, it has something to do with a thing that is not within anyone’s control.

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Being alone can be hard. Self-control is even harder. We’re allowed to let off steam — but never at the cost of hurting another thing. I think this will be a life learned lesson, one that comes at the cost of being hurt by another.

We have a lot to be angry about. Maybe some of that is accepting things were never as they seemed. This feels a lot like being betrayed by someone you love who is never willing to apologize, a toxicity that is being bled out. At some point though, you have to put pressure on the wound.

Maybe that’s what this time is about.

There isn’t much space to hide anymore. In fact, it is maybe one of the best times to dig in deep and work on the next shift of your life. Maybe you’re already doing that and this quarantine has shown you how much you’ve grown into yourself and how you move alongside with the other people in your life.

For me, being alone does not equate to loneliness. Some days are harder, but I’ve been growing in ways I wouldn’t have if I didn’t have this space.

I’ve never been one to stray too far away from a challenge, especially at the cost of my own peace. Surely the older I get, the more comfort I crave but I still recognize the wild things.

The sense to grow and move and challenge my humanity (and maybe yours.)

The rage never lasts. It dies because it has to. (and I continue to lay down weapons I shouldn’t use anymore.)

It will always be in my belly — it is how I’ve come to recognize the most important things in my life and that maybe I need to drop the things I’ve been clinging on to for so long. The heaviness of expectation, the need to please and the wondering if I’ll ever be enough for you.

There are always newer, lighter things to pick up along your way.
I hope you give yourself the time and space to find them.
You’re a gift to the people that love you.
Be sure to love yourself in return.

 

 

 

 

the great unsettling

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What stirs in my heart?

Maybe it’s everything. How does anyone not live a day without wandering in and out of the things they used to believe in and the people they used to be?

I often mourn parts of my life where I had less responsibility. More uncertainty, no doubt, but does getting older ever give you any certainty that you’ll become a better person? Or that the things in this world will ever be enough for you?

This quarantine has given me some perspective on my small space here. I found myself dumping loads of things from my past. A few pictures. Some books. Even the things I have found sacred in the past, I’ve dug up again to be both inspired and challenged.

It is a great unsettling of things.

It’s weird when pieces of your old self reappear and almost with a sense of urgency ask that you remember this piece of you that shifted the way you see everything.

I keep a small shelf with things from my life — things that were given to me by people I love, people who broke my heart and others who give me the most inspiration to push forward regardless of the gravity that pulls me elsewhere.

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I found myself rearranging these heirlooms. These precious bits of a life 34 thus far.

A matchbox with the face of Che Guevera.
A metal cup from my time in India.
A feather from a friend I used to kiss and fall asleep on the grass with long ago.

Some toys from when I was young.
My old pair of glasses, broken.
Fountain pen and some ink.

I keep these things because they help me remember that every good thing shifts in you endlessly.

The bad too, but those things tend to dull over time.

I’m always amazed about how the things that broke our hearts into a million pieces still allow us to feel good about the time we had with them that were beautiful, and that they gave to us what we would have never found without them.

Sometimes you need the person you once were to step up and meet the person you are now. I know I look older by the day, and I often cringe at what I used to call a beard. Now, I still don’t grow the best looking beard, but I see the grey hair that comes with life and its weight.

I have little regret, but deep down in the still waters I know this whole thing is a gift. I embrace the challenge of wandering through this life with the knowledge that it’s not ever easy, and things that matter won’t ever happen quickly.

Sometimes being unsettled is the only way to move forward,

and I will always set my eyes there,
toward both the dying and birth of the new light.

 

fog.

Food, Health, Hospitality Industry, Story

I really wanted to call this “Love in the Time of Corona” – but of course there are about 60 other think-pieces with this title and maybe we’re all tired of seeing it.

Sure, this is a little easier for introverts. Let it be clear that none of this is easy, for any age group or  personality type. Honestly your pets are super happy  you’re home. Maybe even your cats.

We all might be getting a little chubbier. (Which is OKAY.)

My lack of running around for eight hours a day like a crazy person is showing. Well, that mixed with beer/whiskey/whatever people have been leaving on my doorstep.

This is the most time I’ve had to myself since we opened the new restaurant. It’s been almost two years of constant worry and hustle — of reminders and alarms that I’ve turned off since we decided to temporarily close.

That was a gut-wrenching decision.

I felt like I had failed.

It took a pandemic to close our doors.

I felt so much guilt and pain for not being strong enough to make it  work — to have to tell my co-workers that they’d need to be registering for unemployment.

And I was exhausted. Emotionally. Physically. If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, you know the mental toll that it takes. In fact, I have so much mental energy left at the end of the day I can’t really sleep without just completely wearing myself out on Youtube tutorials.

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Some days are foggier than others. You know this all too well.

That is mostly hope. Also, perhaps  you’re less hungover from the night before. (Which is a good thing.)

I know we’re all hanging on, here.

I was talking to my Memaw a couple of nights ago. She’s 81 and has been through most of the hard things a person has to go through in one life — and something like this is new to her. It is a hard thing, regardless of age or social capacity. It doesn’t need to be said that being human is being social and that the best feeling is to be loved on by another.

Sometimes, it  looks  darker, like a box you can’t get out of. A heavy fog.

I know.

Hold fast to the things that make you feel strong — feel loved —  feel heard.

We started cooking  again this week.
If nothing more than to pay some bills, but mostly to feel somewhat connected again. The hard pill to swallow is that this changes everything. It changes our business — our hearts and those things that shake us to the core.

But there is a lot of love out there.
The fact that we are staying  put shows that.

I encourage you to keep reaching  out to people. To check in on quiet friends  (check in on your loud ass friends too.)

Be good. Take some deep breaths and give yourself loads of grace (more than you already should.)

I send all the love in my heart,
however long it takes to reach you.

-j

 

dans le merde

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I told myself I was going to write today.

I was going to sit down (because it’s raining and I have coffee to my left) and talk about myself in a way I hope would be helpful to my world. I’ve been struggling with it because of the added vulnerability, which in my case is something I haven’t usually had a problem with.

I don’t know, things change. I’ve certainly changed. Truths are shifting in my heart, as they always have. This makes things hard to reconcile — hard to stay consistent to the way things have always been.

I realize things get more difficult with time. Wisdom is great but really that only counts if you’re giving it away. Taking it in for yourself takes mistakes, time (ugh), stubbornness (see: time) and your ability to trust something that hasn’t happened yet.

Is there ever a moment that you trust something fully? Maybe in your religion or faith or the thing you call the Beloved. Even that shifts for me. In a way, there isn’t much of anything that doesn’t get sucked into my gravity. To call myself a black hole is kind of funny and very dramatic, but as described in Interstellar, “When orbiting a black hole, not enough things can happen…”

Adding on to that, “whatever can happen, will happen.”

FoolishHatefulDuckling-poster

I am hopeful, by trade.

The thing I say over and over to myself when I am in the deepest of weeds (or dans le merde) is this: It’s going to be okay, because it has to be.

I don’t often walk around assuming there is a grey cloud following me. I feel very lucky to have a positive outlook on many things, and when it comes to the people I love I hope I can give that to them. Maybe sometimes I don’t have much of it for myself, but if I can give that away then I am doing what I can to help the Earth move. That, for me, is more than I could ask of myself.

Leading is vulnerability. It goes without saying, the best leaders are the ones who make decisions. For better or worse, having someone make a choice and moving to that is vulnerable. Choosing any direction is being vulnerable. Accepting the weight of your decisions, especially when it’s something that doesn’t work, is part of it. Unfortunately, there’s no way around showing people what moves in you unless you take on that responsibility.

Somehow I ended up talking about leadership, but that’s not really what I wanted to say.

You are here to experience a life.
And that life is funny, painful (okay really painful sometimes) and very surprising.

You are not going to escape the pain that will find you, and for many of you, that you find daily.
It is not much for me to say that I see you — but I do and whatever energy I am given to send to you I will because your pain is important. Pay attention to it.

Don’t let it take you,
give it some air.

Give it some light.
Bury it when it becomes too great, but not for long.

We all still need you.

Whatever can happen, will happen.

You are here because of it,
(and it means the world to me that you are here)

 

 

 

made new.

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Cooking has changed me.

It first changed me when I was falling in love. Spending all of your time with a person, so exhausted from the things new love brings and the hunger that comes with it.
It was there for me to take care of another person and myself.

I loved it.
Curing bacon in my vegetable drawer.
Learning how to use salt. Blanching vegetables.
Tying up roasts and braising meats into things that made me fall head over heels for the thing.

It changed me again when it became my job. I stressed over every single piece of lettuce green I dressed, hoping it wasn’t too heavy or two salty or too much vinegar.

I watched as my first plate of food went to a customer, sitting on their laptop, and ate it without a single thought.

It felt like sparks
(and I was on fire.)

That fire led me to work some of the hardest hours of my life. Leaving the one I loved at home, so that I could learn and learn and learn.

I learned so much that I broke down. It happens to everyone sooner or later. The fire heats you from the bottom, but they never told me about the pressure that comes from the top. The lid that holds things in — the things that broke me down.

Now, after years of moving through various bouts of love lost and putting my things inside different sets of walls every couple of years, I’ve found myself in a space where I live daily.

But today, I’m writing about what hurts.

And I’m writing about it because it hurts me more often than it ever has.
I dive into the toxic world of reviews.

F*ck! I say to myself. We’ve gone down a whole star because someone passing through was having a weird day and they weren’t happy with us. Or today, when a person requested a new bowl of grits two times because she didn’t like them. (I could explain to her that this was the last bin of older harvested corn from our grits provider, and that they taste a little different than usual, but it wouldn’t have mattered.)

Beneath every little thing, is a mountain of pressure I put upon myself. I move in and out of it during any given day. My success and failures all here, weighing upon my shoulders. I come home in grief for the way I may have acted in front of my co-workers. Most of the time they don’t notice it in me, but I feel it.

I come home and collapse on my bed.

The words recently came out of my friend’s mouth, “Disappointed” — that maybe I wasn’t doing more here. That I used to make exciting food that made people feel a certain way. That I had more TIME and less pain in my back. But I will admit that many days, my heart is so worn. My brain is tired. Tired of trying to figure all of this shit out. Day after day.

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I will show you my heart — any time you need me to.

I come home to things that make me feel alone, sometimes. Half of a dry sandwich. Cold cup of coffee I couldn’t finish. Silence can be one of my best friends, and also my worst. Any slow day we might have, I assume the worst of myself, as untrue as it may be.

I am not looking for solace from others.

But I know I’ve changed. That is what we want. When I’m hungry for a better life, I work and hustle. I made crazy things and worked for people to see me.

Now, I have more space. Less roaches to worry about. A soft, big bed. A few nice things. I’ve let my guard down in ways I haven’t for years.

Thank God I’ve changed, and thank whoever is in charge of this messy thing that I’ve stumbled into.

Cooking is still changing me.
No, I’m not inviting you over for late night, last minute ramen. (at least not right now.)
I’m fighting against burn out.

I’ve had to catch myself on fire for so long, I struggle to maintain it, at best.
I’m saying these things, because it all hurts me. The reviews. The words. From people who know less about food than I do. But that doesn’t matter. You matter. And I want this to be for you.

But I also want it to be for me.

We can’t have it all. And these days, we all can’t complain at once. There’s too much happening. Too many bad things we see and not enough good.

I can live without a lot of things, but I cannot live without human connection. Love. Nourishment. The warmth of a good word and a breath of something fresh.

Ursula K. Le Guin says,

“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.”

every day.

made new.

made different.

(but will always be you.)

heaven and hysteria

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Jupiter.

That’s my planet.

(I told my dad, because maybe in a past life I believed that I could have a ruling planet. Some giant ball of gas and toxicity thousands and thousands of miles away that had some affect on me as a fellow thing made out of star stuff.)

Maybe it does.

Walking along this beach was the usual quiet hum of waves approaching. Dad was using his phone to tell me about which planets were what, because on this stretch of Florida land it was the darkest night I’d seen in years.

I could even make out the Milky Way.

Saturn was there.

Of course the Moon, peaking over the peninsula. (Oh! and some shooting stars, if you’re the romantic.)

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Spending time with family is parts heaven and hysteria. Love and love’s fun way of being with the ones that see you gain weight and grow up and live through life’s light and dark.

It is sometimes overwhelming to imagine the time of things — sitting in the midst of three generations thinking, “So many things happened just right.” And now I’m here, sitting with the people that brought me to this place.

I realize I read too much into a thing, but I also don’t want to pass up a good thing. Especially if it helps me.

Especially if a day is good.
Catching crabs off the beach,

drinking cold beer and wrapping up the hot sun.

it soaked deeply into my skin, the heat I can still feel.

I suppose it’s always new, whatever the tide brings me.

some peace to calm the worry,

with my heels sinking into the sand.

 

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.