the lonely generation.

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Let me first start out by saying I really just speak for myself, and not the entirety of my generation, and certainly not for folks in other parts of the world.

For some reason, I’ve been wanting to talk about being alone. And I always say “being alone” rather than “being lonely”, because I feel they are two very different things.

Being lonely, to me at least, can happen regardless if you’re actually alone or not. I know people who feel lonely and have a large, supportive family and are maybe even married or have a partner to share their life with.

Being alone, well, that’s where I come in. I came across an article recently that said we, at least my generation, are going to be the loneliest generation (because of various social networking habits). Broad statements like this always rub me the wrong way, because it’s such a large generalization of a generation that is barely into their 30s. People can’t always, or if ever, control the things that happen to them in their lives.

I think often that I might have a kid by now. I might have had a lot of things by now. But I don’t, and that’s okay. Life took a sharp U-Turn a few years ago and sent me on a different direction. Part of me feels sad, not as much for me, but for the people in my life who wanted to see me have those things — maybe some family — maybe some friends. I can’t control these things, and that is something you have to understand.

What I want to say, is that I may be really difficult. Whether that is my standards, my dreams, and whatever it is I may be pursuing at the moment. Some people have an easier time in life living with other human beings, and some work better being on their own. The part of this that is difficult is merging those things at some point.

I think being with people is important. I know we joke about staying in at night instead of going out, or people telling me how much they know about being an introvert when it is all so damn complex. People don’t like feeling hurt. As I get older, I will admit it takes a lot more energy to try and try again. To connect…and to hopefully really connect with someone who happens to be going your way.

I am okay with being alone, mostly.

But, that is me.

I also feel lonely at times. Especially when you’re sick or need some squeezes. I think that’s understandable. I love seeing people together, and working out. I remember what that was like and I am hopeful to have it again one day. But you have to try things out. More often than not, it doesn’t work. You can’t lose hope in yourself or the world.

I always want to say people are stronger than they make themselves out to be, but it’s not my (or anyone else’s) job to coach you like that, because those people, in time, will probably let you down and then what?

That is what it is to be a messy human. This is your story, moving at your speed.

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So yeah, maybe I should have two kids by now.

Maybe I should be thinking of having my own business or working towards some other grand thing.

I am doing something that I love. Love that includes lots of things, though. Bits of rage and exhaustion, as well.

I have people that care about me, and loads of people that I care for, most importantly. I have a lot of reasons to wake up and try to create something that gives me, and hopefully others life.

I try to let go of my want to be understood, and focus more on understanding.

We are all different little monsters sometimes, and that’s a little scary. But deep in my belly I see a lot of love and a lot of knots that need untying.

You will feel lonely, sometimes. We are all full of cracks, you see? Because of that we get to fill up with all sorts of things.

Right now, I’m learning how to make Kombucha, and I’m running a lot more than I ever have each week. I am preparing myself for a busy Fall season, and also what that means for me,

when our seasons start to change, and we feel new life in our bellies.

 

stuck.

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I have been stuck on this awful and violent week.

I feel as though I owe some sort of apology to my co-workers, who over the past couple of days have had to walk on egg shells around my fragile and angry state. I am not even close to the ones who were affected even more personally by the things that have happened.

It is still something I, and many of you, have felt tremendously this week. I am an overly-sensitive dude and have always been.

Unfortunately, I cannot hide behind the legs of my mother anymore. Instead we are pushed into little rooms full of videos of men being killed and we are supposed to handle it like adults.

I was stuck on the video of the son pulling his shirt over his face to wipe his tears and prayers to God, denying her partner getting shot. Those moans are so haunting that I wonder if it’s even possible to get them out of my head anymore.

Really, all I’ve wanted to do since Tuesday is bury my head in the cool sand, like we used to do with watermelons when we were kids at the creek. Quiet. Mumbled. Cold and tranquil. We aren’t ever promised that space to heal ourselves, though.

Sometimes we have to work through it all. Sometimes that’s having to move through anger non-violently, and non aggressively with a super person’s amount of compassion and grace.

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With so much violence and grief, the smallest amount of love and goodness feels like cold water after recess.

That small relief fills your belly with some peace.

This world and its growing pains. We are all here for it, right now. It is the most messy and heartbreaking thing we will see in our lives, but in all of these things we learn and our hearts grow and mend.

My eyes have been watery on and off the past week. Yours too, probably. Hopefully.

Hopefully we have all felt broken, and put back together with a few pieces missing. Pieces of us that were hanging on to hate and injustice and complacency. And gaining something new, maybe.

Maybe our love is stronger now.
Maybe we our stronger now.

Regardless, we are stuck with carrying each other’s pain, now.

So let’s do that. And let’s be wounded healers and cook food together,
or mow someone’s grass, or just have a little grace on someone who’s having a hard day.

We need you here with us, okay?

Okay.

moon stuff.

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Sometimes I wish I was on the moon.

Maybe near the sea of tranquility, running my fingers through space-cold star stuff.

I would look upon Earth with hope knowing that everything tremendously good and bad has happened there forever and ever. Moaning and twisting. Settling, too, from time to time.

I would feel all sorts of ways. The moon sometimes feels sad to me. Because it is often trumped by the Sun — alas the moon has always been my favorite. Quiet. Pulling us in and out of her grace.

I would see a place of heaven and hell.

Dark and Light, of which I embrace both. You have to, really.

It is all so awful sometimes. But you can’t say anything. And you can’t blame anyone. We are only filled with our experiences. We are not a very open world, that is for sure.

There we are anyways. Just hanging around in the middle of whatever space is. This brilliant and short lived thing and we get to sit on and complain about our fries being soggy.

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I hate that people kill other people. And I wish guns were just used for shooting clay discs out the sky or birds for people to eat or other animals for sustenance. I hate that we’re all unhappy with our world that we drive so many people not to like one another.

None of that really matters, and I don’t really care anymore. I don’t care that you have really expensive legal guns. It’s your life, and I really don’t care. And I know you don’t care about what I think — trust me, it all goes full circle.

People hurt though. And I don’t trust myself with any knowledge that any of this is okay. The depth of a human being is filled to the brim with fear and passion and rage — all sorts of love stuff too. It gets all mixed in together, as well.

The part of me that hurts the most is my numbness to all of the conversations. Of all the people I love and respect.

All I can think to do anymore is keep the conversation light, and to keep close the people that I can spill my guts to, which seems to get smaller and smaller as life goes on. I don’t know. I guess at some point I will change. Something will happen to me over a very long period of time, and I will change.

But not today.

Today I just want to be on the moon.

Far away.

Waiting for the dust to settle,
in hopes that I can listen well and act justly when I am supposed to,
and sew good and love into whatever fabric we are becoming.

retreat and reconcile.

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I’m not quite sure where my head is at.

In between a lot of layers of self doubt and pride and movement. Each layer is built upon what I consider my deepest self. The one that I return to before I fall asleep at night, and perhaps in the morning when I have a few quiet moments.

Who the hell am I becoming? Is this person good? Will this person be lonely? Can I find some balance in this wonky world?

No big surprise you probably ask yourself the same questions. Getting older (and older) I am pressed by the second hand moving around the clock. I live my life in seconds, really. At least when your job is putting food on plates, seconds matter.

Okay. Write about what hurts.

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Often, the answer for loneliness is to seek out a person, or people to do life with. But it’s awfully complex. I fear writing about it because it’s got all those layers, too. And I really don’t want to receive worried messages. Actually, I’m quite good with how my life is working.

I am reaching into the places that I feel a little worn and for lack of better imagery, desolate. Being reminded almost daily of lives that I’ve had already. Images that are burned into my brain of people leaving, of me leaving, and also ones of great love and warmth. I like those, a lot.

Daily, I reconcile the person I am becoming. The person who has to be tough on employees and himself. Who is often careless with his words and how they sink deep into another. I have a responsibility for all of that. One could lock themselves in a room forever, but I cannot think of a worse reality than to not feel or to fear the responsibility of feeling the depth of one’s humanness.

I wish I could afford spiritual retreats. Or perhaps more spirituality in general. I think this is also what hurts. Food, in my world, is my way of communion with people. Its facade is one of hipness and energy and hustle — but what I crave at its marrow — communion. And that involves all the moving parts. Sort of like your church. Sort of like your people.

While a restaurant is not by any means a place of spiritual reckoning, it is often where my feet are planted. It is my holy ground that knows too many curse words and blood and sweat. It knows stress and dirt and fear. These were the things I didn’t know as a home cook.

But this is my life now. I have the marks and I breathe in the warm oven and the first pot of coffee in the morning. I dip my spoon into everything.

I taste and I taste and I taste.

When I come home I toss my body onto my bed and often miss the presence of another next to me. Maybe giving me a back scratch. Or a run down of their day, which is often a nice retreat from the noise inside my head.

But really, I have myself. Perhaps the squirrels that run along my tin roof and the occasional lady bugs that still happen to find their way on the edge of my water glass.

My world, as small as it is, seems impossibly huge sometimes. Even when I see the earth from space, falling into nothingness, I am still alive and aware of that gift.

Of Existing. Feeling. Moaning. Laughing. And really just, being.

When I write about what hurts, I often find what heals.
They often stem from the same things.
That is life, I think.

Reconciliation and Communion.

Over and over again.

Layer upon layer.

happening

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I wonder if I can learn to be reckless again.

After something breaks you, you try to be safe so it won’t hurt as bad anymore, but it’s becoming very clear to me that things are always happening to us. Whether they are good or bad. Things are happening.

All of the time.

There are some days, where I can float above my body. Already, I live every day remembering people and places and how they made me feel. It’s a cycle I run through, and I’m not sure I’ve had a day where I don’t think about the moments that sent me onto a different trajectory.

I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I am a bit afraid to love another person deeply again. I know for a fact that I will give myself up to it. I will lose something in my cooking. I will regret some of that life, I know. Of being obsessed with some form of my occupation and wondering if any person out there would be able to accept the moments where the thing I love to do, competes with their relationship with me.
This absolutely breaks my heart.

I am a stubborn fool, quite often.

Raw feeling, many days. Where I just don’t think I have any more to give, when it’s the thing I love the most.

These days, my cup is so full — I s’pose of everything a human can be full of. Hunger. Fear. Love. Regret. Compassion. Rage. Wonder. Contentment.

And I come home, and push off my shoes and collapse onto some soft surface big enough for my frame. There are times I want to weep with it all — to really just — let the skies have it all. Maybe something up there is listening after all.

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Today, I am jealous of free weekends. Of an easier love. Sun-burned faces and Sunday naps wrapped tightly with a warm body or animal (or both). And in my head, I wonder if I did good enough today.

If I was fast enough. Or kind enough. Or if I hurt someone’s feelings or whether or not I’ll have the energy to muster up a soft hello at a local church meeting. Truly, I have a lot on my shoulders and a dull pain riding up into my neck.

But, things are always happening to us.
And like the prayer goes: it’s for our healing.

It’s all happening for us to move through and to become so wonderfully and tragically human, with the world and the people of it pulling us in a million different ways.

For now, I will rest my head and give the dull ache in my neck some time to take it easy. I will wrap myself tightly in this brown blanket and probably wake myself up with a snore or two.

I have my own Sunday kinda love, and today, it looks like all of the things that have made me — and have made me goofy and flawed and tenderhearted — and know that all along, everything’s been happening.

 

moving.

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I will be moving in a few weeks.

Not very far, so don’t worry.
Moving up, a bit. I like to say. A little more room. A little more of a quiet space. Not so much because I need my surroundings to always be quiet and still — but because my day to day life contains a thousand moving parts and some of them have voices and all of them are important.

I am happy and sad and weary and full of many things. That is my heart, most days. This is starting off to be a heavy year for me and many of the people I love. Waking up to news about another person I love having to carry an impossible weight — how any human does it is still a mystery to me.

People still help, ya know? This whole adulting thing is tricky. Really, we all have to learn from scratch. We all have to figure out how to handle loss and divorce and sickness and pride. But people are still around, and many of them actually listen to you and are willing to give you some of their time. That is invaluable. That is something I’m learning right now.

Time is that precious resource. Always moving forward, always losing it and wishing somehow that it would go faster and slower. Like kissing soft lips for the first time — or being at a table where things seem to stop.

There is the other side, where we have to keep our mouths open at the dentist or wait for our test results. Sometimes that is agony.

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I stood outside the back door of my apartment and realized I’d outgrown it. Maybe a little came from the new tenant above me who shakes my ceiling when he walks. But I knew this feeling of having to move — slightly familiar, and with it comes some hard stuff. I teared up a bit.

I rebuilt my life in this tiny home.

I fed a lot of people out of it.

I struggled with my craft and almost left a few times.

By some weird luck, and I believe hard work, things have shifted and I am changing again.

Being a chef in the capacity that I am is one of the coolest and hardest things I’ve gotten to do. It is such a blast and can also be so absolutely brutal. But there is a peace to waking up every day and going to a kitchen where people are cooking and laughing and venting.

I’ve built a family too. I love that.

Y’all, I’m on the move again…

and as always, pressing into the horizon.

 

Cooking with Figs

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I think often of that Sylvia Plath bit.

About making choices and those damn figs. You know the one.
Well, I sit here in this space, again.

Not due to choices or regret — but the weight of knowing which figs are nearing their fall and the ones that have yet to bloom.

When I am sad — with the things I have in front of me — I think about how lucky I am to have cooking. I suppose I have writing too. But let me know tell you about this thing that I have.

The first thing that brought me back when the Earth cracked beneath me was chopping onions for a dish I’d be serving later that evening.

You see, food is reliable in my eyes. I know that I can add another egg to make something fluffier. I know I can leave a steak in a hot pan to get that crust I love so much or reduce a stock to make a sauce.

I know butter makes mostly everything taste better.

I know that I can dissolve into a recipe like the salt itself.

And I know that when I set it on the table in front of someone, it is generally good.

When I feel my raw self, cooking brings me back. And God do I put so much into it.

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Attraction is funny. And moving from there is tricky. People are tricky and mysterious and flaky  And I am one of them. Though I am not good at being mysterious these days. I will say that I am guilty of trying to be too cool. I think it’s called being single, though I’m not sure.

In my head, I just say, “F*ck this, F*ck this — just cook and mop and be a good chef, dude” and move on.

I am just soft enough though to know that I will still put so much trust and hope in people. I will still allow myself and others grace. I will still work so hard at communicating in a way that I hope comes off as helpful, rather than making things more difficult to navigate (than they already are.)

Relationships with people, in my specific circumstance, are tricky. I am just all sorts of  vulnerable by nature and at times can just be plain awful to myself. I feel awful for making people feel awful.

So, I’ll go home and cook.

I will fill my cup with forgiveness because again, I have no idea what I’m doing.

I will throw another tablespoon of butter in the pan because it needs it. Hell, I need it.

Cooking, regardless of the many things I’ve messed up, always brings me back to myself and that I truly love it. Creating. Consuming.

And having it consume me. 

To be honest, that’s how I’ve always looked at cooking. I let it consume me. Sometimes beat me down to a pulp. Sometimes eat something so good I wish I had someone across from me to share it with. I have wept more times at a stove then I care to admit.

Not so much from over-salting the eggs, but because somehow I still have a way to care for myself and others. That makes me feel very lucky.

Relationships are just plain tough. Nitty gritty hurtful stuff. Also full of love and pleasure and sustenance. I am full of all these things.

The figs.

Well, some have fallen and rotted away. Others are getting ripe and some have yet to bud — but I am okay in this space, right now. Because deep in the belly of the tree I do love myself and can feel okay when things are a bit wonky.

I know that when I wake up the next morning, it is a bit holy for me. Like maybe something got washed away in the great depth.
That, I am thankful for.

And for you. And you. And you.

And for my pots and pans and heat and pressure and time.

I am always thankful for you.

 

mosaic.

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Mr. Roger’s always said to look for the helpers.

I was a Mr. Roger’s kid. Maybe it was his kindness — his softness.

I can say now, as an adult, I value those words even more. Yet again we are left with a bunch of painful stuff. As Anne Lamott would say, “we gather bits of broken mosaic” — and that together it makes something altogether different.

This is a mosaic kinda place. So many times, broken into millions of pieces and put back together again. Maybe a few more awkward pieces to fit in — but it works, again and again.

I’ve been bursting at the seams to write this week. I’ve gotten to see so many faces and have been so many places. I again step into old worlds where I used to feel so desperate and clingy — to a place of great hope — and back again to my home where I get to gather up them pieces.

We have a hard time touching pain. “Show me where it hurts?” No. I don’t really want to, because you’re going to want to see it, maybe touch it, maybe tell me what to do with it. Sometimes you should. Other times, you just need to sit in it. Sometimes you need dig yourself out so that the sun shines on your face again.

This is where we all come in — this part right here.

Reaching our hands and arms in to that darkness; struggling with; hurting with.

Ultimately loving, but it takes us a while to understand intentions. It’s not that easy to be with someone or something that hurts. It takes our own skin and heart and bone. Do we really want to drag ourselves into it?

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Lately people have been asking how I’ve been doing. Words like great, good and ‘not bad at all’ come to mind. I am so lucky, first and foremost to have those words fresh on my tongue. Because truly, I’m doing well, to my knowledge.

And this is my season. There were my times where I broke down a lot. Questioned some deep and spooky parts on my soul and I still see them, from time to time. I still see some darkness. It is always there. Like I’ve written before, I am not strong enough to keep it at bay. Instead I’ve made it a point to embrace it like that old friend. It sits with me and we will devour pain and sadness together.

Joy arrives abundantly. Swiftly. Like the way a walk-in feels after a hot rush.

That is how it works. This is how I move. Which I do, quite often, from place to place.

I don’t know how people handle a situation as terrifying as that. With weapons and that kind of hate mixed with that kind of violence. A deep, deep wound by wounded peoples all over the place.

It should be noted that I am writing from comfort.
I can hear my heaters hum and I am sipping on hot coffee.
But I can say that two hours ago I was doing this on and off again teary/snot-coming-out-everywhere thing.
Thinking about my grandparents.
The places in the world that are picking up pieces.
Remembering all of the things.
Feeling all the feels.

The pieces you help pick up are part of that bigger thing, ya know?
So we need you keep picking them up. And I will too. Okay?

It’s never finished and nothing ever has the final say. Thank God for that.

And thank you for being there for other people and baking them casseroles or listening to music with them or scratching their backs. You are healers and all angel-like.

We see you,
and with that deep and still place,

I want to say thank you.

steps.

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Lately I’ve been getting asked the same kind of question.

“How are things working out for you now?”

I sort of fumble around with words and tell people that I am busy and it all feels sort of wild. It is true. I can’t think of my last full day off where I wasn’t doing something for the restaurant. Whether that’s writing menus or picking up ingredients from out of town. It’s okay, though.

I am okay.

My first year back in Hattiesburg was very hard. I was a different shade of Josh than the last time I had lived here. So I always explaining to people that I was different, that I felt different about things, but that I was glad to be home. I still am. I love being back in Mississippi.

It was hard dropping down from being a sous chef in a big food city, to a barista/sandwich maker for $7.25 an hour. That is restaurant work, for the most part. Working one’s way up the ladder. So, I started my own side thing and made some money to pay bills and eat with. I had ridiculously generous friends who would feed me all the time and toss me side gigs to make a little extra. I was hustling. I’m still hustling, but in a different way.

I find a lot of pride with my work. What I do, I put my name on. I put my heart into it. As cheesy as that sounds, it works for me. So now that I have the title, and a little more financial room to breathe, I am home every night so very thankful for my hurting legs and back. The fact that I smell like onions and oil 90% of the time might not be okay with everyone else, but to me, it smells like my craft and my world.

I also know that I am extremely lucky. I do think that I have some skills as a cook, and a decent palate to go with it, but I am silly to think that I achieved any of this all by myself. I had people who believed in me and that what I did and who I was, was in fact, good. That is a super hard thing in itself. I suppose we are doing that for each other, when we can. Sort of helping each other get where we need to be. At least I think we should.

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Last night, I was reading something I wrote a few months after my divorce. It was about my old job in Portland.

Memories came flooding back to me and I thought about my walk from where I lived to where I worked. That simple walk. From both houses I lived in. With Hannah and with my roommates. Sometimes it was very cold and wet. Other times warm and gorgeous. The same road I walked for a few years.

I read a line where I thank my chef and friend, Gretchen, for allowing me to cook and to struggle…and I completely lost it. I closed my computer and cried like I haven’t in a good while.

There has been so much struggle. So much of me trying to get to this place where I can be more free to create and explore and push forward. And I am so, so lucky to have that. I also know so many people are struggling to get there and have been for quite a while.

I am not the kind of person who takes these seasons lightly.

I always process my new year around this time. Fall always brings me in a little tighter, a little more snug.

I think often about the steps taken up or down to get me where I am at this moment.

Some things, super painful. While others, full of great accomplishment and pride.

Yeah, I am doing okay. And I feel good about who I am and where I am going.
Though, I’m not quite good at settling with this wild career of mine,

so I will keep my plow to the ground

and dig up the earth wherever it is I find myself.

lifted.

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I came across a picture of you today.

Well, from time to time I like to check in on you. Even though I know what I’ll see may send me to a place I haven’t been in a while. But that’s okay. I find some familiarity in that place. It’s where I mourn for some things, and also where I find a lot of grace and goodness.

I saw your face, and his face. And you were both smiling. A while ago, I would have been so angry. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I still felt some heaviness there.

This person is your place, now. I see that.

For reasons I’m still not very clear on, I knew you had to move. That was like hell to me. I wanted your heart forever. I know that sounds selfish, especially today. A lot of me is jealous for the people that get your light upon them — and I’m also better for having it on me for a while.

That picture, made me think. It made me think of relationships that are strained. The people I miss because I couldn’t walk in that city for one more day. I hate that I couldn’t make it up there by myself anymore. But I just couldn’t. I miss that place so much.

And then I started to smile myself. Except I wasn’t looking at your picture anymore.

I was doing dishes and listening to music. I was thinking about my work and my friends and my family.

I remembered my broken foot. My roof that caved in. The financial debt of being a freaking wreck for two years.

But I had this grin on my face because I was, at the moment, alive and stronger and braver. I have all these new people in my world and I also still have older friends, too. I felt some richness in that. So many meals eaten with these people and listening to them talk about their kids and Donald Trump and how bittersweet the South can be at times.

It was some other kind of heaven, I tell ya.

Lifted — an effervescent moment — something a little holy.

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It is just, the hardest thing to lose someone. Especially someone who loved you so well, and hoped they felt loved in return. Who taught you about meaningful conversations and listening and being active with people.

I miss setting a plate of food in front you and hearing, “Oh my goodness!” while we watched Harry Potter or Parks and Rec. Those damn simple things, give me the most belly feels. Your friendship, I miss the most.

It is not my job to make anyone feel a certain way, really. But I really loved taking care of you in the way that I did. Perhaps it was enough for that time. And then, you move an inch to the left and things look different. Love is not always made of the things we thought.

To me it looks like a shelf full of cookbooks and the idea that I can move in and out of moments like of soft tide — washing away and leaving things behind for others to see.

I saw your smile.

And I missed you deeply. Just for a second, I wanted to send some light and love, in hopes that you still feel free — and free to love the world in the ways you always have.