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

Uncategorized

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.

 

you are made of this.

Uncategorized

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.

 

knotted up

Uncategorized

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

Uncategorized

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

Uncategorized

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.

lost in kolkata

Story

It happens in my dreams.

At least once a month, I find myself sitting up in bed, weighed down with whatever this dream is supposed to be telling me about myself — how I can never make it to wherever it is I’m trying to find.

I get lost. I miss a bus. No one can hear me. No one helps me.

It’s an anxiousness — a longing — of trying to remember how to find things again.

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Why Kolkata? Well, I spent some time there nearly a decade ago. And while it was intense, I left feeling exhausted, but full of life and life’s unfairness. I left with a bigger (and aching) heart. Everything had changed for me.

A lot happened in that decade. I got married to a girl I met there. We had a wonderful and sometimes shitty marriage that led one of us to shift a bit more than the other. And with that, I decided to shift too. I was too stubborn to fight for something I felt was a lost cause. Maybe we both did.

I found cooking. I found my way back home.

That, I at least have figured out. I know where I am now, and I do know what I’m doing. At least I think.

When I wake up after my dreams, I take a sip of water and attempt to let it leave my brain. I listen to the white noise of the machine next to me drown out anything that might keep me awake. Because when you live by yourself, noise can be safety. It can also be a scarier thing.

There’s not always a way out. Rarely do I discover the destination and mostly end up leaning against a wall, hoping someone will grab me by the arm and take me. Anywhere. Anywhere that isn’t the hopelessness of feeling lost and abandoned.

The relief that is waking up to your own bed. Safe. Warm. That you have a good job to walk into with good people that believe what it is you want to do. That is a thing I never take for granted, and it feels almost dreamlike if I’m being honest with myself.

But I know I will sink back into it. That same dream. Perhaps after I’ve been talking about it with someone over too much wine and food. The reality of life’s intensity, its sadness and its overwhelming ability to make me feel tiny and gigantic.

I suppose I got lost in Kolkata, and I haven’t been able to fully find it again. Maybe it needed to stay there, on the streets with smoking charcoal and exhaust from buses and rickshaws and angry men.

I found a lot more than I lost,

the city of joy,

and that which lives within.

Podcasts with Everything is OK

Food, Story

In the past year I have done TWO super cool podcasts with my friend David.

He and a couple of his friends (who all reign from the OK state) started a podcast to talk about all sorts of things. I reckon’ that’s what they’re for, anyhow.

He asked me a little over a year ago to share my journey from Mississippi to Oregon and back again. (And everything in between.) That podcast you can right here!

And recently, we caught with one another, roughly recapping the year and talking about chicken sandwiches and God and the church. So many things.

You can find the newest episode here!

Okay.

I hope you all have a great week.

See you soon.

-josh

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rest

Food, Health, Hospitality Industry

I picked a profession that doesn’t allow for much brain rest.

In fact, it’s a job that prides itself on being the most busiest and most tired. I would be lying if I didn’t feel good sometimes about having a really long day. I kind of like being tired, but I don’t like what it perpetuates.

I’ve done what I’ve had to do in the restaurant biz, and I have it really easy. This is the first time ever, working in the industry, that making a living and rest have evened out. Sure, some weeks are more tiring and require me to be present 60+ hours a week. Then I get some weeks where I actually eat about three meals a day. Some days I even get to sit down for them.

But that’s just been my life for the past 10 years.

I’ve decided to take a break from drinking, among other things. I’m doing this for a lot of reasons, currently for my body/mind health. Alcohol is the sneakiest one. Part of me is doing it so that I can drink a beer or a glass of wine in my 50’s and 60’s and be okay.

Also, I was just feeling really awful after drinking. More so than usual. I try to pay attention. Sometimes, your brain goes straight to “make this feel better immediately” — cue alcohol, food, sugar, dumb TV.

There is a pressure to medicate.

Rarely do I have two days off in a row that I can not be at the restaurant. Currently, it’s not so bad. I have a great crew who take care of things and do a super job at it. This is worth its weight in gold. Any chef or manager will tell you the weight lifted off your shoulders when you can be gone from your business and know things are being taken care of properly.

Noonday_Rest

I draw back into myself on days like this. I have some time to dream, for myself and for the business. This is the most important thing. You cannot be inspired if you are stuck frying eggs and fixing drains tired, because we do that more than anything most days.

There is also some guilt to self care. “You’re not drinking!? Bummer!!”
Man, don’t ever say that to someone. You never know what demons someone is fighting.

My mind is wracked with guilt about how this business is done. How some of us can make livings and other cannot. Some of that comes with how much people are willing to pay for food. Then there are other things like the thinnest margins of profit, mixed with food cost and labor and rent.

Some part of my mind wonders what it’d be like to work for a large business and I didn’t have to carry that weight. I try to fight the good fight, and hope that being good to our employees means not making them feel like shit if they mess up.

Grace, not just by us, but also by customers is important.

You can make all the difference in the world by being understanding that mistakes will happen. The pressure to not disappoint is insurmountable. So, when we do, we feel kind of crushed. To you, it seems like a fairly easy job, but there is also a lot of love that goes into these things, and when you misinterpret it for lazy and dumb, it really goes a long way to mess with our heads.

So you have one of the biggest parts here. Be a good diner, and support the folks trying to make a living and a better life for themselves. Some of us really love this work, and people are the hardest things to navigate.

Getting back to what I want to say, out of all of this, is to to rest your mind. Quiet the voices and remember your place in the grand scheme of everything moving around us. Get a massage. Go for a walk. Watch something that will make you laugh.

Be kind to your brain and your body. Listen to it. Give it a break. The weight of the cosmos is always pressing down on it, so just be aware of the pressures it has to handle without the stresses of moving in the world.

Allow some wiggle room for things to be sloppy if you need the dishes to sit for a few hours. Allow yourself to drift off into a nap without feeling like your to-do list will be waiting for you when you wake up. There are always things we could be doing, just remember to fit yourself in.

Love yourself, and leave room for the world to love you in return.