shape of things

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I saw circles under my eyes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am always feeling for the shape of things.

my heart,

and your heart
and everything in between.

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.

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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.

 

welcome to the freak show

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I really don’t know why I wrote that title.

I think maybe kitchen life has shown me more about myself than almost anything. Not that I am a freak (okay maybe a little), but that it is all a show and this show is the most wild thing I’ve been a part of in a really long time.

I woke up this morning feeling bone tired. Nervous. Weary. Wanting nothing more than to just sink back into my bed and not think about the day I was about to have.

I even prayed. I asked God to help me, even though it’s been a while because I am stubborn and burnt and mostly lost in all of those things. Lost in them is not a bad place to be, if I’m being honest. I just need to be into something, and the chaos of my day to day is becoming something of a norm.

Embrace it, I say. It makes things easier. Like exploring the vast cosmos trying to make sense of all the galactic chaos. Explosions and gravity and how time is such a big weirdo.

I believe that the chaos will settle and we will begin to take strong steps towards something sustainable. After all, that is at the top of my list. Right underneath “Learn how to make fried chicken taste like Popeyes.”

anger

I have been an angry chef. Pissy and short tempered. Apologetically exhausted. Not only dealing with the complexities of time and fire and plating, but the ooey gooey’ness of the people around me and their ability, unknowingly, to sink deep into my skin when I’m spiraling.

They see me tired. Stressed. Overly-apologetic because I know this isn’t the me I want to see, but it has been the me that survives. Maybe flailing around online and after a few beers isn’t the best idea, but life is too short not get a little ridiculous from time to time.

Overall, I am in awe of everything, and everyone — of seeing people eat and absorb the things I’ve had in my head since forever ago, it seems. I know I will be able to absorb it some day soon, and it will probably be in the midst of some mundane thing. But all I can see is people, and I see in them the good and the bad.

It hurts to hear the bad things, and praise feels like good water pressure.

Still, you move forward into the great and wild unknown.

A freak show in its own time.

An island of misfit toys,

a hard and heavy day,

a broken hallelujah.

crawfish.

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it’s starting to feel like spring, here —

warm with dreams of hot crawfish dumped on a table and

I smell it heavy in the air driving home past the big vats of them,

soaking in that spicy water:

garlic, cayenne, celery (and loads and loads of salt)

a hell broth that reminds of the times I learned about Jesus.

 

It is far away, sometimes.

Everything lately has been LOUD.

With the sounds of guns,

with the sadness of losing my uncle to cancer.

But I’ve planted some seeds, didn’t you know?

I’m watching them grow. They are wispy like the hairs

on the tip-top of my head.

 

Every season is renewal.

Of dying and growing.

Of being thankful,

and often times full of sorrow.

You meet us there, in that field.

I read that once in a poem.

I imagine you there always,

some great peace in the midst of all the grinding

and working wheels and decaying dark things.

 

Yep.

I see the seeds I’ve planted starting to burst out of the ground,

because the conditions were just right.

I can’t help but feel so green and raw with them,

hanging on for dear life because it is always so new!

Whatever it is we feel, it’s always something new.

 

But honestly, what I really want right now?

Hmm.

Peace, mostly. In my heart and for everything,

but actually, if I’m being true to this one moment,

I want to rip open a flimsy brown bag full of steamy hot crawfish

and wipe the sweat from my forehead.

 

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you will.

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I think I often straddle the line of what I see as heartbreaking and what is beautiful.

Maybe I can dip my toes into both lakes because I know they always meet somewhere down the line. We are always in that meeting place. Of heaviness and both light that swirls infinitely between all of us.

We are the beautiful and heartbroken things. I see it more so, all of the time. The truth is I’ve been raw to it my whole life. Inflamed and swollen and exposed like a nerve. It’s taken me a lot of time to wrap myself in them good things. I keep them tight against my chest so I can feel them when I breathe; up and down.

Being single, officially, longer than I was in a relationship weighs heavy. Why I often weigh things in time is something I’ve developed over the years. All in all, I am so thankful for what I’ve learned in the chaos and in the calm.

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I think I wanted to write this to one person. It might actually be more than one. But they say to write to one person. So here it goes.

I have this card on my fridge from a friend that says ‘Your heart is the size of an ocean” — which seems like something that you’d get stitched on a pillow from the Hallmark store, but actually is a quote from Rumi. He’s probably one of your favorites, too.

But it is. And it is what I often want to grab you by the face and scream so that it finds its way into your heart so you know and so that you’ll know forever. The world is not always angry and misunderstanding. And that so much is birthed from pain. The world was created by melting rocks and hell and only became something beautiful because of time and pressure.

It’s geology. That’s really how we tell things are ground down with different pressures like winds and rains and the inevitable meeting of two souls who have moved and changed.

Your life is in fact valuable and grows more valuable by the day!

Your wounds won’t heal all the way. Most don’t. But don’t let it stop you from moving forward and living your days with intention and love and the power that rumbles in your belly.

It is the hardest thing you will do.

But like the earth you will moan and heat and cool. You will expand and host a world of thoughts and adventure:

5Ks and stiff drinks. Cheese fries and kids falling asleep sweaty on your lap.

You will wake up and breathe again.

And the knot in your stomach will dissolve.

I know it will.

And I know you will.

You will wake up and breathe again.

 

heat.

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It is cold and dark when I leave the house.

Achey cold. It is so hard to unwrap myself from my blanket and take the short ride to work. But I do it early this morning because I have to work a little harder on this day.

I open the kitchen door and turn on the oven and warmers. It’s a welcoming sound as I know heat is on the way. I kick the heater on in our dining room and try to organize my brain. It’s hard to organize yourself that early. That 6am sleepy dreamy scattered thing.

I work on the quiche and the grits and the soup. I decide I need music and for some reason Grimes is on repeat for an hour and a half. But I am by myself and she is fun and wakes me up. I put on a pot of coffee and I can smell it brewing through the kitchen.

A million things run through my mind (as they always do). What if we are too busy on this already busy and hectic day? I put it aside because the older I become the more I learn worrying is the art of suffering twice. I will still do everything I can to make a thing run smoothly, but I know as the day moves forward, so do more people. People are chaos, always.

And maybe it was a little bit of chaos. But I slip into it like a warm bath.

At the end of the day, I take out the trash and look at the new building we are moving into in a few months. I find it equal parts daunting and beautiful. Some days more beautiful, though. I am in a constant state of wonder how it ended up this way. How I pushed myself a little harder to be good at something, and it magically turned out to be my thing.

There is a certain level of luck and chance. I know the risks of this kind of work. Burn out and margins and hazards. I got it. I hear you. But I don’t often have the luxury to think too much about it. Unfortunately it has affected my writing and I miss it!

And I miss you.

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It has always been about cooking and writing. And I don’t seem to be growing out of it, but I am also a person who knows how to shed a skin and feel raw and stingy.

It all feels too big, sometimes. Like there is a version of me out there that is prepared to do it all beautifully and that version is so not me right now.

I guess maybe that’s how it always feels. But eventually, you do become that person.

I don’t know.

I feel as though I’m about to shed something heavy. I know because something big is on the horizon and I am steady on it and I know I cannot carry both.

It all feels so good right now. Showered and warm and about to crawl back into the blanket I will have to peel off in about six hours again. But it feels good, and I feel strong.

Ready to open the doors,
flip on the oven,

and do it all over again.

 

sparks.

Uncategorized

everything has changed me.

I sit around and chase my mind through every corner of every space. I question everything, and I question everything’s deepest meaning. A friend told me I will do that because I’m a Sagittarius — but I really don’t know anymore.

I wonder how much a person can change as they become older. Maybe you have a problem with a certain race or a certain kind of person. You live your life surrounding yourself with people that make sense and believe the same thing. There is no going against the grain unless you must.

But, the part of me that is questioning everything wants to respond with, “But you have to!”

I am a fool, most times. Thinking too much of things, when the reality is quite underwhelming.

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Sparks. I like them. I like feeling ragey about some things. Especially if I feel like those things make me a better person. Of course I wake up the next day with a hangover of anger mixed with embarrassment. I think to myself, “Why didn’t I just keep my mouth shut?”

I get shakey when people try to push me down. I feel angry when I’m misunderstood. I suppose angry isn’t the right word. I do believe anger is in a lot of things though. More so I feel hurt. It hurts a lot, doesn’t it? That is the worst loneliness. Feeling hurt because it is the most personal thing you can feel about yourself. It is the deepest and most hidden wound.

Lately it has been doubt. Doubt that I can run a restaurant. Doubt that I am not nearly talented enough as a cook to ever make something big happen. But something big is already happening! I don’t know how, but it is.

It is scary and it makes me nervous. I’ve known those two things since I was a little kid. Those two feelings that have probably led up to me having internal meltdowns, but have also pushed me into places I will never regret.

The overwhelming voice I hear is that it will be okay — that more will be revealed. I am asking the higher things above me to give me patience and grace because as I become older, I feel like my tolerance for others lowers by the day. But I’m also aware that true community comes with radical acceptance and understanding.

Most of my days are spent asking myself if I’m good enough. Am I being fair enough? Loyal enough? Who am I oppressing and what can I do to ease it?

The last thing I need you to do is tell me to take it easy and calm down, though. That’s the equivalent of dropping Mentos into Diet Coke. Why that reaction? I don’t know. Long ago I learned to feel what you need to feel and that most people just want to be heard. I also have learned that things pass. Maybe not as fast as you want them to, but anger subsides.

I promise you that it does.

I know people hurt you. There is not a darker place to sit, wrapping yourself up in your own arms in hopes that the thoughts will fade.

But, they do. And you are strong. So strong in fact you want to laugh and take dance lessons again. Or maybe you want to drive into the horizon for a few hours just to clear your head.

It feels good to lay down your weapons. To start over again, daily — like Ursula K. Leguin says about bread and love, “it has to be made daily.”

Maybe all I ever have is questions, but that’s the desire of my own heart.

Make it new, and do it all over again.

And watch out for the sparks, because they could be the beginning of something bigger than you ever imagined.

lost and found

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A lot of things hurt around me.

I see them all in their own little spaces — moving around somewhere between heaven and hell. I can’t quite put my finger on anything these days. I think getting older, in my experience, is showing me that everything is fluid.

Rights and wrongs used to be so much clearer and now I see more and more why we always go to war with one another.

Why is it that I always start off with this stuff? Ah, yeah.

“Write hard and clear about what hurts” — Hemingway said that, though I’ve never read anything by him or his famous friends. Whatever. What’s important to me is that I’ve settled down in the marrow. I feel what’s in my bones and for better or worse, learn a new way to move.

This life is harder in ways I could never imagine. You witness your parents getting older and softer among other things. You squeeze them and they almost disappear. You’ve had this same hug a million times before and each time it is the collision of lifetimes — of regrets and also victories.

What a thing it is to settle into yourself and feel the very cosmos itself pressing into every cell in your body.

In other ways it is hard. Learning to be kind to people. Learning how to discipline and be in charge. Imprinting on someone who is smaller and more innocent than you will ever be again. Or how does one spill your words into a friend when they’ve made you feel all sorts of ways. I think it’s okay, ya know?

I love hard questions. I want the truth and I want what you have to offer. I want to know if you think of the same things or if you’re also shitty at math and wish sex wasn’t always so damn personal.

But it is.

Everything is personal.
I know I am not alone, but this is why we feel it. Because it is all so new, regardless of what we are told to feel.

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Every life is a new force moving into something they’ve never known before. I think we deserve goodness and ice cream because that shit is hard. Maybe there are people that clock out at the end of a day and fall into their rhythm, but I am not one of those people.

What I am is a person who is selfish and stubborn and live in a lot of worlds. Not only do I live, I thrive! My only complaint is that I can’t see it all. I can’t know every feeling and that I am missing something or someone.

Most of the time, I want you. And I crave you.
That selfish part of me is the part that can’t have it.

I give thanks to the Great Mystery. For all it is that I know, I am thankful and glad.

I mourn for the things I’ve lost and I move ever forward,
heavy step after heavy step,

forever in the middle of what is lost and what is found.