the great unsettling

Uncategorized

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.

910jhjw0hrl

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.

IMG_3257

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

Uncategorized

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.

Uncategorized

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.

GettyImages-90420262-46266ba

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.)

creation.

Uncategorized

I love watching the painful process of people creating things.

The “making of” on TV shows and movies. I love watching artists, directors and producers thinking their work is garbage and having to question everything about where they are.

Mostly because it doesn’t make me feel so alone.

I do not consider myself an artist. I do think that I am someone who creates. Not sculptures or things made of glass. Honestly most of the things I make turn into shit, eventually.

However, I do think humans are persistent animals. A lot of us are stubborn. A lot of us have always been our own worst enemies.

Self-love goes out the window when I begin to work on something. I often think it’s the worst thing I’ll ever do.

“Why do I keep doing this to myself?”

No matter how good a thing is and no matter how many people tell me how good that thing is, I go home and I doubt myself into a corner where I really don’t want to turn around and face it. I wish I was being dramatic, but there’s not a dinner that goes by where I imagine I did everything I could to make it my best.

And then the pendulum swings back the other way. I take a step back and look at the things I’ve helped create. I look at the sweat and blood and bones of a thing. Hard work doesn’t often pay off for people, but it so many ways it has for me.

I’ve had some luck.

There have been more than a few times in my world where I have left a thing when I’ve needed to leave, and maybe times that I’ve should’ve stayed longer.

You don’t always get the opportunity to know these things in a lifetime.

a-theology-of-creation-in-12-points-leqnfraz

Most recently, I received an award for being ‘Best Local Chef’ in my city, and other surrounding smaller cities. It was an award I had been nominated for a few times in the past years, but lost to folks who had bigger followings.

I got kind of lucky this year. Granted, most chefs believe they deserve it and they do. We all work hard. We all sacrifice for the things we want to create. I wish people knew the creative process that has to unfold for us to make things happen.

There isn’t a lot of self-love in the industry. I think maybe that’s why we do it sometimes. It feels good to love others and sometimes it’s harder to love yourself. After all, we don’t know the minds of others.

It’s easier to take care of others than it is myself. That has always been true.

That’s why burnout happens so much in my world.

Lately I am thinking about other ways to be creative with the things I am made of. Perhaps this ooey-gooey heart of mine won’t always be able to stand up to the stresses of a kitchen or the weight you have to carry.

I would love the words, “I’m tired” to not always be the first thing out of my mouth when catching up with a friend.

Being tired is like a coat.

It is just a thing that I wear. (more often for other people to see.)

When I won that award, it was fun and terrifying to speak in front of all those people. But it always feels good to win, right? It feels even better to shake hands and receive hugs from people who told me “You deserve this.”

My sister was with me that night, and as we drove home I put the windows down and put on the Cranberries, “Dreams” – because it felt a little like heaven. My sister has seen me at my darkest and I was so happy to share with her in my light.

Perfect things rarely occur, but for a moment, it felt good to have my mind rest on the things that were good and that I was good.

It all takes time.

In fact, life is harder as it goes by. But there are plenty of surprising moments where a pure joy exists and things feel elevated. Lighter.

There is breath and forgiveness,

and in between,

the creation of all things.

 

star

Uncategorized

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.

shift & settle

Uncategorized

The space next to me is familiar.

Right now, it is filled with the comforts of being alone. A book. A computer. Headphones. Maybe some of yesterday’s clothes.

For me, the idea of jumping back into the state of my singular mind is momentarily easy. The more I think, the sadness finds its way in, reminding me that it’s not that easy, and that finding someone you can really do life with is rare.

I have opened myself — and have poured myself between two glasses, back and forth. Spilling and making a mess and not ever having as much as I started with. That’s kind of what it feels like to care for someone when you are also learning what they need and what you need.

I feel a shred a failure.

More so, a deep crack in the state of my world, one that you build so strong when you’re alone for so long.
But I also think that maybe this crack is good. It allows things to shift and settle.

Looking-up-from-my-resting-place-on-the-snowbridge-at-the-hole-I-fell-into-and-the-ice-I-slid-down

Shifting and settling.

Maybe that’s what this is.
It does hurt. But most things that require growth require digging.

Digging and lots-of-tending-to, water and air.

Oh. And light.

So where do I stand now?
My brain immediately tells me to dive into my work. It makes things easier. Put it all aside and go back 100% into what works, and maybe what is easy.

Maybe you do this too.

There is no model or manual for heartache, there is also none for the baby steps of love. It is wobbly and scary and you fall down a lot.

You hit your chin on the coffee table and look at the person who was supposed to be holding you. How dare you let this happen to me…again?

Today, I will do what I can to be good to myself, and try my best to keep my bridges up.

Timing and life are certainly unpredictable, but to know myself is to let both of those things go.

Things take time.

And I’m letting it take me,

wherever,
whenever,

to shift and to settle.

 

 

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.

hustle.

Uncategorized

I come home every day feeling worn down with good and bad words. It makes me the most tired. It’s rewarding and hard, but I am too ripped up, sometimes.

I was half way through making our day’s batch of grits when I heard the news of Anthony Bourdain’s death. Truly truly truly, beloved by millions — conflicted and misunderstood by many as well, I assume — but each person having their own relationship with him, his stories and his active pursuit of good in the world.

There are always words. Even when I can’t come up with any. I owe him some of mine, because of all he gave me.

I’ve read so many pieces from others, explaining why it hurts so much — that Bourdain was the best and worst in all of us — the realest — the guy we all wanted to drink a beer with.

When I lived in Portland, it was his book Kitchen Confidential that inspired me to take my first knife skills class with a bunch of 60 year old women at a fancy kitchen supply store in the Pearl District. I was way too timid to start in a kitchen anywhere, but was working in coffee shops, so I had the spark of a good hustle.

And I started to like the hustle.

He became my person. Like everyone else who loved him, we saw him as one of our own — somehow able to keep one foot in a different universe and the other sitting across from us, talking about our love for cheap hotdogs and steamy hot noodle bowls.

He made us all feel cooler, and perhaps more sane, by liking him.

ScKJnEz81cmf0YX1_aQ7Esvc7CIIWbP3v7zhBSBotX4

I was so angry. It was ripping me up. I was getting texts from friends, asking if I was okay, because they all knew he was an important figure to me and one if not the biggest influencing factors of my career.

I resonated with his bittersweet homesickness. To be everywhere and to be home at the same time. That there’s nothing like leaving home, and nothing better than coming back to your place.

The part time writer and cook side of my own world loved it all. His constant humility to the working class, blue collar side of humanity. The way he talked about kitchen life made it seem respectable — and maybe the first time in a long time, the brutality and passion and anger of kitchen and restaurant work was getting the attention it was never allowed to get.

He made the table a sacred place. To feel secure and learn about other people, even if you didn’t agree.

He made the kitchen a place where it didn’t matter what language you spoke or where you came from…but that you showed up and did the work and did it well.

The traveling and writing was work, too. Just like cooking. From everything I’ve read, he took everything seriously, and professionally. He hustled. He showed up early and never left anything for the swim back.

Bourdain may have brought me to cooking, but it’s been the people sitting at our tables that keep me coming back to it.

The food on those plates is, in a way, a testament to his life’s work: inspiring us to be open minded, hard working and kind.

I am so sad you are gone, Tony.

Thank you for helping me not feel so alone.
That it’s okay to be a cook. That it’s okay to question yourself, daily, on what it is to be good in this world.

Thank you.

thank you for everything.

 

 

 

 

 

lost and found

Uncategorized

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.

IN_THE_WOODS_2012_41_5x58cm_collage

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.