heaven and hysteria

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Jupiter.

That’s my planet.

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

Maybe it does.

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

I could even make out the Milky Way.

Saturn was there.

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

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

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

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

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

drinking cold beer and wrapping up the hot sun.

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

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

some peace to calm the worry,

with my heels sinking into the sand.

 

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.

the angry man

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We are not built to live forever.

At least that is what I think often. When I am tired or stressed. Our pieces that have blood and electricity flowing through them do inevitably give out and we are still left with what happens after we stop.

I do want to say that I think often about my purpose on this wacky planet.
I also think about all the people.

This past weekend I saw a lot of different kinds of people on a beach and thought, “I will probably never be this close to them ever again.” And while there is little importance in that statement, it makes me feel very tiny. And I am. Unless you’re standing next to me, in which case, my 6’2 frame might sway your opinion.

There are the moments I wish I could’ve lived in a little longer. Maybe held on for another thirty seconds. Or perhaps be less dramatic and harsh. We all have that.

I still think time is our most valuable resource.
We don’t always have to be doing something incredible, regardless of bleeding heart Josh in 2007 that felt he was going to change the world — only the world made him feel and seem so ridiculously small.

Small.

Yes.

Recently, a few friends and I were somewhat threatened at a grocery store by a large angry man. For no reason he decided to lash out at a friend of mine. That escalated into something else entirely where he threatened to “beat our asses” as we stepped outside.

Well. It didn’t happen. And we laughed it off. We were just trying to buy some ice-cream.
I do think we were all a little taken aback by how quick he was to fume. I’d never seen such a thing. A small incident and BOOM. He’s threatening us.

Now, I’m just not used to that. I’m not used to conflict that intense. I was only spanked a few times, as a kid that was pretty hard on himself. I’ve never been in a fight and don’t plan on it. I do however wish to remove my glasses if someone wished to slug me. I really like my glasses and can’t see at all without them. And I was in Florida, so I really didn’t want to get punched in the face so far from home.

I didn’t, like I said. But we thought about him. I thought about his wife who was seemingly very embarrassed and I am afraid took the brunt of his anger on her either in words or silence or something else. He was just an angry man. (And I was far away from danger, because well, it’s me after all.)

anger

What I’m wanting to say is that we aren’t here very long. And I want my energy to be good and helpful. I am a super sensitive feeler guy. All the feels, all the time. I’ve always been so sensitive, and that is really difficult to navigate with other people.

It is weird that I have become something so many people fear because of TV or word of mouth that chefs are angry people. We do have frustrations and loads of stress — but it is my own form of justice — that thing I was so passionate about when I was younger.

It’s the small moves. Like being super human patient with people. Kids. Grown-ups. All the same. It’s giving the moment some space. Some time. Circle it a bit. Give it room to grow into something else. Something that may be good for both sides. I’ve never gained much by being quick to say something sarcastic or passive aggressive. I don’t often feel good about being mean to people, even if I think they deserve it.

I think about the angry man. I think about what gave him his fear.

Somewhere, I wish for him some peace in his life so that he doesn’t have to live so angry.

Because we are not built to live forever.

I want my smallness — the peace I try to bring — to be large.

Maybe that starts with ice cream. And it definitely has forgiveness, too.

But ice cream.

We can do ice cream.

enough.

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Some part of me has always cried for justice.

Back when my mom felt so alone,
or when I felt alone.
When I saw terribly young women standing in a line, waiting to be bought and brought to a room for sex.

And my heart is breaking. A whole helluva lot.

Another church burning. Another headline. Another turned head.
The man across the street from me has his confederate flag flying higher and brighter than ever.

These days…
It’s like jamming a shovel into the packed earth. Tilling up soil that hasn’t been turned in decades. And when you see its underbelly, full of scary looking things. Cracks in the earth.

But there is breath too, and now there is room and a chance for new things to grow.

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You see?

If you know me, you know a lot about my heart. I don’t hide it very well, as cooking takes a lot out of me. I give it to people all day long. I’m also not too afraid to be vulnerable.

I told you when I was going through a divorce, and how I wept in my old hallway that felt like a depth of hell I never knew could exist.

And I will tell you now, that I am so glad I have changed.

You are not born seeking justice or truth or mercy.
We have no framework for grace, given our blank slate.

That stuff…is just magic.

Somehow, we are able to learn a bit. Hurt a bit. Give up a lot.

Fill our bellies with good food and maybe feed others, too.
A few times I have lifted naked men and dressed their shivering bodies.

I still dream of that time I saw a man die of neglect. It still haunts me. It is my framework for how I live my days, now. Sure, I cook and make fancy food. But I remember his open eyes. I remember his skeleton.

That body reminded me to take care of everyone.

So some of you are mad at the government. You have your reasons for being angry. As do I. I’m wondering where are the peacemakers. The market gardeners. The wounded healers.

One day, younger people will ask me about this time. I will remember what it was like to wonder about the 60’s and the civil rights movements, and how I asked myself the same question. “What would I have done? Who would I have been during that time?”

Today.

Today, though.
I will be an ally, and I’ll work for peace.

I’ll tell you that my heart is happy that all people get to be married and fight about dishes and watch Netflix and obtain all their civil liberties.

I’ll tell you that that confederate flag had a lot to do with hate and injustice, a heritage of oppression and war and slavery. I’m glad to see it transition into history books and I’m excited to see Mississippi squirm a little. Grow. Change. Expand.  Moan. Heal.

I hope that we can be kind, too. We can be angry, also.

I am glad that we change.

I hate that it takes us seeing horrific things to make us move. I wonder why that is. I wonder why seeing horrible things makes us jolt out of our seats and scream, “Enough!”

Because it is enough.

And it is going to eat us alive.

Today.

Today, though.

I will be an ally, and I’ll work for peace.

And may You have mercy on my soul.

 

beliefs.

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Everything is just, happening.

I feel like the days zoom by and I am the roadside jetsam and flotsam, getting picked up in the current of a passing 18-wheeler.

Up and down, left and right.
I’m thinking it’s a pace I’m going to have to get used to.

I am in a comparing season of my life. I suppose we all are, at many times in our lives. Meaning, I’m comparing myself with other things. Like cooking. I’m thinking I could do better and that I am better, or I’m thinking I’ll never be that good.

I’m comparing myself to my friends who are uncles, and I’m thinking I’m not a great uncle because I’m always late on giving gifts.

I feel a bit on edge at times. Dodgy and picky and stubborn.
I feel apologetic.

For my generation. For me, really. My inability to not check my phone every five to ten minutes. My fear to choose in a world of choices. My need to feel authentic but to not stick out.

I feel sad for our recent losses. I think there is a gaping wound there. It hit us again. We are knee jerking and moving forward quickly and it’s just a lot. I’m okay with everything, but really, it’s not about me or what I think is right.

I used to really want my beliefs. I wanted my certainties. They made me feel important and unique. Edgy.

That’s what I want to come back to, each day. How much this world is not about me.

I am in a luxurious, though sometimes lonely, season in life where I have so many freedoms. It is addictive. It is so fun. I’m not sure how healthy it is to have it all, but I’m close to feeling content with where I am at.

That is okay. I am still removing the ideals of being a gypsy of some sort. Some of that still resonates within me. The idea that the world is meant to be traveled and understood by me.

But I am not so much that guy anymore.

I am the guy conflicted and pulled by gravity.

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The guy who is scared that the Bible is not quite making its way back into my world like I thought it would, being back in the South. That is not to say that I think it is stupid or unintellectual. It is just not a framework that I live my life through anymore, and haven’t for quite some time. I think that is scary, sometimes. I wish I had faith like my friends and family.

Deep down, where the waters are still, I find it there. A small glow, but a glow indeed. My peace. My ability to show grace and absorb pain.

But nearing the surface — that is where the waters are tumultuous. Pulled in by the moon and sent crashing into rocks as though it is in my nature to break and form back together.

So while I do my comparing and floating and crashing, I am still drawn to whatever it is that gives me peace every day. At least for a moment, and then I go on surviving and bumping into people and colliding with their thoughts and their own wars.

Luckily grace exists outside of the Bible. As does love and mercy and forgiveness. All of which I learned from Jesus, but I also learned from my momma, and Mother Teresa, and my chef.

Today, I will be carrying everyone with me.

weapons

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I wonder what would happen if we laid down our weapons today.

For just a week, maybe.

Warlords.
Soldiers.
Police.
Citizens.

Oh, we will all still get angry at one another. There’s no stopping the friction that is caused by needing to be right all the time.

You’re wrong, I’m right.

The absolutes are killing us.
This or that.
Or else!
Our lack of self control and

patience and
kindness and
understanding.

We are products of what we see and how we are made to feel.
We move in patterns left before us by our parents and grandparents.

We repeat history over and over, because we’re afraid that maybe we just didn’t get it right.
Like returning to a bad lover because you want to believe things will be different.

War and death and injustice carve up this world.

Scars.
Deep dark wounds.

I usually just throw my hands up, or shake my fists at the heavens.

When really, I should lower them and place them on wounds.

Of my brother and my sister
In hopes that one day,

they will do the same for me.

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Today, if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other-that man, that woman, that child is my brother or my sister. If everyone could see the image of God in his neighbor, do you think we would still need tanks and generals? – Mother Teresa

energy and space.

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My head is feeling a lot like the state of my room at the moment.

Scattered on my floor are clothes that I really need to put away. A new heater I spent 10 minutes at Wal-Mart researching, because well, the weather has taken a cooler turn in the South. I’m always a little giddy at that. I also grew comfy with the sound of my little heater in Portland. (That is, when the breaker wouldn’t switch in the middle of a frigid cold night.)

I see quarters and nickels and dimes everywhere, because I pay with cash a lot and have been used to Oregon’s zero-tax thing. The good part of it is, it’s a very messy way to have a savings plan. I have little treasures all over my apartment.

This week, I’ve been dealing with back pain on and off. Mostly muscle related, from all the twists and turns and bends of being a cook, no doubt. So, I’ve been needing to take it easy. I’ve stayed off my feet to the best of my ability and my surroundings showcase the laziness of my strained frame.

That’s okay.

To be honest, I have to fight with every sentence to not complain about being single. I tell myself not to write about it, because it makes me feel as though I’m looking for pity. I hope you don’t see it that way. I really don’t have too many complaints, to be honest. I think about what a gift it is to have a partner, and to also be single. I think about how both sides give us plenty of room to grow into good, strong people. Though it’s always through some pretty mucky stuff. Sometimes sad and frustrating, washed over with plenty of goofy-lovey-sweet stuff.

You notice peoples physical touch a bit more when you’re single. I went to an amazing show last night, and noticed all the lover things happening. The neck kisses, the couple that’s been making out at the bar for an hour straight who should probably just go home and get things settled. The sweet dance via bass and snare and high-hat — of getting closer to someone you don’t really know. Maybe the lightest presence of another close to you feels like it’s all going to be okay.

And while I’m being honest, I’ve been waking up quite often, missing her. I’ve felt embarrassed and sad about a lot of things. The Black Keys say that a broken heart is blind, but more so, it is the most fragile thing on our planet. I wonder how often we take responsibility for each others broken hearts…not that we should carry the weight of it, but that we should live knowing our actions are always echoing through the bones of those we know.

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I saw a picture this week that said, “Take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space.” by Jill Bolte-Taylor

I’ve probably posted it to every social media outlet I can stand, for the sake of how it resonates deeply, and how I need to be better of it myself. I think being aware of your energy is hard hard hard. Some people know it and are comfortable with it. Other people suck it up like a vortex, and you can almost hear the collective ‘sigh’ when they leave. I think about the people who tell me I’m a calm presence to them, and what that must mean when I am in a room with others.

I suppose if they saw the inside of my head, my appearance would be much more tired looking, with my hand rubbing the sore muscles of my back, dazed and maybe a little hectic. Probably confused that I would be thinking about the sandwich special of the week, or how many leeks I needed to order for the butternut squash soup.

More often than not, I suppose all of our heads are cluttered from the things we just have to do now.

And much like the story I wrote about in my last piece, you have to start one at a time, most likely.

When I get out of bed, hungover from a dream or reality, I pick a good song to start my morning to. I stretch, more so, considering the state of things, and find comfort in the warmth of my gas stove.

I drop in a spoonful of butter and let it get the lightest bit brown, before dumping in my eggs.

I squeeze the last, most flavorful drops of my bag of PG Tips with my bare fingers, because the heat doesn’t much bother me anymore.

I let that incorporate into whatever it is I can’t control,

and I let that, for the moment, be enough.

 

 

life overflowing.

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I can feel these last tugs at my heart.

Like the last kicks of an animal,
or being just too tired to hang on.

I’d like to say that whatever it is I’m falling into, is good.

I never see a pit of despair or some endless road on a hot day.

It’s been a week, for me, though.
Sitting in the Social Security office working on getting my name changed back and having to sit over divorce papers yet again and to explain my situation.

“Oh, so you just want ‘Casper’ then, right?”

A few taps on the backspace button and that was it.

“Hmph…” I mumbled, as I do when I listen to people talk about hard things.

“You should be getting your new card within two weeks.”

And all of a sudden, things were back how they used to be. (On paper.)

I remembered our tireless conversations in cars. How hard it was to think through all of this. It really did make sense to take your last name too. I was proud of that. A lot of people were weird about it, the state itself, but it was challenging. It was a little hard to die to one’s self. Not that I mean that in a depressing way, but in the way we should all be giving and taking.

Thanks for your grace in that, too.

I’ve given up on having my shit together. Granted, in the kitchen, it’s a little different. It’s my job to have my shit together.

But when I’m sitting across from you, I’d like to think that I’m all yours. I also hope that you allow me to rest and say no from time to time. The balance of yes and no is hard. I’ve been saying yes a lot, because it gets me out of a lot of hard and lonely nights. But the nights that I say no, I find a way to keep moving.

Perhaps a text to a friend saying, “Sheesh. What do you do when you’re mad?”

Because that’s really important. That’s when other people shed a little of their grace on you, for free. Luckily it’s free to give — and is more valuable than anything in the world. At least it is to me.

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Yeah, I feel a lot of things in a day.
And also it’s been a really challenging week. It probably has for you, too.

You’ve felt too rushed. You said yes when you really wanted to say no.

Your heart is broken.

You ate your cheeseburger too fast.

Or maybe, you took a few steps out of your own hell because that’s how it works.

Just a few steps. Messy ones. Loud and clunky.

I lay my head back and examine my space.
I hear cicadas outside singing in rhythm to this hot day.

My own heart is making its rounds. Seeing people it misses and building itself up for a new day. It’s important for me to make this space for myself. I suppose it is sort of a luxury.

But then again, I have a lot of little luxuries in the form of hot tea and a place that I get to lay down my arms.

It always comes back to me being thankful. It takes time to get there, but you will find always, little pockets of helpers and lovers and healers. Let em’ fill you up.

Because today, my cup is overflowing.

 

balance.

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Cooking is about balance.

And you already know that I’m going to compare this to my life. Because this is what I do.

I write. I cook. I eat. I read. I watch. Repeat.

I often find myself creating a better balance with food than in my day to day, but we can’t always be in control of those variables.

When I get to take my time and cook, I am thinking about a lot of things. Texture, salt, fat, acidity and cohesion. It also helps if it looks pretty, but to be honest, it is just food and we all know what it turns into. I am a sucker for giving a damn though, and if I spend the time cooking it, you better believe I’m going to make it look good.

Balance is harmony.

That’s why we love bacon so much. Salt. Sweet. Smoky. Fat. Or I’ll just claim it and say that’s why I consume so much bacon. When you bake trays and trays of bacon every day, you will come to appreciate how versatile and irresistible it is to the human condition.

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I’m working on balance.

I’m working on my own harmony.

That might be a little too much to ask of the world, but I have to keep coming back to myself at the end of the day.

“Hey, slow down. Be good to yourself. Listen to other people. Focus on what you can do today.”

Otherwise, I’m a mess — scratching my head and staring inside the refrigerator for my toothbrush. (Okay, that hasn’t happened yet, but give it time.)

Life is just moving, moving, moving.
Some days are just the right balance of sweet and savory. Tart and bland. Rest and play. Work and reward.

Each day, I say to myself that I wish to move with intention. That even though my current job isn’t where I seem to be using my best skills, I’m still learning a lot about this city and its people. I’m learning what they like and don’t like. I’m listening to my fellow co-workers deal with their own toils while slowly sharing mine.

Seeing a rogue picture of your ex and her partner is a super cliche knee jerk reaction. I suppose my reaction doesn’t exist so much in anger, as it does in, “Well, this is the way things are now.” But also, inside, “This feels weird.”

And I find myself thinking upon on it. I ask myself a lot of questions these days. I think I learned to do it because it actually helps me in feeling somewhat healthy.

“Josh, what do you want from her?”

“Nothing. Sometimes I want her to really know how badly I’ve hurt, but I don’t want that for her. I don’t want her to hurt like that.”

“Anything else?”

Well, I’m tired. Underpaid with more responsibility. Sometimes that feels unfair. I also have little crushes on all sorts of people. I think when I get shown the least bit of attention, I perk up and take notice. To be honest, I feel thankful when I’m noticed. I feel thankful more and more all the time.”

Those variables I mentioned earlier start popping up all over the place. They make me feel silly. They make things feel petty. But they are these new things I’m having to balance.

As I say to myself and others who find themselves discouraged after a day’s toils, tomorrow is a new day.

A new day to explore and season and taste and shift.

I love new days.

I love planting my feet on the floor and hearing my ankles crack as they bend. I still love the smell of the first brewed pot of coffee. All these things certainly adding to my new life here.

Some days, heavy on the salt. Other days, too bitter. Lately I’ve had a sweet tooth, and cannot be trusted around sweet tea.

I reckon’ when it’s all said and done, the world wasn’t made in a day,

And neither will mine.

small peace.

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Usually the process of writing starts when I see that I’ve not watered my plants enough, or when a friend drops something in my lap that says, “Here! Struggle with this alongside me!”

I wake up to it all the time.

Mostly, this bright morning sun. I am not given the option to sleep late here, because when the sun is up and bright, I feel as though I am resisting its presence.

I also wake up to a dull ache that sometimes feels like loneliness. Oh, I feel it in my bones quite often. The embrace of another warm body and someone to make breakfast for.

Then there are the wars for place and history and religion.

The senseless acts of human beings just being terrible to one another.

I know, I know. It’s too much to dive into all of that. I have always carried a weight for the world, you see?

My favorite author (read: spiritual guide) wrote a little piece this week on the things I’ve been waking up to.
She ended it by saying this,

“There are many forms of thirst, many kinds of water.”

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I don’t know what to do.

And maybe that’s the best place to start.

Many mornings, I sit up and plant my feet on these wooden floors.

I can hear my ankles crack a bit, and I breathe in and out. Deep, exaggerated breaths. Like the ones I used to do in therapy when I didn’t know why or what.

There is a lot I wish I could believe. That maybe there will be a shift when things get bad enough. Or we will all be taught how to keep living in this world with all that pain and gnashing of teeth.

I believe in a truth that this world is all we have. I believe that in our journey to be perfect and to have perfect things, we have exhausted our imaginations and our resources.

It’s easy to let it overwhelm.

But you do what we all do and keep going.

It’s easier to quench the thirst of a few than a few thousand, but if enough people decide to stop burning things to the ground, then we might have a chance to build something.

I guess, this piece is a little hard for me to write. For one, I don’t like to be super opinionated. I have many opinions and it’s okay to be opinionated. I also choose safety of space more than any opinion that I have. Because to be honest, mine have changed so much over the years, so I take them as I do a good book or a song. Rich and meaningful in certain seasons, but maybe shift into something else in another.

A few days ago I bought a bird feeder and put it on the clothesline outside my apartment.

It feels good to feed the smallest of things. Especially the ones that sing their songs so loud when the sun comes up.

That makes sense to me more than anything right now.

So, I start small feeding tiny things.

And then, I see that the world keeps moving.
This is how we put out fires within ourselves.
This is how we create small kinds of peace.

‘there are many forms of thirst, many kinds of water.’