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.

 

stuck.

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I have been stuck on this awful and violent week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That small relief fills your belly with some peace.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need you here with us, okay?

Okay.

enough.

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January is just too long.

It’s a recovery month, I think. At least that’s the way I see it.
Everyone is adjusting to a new year, and regaining some composure after the blast of late year holidays.

I, however, am in the midst of some funky stuff.

When I was in counseling and seeing my doctor regularly, I was picking up tools to use. Granted, it would be nice to have that sort of thing here, but Mississippi lacks in what I would consider a more holistic style of healthcare. But the tools I did gain, keep me aware of my body processing the world.

What I ingest, both physically and emotionally, takes a huge toll. I keep that at the forefront.

The sad parts of my being are craving physical touch and connection. I’d say more of a longing than actual sad, sad. Though I think feeling sad is important. I think there’s plenty of poetry there, some marrow, and perhaps a bigger part of our life force.

Restlessness is something I feel.
As a person who is in constant thought of something bigger, I have a hard time adjusting to the slower seasons.

Lately, I’ve been learning to adjust to my own expectations. Of basically every damn thing.

My cooking. My attractions. My belly which has been eating a lot of carbohydrates (read: delicious things) the past week.

More so, my expectations of what falling in love looks like. I’m having a hard time separating the things I know of that kind of love. Granted, I am not in that season and don’t imagine it happening here any time soon, but what I have been noticing is my fear of intimacy.

I feel some fear in my belly. For losing someone again, even though I haven’t much made an effort to pursue. I am influenced heavily by the elements that surround me. I get knocked down a few pegs when I feel a little too confident and remember why it’s so good to be humble. I enjoy who I am. Truly.

I don’t own much. I don’t make much. I don’t need all that much.

I’m in the in-between, as far my spirituality goes. I crave that Great Mystery, but for some reason, I cannot grasp it. Like some pit I’m falling into, trying to grab hold and it’s just too slippery. I feel it may be my undoing some days.

Not God-fearing enough.
Not confident I am tough enough to handle this industry.
Fear of being an asshole, because I have asshole thoughts.

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I am a messy form of a human. I know we all are, at least I know that’s probably what you’re thinking. But I want my beliefs to be a bit more firm. I suppose seeing more of the world, and more of the worlds of people, I am swayed to believe that we are all floating forward towards the same sorta thing.

I float around not really conforming to this or that. I will not judge you for your lifestyle, as I hope you won’t judge me for eating a Christmas tree cake even though they are out of season. (Which, in my book, is never true.)

I can tell you that I love fried catfish, and a nice medium rare steak.

I love eating hash browns on Sunday with poached eggs and hot sauce.
I love being there for people.
I have a hard time taking without the weight of giving back.
When someone orders food when the kitchen closes in 10 minutes. Ugh.
(But really, it’s fine. Really.)

These things are true.

There is nothing I enjoy more than learning how to cook better. Hanging my head over a pot of kombu and dried shitakes, wondering, “Is this right??”

Maybe that’s the idea that I’ve known all along.

A longing of sorts, of tasting and nodding.
Adjusting,
Adding,
Taking away,
asking,

is this right?

I’m not quite sure.
But I’m always asking.
Always tasting.

And today, that is enough.

thick skin

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I jokingly tell people these days that I can’t wait to be in my forties.

I tell them that I think I’m getting better with age, and that I wasn’t very good at being young. At least the parts of me that crave adventure come in different forms.
As a kid, I was not the bravest or loudest or most outgoing.

Knowing what I know now, as an adult, I was so nervous and apprehensive about the outside world. I craved affirmation and I wanted to feel good about the kind of person I was. It always felt right to be kind, and I believe that to this day. I treat people like I want to be treated, as archaic as that rule sounds, it works well for me.

And then came kitchen work.

Intense. Hot and fast with a million moving pieces.
I learn about myself in these moments. I learn about working hard and smart and humbly doing things for people they’ll never be able to repay you for.

Somehow, this works for me.

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I take a break from my keyboard to squeeze my hands open and close. Yesterday was a 14-hour day involving a wedding where I spent most of the night emptying garbage cans full of beer bottles and half eaten pieces of food. The other part of the night was spent scrubbing hotel pans and jamming leftover bits of wedding food in my face so I wouldn’t have to partake in that Whopper Jr that so taunts me on my drive home.

It is always humbling to do this work.

I guess in the states, I struggle with the mentality that this work is for people riddled in confusion and transition and poverty. Granted, we do make up a big part of that work force. But some of us want to do this with our lives because we think it’s important. To me, I see a bride and groom who appreciate empty garbage cans so they can enjoy this moment with their friends and family. (I exclude the drunk bro-crowd who laughingly threw their trash in said garbage cans as I was straining to lift them through winding crowds of beautifully dressed Southerners.)

And so, with the steam rising from the tray of dishes I just pulled through the sanitizer, I think about the shootings in France. The massacres in Nigeria. I think about my friends who have recently lost loved ones. I think about my own heart being pulled in so many directions. I feel a knot in my stomach for some reason, and I also hum along with the sound of my muffled phone playing through its “closing down the kitchen” playlist.

It makes sense that our skin gets thicker with time, and that getting older helps us fit more into that skin.

We somehow make this world work for us even with the knowledge that there will be sadness supped with joy.

Hard times, come again no more, so the song says.

We sing, but we know they will. We still find moments to say we are good and happy and content. In those moments, it is all worth it to be human. To accept the give and take.

The ebb and flow.

The changing of times,

and perhaps a good word or two.

living in death (living in life)

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{It might seem as though I am writing about the death of a loved one. And this piece could very much be about the same thing. I am, however, associating death to the loss of a relationship. More so because it is how I associate at times with love, and love lost. No one close to me has passed away, but what I wanted to portray was the loss of an important presence in my life.}

We go through great depths to mourn those we love.

More specifically, the ones we have lost.

Let me be clear in saying, I have mourned a great loss. More so than I ever thought I would. You know this when someone you loves passes away, or leaves you too soon. The clouds roll in and all you see is dark. You wonder, “How will I ever rise above these dark things…when will the weight of their presence leave and set me free again?”

Right now, I am drained and exhausted. Talking till I can’t keep my eyes open. Angry. Sad. Alone.

But within my depths I see that horizon, and I am drawn to it like a lighthouse welcoming the weary.

I have been thinking of the incredible depths of human beings. I cannot escape the mystery of our redemption. Of our resilience. Of our fight to keep moving in the midst of great storms.

We are all full of such a deep, wonderful and terrifying brilliance. The fact that we are capable of love means we are also aware of the dangers that it brings. There is nothing more brilliant than being in love. It is crazy. It has to be crazy.

I reach down deep into myself and pull out this beautiful and fragile mystery. I examine it to see that it has scars. Residue of pain. Reach in to any heart and you will see this. For we have all loved and have been damaged.

But what I want to say is that we are endlessly human. That means, we have these pieces that make our hearts beat and that shoot millions upon million of electrons through tiny tunnels in our brain that allow me to type or make bread. It allows me to connect memories and to build experience and to learn and accept love.

It allows my soul to be endless.

What a journey it is to fight for this. To build upon it as though you are Noah constructing an Ark, in doubt of what the world is telling you to feel.

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You are endless and full of goodness.

And you can only live in death for so long.

As with everything, there is a time. The great thing about time is that it moves regardless of whether or not you want it to. Sometimes you want it to stop to recognize your pain. Sometimes you want it to go back, but it will not.

The clouds will lift and the fog will clear.

You will be met with life.

It will flow from your depths. You will find a great joy in your healing. Time will be your friend and you will feel so very strong, my loves.

Live in death to mourn.

Live in life to fight and be good and to make things better.

Your cup will run over, and there will be people needing what you have to offer. Give them what you can, but always, always, always, fill yourself.

Live in your depth.

because you

and you

and You,

are endless.

Fare thee well

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I am writing this from my little phone, which isn’t nearly as satisfying as I want it to be, but that’s okay.

I am also writing from Mississippi, as I’ve been here for about a week now, soaking in the love and grace of this place.

I guess love and grace have been what this year has taught me. For one, my departure from a life that is now so unfamiliar. From a person who I thought I knew, into a world I was not ready to be a part of.

People change. As do places and time. I don’t know why I expect things to change so much. Especially when you visit a place that was home for so long. They somehow become shells of their former stature. I suppose we all go through this in our growing process. We outgrow. We move. We change.

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We bid our farewells to the year’s troubles. We give thanks for the good and the bad, as old friends who come and go from time to time.

“Ah, you’re here again…” I will say.

And I will lay down and cry or dance when nobody is around.

Love will come up like an ancient well and quench your thirst.

Sadness will also be there at times, to remind us of the great weight we hold as humans.

Let it be known that I embrace both. And that writing about both sadness and joy allows me to reach deep into the earth and grab hold.

Because people will change. And certainly the places we live will one day be taken over by the unfamiliar.

Like kudzu on a Georgia highway, covering the things men and women worked so hard to build strong.

We will keep going.
Moving.
Fumbling with what to say.
Burning myself on ovens.
Questioning the divine
And embracing the great sadness this year has brought.

I will rise up.
Stick my hands deep in the earth,

and breathe in that sweet Mother love.

being angry.

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I suppose there are stages to grief.

At least that’s what everyone tells me.

You’re sad and don’t understand, then you’re angry, then you forgive, then you move on.

There is some truth in that, no doubt. I guess mine are less stages, than a ‘day in, day out’ account of what I choose to live in. I’d like to say I am a peaceful sea, with the occasional storm. But right now, I have these churning waters deep down in my belly. I’m angry for the choices that were taken away from me.

I realize my privilege in all of this. It could be a lot worse. But when I think about those people, I feel bad too. It’s safe to say that I carry a lot. For myself, and for others. My own grief is this new thing I’ve had to deal with. Generally, I am a peaceful dude who wants to give so much to others.

I remember writing a while back, that I felt strong. And I suppose I still do, but it looks different today. I think anger is important. If it wasn’t for anger, nothing would change. People used to get angry that they were cold all the time, so they figured out how to make fire.

I think there’s a lot in that.

I’m angry that I have to voice my opinion on matters I never wanted to — that people will eat me up whenever they want, because that’s what people do. Prey on the weak. Fire off wild assumptions based on an observation.

I’m angry that I have to have something to say. Being quiet was, and still is my weapon of choice.

I make loud people uncomfortable by being quiet, and vice versa.

But that will shift, as it all will.

What I always try to believe, is that feeling what you’re feeling is important. So, whatever, I just need to be angry sometimes. My ‘fixer’ personality will fail every time if I try to work against my anger by saying it’s not real. That I just need to cheer up.

Sometimes, words can fix it, other days, it’s a random interaction.

gas-pump

I went to get gas last night, because for one, I needed some fresh air. And also, my gas light was on, as it is most days. (Kidding, sort of.)

In Oregon, you aren’t allowed to pump your own gas. I don’t know why. Maybe jobs? Sure, let’s say jobs.

Anyways, it’s kind of nice. Though it makes me feel so lazy.
There is an older man who pumps my gas from time to time. As I rolled down my window, I passed him my card and we went along as we usually do. Then, he paces a few times and says, “Well, you’re not gonna see me for the next five days!” I respond, “Oh yeah? Why’s that?”

“Goin’ on vacation. That’s right. Been two years. Me and my girl are headin’ up to Spokane to visit some friends, then we’re gonna go down to Astoria and stay with another friend. Yeah, it’s been a while, I’m real excited..”

And I loved this interaction. Because normally we don’t talk, and I just know he wanted me to share in his excitement, even if I didn’t directly benefit from it. He is what I call “salt of the earth” — a refreshing dose of reality in the midst of my roommates getting angry because I said something bad about Pabst Blue Ribbon.

I was so genuinely happy for him. I can imagine saving up for two years, this will be a much needed vacation for him. It was like seeing a kid get excited about Christmas.

I suppose I hold fast to those experiences, when the world slows down and I am allowed an honest to goodness conversation where I am able to look someone in the eye and listen. Usually, I’m on defense because it’s what I have to do sometimes.

But the best times, when I feel most comfortable, are when I have to say nothing at all and the other person is okay with me. I realize that’s a lot to ask these days, but I crave it. I crave to be known again with the people I live my life with. Some have faded and abandoned, and other things take its place. I am angry at that sometimes, but I move with it, because like everything else, I have to.

Being angry is about reason and circumstance. Its main purpose is for you to react, like some chemical. But how you react is important. A lot of bad stuff happens, but also, a lot of important stuff happens.

I suppose I’m somewhere in between. Feeling it out. Wondering where it will all end up.

As for now, I will take a walk and stretch my legs.

I will think about the gas station man, and his trip to Spokane with his girl,

I will notice myself as I breathe and move.

because deep down I know,

something bigger is on its way.