kintsugi

I’m staring at my glass of iced tea. Half sweet, half unsweet — a wishy-washy southerner thing to do, they say. Oddly enough, it is so delicious and is covering the heaviness of a day spent running in circles.

There are the people that see right through me. I know they do. They’ve seen me change from quiet to awkward to strong and have helped me pick up more than my fair share of jetsam and flotsam.

I always love that picture in my mind. A shore, with the tide fading, leaving behind the things it decided to discard for a day. Shells and plastic bags and all sorts of shit.

That’s what it feels like.

In my heart there is a forever exhausted thing. That thing reads the news and sees the horrific acts of people.
God, I want to be stronger. Something feels wrong about this stuff just sort of, rolling off my sleeve like it’s nothing. It is actually quite something and it digs into me like some sort of awful animal.

Like anything, it is laced with hope and strong people pulling themselves and others out of the despair and brushing off their pants. “Let’s go again.”

Getting older, those truths are starting to settle in a bit more. My younger days of dreaming to be a wild revolutionary are fuzzy. I am conflicted with my own actions and the actions of those I used to see as heroes.

I am settling in the imperfectness.
The broken belovedness.

We had a tornado rip through a big part of our city a few months ago, and I found myself very close to it — hiding in the doorway of my bedroom and kitchen. It was loud and the trees were cracking and bending around me.

I was lucky, but hundreds were not, and lost their homes and peace of minds and routines.

I sat there and wondered what it might be like to lose my life here. Alone, in a funky green and brown cottage. I still think about it. In a way, sort of gambling. I questioned my life in the midst of a storm and I think that is all it ever actually really is.

Being a human is painful. There are nerves and bones and water. We are always being pulled by someone, somewhere. Then there is that pain of being pulled by a human into the very depths of their soul. It is a heaven and sometimes it is a hell. A pure and good example of human love — and when that love ultimately shifts, that separation can feel much like its own hell.

Love anyone, and you will know this.

So, you take the broken pieces, and put them back together. Never as perfect as it was, or will ever be. Your hopes of keeping this whole piece yours and safe is gone.

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Kintsugi is the Japanese art of embracing the damage of an object. When cracks are mended, they are highlighted in gold. I’m sure you’ve heard of it before. It is hard to lose a whole piece of something, especially when it’s so important to you.

Sometimes it breaks and you store it away in some dark corner of your life.

And sometimes, you choose to bring it out and examine. The hairline cracks, leading on to the bigger breaks that ultimately brought you to your knees. Repairing an object is acceptance. It is knowing that it will not be the same as it was.

That’s why it’s so powerful. Examining brokenness. Not only repairing, but highlighting. Saying, “THIS! THIS IS HOW IT’S BROKEN!”

You discover that brokenness is a gift that lets others see into your life, that they too can heal and mend and move.

We break, and we become whole again, all the time and forever.

Life and breath is forgiveness and grace.

This is how you are broken.
But your pieces are still beautiful,
forever and ever.

rage

cooking is rage, and it is everything inside of me.

I think about the days where I first started to learn,
and when I first started to learn her.

I hear that album by The National and it makes my stomach knot up.
Music in the kitchen was always something that was woven in between searing and braising; almost always with doing the dishes.

Romance. There’s romance there too. I’m mostly in love with every one, which means they all have the ability to break my heart with a reaction and with their spoons, digging into my side.

cooking is rage.

adult rage. love and doubt and sometimes divorce.

it is salty and fatty and exactly what you want after too many.

too many drinks or days or kids banging on your bathroom door when you just want to be alone for a moment.

More often than not it is given, and I give it all. I give my world and my peace of mind and stability so that you can have it.

I often wish I could dance. In fact I would give up a lot of my talent as a cook to have the energy and the attitude and the courage to dance in front of people.

But I suppose, if I’m being true to myself, whatever it is I do is its own little dance of time and heat and pressure. It goes straight into your belly and into your bones, and the bones of your children.

I am often alone. I crave a late night, at my table with a small plate of food and a person across from me that cooked it, and warmed it up for me because I was late to everything — to her — to our life — to bed, even when it’s been longer than we want to touch and breathe in deep and rest ourselves.

this is the rage.
the deep, fiery furnace-like thing in my belly that wants to have it all and wants you to have it all and in reality,

I have a day, and a day’s toils.

I clean my knives. I finish up the dishes.

There’s a few songs and a sweet picture of my nephew who’s growing up faster than I fall asleep…

after a long day, cooking and moaning, of drinking the salty broth,

I fall in love all over again.

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some dark (and some light)

Sometimes the dark is scary in the morning.

When you’re alone though, a lot of things feel more scary than they need to be.
I wake up early on so many mornings to open the shop. My hand stumbles around a glass of water half perched on a wad of grocery store receipts and loose change to turn on my lamp.

Sometimes the light stings and I wiggle around for a moment and think to myself, “I am totally taking a nap after work today.”

But it doesn’t matter. Waking up before 6am has always been rough. Perks of working in the coffee and breakfast industry. Maybe it’ll get easier the older I get. Or maybe I’ll finally go to bed before midnight. Something I haven’t been able to do since college.

I often wander into a dark morning. It’s quiet. Unseasonably warm, this time of year, so I don’t have to sit in an ice cold car before my small commute to work. Some days, when I feel like I need more assurance, I turn on my cell phone light, just to make sure I don’t stumble on roots that have decided to lay a home in my front yard for the past 80 years or so.

I don’t mind them.

I fumble around a few spider webs that hang their threads in between the same branches — they inevitably get destroyed by my large frame every day. Those who know me know that I don’t like spiders, and I don’t know any one who likes walking into a spiderweb. But, it’s something I’ve gotten used to with these low hanging branches and vines.

I often get tangled in things I don’t understand.

light-in-darkness

I once met a guy in an anarchist community while living in Portland. He said something to me I’ll never forget.

“I embrace the dark as much as I embrace the light.”

I’m sure it meant something more substantial to him — but I was taken back a bit. Aren’t we supposed to run away from darkness? Isn’t light what we’re always striving to walk towards?

There is a lot of truth in that statement. The yin and the yang.

There is always dark, and there is always light. If you’re any type of human being, you have lived in both and if you’re reading this, have survived some of the darkest moments of your life.

I’ve learned about some of my greatest depths in the dark when I couldn’t see much further than the speck upon the horizon. But, life brings you there.

The guy I met in the anarchist community then invited me to strip naked and join their group in their homemade sauna to welcome the new moon, but I politely declined and took it as a sign that I needed to go home.

There is so much to notice, in the light and in the dark. You learn lessons in both, and often times the light is big, and other times it is small. But still, you move through it and wake up to another day and another world that’s always blending light and dark.

Sometimes, you just have to get tangled and know that even in the great depths of your soul, there is always a light on the horizon.

So get up. (Get tangled.) And get moving.

a year’s end.

This past weekend marked the end of our holiday catering season at the Depot. My hands are all cut up from pulling hundreds of pans out of the oven, chopping case upon case of potatoes and carrots and rubbing salt and herbs into Lord knows how many pounds of chicken and beef.

With all that being said and thankfully done, the one thing, among many things that I love about cooking happens: reflection.

I suppose the purpose of contemplating a year in a life is to recognize the things we were able to accomplish and how the year chiseled us into the shape we are now. It’s safe to say 2016 was a chisel. More so for different people who wanted different things. But, here we are regardless. Some, more hopeful. Some, still a little frazzled with how the world seems to work.

My days start off with so many hopeful intentions. Today, I want to be present. Today, I want to build something good and be good and maybe take a jog around my neighborhood.

And then the sink breaks in the kitchen at work. Sequentially, this throws me off into a state of chaos and quiet rage, and all I want to do is go home and lay in the quietness of a space that I can usually control. I suppose if I’m honest with myself, my world is not about control, and never will be.

I learn more and more what I have to hold loosely. I keep my distance from things until they feel safe – sort of like I did when I was a kid, hiding behind my mother’s legs because I was unsure of strange things. Things like that may never change, though I am now a whole foot and a half taller than my mom. I don’t have the luxury of hiding anymore.

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This year has been about power, and learning how to use it. Power is scary and I walk through each day knowing that I have, in some capacity, the means to use it for tearing down rather than building up. I don’t mean some sort of high executive power. More so a power to decide what people will eat or how my co-workers need to chop onions.

Then there is the other power – the power to use your gifts for good. Maybe that’s being a leader or a teacher or a listener. The world will always need what you have to offer. This power that you have is uniquely and profoundly yours. We may all be more alike than we are different, but what you have is special and you are responsible for it.

I have learned over this year that I am still going to hurt people unknowingly and understand that it’s not my place to say when a person should and should not feel something. I am learning to own the person I’ve become, even when I wish so badly I had all the right things to say and do.

Regardless, 2016 has been one helluva year. We have pushed ourselves hard. Harder than the year before, and as always, I am so stinkin’ proud of my co-workers and friends for believing in something bigger than ourselves.

Maybe it is just food. Maybe it’s just taking someone’s order and hoping from that point on, they enjoy their experience.

But in between all of that, are people who all want the same thing. Safety. Balance. Belonging. Community. Love. (And something super delicious.)

Wherever this wild road is taking me, I feel safe with the people around me. That in itself is a gift I will never be able to ask for, but one that I found I had all along.

Cheers, and thank you for an amazing year.

rabid bits of time

I’ve been processing time.

I think about it a whole lot. If you’ve ever read this blog, you know I’m always rambling on about brevity and grace and how messy all of this is.

There is so much going on in the broader scheme of things that worry me — that load me down and sometimes it feels like the light can barely get in. It’s an anxiousness. Perhaps even a restlessness that I feel — like a bad dream where you open your mouth to talk and nothing comes out.

This is the dark part. How people don’t recognize their dark parts is beyond me. I am in a constant state of sinking into my body and learning about myself in ways I wouldn’t if I didn’t allow myself to wander around.

I wish I was easier to understand, sometimes. I wish I didn’t speak out as much about things people don’t agree with or comply to the standards of my own name.

I sense the sins of a past. All I want to do is cover them in grace and move forward. Being stuck in that life is no way to live. I have made bad decisions based on being deeply emotional and full of that urge of wanting to be right, and wanting to feel good. We all do that. Then something happens. We change. They change. We get shot out of orbit and find ourselves once again, floating around something that is familiar, but altogether different.

We are not a graceful people. If anything, this past months shows us that there is a force pushing forward and another pushing back. (And I’m not taking sides here.)

I am opening my mind to everything, trying to see the most good, for the most people. To me, some things feel like they’re moving backwards. For others, it looks like things are going forward. This is where I get lost in everything. It’s when I feel the most chaotic and raw.

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God. I have no idea what to do next. Life is mostly simple sounding. We go to work and we come home. Some of us have kids that we take care of — and we do the whole thing over and over again. That is what life mostly is, spotted with bits of sadness and joy and vacations.

We get to have it, though. Just for a little bit. I am not built for changing governments or being in a trench. Truly. I support some people who are, but I’ve always said my place in a revolution is hovering over pots and pans and feeding bellies.

My heart for justice came first out of that. I know that I am not in Calcutta or Chicago anymore. But I am still feeding people, and giving them good memories. I am still caring more than I have to about a silly sandwich and maybe hoping my co-workers still believe in me enough to be a decent leader and friend. These balances are awfully hard.

Most of the time I write I do not come to any conclusions. I don’t have a sense of clarity or any answer that might turn on some switch in my brain.

I write to explore and to explore myself. My little galaxy spinning almost effortlessly in the midst of a vast sea of space and time.

We are moving in rabid bits of time.

It is impossible to know the next step, but we take them regardless.

So, keep pushing on and keep pushing forward. Time has an easier way of moving forward than back. Whatever it is you are hanging on to, it’s time to start loosening your grip. You don’t get a lot of time here.

You are your own little time machine and have the incredible opportunity to use it to the best of your ability.

Open yourself up. Wander around in your own truly unique humanity and let some the light in.

After all, it’s the only way to see where to go next.

a place for yourself.

Maybe right now you are preparing a place for your future self. I suppose that is the romantic way to look at it.

It’s impossible to know when you’ll arrive at that place, or if it will look anything like you imagined. Probably not, but that’s okay.
Dating and in general relationship-making has never been easy for me. Hell, the last time I fell in love with someone it ended up being in India among the masses crammed into the metros and markets, with a constant sheen of sweat and dirt.

I’m also not a stranger to hearing, “It’s just hard to put a finger on you.”

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that some part of me likes it that way. But, I can honestly say I just don’t think I can be any other thing. Especially the exact thing you need or want me to be. (Maybe this is my death sentence in the world of romance.) I also know you aren’t going to be that for me, either.

Most of me just feels like I’m really broken in places (and not the theological sense that Christian readers eat up so much). Mainly, I feel not quite glued together just right. A lot of duct tape, and whole lot of feeling like I don’t fit back into where I belong.

This leads me down to some deep and dark places. Like maybe that was why my marriage dissolved into a mess of youngins having no idea what they were doing. Each year from that time, I come more to peace with where I am. I still process, like we all process our hard bits. What could we have handled better — and more importantly, how do we handle this in the future?

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Becoming more adult is scary. Awesome, but scary. Already at 30 years I am thinking of all the weighty ghosts that wander around and I see them all every day. It’s damn hard to move on from how people made you feel. A smell or a picture or a piece of paper in a small box discovered and BOOM. You are right back in it.

I think it’s amazing that we can feel that way. I think we’re better for it. We at least begin to understand what we can survive and for that, we can feel strong. On the other hand, I witness all sorts of innocence on a daily basis and want it again so badly.

I am frustrated. I feel I am not boyfriend material. Partner material. Maybe never again husband material. Some parts deep in my belly wonder if fatherhood will ever be in the hand I’m given, but I certainly do not count any of those things out.

I am lucky that I have something to go to every day that I pour so much of myself into. It is my church, and it is my love that is so full of rage and passion and fire. My adult kinda love.

Who do I think I am?

God knows I’m changing every day. Like maybe my system updates when I go to sleep and when I wake up, I take it for a test run. Some things get left, but more often then not I gain some perspective — some memory — and inevitably something stronger to keep moving on and on.

You are right. I can’t put a finger on myself. For all I have known until now, this is the busiest my brain has been. It is exciting and terrifying and it’s all smushed together like English peas.

But I can tell you that I believe my heart is being made into something new all the time. Maybe that is for a place, some day. It is something I can love and protect and grow all at the same time.

I am always on the look out. Eyes steady on the horizon. Moving toward the Greater Mystery.

becoming

The cicadas have been loud lately.
I’m sure some of you have them where you live, as well. To me, they sound like home. I’ve been finding them on the small walk to my car, when I suppose they’ve given all they’ve had to give, their lifeless bodies and empty shells. Their wings, still shining and glossy and helping me to remember small beautiful things.

The acorns are falling as well. I hear them hit the tin roof of my small cottage every five minutes. More so, when there are squirrels rustling about. The perks of living under a giant Oak.

The pathway to my front gate is becoming over grown with things I know not the name of. My statue of St. Francis is still sitting out there — hopefully bidding some sort of peace to all the things that pass. I try to do the same.

It’s the changing season I feel. It’s hard to see where I am now, but I can listen to it. There is a small frenzy of things shifting. Some things are dying and some things are meant to harvest.

It’s always a season to reap what you sow — except now is when there is some quiet respect for what the Earth gives us and I feel the same.

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No doubt, the months ahead have me feeling a little weary sometimes. We are going to be busy at work and we’re going to be missing traditions to help other people hold theirs. Sometimes that’s hard. It’s my job, though — I don’t mind it in this season.

I have put other things on hold — not because I don’t think I can find it — but because there are so many other things I am having to give. And also, I’m doing okay. It might not fit your vision of okay-ness – but that’s not up to you.

Still though, I hardly recognize what day it is. Only now it’s “Who has a table at what time?  When do we have to be there to setup? What’s the menu? Who’s coming in today? Do we have enough celery until Monday?”

Maybe my mind will clear the clutter. Maybe it won’t in this season. Regardless, I am still open to the mysteries and uncertainties. I am letting go more, and more. I am getting to see the darker ghosts of my past disappear and I am shedding their weight.

The trees aren’t the only things that lose those heavier things. We do too. And sometimes when they fall, they are meant for different things. Things you may not ever see in your lifetime, but they are there and they are growing.

Do not fear the moaning and growing because that is all that life will ever be.

Letting go. Moving on, and growing ceaselessly into your own becoming.

a billion moving parts.

Sometimes I itch all over.

Maybe for places and things I will never see. Mostly, these days, it is an impatient itch and I feel it everywhere. I feel it enough for it to interrupt my sleep as I wake up sweating, not just from the Southern heat, but because in my dreams I am living with all my memories.

There has been so much that has changed about me. Depending on which life you saw me living, it certainly seems to change from year to year. Maybe I’ve started believing in certain things existing, and other things dying. Maybe life is only about being born. Perhaps living for a short moment, and as though it was a lifetime you cease to be that thing and your love and memories are left with the people you let in.

I may not know my impact on whatever tiny piece of Earth I live on at the moment. No one does, really. That’s hard for me sometimes. I work for things I will probably never see. They say if you’re trying to solve a problem in your own lifetime,  you are thinking too small.

I agree with that.

I am often selfish, though. It happens when you live by yourself and are your own deciding factor. “Yes, I will wear this. It’s not that wrinkled.” And then being in a group of your peers and thinking, “Ah. Yes. Someone should have told me that this shirt was a hot mess.”

I remember my married self, quite often. I believe I had a lot of peace then. A lot of everything really. Who knows how to handle life with another human being that is also strong and opinionated and calls you out when you make them feel bad.

Then, when you aren’t married anymore, or separated from your partner, it is quite literally like picking up all these weird looking pieces of yourself. Your mind. Your heart. Then there’s the things that hold you, momentarily. Alcohol. Cigarettes. Being busy. Watching TV. Eating awful shit.

If I’m being honest with myself, part of my body has still been in mourning for the things I’ve lost. That’s just the kind of person I am. Of course I care what people think about me. Of course you are harsh and say things to me and I take it hard because that’s the kind of person I am.

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My health has been a product of this mess. It’s all felt like a roller coaster, really. This has been the coming down part — it’s really fast, and your stomach is in your head.

The past few weeks have had me digging around a lot of things. For one, I am running four to five nights a week. I’m not good at it. But it feels good. I’ve cut out as many vices as I can for the time being, at least until I can roughly get myself back to where I want to be, physically.

I’m learning that takes a lot of discipline. A lot of saying no. I try to make up an excuse for people, and really all I want to say is, “No. I can’t. I care for you. But not right now. This is for myself and for you to have me in the future. But right now, no. I’m sorry.”

That’s a little too long to say all the time. But it’s true. Generally I am swayed by the numbers, but when it comes to my health, I am trying my best to make better habits. I have to, really.

So, needless to say, this road is quite long. I am impressed at people who have been able to scoop up other people so quickly — but I think I am a little different. And that’s okay. I have a kitchen to feel that adult love with — that rage and that passion. That is where you will find me mostly.

Until then, I am falling deeply into something else. Something that I think is important. Knowing myself, there will be a time where I fall deeply into another thing — into another person. It is easy for me to dissolve into someone. Because of that, I am careful. Because of that, I am hopeful.

There are a billion moving parts out there, and I am something so incredibly tiny.

And that’s okay with me.

 

retreat and reconcile.

I’m not quite sure where my head is at.

In between a lot of layers of self doubt and pride and movement. Each layer is built upon what I consider my deepest self. The one that I return to before I fall asleep at night, and perhaps in the morning when I have a few quiet moments.

Who the hell am I becoming? Is this person good? Will this person be lonely? Can I find some balance in this wonky world?

No big surprise you probably ask yourself the same questions. Getting older (and older) I am pressed by the second hand moving around the clock. I live my life in seconds, really. At least when your job is putting food on plates, seconds matter.

Okay. Write about what hurts.

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Often, the answer for loneliness is to seek out a person, or people to do life with. But it’s awfully complex. I fear writing about it because it’s got all those layers, too. And I really don’t want to receive worried messages. Actually, I’m quite good with how my life is working.

I am reaching into the places that I feel a little worn and for lack of better imagery, desolate. Being reminded almost daily of lives that I’ve had already. Images that are burned into my brain of people leaving, of me leaving, and also ones of great love and warmth. I like those, a lot.

Daily, I reconcile the person I am becoming. The person who has to be tough on employees and himself. Who is often careless with his words and how they sink deep into another. I have a responsibility for all of that. One could lock themselves in a room forever, but I cannot think of a worse reality than to not feel or to fear the responsibility of feeling the depth of one’s humanness.

I wish I could afford spiritual retreats. Or perhaps more spirituality in general. I think this is also what hurts. Food, in my world, is my way of communion with people. Its facade is one of hipness and energy and hustle — but what I crave at its marrow — communion. And that involves all the moving parts. Sort of like your church. Sort of like your people.

While a restaurant is not by any means a place of spiritual reckoning, it is often where my feet are planted. It is my holy ground that knows too many curse words and blood and sweat. It knows stress and dirt and fear. These were the things I didn’t know as a home cook.

But this is my life now. I have the marks and I breathe in the warm oven and the first pot of coffee in the morning. I dip my spoon into everything.

I taste and I taste and I taste.

When I come home I toss my body onto my bed and often miss the presence of another next to me. Maybe giving me a back scratch. Or a run down of their day, which is often a nice retreat from the noise inside my head.

But really, I have myself. Perhaps the squirrels that run along my tin roof and the occasional lady bugs that still happen to find their way on the edge of my water glass.

My world, as small as it is, seems impossibly huge sometimes. Even when I see the earth from space, falling into nothingness, I am still alive and aware of that gift.

Of Existing. Feeling. Moaning. Laughing. And really just, being.

When I write about what hurts, I often find what heals.
They often stem from the same things.
That is life, I think.

Reconciliation and Communion.

Over and over again.

Layer upon layer.

treasures.

It is something.

All of this.

I push inward to what hurts. I tell myself not to think or write about it anymore, because the idea of peoples thoughts and opinions always seem to oppress what I’m feeling.

Sometimes, it is lonely. And I fear people get angry with me when I complain. That it’s my fault I have defense mechanisms and am afraid of wandering into another universe.

Perhaps your universe. Perhaps navigating my own.

Mine has been so safe. I toil here and there. Adjusting a picture when it’s slightly off. Leaving a few dirty dishes for tomorrow. Or the next day. I guess these are the things I can control. It is a luxury and is also a heavy loneliness.

But it isn’t a lonely where I feel sorry for myself. It is merely the self-awareness that I am moving quite singularly among people who live closely with one another.
In the softest places of my heart I miss it so, so much.

That love was a great gift for me. Even when we are quick to turn folks into enemies for what they’ve done — there is some kind of residue left behind of memory and little treasures.

I am okay to be messy. As much pride as I take in keeping my shit together for the people I see and do life with most, there is a burden of something unfair. An unfair expectation I put on others because it’s what I want. That is the raw thing that is tender and sore.

It’s how I love proximity and vulnerability, but push away a person because I so love to be free to move and stretch and maybe at times fall asleep with my hand in a bag of popcorn.

It’s the realization of sacrifice — of wanting it all — but understanding that you have to give up what you’ve built for yourself, in your own little universe.

9-Trust-the-Universe

I’m okay with losing it again.

I’ve never been one to close my heart off, and I find myself more often than not having to make decisions that hurt another person’s world. Never anything physical — but perhaps toying with emotions and feelings. Pulling them in and not being responsible to who they are: real people.

That is it, really. Navigating all of these uncharted territories like I know what I’m doing.  Most of the time, I just want to wrap myself up in some ridiculously healthy form of myself and exist. But I can’t. I have the bits of space and time that’ve been pulled into my universe and they are mine.

Spinning and tilting. Each showing some light as to what they’ve been to me. It is all this beautiful gift that involves nothing short of tiny miracles and mercies beyond me.

And as messy as we all are to start, we are working it out every day.

I am working it out every day.

I welcome you to it. My mess. My imperfect universe of treasures.

I keep them close,

and I give thanks.