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.

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.

sed_layers

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.

noticed.

There are moments where I miss it. 

Having a good person to come home to is one of them joys of life, I suppose. I never grew up with pets, so I reckon’ it is similar. Though I believe people are a little more complex. Even more so than cats.

When I take some time and settle into myself, I do miss it. And I miss her and I find myself so curious as to how we forgive and move on from hard things. I haven’t cried much at all the past couple of years. I think I got a lot of it out of my system back in that time and to be honest, the waterworks are on hiatus.

I still get sad, for the overwhelming things we see and have to deal with every day. I get angry. I fight. I argue.

I submit, too.

I laugh, and then do this thing where I choke up. Like when I found out I won this really cool award for my work — because it is often times, such thankless work. I laughed because I thought it was funny for a cook to win such a thing, and then I choked up because this work is so hard and I was so thankful to be noticed.

I would like to think she would have been proud. After all, I spent most of our marriage hustling around different cafes and restaurants in hopes that something would stick. And some things did, and sometimes I would lay on her lap exhausted and wake myself up snoring.

When you get noticed, like I find myself from time to time, there is a moment of pure joy where you know you are doing good work — and then the moment comes where you remember all the things you missed getting what you wanted.

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Mississippi, man.

I suppose I find myself thinking about those things. Not much these days. But you always remember your best friends. Best partners. The people who pushed you forward and made sure you got home safe when you accidentally got (hanging out the window at Popeyes) drunk from a work party.

That safety though…is something you will always remember in your belly. The safety of being loved and thought about and cared for. You have those things when you’re single too. It just looks different. And you learn to love yourself in such a different way.

I suppose that is what I miss about companionship — what I crave when the nights get late and I drift away to the sound of my heater.

There are too many frustrations. Things I wished I would’ve done a million times. And then, there is now.

And now is bigger and wilder than I ever imagined. And it’s in Mississippi of all places.

A new home. A platform. A place to grow what my mind has sewn.

Things are never going to be the same. It is all new, all of this that I’m going through and often times it is hard to get out of bed and on to that next thing. But I’m always so thankful that I did…and that I do.

Here’s to our seasons of growth and struggles and lessons — In hopes that you approach them all with goodness deep down in there,

and remember that not everything you lose, you necessarily need back.

 

 

 

moving.

I will be moving in a few weeks.

Not very far, so don’t worry.
Moving up, a bit. I like to say. A little more room. A little more of a quiet space. Not so much because I need my surroundings to always be quiet and still — but because my day to day life contains a thousand moving parts and some of them have voices and all of them are important.

I am happy and sad and weary and full of many things. That is my heart, most days. This is starting off to be a heavy year for me and many of the people I love. Waking up to news about another person I love having to carry an impossible weight — how any human does it is still a mystery to me.

People still help, ya know? This whole adulting thing is tricky. Really, we all have to learn from scratch. We all have to figure out how to handle loss and divorce and sickness and pride. But people are still around, and many of them actually listen to you and are willing to give you some of their time. That is invaluable. That is something I’m learning right now.

Time is that precious resource. Always moving forward, always losing it and wishing somehow that it would go faster and slower. Like kissing soft lips for the first time — or being at a table where things seem to stop.

There is the other side, where we have to keep our mouths open at the dentist or wait for our test results. Sometimes that is agony.

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I stood outside the back door of my apartment and realized I’d outgrown it. Maybe a little came from the new tenant above me who shakes my ceiling when he walks. But I knew this feeling of having to move — slightly familiar, and with it comes some hard stuff. I teared up a bit.

I rebuilt my life in this tiny home.

I fed a lot of people out of it.

I struggled with my craft and almost left a few times.

By some weird luck, and I believe hard work, things have shifted and I am changing again.

Being a chef in the capacity that I am is one of the coolest and hardest things I’ve gotten to do. It is such a blast and can also be so absolutely brutal. But there is a peace to waking up every day and going to a kitchen where people are cooking and laughing and venting.

I’ve built a family too. I love that.

Y’all, I’m on the move again…

and as always, pressing into the horizon.

 

Cooking with Figs

I think often of that Sylvia Plath bit.

About making choices and those damn figs. You know the one.
Well, I sit here in this space, again.

Not due to choices or regret — but the weight of knowing which figs are nearing their fall and the ones that have yet to bloom.

When I am sad — with the things I have in front of me — I think about how lucky I am to have cooking. I suppose I have writing too. But let me know tell you about this thing that I have.

The first thing that brought me back when the Earth cracked beneath me was chopping onions for a dish I’d be serving later that evening.

You see, food is reliable in my eyes. I know that I can add another egg to make something fluffier. I know I can leave a steak in a hot pan to get that crust I love so much or reduce a stock to make a sauce.

I know butter makes mostly everything taste better.

I know that I can dissolve into a recipe like the salt itself.

And I know that when I set it on the table in front of someone, it is generally good.

When I feel my raw self, cooking brings me back. And God do I put so much into it.

fig

Attraction is funny. And moving from there is tricky. People are tricky and mysterious and flaky  And I am one of them. Though I am not good at being mysterious these days. I will say that I am guilty of trying to be too cool. I think it’s called being single, though I’m not sure.

In my head, I just say, “F*ck this, F*ck this — just cook and mop and be a good chef, dude” and move on.

I am just soft enough though to know that I will still put so much trust and hope in people. I will still allow myself and others grace. I will still work so hard at communicating in a way that I hope comes off as helpful, rather than making things more difficult to navigate (than they already are.)

Relationships with people, in my specific circumstance, are tricky. I am just all sorts of  vulnerable by nature and at times can just be plain awful to myself. I feel awful for making people feel awful.

So, I’ll go home and cook.

I will fill my cup with forgiveness because again, I have no idea what I’m doing.

I will throw another tablespoon of butter in the pan because it needs it. Hell, I need it.

Cooking, regardless of the many things I’ve messed up, always brings me back to myself and that I truly love it. Creating. Consuming.

And having it consume me. 

To be honest, that’s how I’ve always looked at cooking. I let it consume me. Sometimes beat me down to a pulp. Sometimes eat something so good I wish I had someone across from me to share it with. I have wept more times at a stove then I care to admit.

Not so much from over-salting the eggs, but because somehow I still have a way to care for myself and others. That makes me feel very lucky.

Relationships are just plain tough. Nitty gritty hurtful stuff. Also full of love and pleasure and sustenance. I am full of all these things.

The figs.

Well, some have fallen and rotted away. Others are getting ripe and some have yet to bud — but I am okay in this space, right now. Because deep in the belly of the tree I do love myself and can feel okay when things are a bit wonky.

I know that when I wake up the next morning, it is a bit holy for me. Like maybe something got washed away in the great depth.
That, I am thankful for.

And for you. And you. And you.

And for my pots and pans and heat and pressure and time.

I am always thankful for you.

 

knots.

Love is a great tangling thing.

Like a puppet getting caught in its own strings; knots and things.

It’s also really frustrating, when you struggle to straighten them out. Hours, fumbling with your fingers, figuring out which goes and where. It’s easy to give up, too.

I think that’s what things feel like to me right now. I’d like to think it is easy to hold loosely, as much as I say I do, but I do not. In fact I hold on to mostly everything. Sure, some looser than others, but I still hold them. I feel like there are people I think about every day — like a checklist. I think about them and they bring me back to myself. Who I was to them, how they made me feel.

It’s all knotted up there.

The tighter I pull, the harder it gets.

The same goes for place.
There’s a line from a song that goes, “Every place I go, I take another place with me.”

This is my longing. To belong. To remember. The feeling of a place and of a person.
We change though, and I am so thankful for change. I am content to gain people, while l also lose some in the process. That’s just how my brain works and what my heart can handle. I can only process a few at a time. I know myself well enough to see when I am being superficial. That to me, feels unkind and un-me-like.

But alas, I am tangled in a world of knots.

Cassandra-Smith-nautical-knot-Haus-Interior-5-via-Remodelista

I am unsure how one moves through this world without the occasional snag — sometimes that involves breaking down into a million pieces and sometimes that looks like eating ice cream cones in a coastal town, somewhere.

Untangling takes time, and I am not a great untangler. I don’t think that’s a word. At least it’s underlined in red, so I know it’s not a word, but I don’t care today. I’m not a great untangler.

Like my fishing pole when I reel and feel it stop with plenty of line left. I get antsy and angry. I wanna throw it down. Sometimes I just cut it loose. But as we all know, you can’t always cut it loose. Sometimes you have to work to keep from losing it. Especially if it’s something worth holding on to.

I’m always taking stock of my people. Some days I feel like I’m losing, and some days I feel really strong. I am working hard at maintaining a peace of mind.

I hold on to them knots like heirlooms. I remember why they feel as they do and there is strength in all of it. Perhaps some sense of loss, but they’re all still there. Because though I hold loosely, I still remember and I still make room to lose things I love.

That is hard hard hard.

But that is it, isn’t it.
And you live with it,

those knots and things.

steps.

Lately I’ve been getting asked the same kind of question.

“How are things working out for you now?”

I sort of fumble around with words and tell people that I am busy and it all feels sort of wild. It is true. I can’t think of my last full day off where I wasn’t doing something for the restaurant. Whether that’s writing menus or picking up ingredients from out of town. It’s okay, though.

I am okay.

My first year back in Hattiesburg was very hard. I was a different shade of Josh than the last time I had lived here. So I always explaining to people that I was different, that I felt different about things, but that I was glad to be home. I still am. I love being back in Mississippi.

It was hard dropping down from being a sous chef in a big food city, to a barista/sandwich maker for $7.25 an hour. That is restaurant work, for the most part. Working one’s way up the ladder. So, I started my own side thing and made some money to pay bills and eat with. I had ridiculously generous friends who would feed me all the time and toss me side gigs to make a little extra. I was hustling. I’m still hustling, but in a different way.

I find a lot of pride with my work. What I do, I put my name on. I put my heart into it. As cheesy as that sounds, it works for me. So now that I have the title, and a little more financial room to breathe, I am home every night so very thankful for my hurting legs and back. The fact that I smell like onions and oil 90% of the time might not be okay with everyone else, but to me, it smells like my craft and my world.

I also know that I am extremely lucky. I do think that I have some skills as a cook, and a decent palate to go with it, but I am silly to think that I achieved any of this all by myself. I had people who believed in me and that what I did and who I was, was in fact, good. That is a super hard thing in itself. I suppose we are doing that for each other, when we can. Sort of helping each other get where we need to be. At least I think we should.

gateway-church-next-steps

Last night, I was reading something I wrote a few months after my divorce. It was about my old job in Portland.

Memories came flooding back to me and I thought about my walk from where I lived to where I worked. That simple walk. From both houses I lived in. With Hannah and with my roommates. Sometimes it was very cold and wet. Other times warm and gorgeous. The same road I walked for a few years.

I read a line where I thank my chef and friend, Gretchen, for allowing me to cook and to struggle…and I completely lost it. I closed my computer and cried like I haven’t in a good while.

There has been so much struggle. So much of me trying to get to this place where I can be more free to create and explore and push forward. And I am so, so lucky to have that. I also know so many people are struggling to get there and have been for quite a while.

I am not the kind of person who takes these seasons lightly.

I always process my new year around this time. Fall always brings me in a little tighter, a little more snug.

I think often about the steps taken up or down to get me where I am at this moment.

Some things, super painful. While others, full of great accomplishment and pride.

Yeah, I am doing okay. And I feel good about who I am and where I am going.
Though, I’m not quite good at settling with this wild career of mine,

so I will keep my plow to the ground

and dig up the earth wherever it is I find myself.