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.

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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.

rock slide

I live my life in a lot of forgiveness.
I suppose we all do.

And there’s so much that I want to say about that. I don’t quite know if all the words are in me now, but maybe someday, I will tell you what it feels like.

There is a point where one is responsible for their actions and thoughts. They are responsible for themselves, in that way. I know there is a difference in being responsible to and for. Generally, you are responsible to others for various reasons. A teacher. A parent. A friend. A caretaker. This is your job as a human being. You are responsible to the human race and probably animals like cats and dogs, if they’re your pets. Maybe a little pig, if you’re lucky.

But, you are responsible for yourself.

I can’t blame why I do what I do on my parents or their parents. I can’t blame it on the media or my neighbor. I am responsible for me. That’s a lot of pressure as a human, yeah?

I think this might be why we break into millions of pieces, sometimes. It is hard when the two get jumbled up and we are left with a gaping hole in the earth below us.

What I mean to say, and what feels heavy right now, is that there is a lot that hurts right now. Mostly inside me. I can’t say what I want to say because I know people will argue and “respectfully” disagree. The fact that there aren’t many good answers in dealing with hard social issues is problematic for me.

Like how I’m afraid of guns — not because I don’t know how to use them, but what I might do with a gun. And I’m afraid of what you might do with a gun even if you were raised with them and hunt with them and you are happy with your life.

That’s why I don’t own a gun. That is why my views on gun control are so conflicted, because I know so many great, wonderful people who have them and don’t seem like a threat.

And like you, I have every reason to have something completely random and messed up happen. I think what burdens me is how scared people are. There are so many reasons. Where you grow up. What you grow up in. The messes we find ourselves in. Even the privilege of being raised in a place where I hardly ever saw crime. That is my backpack, though. It is very light. Maybe, ten years from now when and if my situation changes where I feel having a gun keeps me, and helps me feel safe, I will change.

It is not now.

rock-slide

Changing is so radically important. It is so hard. Having a person change their mind is a revolution in itself. Perhaps enough to pull a gun away from someone’s direction. Or those who hold on to this Southern flag for reasons of racial pride and “heritage” without really feeling the depth of what it looks like to the other fifty percent of the population. If what you are doing is hurting another person, think about it.

Even as I think about the people who make my clothes and grow my food,

Which is why I am here to say that I am glad to live in forgiveness.

I’ve been able to move through my life, thus far, relatively lightly.

Overly-senstive. Quiet. Unassuming. But hopefully kind and thoughtful in between. This doesn’t go without my kitchen persona in the heat of a moment where I might snap at you for complaining too much or slamming pots and pans.

Another reason for forgiveness-stuff.

Moving was really hard. Losing my best friend and partner was excruciating. Losing anything is hard. But in those moments, so many things change. I lost some things I needed to lose. Some of my beliefs were challenged and it settled a bit. Sort of like a pile of rocks sliding, and adjusting to their new position for another twenty years. Until the earth moves and they tumble again.

That is what it feels like to change.

So I won’t stay quite settled. My reality is often shifting like loose sand.

I know myself enough to understand that now, I am responsible. For bills and being a good person and moving along in my part of the world, hoping to leave it better than I found it. For me, that looks like questioning things that hurt people a lot. I realize fixing this problem isn’t a reality, but I can cover it in some grace in hopes that more of it works its way on down, into the cracks of the icky things we hurt for.

Forgiveness-stuff.

That is what change is all about.

thick skin

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.

the sun will meet you

I’ve been feeling like a borderline train wreck.

It seems the universe, in its ways of placing things before me, continues to teach me about pain and small disasters and patience.

If I can be honest for a minute, let me explore this.

A few days ago, I had written another piece for this “end of the year” thing. It was about the things I usually ramble on about. Food things. Love. Forward motion. Pimento cheese and sweet tea. It was about cooking, to be honest. Being off my feet and out of the kitchen for a whole week made me crave even more to be back in a kitchen cooking real food. I felt rested and inspired.

Then, I came home at midnight to find that the tenant above my apartment had a busted hot water heater that flooded his apartment for two days. Only, his apartment made it through just fine, where I did not fare as well.

I came home to the smell of mildew and was confused. My landlords did not get my memo that I had a new phone number and couldn’t get in touch with me. So, as I stumble in dead tired and smelling of campfire smoke, excited to take a shower — the roof and walls of my bathroom had collapsed. My kitchen walls were warped and the photographs on my refrigerator were curled and faded.

I took a few deep breaths and decided that this could wait until morning. I brushed my teeth in my kitchen sink, turned on my gas heater and fell asleep with the smell of fire still fresh on my body.

The next day at work we had record sales for our lunch rush.

I was losing ground, quickly, with about a billion things on my mind. Do I need to move again? Can I afford this transition? Where? Where? WHERE?

How? WHY?

Can the universe give me a second to settle down? My foot, still a bit stingy at times from my fracture in November. Then a busy Christmas catering season, a stomach flu and trying to pay my bills on time.

On top of all of this, I reflect on my year,

Of traveling back to Mississippi from the Pacific Northwest, and fitting back into a life and a community I had been away from for so long.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my marriage, and how much I have missed that comfort of being in love and cooking dinner and having a best friend I could talk to every day, and fall asleep with at night.

Divorce is devastating. And people move through it at different speeds.

Today though, this is where my heart rests.

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This stuff takes courage. It takes all of your heart to move and to keep moving. No one can prepare you enough for the weight this world can place on your shoulders.

I found myself, as I do from time to time, saying, “Dude, you’re doing so well! Look at you go!”

And the pendulum swings back where I want to sit at the end of my bed and spend the day exploring the things I have failed at and eating an entire box of Little Debbie Christmas tree cakes. I reach down and feel the pain in my legs and the ache in my back. Patting my holiday belly, hoping to get my stuff together enough to eat like a normal human being again.

It is easy to let yourself live in doubt and fear. Lord knows this year hasn’t been easy for me. It hasn’t been easy for a lot of people.

A poem I love says to not move the way fear makes you move.

And I listen to that voice.

Because what I feel today, is strength. I feel my legs getting stronger.

Every day fills with a new hope for those small victories.

Life is all about small celebrations. Overcoming a season of pain with an abundance of joy. My heart is so full of both and I am stronger because of it.

My hope for you, as you have perhaps read this in its entirety, is to keep moving this next year.

Keep trudging through the muck and know that sadness and pain are not your last feelings. They will move along just as you do, and you will feel the warm on your face again.

Because as it goes,

the sun rises. 

You will meet it with your feet firmly on the ground,

and you will breathe in deep, its light and grace.

a letter to July

You and I need to have some words.

And believe me, I think you’re a terrific month. You are the essence of summertime. I think of red popsicles and swimming pools and thick green grass. I think about heat and afternoon thunderstorms and staying up late and waking up even later.

I remember sitting on the Hawthorne bridge a year ago, watching the fireworks on July 4th. I remember hugging you, and started to sense that things were changing inside of the frame that was sitting next to me. It was a couple of weeks after that you told me you didn’t want to be married anymore.

So, I bring all that here, as I do from time to time.
I hit these weird milestones with all of this, like some sort of pill in my belly releasing every so often.

I don’t mean to. Trust me. I’d love to be writing about food more or exploring some other part of life. I wish I could write a step by step piece on breaking down a chicken and making coq au vin. Maybe one day I will get there.

Today though, I am processing a love, a love lost and a certain time when things started shaking into pieces.

I’ve found writing to be one of my most important ways of remembering, and filing things away. Not like some cabinet, where you keep receipts and old forms. It’s more like something I can see. I pick them up and look at them from time to time. I think locking them away with everything else does more harm than good to me at this point. But it’s important for me to put places with people and remember how I felt. I will lose some of those things over the years, but I think it’s important to give them their light, from time to time.

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July, you were a month that sent my world crashing into itself.
There were days I felt so alive.
Days that I wanted to let go of it all, including my own life.

I didn’t want to deal with any of it, which was unlike me at the time.

I realize, this isn’t your fault, as a month and general point in our calendar year. But I am living in your days, once again and as a person who remembers, I carry your weight. July looks a lot different in my new reality. Well, sort of new reality. I still have wood floors, and it’s warm outside. I am 2,400 miles in a different direction. South.

Very South.

Summer in the ‘very South’ is different than a Portland summer; shocking, I know! It’s not that I forgot about how hot Mississippi summers are, I’ve just been indulging in the cooler side of things for the past five years. The heat seems oppressing at times. Steamy. Bright. Relentless. It’s summer in the South.

The weather is just an indicator of my change of place. That’s all.

I realize there are lots of other people going through changes, too.
I come now to recognize the importance of time.

My friend Jen in Portland would reach out to me from time to time to gift me with little nuggets of wisdom from her own past. I think I felt a little responsible in ways for bringing some old things back into the light, but without the wisdom from other people, I would have been drifting further away from myself, I think.

“As much as you don’t want to hear this right now, time will heal.”

Because to be honest, I didn’t want to hear that. I wanted someone to tell me it was a dream, and not the reality I was struggling to grasp.

But she was right.
Time is also that thing in my belly. Sometimes it feels like waves washing over a sharp rock, and over time, dulling its edge. I always like to refer to time and geology as a metaphor for how it smooths out the sharp bits.

I must also submit to love. The amount of love and time gave way to great amounts of healing. Though I was by myself through a lot of those terrible nights, I had a lot of love on my side. And she did too.

So, July.

Hmph.
I didn’t watch fireworks. I was too tired, and fell asleep watching the Walking Dead. There was no one to kiss, or sit close to.

But I slowly dissolved into myself.
Like salt into water.

Realizing certain seasons are meant to bring us in and draw us out.

Like the tide,
washing over the edges,
turning what was once sharp, to smooth;

and leaving behind something entirely different.

It’s amazing what a little time can do.