Saturday, December 24, 2016

What if?

Maybe you're one of those people who, like wonder eyed children really love the holidays. (Do kids even like the holidays anymore? Or do they just get candy gifty gimme?) Maybe you live in lovely old timey Vermont and have the kind of holidays that are depicted in TV ads. Maybe you're riding in a sleigh around your property with an old Draft horse and a bale of hay sipping cider from your orchard and gathering with whomever in your clan makes you happy.

If that's the case, then look away. This story is not for you.

But if you're like the rest of humanity, you're sitting in traffic, cursing the parking lot gods, eating way too much sugar and booze and saying inane predictables like "gotta get back on track after the holidays..." or getting on board with some goofy New Year's Resolutions that revolve around your weight and cleaning out your closet or your finances. And complaining about The Holidays.

You're waiting until the week before to buy everything for everybody when you are uninspired, stressed and prices are doubled. You're feeling the burden of showing up to everything and being there for everybody and what to wear, what to bring, who to bring, oh god another year at the family home and I'm single and Dad will be drunk, or worse I'll show with an 'inappropriate' mate who I'll have to explain to the rest of my related people that I haven't seen all year (for very good reason) or I'll be the inappropriate mate at someone else's holiday fete that will make me crave my jackleg family like heroin. How will I pay for all of this? Oh boy and holiday travel? The best! Let's all try to do the same thing at the same time, it's fun!

I used to be that person. I've done all of those things and hated every minute of it. But in my pursuit of a life without burrs under my saddle, I dropped the fantasy a long time ago. It NEVER lived up to the hype nor expectation, so I see it as an avoidable obstacle and I sidestep it. And the world keeps turning.

I made the choice in 1986 and never looked back. It took 20 years to not feel left out, wistful, frustrated or just crabby. Why don't I like holiday festivities? Why am I not a joiner? Why would I rather gargle with Tide than listen to Christmas carols? I don't even like Christmas cookies, what is wrong with me? And I hate unwrapping presents and I hate giving something that my heart wasn't in because someone else said on this day you should give something to someone. Under duress.

All of that sucks.

It really does. Twinkle lights in trees are pretty okay but you can do that whenever. Mostly I see garish multi colored inflatable Santas mingling with Baby Jesus nativity scenes with reindeer and an entire Big Lots full of electrified confusion over the *reason for the season*. They've been playing the same rash of holiday songs since Halloween and recently I've seen Valentine's Day crap out with the Christmas crap. (well, since you're throwing money away)

Welcome to another episode of Addicted to Stress. Overloading schedules, never stopping for a minute to think or (gasp) listen to the voice in your head. Like the way Japanese people smash into the subway every day without air and with the guarantee of groping to get to their jobs that all insanely start at the same time. Crowd mentality. Stockholm Syndrome. Lack of creative thinking. Why not gather and cook and catch up in March? Cuz Bob gets a whole week off blah blah, the kids. I'm not buying it.

The people who were living in my house recently wanted to close quickly on their new house so they could move out and "at least get a Christmas tree for the boys by the 25th..." I half expected Tiny Tim to be sitting inside staring out the window looking for Santa but instead it was a dull eyed teen and another younger one strung out on iPads gaming and complaining about slow internet laying on sofas with $200 Nikes throwing candy wrappers on the floor. Aww, poor little tikes. Do they know it's Christmas time at all? Nope. Prolly not. Cuz they get what they want when they want allllll year.



Lots of folks I talk to say, "I've been so CRAZY lately, so BIZZY...OMG we'll have to talk after the holidays, I just HATE this time of year!" I'm pretty sure you don't. It gives you purpose and you can fool yourself into feeling relevant. I know, how terrible to say! You were warned at the top of the page. This is not a cuddly holiday hug. So why do people do it? I'd venture to say because you're too lazy to not do it. Like that time I didn't break up with that boyfriend for 2 years after I couldn't stand the way he was breathing...I was too busy and needed his help in the restaurants and to stop and put the effort in a break up? Too much work. And admittedly it's hard to come up with other diversions when the whole world is swimming upstream doing The Other Thing. Ever go into a check out line and see one line that's got 40 people in it and another that has no one? Why isn't anyone over there? I'm always going to the vacant lane. It's so much EASIER but it's lonely out there digging your own path.

Maybe your excuse is Well, because. Everyone else is, um, because they expect me, my parents will miss me, the office party expects-------------what about the kids. 

Get over yourself. Here's the thing. You can't be the only one who thinks this is a farce, and maybe they're all putting on airs and mumbling nasty things whilst putting that garland on the tree and honking on about how all the needles will be all over the floor in a week and how it's such a pain in the cornhole to put all this crap back in the attic. You can see it Jan 1. Trees everywhere thrown out like carcasses on the curb and everyone is WAY ready to get back to work. Which might be part of the grand plan of the Lizard people, drive you insane over the "holiday", take a good chunk of your salary so you'll be twice as productive and thankful to get back to work in the new year. Did anyone ever tell you that a "holiday" was supposed to be relaxing?

Could it maybe be that you have a hard time asserting grown up needs? Living in reality? Letting go of childish things that used to be fun but aren't part of this modern pretty dismal America we live in right now? Maybe it feels like if we could just burn enough Balsam Fir candles and drink enough peppermint nog, Aleppo wouldn't be bombed out. Trump wouldn't be running our nation right over a cliff while everyone watched. And they wouldn't be leaking gas into the waterways in the Dakotas and there wouldn't be Native Americans standing out in the cold protesting the very pipelines that are doing the damage. The salmon wouldn't be full of cocaine from contaminated water and cousin Betty wouldn't be strung out on Oxy. Everything's fine!! Go to Target!

It is terribly disappointing to people when you say that you don't Do Holidays. For about 3 seconds and they go back to looking for shiny things on their smartphones. Or looking for a hookup on Tindr. Or rooting for a chapstick in their purse. No one cares. I know, I know. But they don't. And if they get offended that you don't come to their party because you hate the hypocrisy? They are selfish little weasels and you have better relationships to foster. And you're a grown person. Honestly, find something better to do with your time. These are dark times. And Santa aint gonna save none of us. Christmas mayhem is just one more way we sedate ourselves. It's way past time to wake up.

So what do I think would be a better use of time? Reading one of those books on your shelf. Catching up on sleep. Having a quiet conversation with a loved one. Or not talking at all. Going for a really long contemplative walk. Going to an old folk's home. Using the down time to figure out where you can volunteer some time in the new year for veterans. Not wasting your money and throwing more of it at the Temples of Consumerism. We have SO MUCH in this country please don't buy another thing. And if it is, may it be a used copy of one of the many many popular books about how to get rid of all your shit and stop hoarding. If you want to see loved ones, please gather away. Cook meals and plant some trees or something, put the brakes on excess and stop saying it's for the children. Kids are resilient and don't know any better than what you allow. Oh but they'll see it on tv!(your fault) they'll talk to other kids! (so what) they'll feel left out! (good preparation for a lot of things in life coming down the pike)

So what if you just stopped doing what you've always done. What if you stopped doing things you didn't really enjoy? What if you stopped hanging out with people who didn't make you happy? What if you said to everyone, hey guys, we're going to do a staycation this year and not jump into the fray. Stop by if you can, We'll be roasting some chestnuts on Tuesday by the fire.

And just give it a go. Live your own very short lives and indulge your heart in the knowledge that there are other ways to live out your days. I think if collectively we stopped doing what we've always done to distract ourselves we may be able to right this train. And if you are going to force yourself to do Christmas with the rest of the lemmings, then godseed, but please stop moaning about it. You made your manger, now lay in it.




Sunday, November 20, 2016

Oh, don't say that.

I've always loved symbolism in literature. Foreshadowing is great but what makes reading great authors transcendent (above let's say, internet click bait content generators) is symbolism. The Art of Analogy can demonstrate how effective your own imagination really is. Metaphor, simile, all that stuff we learned in high school. For me it was the only thing that made school tolerable. It sure wasn't gym class. It was lunch hour comedy hour with the Jewish boys and finding hidden meaning in Shakespeare. The subtext IS the message. Ohhhh, I get it. One of the few things I discovered as a teen that had nothing to do with the terrifying plunge into nudity and birth control that was hormonal development. Which, looking back, I acknowledge was a tragic pre-occupation and an overrated pursuit.

Anyway, where am I going? I'm not sure but stay with me. I haven't blogged for a year---it happens sometimes. My mom died last October and I left my home to inhabit hers in Florida, to clear, sell, heal, cry a lot and contemplate my status as an orphan at 49. I was burned out on writing anyway. It may help those who never write to start journaling after a deep loss, but it's not my thing. As a chef, people would ask me what I was doing for Thanksgiving. Sitting on my can and ordering a pizza I guess. Certainly not COOKING.

Early adopters are often early denouncers---I find myself bristling at the moniker even. Blog. Frog. Slog. Bog. Sog. No good comes out of that name. And everyone has a blog. Even terrible writers and people who think Strunk & White is a law firm. But WHAT DOES THAT MATTER?? These are excuses for sure. You don't have to BE a writer. You can just write some stories. Whatever. And then I'll get messages from a few people who say, Where Can I Read More of Your Writing?

And what writer doesn't want to hear that? We all do. A TON. We want nothing else really. A book deal would be nice (we think) but the reality of traveling around the world and staying in motor lodges away from home and pets and eating weird food in Akron for example puts me off the trail. There's a voice in me that says,' oh please you're no David Sedaris...' and well, that voice is an asshole.

Okay, fine. I know that's a slippery slope and there's a lot of gray area to cover before I go on worrying about the luggage I'm going to carry for the book tour to satisfy my demanding Publisher that I've dug up from the 90s. It's 2017 almost and there's a 12 year old dressing her cat up in fairy dresses on Instagram who's not afraid to tell a story, it's a whole new world out there in publishing. And just because it seems like everyone is doing it...I don't have to not do the thing I've loved to do since I was a kid. It's not like I'm finally coming round to Pokeman.

BUT first I gotta write the thing. (there's another voice in my head who is more supportive)

And get out of your head of how you were going to treat this career. What do you know anymore? Self publishing used to be a joke. But those days are over. Suck it Random House. (Unless they call, I'll be right over) I've been writing and getting published since 1990. Some regional, some national. It's cool and then you start flogging (ha! another blog rhyme) yourself again for what's next. I have a terrible habit of never building on my previous goals, successes or mistakes. I just change horses midstream and open a restaurant, move to the woods and raise chickens or go dark. And people say, You Should Write a Book! And I say, er, I have. Twice. But that was a long time ago. (find them here) maybe that's a lack of follow through. Fear of rejection on a grand scale. Or taking yourself too seriously. Just write the stories. Some will read, some will not. And you'll write some more. Or go cook some dog cookies.

And that's where Hare Brained comes in. I didn't name myself that. A friend did. I'm sure she didn't think it would stick or that I'd take it to heart---she may not even remember that she blurted out something so caustic (at the time) but we were 'spit balling' (another term I'm less than eager about) around ideas for a logo and concept for a cafe I had seen and was keen to take over in the mountain town five years ago.

I love the concept part, oh boy, the color choosing and the branding and the menu development and naming things and visualizing the lanterns I'll hang from the ceiling and the soundtrack and how fun it will all be and how happy the town's people will be to have this culinary treasure. "Big City Chef moves to Mayberry and delights residents with amazing food they've never heard of...!" (they'd rather have a Sonic)

But then the landlord wouldn't come clean about why the electric bill had 3 antique stores attached to it and why the elec panel wasn't up to code. The town's people were ruled by a born again alcoholic who wouldn't allow wine to be sold in the town, because of Jesus or whatever and as a 10 year veteran of bar/resto ownership I know that you can't make any money if you don't sell hooch. A few people had told me, 'Ya know what we need? A good chicken wrap for under $5" and my dreams were snuffed. So within a day or two my instinct said

THIS IS NOT YOUR NEXT CHAPTER

And I called it off.

The spit balling friend said, 'Oh, I thought you were going to go through with this, but this is just another one of your hare brained ideas.'

WTF?

How many of these hare brained ideas had she cataloged? I kind of thought I was the Queen of Follow Through. There was the ad agency I started out of a warehouse I was living in. There was the move to NY for an ad job that I rolled into a travel writing gig for a national magazine. There was the underground restaurant I started at 29 in a house in Atlanta that I rolled into a critically acclaimed decade of fine dining and a second cantina that is still open to this day (I sold it to a guy) and still going strong. In between there are 42 other ideas that I didn't do or that failed.

Admittedly once I drove off the shoulder of Success and Unbridled Ambition (because I wanted my life back, the nerve!) and went to the mountains to raise chickens and hug trees everyone was disappointed in me. Nooo, but we love those places! You can't close!

Watch me.

We do that to people who entertain us you know. We think the well will never run dry. And we think money is the answer. We want Robin Williams to make funny all the time and demand answers to why he was so tragically and morbidly depressed...but why?...that he would kill himself. But he was so funny! (answer: to be that comedic you often have intimacy with the Dark Side and funny doesn't equal happy) we want beloved authors to churn out amazing book after amazing book. What a spot to be in for the incredible lauded voice of a generation, Liz Gilbert after Eat, Pray, Love. Oh and we're making a movie out of it and it's going to star Julia Roberts. hahahahahah.

Really? Oh my god.
What will you do next?
Gulp. No forking clue.

The always graceful and eloquent Gilbert writes about that pressure of creativity and follow up and admits that the best thing was writing the next book which was a sorta flop compared to EPLove. Sometimes you have to lower your own bar. You'll do amazing things again. Her book Big Magic is a bible of inspiration to me. I can see having that on the nightstand for the rest of time.

My mom used to tell me to slow down as a kid. "What are you going to do for an encore?" She'd say. Like there was a finite number of things allotted. She maybe thought there were. I probably believed her too for a time. I know now there are not. This is just a continuum of things we can do and experiment and try and fail and succeed and dip our toe in the water or decide not to. Until I have a pet dolphin who lives in the Caribbean and visits me every morning on my private island and we go swimming together? I'm not done.

So Hare Brained is a reminder to me and to all of you to try whatever the HELL EXCITES YOU right now. It may change and THAT'S OKAY TOO. You can pull up stakes when you want, admit defeat, not go down with the ship, abort mission and regroup if it gets weird or burdensome with little reward (raising poultry for example) or tear up a lease agreement on a business deal---- that because of your wisdom, guidance and experience isn't the right thing right now, or shut down a renovation project before it bankrupts you. You can end friendships and you can get a divorce. You can become a vegan or you can try the fish.

And you can pick up on your BLOG again after a year.

I don't ever want to stifle myself. I have a lot of ideas. They aren't all feasible at the moment, or prudent, or even that GREAT.  Sometimes you need to light the match just to let it fire up for a little while. It's fun to create and imagine.  It's not always a 4 alarm fire. Oh and since I started telling the story of symbolism here I'll wrap with this... The cafe that I didn't start in the mountains? The one with the shady landlord and the electric panel? It became someone else's dream and sadly, a couple years later burned to the ground and they lost everything. FROM AN ELECTRICAL FIRE.

So give your inner Hare and its brain a big hug. You know more than you think.




Friday, October 2, 2015

Who's the Boss?

So you think you want to be your own boss. Make your own hours. Get to take credit for all your own ideas. The dream of small business!

You can do all of that. You'll also be responsible for writing your own checks. Finding your own clients. Dealing with customers and all their weird requests. Doing your own marketing, networking, invoicing, web design, inventory, phone answering and having no one to blame but yourself for running low on printer ink.

But you knew all that. Me too. The one thing that I wasn't prepared for was that I hate BEING THE BOSS.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Not my Circus, Not my Monkeys

Yesterday I listened to a man talk about how his back hurt so bad he couldn't bend over and tie his shoe. Twenty years ago he had an accident and the subsequent surgery left him in unbearable pain for which he still took demerol. He only takes that on the weekends because he can't work on the drug. I decided to skip the questions about how you can have a script for demerol for twenty years and just listen. Gave him arthritis. It was hard to work. Nothing works on the pain. Leg gave out the other night and he fell and broke his glasses  and that's why his face was all cut and bloody.

Have you tried Acupuncture? Massage? Chiropractic? Physical therapy? Stretching? Calcium Magnesium? Turmeric? Epsom salt baths? Hot tub?

No.