**Originally published in August 2013, I think this essay is worth reprinting. For the tread water feeling in all of us.
When I sold my restaurants in 2007, I didn't have much of a plan. People always ask. What are you going to do now?! Won't you miss this? People are always going to ask.
I never have an answer. The best I can come up with is "Not this." When I left New York in 1996 deflated and bored with what I thought would be the career of a lifetime, I had only that in mind. Not this.
Sometimes things fall in your lap. I hadn't planned on running underground dinner parties in Atlanta to make rent and I hadn't planned on opening restaurants so it made sense that I hadn't planned on selling them either. It just happened that there were buyers and in my mind that's the time to become a seller, because invariably when you want to sell, buyers are hiding behind trees.
I saw a crack of light and I squeezed through it. I felt that I had narrowly missed getting caught in a bear trap. The gripping teeth of ten years was a long time for someone who bopped around a lot. Maybe I'm getting older, I thought. Maybe. But it was time for change.
I seem like a planner but I'm more of an organizer. Well, an improvisational organizer. When presented with a situation I figure it out --sort of in the moment. I like a challenge. To put out fires. I like to be prepared. I fancy myself to be a bit of a Boy Scout kinda girl. I cannot, however, commit to your dinner party next Saturday or a flight somewhere with a group in November. Or think about a catering job for your wedding in 2014. When?
I closed doors on all kinds of things. The guy I had run out of steam with who accused me of being okay with only dating him for five years (true). The home renovation business which was about to collapse and take me with it (it did). The restaurant business which was killing my passion for cooking and well...people. (done)
I found myself in rural North Georgia. I was in an "anywhere but Atlanta" mode and tossing darts at the map. Not too cold, not too hot, and no traffic. Country livin'. I've never done that. Let's go there. I'll start, like, a farm thing. But there was no plan, and to be honest, none ever presented itself. There were cooking classes I taught (not me), weddings catered (loathsome), people who visited (getting more distant). But I don't think that's why I landed here. I had been chasing goals for the first 40 years of life and had come up with financial success but I was missing something. Falta algo.
I'm not sure what I was looking for but there would be chickens and coyotes and Guatemalans and hawks and hillbillies and feminine local guys who wore Gucci cologne who owned gas stations who used the word faggot. Roofs would blow off and pipes would burst and things erupted out of the ground and angry plumbers with bible psalms on their business cards would get arrested for running weed out of their Septic Supply office. Plump lipped country boys in tight Wranglers would toss hay in my truck and ask me if I had found Jesus and I'd wonder where he was seen last.
I would live close to nature and find that raccoons murdered chickens for fun, mice swam in the toilets, bluebirds came down the chimney most certainly not bringing happiness and snakes would routinely come in the kitchen given half a chance. There were wild dogs running in packs, dogs of my own who died from being old or being in an accident but mainly from being border collies. There were black people who still remembered a little too recently the ten acre and a mule deal and hookers from Laos who were brought as 'refugees' by the Missionaries. There were big pink quiet skies and uninterrupted sunsets and birds I needed a manual to identify. I saw wild turkey in my yard and thought they were peacocks. I learned about how much I didn't learn in my other life. I found that I was a terrible gardener and that I did better with herbs in pots and tomatoes on a fire escape. I took lovers with whom I shared no common language and I made cheese and pickles and 'put up' things that I bought from farmers who could actually grow things. I had over 100 chickens and learned to butcher them for meat but found that hawks and coyote were quicker. City or country, there's always competition.
Not once in these 6 years did I mutter: I'm bored. Lonely. Scared. Not once.
Ripe with distraction was this old estate. In need of repair, love, style---it was seemingly an endless pool of possibility on seven acres. I was free to fragment a million different parts of my Self. Discard parts that didn't serve any more. Learn, heal, change. But now what?