We’ve been short-handed for a few months now, and a COVID scare has the whole cafe on a staggered schedule until everyone on staff gets a negative test. In practical terms, that means that I need to bake fresh pies for the case and the entirety of the next days wholesale in under five hours.
I’m dashing around the empty kitchen, checking three ovens and answering texts from my boss and fielding questions about the schedule from staff… until it clicks. I stop trying to do the work and do the work, the Ancient Baking Wisdom flowing for heart, to muscle, to fingers. I clock out and leave the next shift instructions about what’s available and when the wholesale will be done. I was in The Zone, and doing what I loved paid off.
The more busy and chaotic daily life is, the more we crave moments of stillness and quiet. However brief they are, in whatever way they come, and no matter how adrenaline-addicted you think you are, everyone needs space to breathe. In the last few posts, I’ve often explained how I craved those moments. With the combination of a toxic workplace and my own anxiety, not feeling like I ever had space to stop and get my bearings took a serious toll on my mental health and made a bad situation worse.
Fortunately, it’s possible to create those moments for ourselves and it’s worth the effort to try. After all, the more stillness and composure you can create for yourself, the more you exude it for other people. Even with my anxiety, learning to meditate has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. If other people I work with ever told me they appreciate my competence, patience, and ability to keep my cool in a crisis, it’s because I learned to slow myself down. You can too.
Behind every exciting or awesome thing you have ever seen, done, or experienced, there was a lot of mindless boredom.
Someone coils and organizes every cable for that rock concert and goes through every switch on the light and sound boards. Before that big hiking adventure, there was a lot of packing, planning, and organizing. In the kitchen, every meal you have ever had- simple or complex- involved someone doing a lot of dull prep work.
This is “paying your dues” on the micro scale. It can be meditative, or it can be mindless. It can be soothing, or it can be drudgery. Either way, if you want that big beautiful pay off, there’s always some bullshit that needs to get done first. If you can “embrace the suck,” you can embrace the bullshit too.
Therapy has a bit of a misnomer in people’s minds. We tend to go to therapists and psychologists looking for “cures.” That’s how it works with other health fields, right? If I have a toothache and go to the dentist, I expect the dentist to drill, clean, fill, or whatever else is needed so that I no longer have a toothache at the end.
Therapists don’t work like that though. There is no “curing” mental illness. Instead, care and therapy is directed toward pathology- figuring out how and why a person becomes ill- and managing it to make the experience of that illness less disruptive to daily life. Medication and psychopharmacology is one option where the illness is severe enough that the pathology indicates a chemical imbalance in the brain. “Talk therapy,” what most of us think of when it comes to sitting down with a psychologist, is more like giving people the tools they need in order to piece together their own problems.
Therapists act more like a trail guide than a doctor, giving us the tools and advice we need to face our challenges- but we still need to face them ourselves. Carl Jung called two parts of this practice “Light” and “Shadow work-” and just like skipping Leg Day at the gym, you don’t want to skip on the Shadow work.
Until about 5AM this morning, this week’s blog post was going to be about something completely different. I was going to write about taste, snobbishness, and keeping it in check.
But last night, Em and I decided to go to our first movie in a theater in over a year. It was a toss-up between Black Widow and Roadrunner, and Em decided she could see Black Widow another time. She wanted to see Roadrunner with me. We were both glad for that because in the back of the Laurelhurst Theater, over pizza, popcorn, and spilled beer, we both cried our eyes out.
I came home with mixed emotions and tried to write that blog post about snobbishness… but as of 5 am, aware of the discourse and controversies surrounding the movie, I knew I need to write this all out while it was still fresh in my mind. One of the problems with being a writer is that words vanish from your mind faster than feelings in your heart, so here we go.
One last story from my beloved doomed bastard of a hero, Uncle Tony.