I get to work these days before dawn. As I walk in, the first order of business is checking the oven to make sure the settings are right.
Next, the days first load of croissants- waiting patiently in the proof box since the night before. They need to be in the oven in 30 minutes.
They aren’t ready. Small and sticky still. Crap… that’s not right.
A quick look at the control panel on the box confirms my fears. They’re gonna be late.
Right- time for Plan B. The cookies have time to go in.
Wait… that doesn’t look right. Why is the oven temperature tanking? Ugh… ok. Back on track, make up the time later.
The new wholesale management system is messed up. No one to call to check numbers for retail. Dammit… ok, just fudge the numbers. Wholesale is accounted for, I can bake more for the store later if needed.
The piping tip I need is missing. Use a similar one and change technique to compensate.
Not enough sheet pans- the other stores haven’t been sending them back. Rummage around and condense. There’s gotta be stuff to layer.
It’s been more or less the refrain for the last few months.
I walk in to the cafe- usually through the kitchen door, but sometimes through the front. There’s a thin crowd in the morning. Lines of people on their computers against the far wall, where outlets are most plentiful. People in groups take up the central tables- chatting with each other, discussing their plans for the day, trying to cajole their kids into eating one more bite of zucchini muffin. Not too many people are reading books in the cafe in the mornings- readers usually swing in on their lunch breaks, or the late afternoons when most of the crowd is home and it’s a bit quieter. That’s the thing about doing your work in a cafe- it’s somehow more reasonable to be wearing headphones than if you’re just reading a book.
I pass through the employee entrance to the back, knocking sharply on the tinted window- the hand sink and dish pit are right by the door, and I’m likely as not to walk into a perfectly-murder-your-knee-cap-height mixing bowl, or someone just washing up.
Hang up my hoodie, punch the clock- Yes, that’s me. Yes, that’s my shift. Yes, I’m a little early- deal with it, Skynet.
Grab a few necessities out of my backpack then head for my bench.
“Hey, how’re you doing, Matt?”
How am I doing? I’m dead tired. Given a reasonable choice, or a momentary lapse of responsibility or duty, I may not have shown up today. I know exactly what I’m getting in to, and what it’ll be like. I just shrug and flip open my notebook where I’d written down my production for the day yesterday afternoon.
Good afternoon, friends and neighbors! It’s good to be back behind the keyboard. Emily and I had a great time down in Florida, despite a few hiccups along the way- a bit of motion sickness, misplaced forms of ID, you know… the usual. Right?
As I hoped, or possibly feared, Florida gave me a lot of quiet time to think. Of course, my wife, mother, and in-laws were present to streamline things and make sure I didn’t spend the entire time sleeping or lost in thought- but there were plenty of moments when I knew I had to get my head in order, and more than a little worried about what that order might mean.
It’s a very frustrating and disconcerting thing to be afraid of your own thought processes. Here I was, trying to take a vacation that I sorely needed, and I couldn’t even do THAT right. My parents-in-law- who were putting us up in their house in the Lakeland area of Florida- gave us a blank ticket for whatever we wanted to do. “Treat yourself!” they said. “Whatever it is you want to do, do it because you can. You need to relax!”
A wonderful invitation, and certainly something Emily and I availed ourselves of- but self-care is not the same as “treating yourself.” Self-care is often doing things you don’t want to do- or are afraid to do- because they need to be done to make yourself better.