Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Wrap-Up (One of Many?)

The past week has, so far, been filled with (poisoned by?) café issues. With all of our production for the concession business completed (we had our first event two weeks ago, and sales were encouraging), and the end of our lease bearing down upon us, this has been the week to concentrate on disassembling and cleaning. And, just like every single task ever associated with the place, it has not been easy, quick, or even remotely fun.

Despite my crawling around on my hands and knees, wielding scrub brushes, steel wool and metal scrapers, the kitchen floor stubbornly remains spotted, stained and, in places, encased in a thin layer of grease which seems to have chemically bonded with the cement. Every sink and floor drain is permanently discolored by mineral residue from years of assault by Scappoose water (and we drink that stuff?) The dining room floor looks like the building might have been used as a garage for the past sixty months. In short, the clean-up job has been a microcosm of the way things have gone for me with that damned place from Day 1.

Perhaps my problem is—has always been—that my standards are just too high. At any rate, they consistently surpass my abilities. The end result of that equation has been that I have spent the past five years never having true victory over any challenge. "It's good enough" or "It will have to do" became my mantras. Truly, things probably were good enough; perfectly wonderful, in fact, for everyone else—the customers, the employees, the vendors, the landlord—but they were never where I wanted them to be. My tenure at the café became an exercise in finding out exactly how frustrated and unfulfilled I could get before I simply…imploded.

So, once again, "good enough" is going to have to do. I have to remind myself that the place had been operating as a restaurant for over a year by the time I got it. So any notion I might have had of whipping it back into pristine, looks-like-new shape was probably a pipe dream anyway. It's not trashed by any means, and it certainly looks acceptable enough to anyone who wants to put another eatery in the space. If Mr. Landlord wants to delve into the scary chemicals and pure intense elbow grease it's going to take to make the space sparkle and shine like new, he's welcome to have at it. He's ten years younger than I; presumably he can get it done without crippling himself. I personally am practically in need of traction at this point.

This evening, we will take Mr. Landlord on a tour, hand him his keys, dust off our hands and drive away. 

This will be the end, for good and all, of the "Old Town Café" chapter of my life. I will not have to absorb one more kick from that place that has been abusing my posterior with steel-toed boots for waaaay too long.

There WILL be a ceremony. I got into a conversation on Facebook last night with a couple of former employees, and ended up planning a spur of the moment Old Town Café "funeral." Several of us are going to meet up in the parking lot outside the building tonight. We'll set off some fireworks and say a few words. I should have saved a box of wine glasses or coffee cups…we could have smashed them on the sidewalk!

Then, maybe we'll go down the street for pizza. Or go sit at one of the other restaurants in town for two hours, have a meeting and drink water (inside joke…) It should be fun. If anyone shows up. Which, knowing my employees as I do, is pretty much a crap shoot.

Goodbye, café! You won't have ME to kick around anymore. A Nixon-ism. Appropriate to the termination of a futile venture, n'est ce pas?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Goodbye Stuff

As I sit here and watch the past five years of my life being hauled out the side door and loaded into big trucks, I don’t feel…anything. Well, that’s not precisely true. I feel embarrassment. The place is filthy. Not remotely in a condition that I would have liked anyone to think I tolerated in my establishment. But five years of trying to run the place perpetually understaffed and overworked, with no time or energy to do the “extra cleaning” myself, and employees that we were lucky to have deign to show up for their shifts, much less put out any extra effort in the direction of more than the minimum required, have left the place looking pretty sad. Once all the equipment is out of here, I’ll be left staring at spotted walls and scummy floors. My final obligation will be to try to restore them to some semblance of acceptable before turning over my keys on the last day of June.

But melancholy, or regret about the way things turned out? Not really. It was such an endless slog, and I worked so hard and got so nowhere in 59 months that I feel absolutely no sadness as the equipment goes rolling out the door. It’s like each piece gone is one less link in the chain that kept me bound in slavery. I can only think of it in terms of the dollars that will be going back into my bank account in exchange. And then I will be able to pay off the rest of my obligations and have done with the experience for good.

Only one debt—the small second mortgage we took out on our house—will follow us beyond the doors of the cafe. We’ll have to cough up $400 a month, for roughly -ever, in exchange for the opportunity to “live the dream.” I don’t know. Many people pay a lot more than $45,000 for higher education. In fact, I would have been out more than that if I had chosen to go to culinary school. And with my chef school diploma in my hand, I would not have possessed one hundredth of the valuable (though hard-earned) experience I have under my belt as I walk away from five years of running my own business.

I did have one moment, as I pulled my artwork off the walls in the “back corner,” when a mist of tears threatened to undo me. I put myself in “don’t-think-about-it” mode, and the tears dried up almost immediately. Honestly, I don’t know why that one action bothered me. Maybe because I wish the whole experience had been more about playing with pretty things than busting my butt, working like a sweat-hog, and waiting for the next round of manure to contact the oscillator.

Eight days from today—after the last of the grease has been scraped off the kitchen floor, and the last spot of marinara has been scrubbed off the wall behind where the food warmer used to sit—will be the first day of the rest of my life.

Bring it on!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Marriage as Shoes

Twenty-four days since the end of my career as a restaurateur. I've spent the time resting, sleeping (I took a two-hour nap this afternoon….aaahhhh!), nesting, fussing a bit with the ending-of-the-business details, and putting distance between myself and the husband at any possible opportunity.

My feelings surrounding the un-success of our venture, as they relate to my business-/life-partner, are complex and not altogether sanguine. I haven't really wanted to confront them (and him), so I've made it a priority to make myself scarce. I feel like I need to clear the fog of exhaustion from my brain, and the pool of unshed tears from behind my eyes, before I can take on these issues with any hope of improving—rather than destroying—what's left of our relationship.

Unfortunately, he's not making much of an effort in that direction. While I feel that I have lightened up remarkably in the past three weeks, he doesn't seem to have released one bit of five years of pent up tension. He's still wound as tight as a python around a rat, and he's about as willing to ease up as that python would be to let loose of his dinner. And I have no idea why.

Which has led me to contemplate, lately, who we are, individually; and what there is left of shared interests, goals, desires, habits, needs—to keep us bound together. What drew us together in the first place? Was it a common love of…anything? If it was, what happened to it? Is there anything that we both enjoy and value anymore?

I know our relationship was never based on how alike we are. We found in each other things that we were lacking. We each have strengths that negate the other's weaknesses. Under ordinary circumstances, we complement each other; under stress, apparently, not so much. We handle stress in completely different ways. I'm not sure I could even describe the specifics; but I do know that the whole experience has served to drive a wedge between us that is, evidently, going to be very difficult to extract.

Do we still love each other? How do you define "love" in the context of a relationship that has spanned three and a half decades? Certainly, our love is vastly different now than it was in the beginning. The fire and spark have been replaced by security and habit. Which is not necessarily bad. It's entirely appropriate, at a certain age, to prefer the comfort of an old pair of Easy Spirits to the flash and glitter of a brand new pair of Gucci stilettos. After the debilitating drain of the past five years, I'm absolutely ready to sink back into the well worn, familiar shoes of our marriage. The problem is, I'm not sure we haven't kicked, scuffed and abused the poor things so much that they won't keep out the rain.

Monday, May 9, 2011

It's About Time

A fifteen hour day, followed by a thirteen hour day. Piled on top of the chronic fatigue brought on by all the events of the past twelve months (Chef quit almost exactly one year ago today—the beginning of the end, so to speak.) But for that, we were rewarded with our highest sales day EVER. A positive note upon which to close the book, if there ever was one…

I packed up the money, turned off the lights, drew the shades and locked the door without too much emotion. Saluted the place as I drove away, with only an annoying mist in my eyes...brought on more, I think, by the exhaustion than by any real sadness.

As I dragged myself through my front door, the only coherent thought I could form was that it will be months before I am this tired again. Rather than tomorrow night…

Yes, I was surprisingly dry-eyed during the process—saying goodbye to good customers, hugging the girls before they left for the last time, locking the doors and driving away.

Do you want to know what finally brought on the tears?

The dawning realization that now I have Time.

Time to do something. Anything. Or nothing.

Time. I’m going to wrap it around me like a new fleece bathrobe. Snuggle into my life and just BE for a couple of days.

What an extravagant luxury! I feel like I’ve won the lottery.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Running on Empty

The last pan of pumpkin bars. Baked, frosted and quickly disappearing to customers who know they’ll never get another one.

Out of: Turkey. Tuna. Salsa. White bread. Link sausage.

Gas. Energy. Inspiration.

Oh, and we have reservations for a full restaurant tomorrow. Mothers’ Day. Our last hurrah.

Hurrah? Right now, I can hardly squeak and wave a finger.

Until tomorrow, around 3:00 pm.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Carried by the Wind

"Sometimes I go around feeling sorry for myself; and all the while I am being carried by the wind across the sky."

This particular sentiment speaks to me on so many levels. On the one hand, I have a real penchant for going around feeling sorry for myself. I have honed that to a fine art, over the years. Add to that my fascination for all things "bird," and you have an admonition that, it seems, the Universe custom made for me. An invitation to turn myself inside out. A call to raise my head from my personal hog wallow and understand that I am, indeed, being carried by the wind across the sky, as free and as blessed as any hawk or crow upon whom I have gazed, rapt and a tad envious, as it soared high over my head.

Now, I have been writing about how surprised I am by my lack of bad feelings associated with the end of my business venture. Truly, I never would have guessed I would be looking forward to Sunday with such peace, and such an understanding that this is but the end of a chapter in my life, NOT the end of the world. Unfortunately, there IS a fly in the ointment, in the person of the Intrepid Husband. 

It seems HE is the one experiencing all the withdrawal symptoms…from an undertaking to which he never chose to completely commit.

Go figure.

So, earlier this evening, as he began a litany of all the things about the end of our café life that are making him crazy (that he is allowing to make him crazy), I thought it might be helpful to share my precious bit of Chippewa wisdom with him.

After a pregnant pause, he looked at me and asked, dead serious:

What does that mean?

I did my best to explain it to him. I felt a bit as if I was digesting Shakespeare for a 12-year-old. After which he seemed to get it, but I could tell he had no concept of how to apply it to himself, nor any intention of wasting precious time trying.

Leading me to wonder, as I often do these days…

Who is this, really…this man next to whom I sleep every night? And what have we been doing for the past 35 years?

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Last Lap

The older I get, the more I am struck by the necessity to cherish each day as it comes, to live each to the fullest, to appreciate and savor NOW…and under no circumstances—fair wind or foul—to wish the days away.

And therein lies the battle being fought in my mind and heart right now: There are seventeen of those pesky little buggers (days) between me and a long rest on a warm sandy beach. The days promise to be full enough—I have two "events" this weekend, plus a Mothers' Day Brunch to plan, execute, and survive. I think I can make it. I think I can…

But if I listen to the little guy in the red suit with the forked tail and the horns, the one who is sitting on my left shoulder whispering in my ear, I can hear, "Why not just close it up now? Who will it hurt? Why should you toss away two more weeks of your life on top of the 220 you've already dumped into this venture which…has not been exactly a success?" Oh…that little demon is making a lot of sense right now.

But no…I won't do it. I'll see this thing through to the end. Hoping the Universe will grant me deafness to that pesky little voice, and little joys and victories to keep my head above water until I reach that beach. My feet are almost touching the bottom, now…

Friday, April 15, 2011

What Not To Say

Over the past couple of decades, I've noticed the advent of two parallel yet warring tendencies when it comes to human interaction.

On the one hand, there's the "Say Anything" trend. This is in direct contrast to the (apparently) outdated maxim that "Silence is Golden." American society seems to detest silence, to the point where we now must fill every moment of our lives with some kind of noise. Most of which issues forth from someone's mouth; without even allowing for a second or two of pause to THINK about whether that utterance might be useful, welcome, or even appropriate. (In fact, in the case of most of our 21st-century media noise, the rule would be "the less appropriate the better.")

Gaining popularity alongside this phenomenon has been what I'll call the "Thin-Skinned Movement." People take offense at anything and everything. First, we no longer ignore perceived slights. We don't waste time or moral fortitude focusing upon the intent of someone trying to console, encourage or commiserate with us. If they don't say exactly the right words at exactly the right time, we throw up our hands and fume, "What the *&#@ is the matter with them?!?" Secondly, the new rule is that there is no such thing as a verbal gaffe or an unintentionally inconsiderate misstatement. We scrutinize every word—especially of any public figure or entity—searching for things that insult or annoy us. (You'd think we could put our time to better use…?) Then we make a very public and very messy stink about it, loading up the courts with lawsuits and endlessly escalating the generally antagonistic atmosphere that exists everywhere you turn.

Come to think of it, who knows that the "Thin-Skinned Movement" wasn't indeed spawned by "Say Anything?" It's no longer de rigueur to think before we open our mouths, or even to just shut up. Skin endlessly pounded by verbal barrages might tend to become somewhat thin, I suppose…

My feeling about all this is that we should just chillax and figure out how to get along. If we don't, it's going to be a short and mine-filled road to hell for us and our society-at-large. We need to get over this "It's-all-about-ME" attitude that we have so lovingly embraced, and go back to basics like "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you," "Love your neighbor as you love yourself," and "Before you criticize your brother, walk a mile in his moccasins."

Now, however, I find myself in a situation where, as the word gets out about the café closing, I'm going to be the target of all kinds of attempts at advice, consolation and commiseration. In my chronically exhausted and stressed-out state, it will be an interesting (to say the least) study to see how well I can walk the walk. For instance, when a little old customer reacts to the news by advising, "Hey, you should sell out to old Frank over there. He needs something for his wife to do," I should probably NOT respond with, "Oh…he wants to kill her?" (Yes, this actually happened yesterday… I really need to slap myself upside the head for that one.)

I think that I will probably be doing a lot of hiding out in the kitchen for the next three weeks…

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Next Installment

Already almost two weeks into the month of April, and I haven't posted anything. My life right now is entirely centered on the café and getting out from under it. And probably no one is really interested in hearing much more about the ups and downs of this particular endeavor. But then, hey…I don't actually write for an audience any more, do I? So, to hell with it. Here's the next chapter in the continuing saga.

I could never have expected things to play out the way they have. Six months ago, I was exhausted, sad, beaten and humiliated. The decision not to renew our lease, not to continue on with the café, was an act of capitulation. Surrender. I had lost. "It" had won (whatever "It" was…Life? Old Age? My own inner demons?) The idea of slogging through another half a year of all the hard work it would take just to bring my responsibilities associated with the place to a clean and logical close, made me want to dissolve and disappear into a crack in the floor. I felt like I was in a pit at the foot of a mountain I had to climb, but I didn't even have enough energy left to tie my shoes.

Time is generally not kind to me, these days. It sometimes drags me along in its wake in a most undignified manner, sometimes leaves me completely in the dust. It has let me know in no uncertain terms that it is going fast and there is not much of it left to grab onto. And it is slippery, like a greased pig.

But in this instance, Time's tendency toward "fast-forward" has been a gift; an unexpected ally. Every hour, every day that I spent, either cowering under my fears or putting my head down and bulling my way through the daily grind of running the place, got me closer to…where I was going. Yes, I did have to steel myself to tie those damn shoes and start climbing out of the pit and up the mountain. But with every step I took, it seems like Time lowered the mountain by three feet.

So, here I am. Less than four weeks left. Not only am I still alive, but I feel like I'm walking briskly on level ground, the mountain reduced to no more than a speed bump about fifty yards down the road.

I thought I would be devastated, when the time came to actually lock the doors. I thought, "What a sad and dreary end to what I always believed was my life's fondest dream!"

But it's not turning out that way.

Though we haven't made an official announcement, we have more or less let the word leak out that we will be closing next month. When I told my hair stylist (her salon is right across the street) her reaction was, "Oh, that's terrible! I'm so sorry!" And the words, "I'm not!" jumped immediately, almost unbidden, from my lips. One of her girls was at the counter yesterday, and said to me, "I hear there's sad news…" To which I quickly replied, "Sad? I'm not sad! I can't tell you how sad I'm not!"

All I can think is, if I play my cards right, I will have the entire month of July off. OFF. All to myself. I'm already plotting (cheap) ways to thoroughly enjoy that time. Camping. Gardening. A retreat. Maybe a train trip somewhere, all by myself. (One of the slightly sad but ultimately liberating lessons I am taking away from this experience is that I AM myself, and not half of a couple—as I have seen myself for, oh, about 35 years now.) The prospect is more tantalizing than anything I've experienced in a Really. Long. Time.

Nope. I am not sad. I am stoked.

Next adventure, here I come!

Monday, March 28, 2011


As “The End” (of the Café) draws near, I have to admit, it’s getting easier to deal with. The Universe seems to be guiding me, dropping blessings, small and large, when my resolve falters. I don’t think I’m meant to slink away from the place and go hide under a rock, as I first thought. In the past few weeks, the victories and failures of the venture have been highlighted for me in such a way that I’ve been able to digest the information, identify some lessons learned, and begin to plot a path beyond the experience. I’m not feeling nearly as wounded and defeated as I did when I decided to walk away from what I thought was the fulfillment of my fondest dream. And for that, I am grateful.

Oddly enough, the internet—this forum with which I have conducted an intense love/hate relationship since the early days of AOL—had a hand in despoiling the thing for which I had yearned for so many years. The freedom and anonymity of the internet have presented 21st-century business owners with an entirely new challenge. What could, in a society that maintained any understanding or respect for the concepts of courtesy or fairness, be a valuable tool for service businesses, has turned into a vile cesspool of “you don’t want to go there if you value your sanity.”

The presence of an anonymous forum for public criticism has completely poisoned the customer service dynamic. Disgruntled patrons no longer need to express their dissatisfaction in person to a server or to management. They don’t write letters of concern to business owners. They instead have embraced the internet with a vengeance, and use it to trash any business that has not met their every expectation. The goal here is not to resolve a problem…not to give a business an opportunity to make amends to an offended client. It’s all about revenge; all about punishing a business that is perceived to have fallen short. Today’s businesses must learn to Be Very Afraid of the guest who has had a bad day and walks through the front door itching for a fight.

Bad internet reviews are routinely snarky, rude and laden with just plain meanness. And often personal. After stumbling upon a couple of reviews that attacked me personally, I was beyond ready to lock the doors and swallow the key. I was mortified by that level of very public humiliation, against which I had no opportunity to defend myself.

It translated to double failure for me: Apparently, I did not possess the skills (personality?) needed for success in customer service; AND I was not tough enough to deal with negative feedback. This was a major factor in my decision not to sign up for another five years of fun and games.

It bothered me most, I think, that I was not tough enough. I thought that I was probably over-reacting to something that was not as big a deal as my stressed-out, chronically exhausted psyche was making it out to be. I had, after all, not heard other business owners complain about how the Bad Internet Review situation was causing them to lose sleep.

Recently, though, it has come to my attention that it IS a problem, for all businesses, large and small. In fact, I discovered there is a service called “” that (for a fee, of course) assists businesses in removing poisonous reviews from the internet.

I picked up a thread in an “Ask Amy” column in last Friday’s Oregonian that actually made me feel better. Justified. Relieved that the issue is not all in my head. Apparently, an earlier letter to Amy had dealt with an instance where a company had terminated an employee based on a negative “Tweet” posted by a disgruntled customer. The letter I read was written by a customer service manager of another company in response to that situation ; and it expresses all the horror and frustration I have been feeling. (And made me understand that perhaps I don’t have it as bad as I thought….) You can find the entire letter here: Ask Amy March 25, 2011. But here are a few of my favorite highlights:

I am a customer service manager, and I have noticed in recent years that angry customers have become increasingly more confrontational, militant and aggressive…
Bad customer service certainly exists and shouldn't be tolerated, but more and more I am seeing customers who come in looking for a fight, wanting to post that scathing review, wanting retribution for an unknown or yet-to-occur transgression…
My co-workers and I have had angry customers take our pictures with their camera phones, threatening to have us fired, and some people will post those photos with hateful commentary — and even our names — on their Facebook and Twitter pages.

Thank god no one has pulled the picture-posting thing on us. Yet.

But it’s probably just a matter of time.

However, I now understand that this situation, this development, this new obstacle in the service business landscape is not necessarily proof that I suck at what I do. It’s not going to chase me away, convinced I’ve failed at something I believed was my fondest dream. It’s simply a part of doing business that, being the mid-century relic I am, I had not foreseen when I finally got the chance to live my dream.

And, here’s the thing: This is a battleground of 21st century culture upon which I choose not to engage. It is not a positive or life-affirming place for me (or anyone, for that matter), and I need to walk away from it, shaking the dust from my hands and feet as I go.

And I won’t feel the least bit ashamed or defeated in the doing.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


After a couple of weeks where the best things got was "bearable," and the worst was nearly …not, I seem to have arrived in a better place. Actually, it's more like the better place arrived on ME. I certainly haven't done anything special. I just feel like the Universe has dumped a ladle of grace over my head.

Sunday, we catered a 60th-anniversary party at the restaurant. I had taken the reservation back in January, SO against my will. The holidays were over, Valentine's Day was soon to be a memory, and I had my mind on grabbing a scalpel and beginning to cut, carefully, one by one, the physical and emotional ties binding me to the café. Trying to get as much of that separation accomplished and possibly even on the way to healing before the actual event. I did not want that process interrupted by the care and attention it takes to pull off one of these big parties.

But as much as I wanted to, I could not manufacture a good reason to turn it down. It was nothing we couldn't DO, and why not bank a few more dollars before the end? So we took the gig, and I filed it into the back of my mind, determined not to worry about it. Fat chance. Though Valentine's Day took Stress Out Priority over it, I know the anxiety of this event has been simmering on the front burner ever since the morning of February 15th.

Well, it's over now. And it was a great success. Mostly because the people were probably the nicest group of folks I have ever met in my life. That in itself was a bucketful of grace. I have so given up on the public. Daily, I am smacked in the face with how selfish, demanding, high maintenance and just plain rude the American consumer has become. To have the restaurant full to bursting with people who were just NICE, was a blessing, almost a cleansing. It literally drove away the dark cloud that has hung over me and my restaurant for so long. I could not be more grateful for that.

Monday afternoon, I stopped at the café (it was supposed to be my R & R day after the big party) and ended up having to work an hour to help them out of a jam. I took a lady's food out to her and she said to me, "I have to tell you, you do such a good job decorating this place. It just looks great…" What? Someone was actually saying something nice to me? I couldn't really believe my ears. "Well, thank you!" I managed to sputter through my shock. But she went on:

"I'm so glad you guys are doing well. We really need a place like this around here…"

I thanked her again, a thank-you tinged with the slightest mixture of guilt and "too late!" The thought occurred to me that it would be very nice indeed if I could feel like I was leaving the café somewhere near the top of my game, rather than slinking away in disgrace with my tail between my legs.

And then, yesterday, I had two squirrels in my back yard. And I went shopping and found some cute clothes for the body I have now (losing those lately-attained stress pounds can wait a few more months—until I'm safely on the other side of this transition.)

All in all, a more than satisfactory first couple of days…of the rest of my life.

Monday, February 28, 2011


I realize that, a few months from now, the entire context of my life, as I've known it for the last four and a half years, is going to disappear. I'm going to have to reinvent myself, start over; base my life on…something else. A tremendous opportunity, I suppose. And at the same time, overwhelming to the point of inducing paralysis. Even now, I'm feeling the frayed ends of my life starting to flap in the breeze. So much of what I do is centered on the restaurant…how could it not be? Withdrawal from that entanglement bordering on obsession is going to be a long and painful process, I suspect.

Here's an example: I've always loved to shop…it's a form of relaxation for me. (Luckily, I generally know enough not to buy everything that strikes my fancy.) During the Café Years, I have been so tied to the place that I couldn't shop nearly as much as I would have liked. And if I did get the chance to enjoy a stroll through a shopping mall, I inevitably ended up buying something for the café… a piece of art, a kitchen gadget, a jokey gift for one of the girls. Now, that entire focus is gone. A cute coffee-related poster or a great price on an immersion blender can literally bring tears to my eyes. I have to turn on my heel and walk away from things over which, six months ago, I would have caught my breath and cooed, "Oh, this would be perfect for the restaurant!" or risk embarrassing myself in the middle of a crowded store.

There are people out there who seem to have unlimited ability to start over. I have friends who are older than me, yet seem always able to look forward to, and even muster a breathless anticipation for, the next adventure. If anything, their age is a minor disadvantage to be noted and dismissed. Up until now, I may have been that way. But this experience has left me extraordinarily exhausted and…used up. Some possibilities for future livelihood are floating around in my consciousness, but I'm too tired…and too sad, just now, I think…to wrap my arms around anything specific, to make real plans, to entertain real dreams.

In fact, if I let myself think about it too much, I would probably start crying and never stop.

And I still have a restaurant to run, for at least the next sixty-two days. Which is why I have to just keep my eyes looking ahead (but not too far ahead) and keep putting one foot in front of the other until I get into the clearing…that place which is not cluttered with tables and chairs and grills and ovens and needy but nasty members of the consuming public. I need to focus on extricating myself from my current livelihood with the least possible amount of outward angst. (This should be easy. Like peeling a turtle.)

And then…take it from there.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Day

Today was such a day. It had everything. Magic. Sweetness. Confrontation. Ugliness. In the end, lessons learned and moments of weakness overcome.

I learned what my priorities are—what they need to be, going forward.

A little woodpecker told me that it was the right thing to do, to go into the restaurant a little later, to take the time to run to the store and replenish my bird seed supply. No, he doesn't eat seeds. But he stopped by just to say, "Look. I'm pretty!"

Mr. Mojohowitz let me know that it met with his approval that I had procured a new carton of kitty cream on that same short shopping excursion. I left the house filled with love and hope for the day.

An ugly encounter with a customer, not twenty minutes after my arrival at the café, popped my hopes for the day like an over-inflated helium balloon. From full of promise to flat and empty, lying on the floor at my feet, in a matter of seconds.

I so fervently wanted to lock the doors forever, then and there; the fact that I knew that not to be feasible soured my mood and turned me to stone. I was miserable and I didn't care who knew it. I wanted to wallow.

But…I reached into my pocket and gripped my crystal—the rose quartz carved in the shape of a heart. And the thought came to me that everything is not about me; and so I sucked it up, slapped on a smile and sallied forth, for the benefit of those who would have to work side-by-side with me in my tiniest of kitchens.

I pretended to care. It's hard.

Today, the Universe showed me where my peace is. And where it isn't.

And left me once again counting the days.

One hundred and ten.

Maybe less, if I can work things out right.

However many, it won't be a day, a moment, too soon…

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Thing About Peace

"Don't let them steal your peace…" It seemed so simple the first time I heard it. Straightforward. Steadfast. Intentional. Don't. Let. Them. Steal. Your. Peace.

But like everything else, it's not as easy as it sounds. You have to HAVE peace before you can guard it. Sometimes I have it. Often times, I don't. And the times I have it, I wonder whether I really HAVE it, or if I'm just faking it. And faking is something I have never done well. Never liked doing, never wanted to do.

To my black and white little mind, faking feels dishonest; and I have always had a monstrous moral bias against lying. To the point where I am even unable to pad or cloak the truth in order to grease the works of a relationship or spare someone's feelings. Really, pathological honesty does not make one's life easy. It sucks, in fact. But it doesn't seem to be something I have the capacity to change.

So now, I've taken to wondering whether the peace I am trying to maintain is an authentic peace, or a manufactured one. Real or imitation. Live or Memorex…

The question I need to ask is, "Does it really matter?" If some degree of "faked" peace is keeping me from jumping out of my skin, or jumping off the nearest bridge, is it important that it isn't "real?" If clinging by my fingernails to a façade of serenity I've painstakingly erected—possibly without knowing it—helps me to fend off daily assaults to my bruised and battered psyche, who cares that it hasn't sprung spontaneously from some bottomless pacific well deep in my soul?

What does bother me some is that I feel compelled to live SO on the surface of things. I cannot plumb the depths of anything right now. I can't think about reasons or motivations or plans or reactions, for fear of handing away the peace--real or fake--that I'm trying so hard to protect. And that is so against my nature, I find that in itself is a source of irritation…that I dare not think about. Honestly, I don't know how long I can keep up the Scarlett O'Hara act: I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about it tomorrow…

So I huddle inside—or hide behind—my various incarnations of peace. Hoping that someday, the true peace will grow from within and meet up with the erected one, so that they become one and the same.

Meanwhile, I have to make it through the next four months and twenty-nine days using any and every resource available. Tomorrow is another day…