Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hot Flash Cafe, I Knew Ye Well...Or Not.

I just spent a few minutes looking at the last few entries of “Hot Flash Café.”  Sixty-two essays written over the course of four years, inspired by the trials and errors of my short-but-way-not-short-enough tenure as a restaurant owner.  Pretty damned passable essays, as a matter of fact.  I’m surprised by how decent the writing is.  Given that most of the time during those years my batteries were depleted to about 15% of full power. 

But, the thing is, it’s like reading about someone else’s life.  That five years was such a…time out of time.  It was really like no other part of the rest of my life.  Though I thought that all I had done, career-wise, had led up to it…I was lost, clueless and completely unprepared from Day One.   And once it was over, I wasted no time putting it in the past.   Like a particularly grueling course of study…or a prison sentence.  When you get to the end of something like that, it seems you run as fast as your little legs can carry you to put distance between you and it.  At least I did.

So when I take a few moments to revisit the whole thing, what I feel most is a kind of disbelief that I spent years in that situation…and not that long ago.  I (evidently) went into it with nothing, and brought nothing away from it.  Just…wasted time.  Honestly.  I sometimes wish I could ask for a “do-over.”  As it is, it looks like I’ve decided to just cut those years out of my life and bury them in a hole in the back yard.  And am attempting to solder together the neatly cut ends to form a more-or-less seamless transition between 2006 and 2011.

But the ends don’t…quite…reach…

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ten Minutes: Clearing Things Up

I realize the things I’ve been writing about my marriage make it appear as if I have packed my bags, hired a lawyer and am just waiting for the right moment to whisk out the door. Let me assure anybody who cares that this is not the case. The marriage is definitely in a new stage. We’re able to sit in the same room together without clawing the walls (or each other.) We can join forces on small projects without screaming at each other. It might even be said that we are beginning to enjoy each other’s company again. Baby steps, to be sure…but it feels like we’ve come miles from where we were a year ago.

It must be said that much of the forward movement has taken place between the bones of my own skull. Even as much of the previous years of turbulence originated in that same place. I won’t claim sole responsibility for all the ill that befell my marriage as a result of our ill-fated conscription into the ranks of small business owners. But I will concede that the constant state of frustration, exhaustion and over-matched-ness in which I existed for most of five years produced plenty of negative fallout, most of which fell upon the person in my nearest emotional proximity—the husband.

It’s really no surprise that after a while he chose NOT to be the person in my nearest emotional proximity. It would have been ever so nice if he stuck courageously by my side, patted my hand and held me up as I floundered; but my life is not a $6 romance novel. The fact is, I’m prickly under normal circumstances. The café turned my prickles into poison-dipped arrows. Who can blame him for running away? If the situations were reversed, I’m not sure I wouldn’t have done the same.

Once the café was over, and I began to have my wits about me again, I attempted to get down to the business of removing those poison-tipped arrows. What I discovered was that they were firmly stuck in a layer of ice that encased my heart. Seems that as a defense mechanism against five years of assaults on my more tender sensibilities, I became adept at wielding a sort of emotional ice blast.  If something became too painful, I would take aim and freeze it out. Even with what I thought was my surgical precision with the thing, eventually there was nothing left but ice.

Honestly, I thought the ice would melt of its own accord. And I suppose it would have, if I wanted to wait a decade or two. Once I recovered enough brain power to understand this, and enough strength to hold an ice-pick, I realized my “job” for the foreseeable future was going to be to actively hack away at that monstrous frozen block. I haven’t been very good or steadfast at this task, and it hasn’t been easy. Because the layers seem to be made of different substances, some of which become corrosive when they thaw. Once I had hacked through the layer of cold, hard failure, I struck a vein of hurt and resentment. And I’ve just about had to call out the haz-mat crew to get rid of that one.

So when some of that bad stuff splashes back on me, I come here and write about it. Unfortunately, it all makes my life sound very dramatic and end-of-the-world-ish. But that’s not the entire picture, and I thought it might be a good thing to come here and try and give a more well-rounded view of what is happening, in case anyone is wondering.

So now you know.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


Watch a nest full of baby birds. As they grow, they jostle for position; they squabble over the best tidbits carried to the nest by the parents. The biggest and the loudest get the best food, the most nurturing. The smaller, less aggressive nestlings are ignored—often to death. Those tiniest birds must learn at a very young age to be clever enough to get what they need to survive.

As the youngest of a family of five, I grew up as the smallest nestling. I know exactly what it’s like to crouch at the back of the nest and devour scraps left by my bigger siblings. I made the most of every morsel. And I survived. I can’t really blame or resent my family for my birth order. It was what it was. But it also made me what I am.

What I am is a mass of contradictions. I crave attention, but squirm when I get it. My natural habit is to fade into the background, because that is familiar territory. At the same time, I have a keen intellect that clamors for some kind of outlet. It’s like I’m screaming , “Hey! Here I am!” But when somebody looks, I freak out and run away. This serves to make me appear erratic at best…at worst, schizophrenic.

Back in the “nest,” I was the person of least importance. Early on, I understood that if I had opinions, desires or issues, they were negligible—at least to the people who were my entire world until I was well into my school years. I navigated my formative years mostly on my own. Fiercely independent…reliant upon no one but myself. But lonely. Very lonely.

And then I met my husband. My “soul mate.” The one person in the world who saw me, who loved me. Who heard me. It was a gift from the Universe so far beyond my expectations that for the first two decades of our partnership, I regularly had to pinch myself to believe it was real. Here was another human being who actually listened to the things I said and acted as if they had value. The person who would stand next to me and say, “Hey! Here she is!” And then hold my hand to keep me from turning tail and running away.

Someone with whom I could share the banquet of life, rather than hang in the background and wait for palatable scraps to fall my way. I knew it was probably a mistake to allow so much of my happiness to rest in the hands of another person. But I couldn’t help myself.

Which is why it was such a disaster, such a betrayal, when I realized that I had, at last, been relegated to that dog-under-the-table status in my marriage. I think this is a direction that most long-term relationships take at one time or another. People without my history understand this and take it in stride. They call it a “dry spell,” walk along on their own for awhile and trust that their paths will intersect their mates’ once again somewhere down the road.

But for me, it feels like losing my last friend. My only friend. Because that’s exactly what it is. I don’t want to buck up and go it alone. I have been there and I have done that—even if it was more than three decades ago—and I do not want to do it again. I think this might be why I am so “stuck” right now. Why I can’t seem to choose a direction and go there.

Because I know if I go, I’m going alone. And I just don’t want to.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Go Away, Elk...

Looking back on my writings of discovery, I am surprised to see that it has been well over two years since I began to move in a seriously shamanistic direction.  One of the first encounters I wrote about here was with “Elk.”  Back in March of 2010.  I noted that I had been visited by elk in unusual numbers, in unusual places for several months.  My research uncovered that visitation by Elk bade one to “stand strong with pride.”  And that Elk’s main attributes included stamina and strength. 

At the time, I interpreted this to be a confirmation that I would have the strength to “take the restaurant to the next level.” 

Six months later, after having lost my chef, my pastry chef, my replacement chef and most of the rest of my staff at the café, I was carrying the entire operation on my own back.  Next level, indeed…    I guess I had the strength and the stamina all right, because I didn’t have a heart attack or a nervous breakdown.  But by October of that year, I knew what I had to do.  It wasn’t easy; and it required strength and stamina I didn’t know I possessed.

I recalled Elk’s message; and it had been borne out.  In spades.

I decided that if a visitation by Elk meant I was going to have to face a challenge on the order of what I had just been through, I would be happy if I never saw another elk for the rest of my life.

I mention this because, well…Elk seems to have returned.

Elk have been showing up at odd places and times along my path.

And I want them to go away.

I do not, repeat, DO NOT want to test my strength and my stamina right now.  I’m still in recovery from the last time.  Honestly.

Go away.  Don’t make me show how equal I am to a challenge.

Because I’m not.


Not yet.