In this, this time of profound unhappiness, this time of polarization and of unprovoked war, in this Great Resignation, as they’re calling it, I’ve realized that I have to give things up. Two weeks from tomorrow will mark two years since the pandemic began, but for me, my tailspin began when I was 35 and opened Feast. It began in 2010 when we moved into this unwieldy building. It began when I came back from Italy with no work permit and my money dried up, along with money that hadn’t even been mine to squander. It began in 1972 when the other six-year-olds laughed at this clumsy child who didn’t understand football, and flailed when he ran, and had a nose not much smaller than it is today. It began in 1982 when I learned to be ashamed of my privilege. It came last night after another day of mad scramble to get the new menu implemented, to be ready for scores of people ready for celebratory crawfish etouffee, and when yet another person dear to me told me it was time for them to leave Feast.
It’s time for me to give things up too, though as much as I have moments- a lot of them- in which the angel and devil on each of my shoulders reach across the aisle in agreement to tell me to lock the door and walk away, I’m not in a position to do that, and I shake them both off, angel and devil, and convince myself to continue to do what’s undoubtedly not the smartest thing I could do.
Sleeping is not a specialty of mine, and when I wake up at two, or again at three and four and five, there are different ways I handle it, never methodically and never knowing what will work. Reading might work, but it may be that my thoughts are racing too much to concentrate. Meditating may work, but it may be that my thoughts are racing too much not to concentrate. Of late, I’ll listen to the stories and lectures of people who make sense to me. Kurt Vonnegut, Pema Chodron , Alan Watts. For several nights now, it’s been Jack Kornfield, whose voice calms me, and whose stories, even when I’ve heard them or read them many times before, settle my roiling insides.
For three nights, I’ve listened to this lecture, the Bodhisattva and the Power of Intention, and by fifteen or twenty minutes into it, I’m mercifully asleep, though there are nights I wake up and have to start all over again in hopes it will be my tuneless lullaby. Not last night but the night before, I made it through the whole lecture, and 27-plus minutes in, he told his audience, which included me, that we’re quite loyal to our suffering. I stopped like a dog who knows better caught chewing on a pair of prescription glasses.
For fifty years, I’ve been loyal to my suffering, and while it’s interspersed with moments of self-awareness, and the odd moment of actual good cheer, I’ve clung to it like an inconsolable child.
We tend to try and alleviate our self-pity by comparing ourselves to people who have it worse. After all, we could be Afghani or Ukranian. We could be destitute, or we could be riddled with disease or have a loved one taken from us. I’ve never subscribed to comparison as a means of feeling better; on the contrary, it usually makes me feel bad for the other sufferers, or guilty that I might take pleasure, even indirectly in someone else’s misery. I already have enough schadenfreude in my life.
Two people dear to me have dropped quotes into my awareness in the past few months, and I’ll share them with you. The first is this:
“Let go or be dragged.”
The second is this:
“Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.”
So here’s another attempt to hold myself responsible for my attitude, by pledging to 4,800 of you that when I’m aware that I’m focused on my own misfortune, I’ll choose that moment to make an attempt to alleviate someone else’s. In that vein, we’re heading back to Banner’s South Campus Emergency Department, and next door to its Crisis Response Center next week, to feed the crew members we missed on our generous donation run funded by the kind people of Hill Farm Neighborhood.
We’ll follow that with another, and another, because every stressful little moment here- a saute cook with a broken wrist and ribs, our deliveries invariably coming in with one problem or another, and the comings and goings of the Great Resignation- each push me to that mopiness that I’m now resolved to combat by being a do-gooder. So keep your eyes peeled for the next donation run.
Life will continue on at the same time, mind you- we still change our menu on the first Tuesday of the month, even though I’ve been too scattered and busy to send it out to you,
and we’ll keep on with our wine tastings
and wine dinners (sorry, this one’s sold out, but there’s another one, with Mitch Cosentino, on the horizon. You can add yourself to the waitlist, though, if you’re interested. It’s Tucson, after all, and plans change quickly and often. Still, this gives you an idea of what we do for wine dinners if you’re not familiar.)
And that, my friends, is that. It’s been a crazy couple of days, which will in turn spur me to good works all over the place, but in the meanwhile, I hope you all remain well and happy to the best of your ability, and join us from time to time. Thanks for that.