I have a good friend – spiritual teacher, really – who has a saying I adore.
“If it doesn’t light you up, don’t do it…or find another way to do it.”
As much as I love this idea, it is a hell of a lot harder to put into practice than one might think.
Most of us – present company included – are burdened by what we might call responsibility or accountability or family or duty or being a grown-up or offspring or social contracts or just life itself. We do what we have to do because (we fear) the shit would hit the fan otherwise.
Sub in a Malamute for the Golden and me for the Pit bull and you pretty much have my worst nightmare.
I am as guilty as the next guy: although the sight of an Alaskan Malamute, a Himalayan cat, and a forlorn white woman on a homemade raft to nowhere might be charming in a “Homeward Bound” kind of way, it’s not exactly a scene I’m hoping to live through.
It probably goes without saying that for far too many people (again, note the lifted arm of present company) many of the seeming duties of life fall a pretty far cry from lighting us up.
In my own little world, the last few months have seen a number of things fall through or not turn out as so very much hoped for…and this includes the financial front. When it rains, it pours.
So things went wrong.
Such is life.
Yet I got freaked out about the rent and the bills and the $72 bags of Blue Buffalo dog food and all that responsibility/accountability/grown-up/Malamute running out of Blue Buffalo and chewing me down to a pile of bones whilst I sleep-type fears.
Fear and I moved in together. Hell, I signed a contract with fear, handed over my soul, and didn’t look back. Thus, I went out and found a j-o-b that was pretty far out of character with respect to my life path and my personal sense of self and the goals that I truly want to spend time on. “A means to an end” I called it. I put a happy spin on things. I considered having a few shots of hard liquor for breakfast: I envied Keith Richards and Courtney Love their joie de vive and incoherence. I showed up to work painfully sober and tried really hard not to be bitter.
In the spirit of honesty, let me now tell you that I spent three weeks in nine-hour-a-day training for minimum wage (that’s $7.25/hour to those who aren’t 17)…to be a waitress.
Yep. A waitress. For a really nice, brand new restaurant started by a celebrity chef, but still…a waitress.
Let it sink in: A WAITRESS.
Not that there is anything wrong with being a waitress, mind you…unless that waitress is me.
I don’t mean to be a snob…but some kind of terrible snobbery came over me. Although the celebrity chef was delightfully humble and charming and really seemed to be a lovely human being, it was not lighting me up. NOT AT ALL. It was all darkness, all day long.
For starters, the menu was insanity. There were nearly seventy food items, almost two dozen specialty cocktails, ten limited edition coffees, a similar variety of teas and sakes and desserts and wines. I felt like Forrest Gump with a concussion.
And the ingredients…bubu what?
I resorted to making flash cards. FLASH CARDS! I haven’t made flash cards since high school. And that didn’t even help. I couldn’t get started on the menu because I couldn’t even comprehend the ingredients… Bubu arare? Cuckoo a choo? What’s that? What’s my name? Where am I? What year is this?
This is Li Hing Mui. It's been explained to me. I've even tried it. I don't have a clue. I think MSG is involved. ENJOY!
Li Hing Mui? Chung Choi? Bacalao? Kecap Manis? WTF? Kinome? Pohole? Ogo? Mamaki? Pipikaula? Yukari? Itogaki? Kamikaze?!?!
KILL. ME. NOW.
The final blow came when we were informed they would fire us if we brought our cell phones into the restaurant. My poor cell phone spent three whole days in a locker a mile away. I’m addicted to my iPhone, and I like to think it feels the same about me. How am I supposed to know what time it is or what’s going on with my friends or what bubu arare is again or what the weather is in Hong Kong or what just showed up on Craigslist that I might need to buy without my iPhone!? You can’t just wrench us apart like that. We need a 12-step program or something.
And the other thing of it is – let’s get real – I have a master’s degree. I’m a licensed hypnotherapist with a small practice here on the island. A lot of my clients are very wealthy…the exact kind of people who would come and dine at this restaurant. I kept imagining the horrible moment when someone declares, “Hey! Our waitress is my therapist!” and wondering if I could swap name tags with someone else and pretend to be my own (evil?) twin sister. ***cringe***
Despite the fact that it was likely to be a lovely and successful restaurant…
With all regards to the cacophony of “winners never quit and quitters never win” admonishments in my head…
I had to. I know in my gut that the adage is true. The job didn’t light me up. In fact, it was pretty spectacularly lights out.
And when you’re not chasing your own dreams, you are just place holding in someone else’s. There is another person who would love to be at that restaurant, and by staying there I was taking their spot. I needed to get out of the way and chase my own joy.
So now I just turn myself over to fate. I go back to editing a book I should have tackled a year ago…and starting a new one. I pursue only the things that have a spark, if not a full-on Fourth of July fireworks blaze. I trust that the universe will step in where I stepped out…or at least drop a bag of Blue Buffalo (Natural Fish and Oatmeal Recipe, please) on the doorstep if nothing else.
It’s a bold experiment in real time.
And I’ll keep you posted as to how it unfolds…