prologue to now

Love is everything.

Sharing my thoughts in The Art of Baking: Oxheart added an element of voice I didn’t know how to exercise during the Oxheart years. There was a deeper connection that expanded past the nourishment on the reclaimed pine tables and the four walls that sheltered us. As I revisited the first drafts—created under streams of salty droplets of memory—that didn’t stamp the book with legible pigment, I knew I was ready to continue story-telling.

Freedom remained aloof. I hadn’t learned how to recognize my own consciousness.

Oxheart’s notoriety confused the timid voices inside me. I didn’t know how to breathe deeply, how to find my center, how to embody success, or how to speak from my heart. Much of the time, I existed, pressed against the ceiling of my mental and physical capacities. In the belly years of Oxheart, the daunting task of entertaining a full dining room could not distract me from very hidden internal struggles. All exit plans would change me, leave marks in my heart and on my body.

Justin would become the primary face and name to a place that we co-created. Our equally responsible endeavor did not match the frequently published image of a singular set of eyes. I didn’t know at the time how this would impact me. I would angrily vent to Justin that he didn’t consider correcting those publishings. He would remind me that I said many times I didn’t want to be in the media’s eye, that he could handle the limelight better than I, that he was protecting me. He was half right. I was half right. Together, we weren’t fully right.

I only successfully avoided having my photo taken half of the time. I felt like most images would not capture the truth within me, because, I too, could not see my own truth. These photos would live on the internet forever, portraying me separate from my spirit. I rarely gave interviews because I had not yet embodied the vocabulary and syntax of my voice to accurately portray the answers to questions. I made the mistake of letting others fill in the blanks.

The thoughts of divorce plagued me during and after. I kept many aspects of my life private for a few years after. Justin is one of the most important relationships in my lifetime. I would not be any part of this known version of myself if it wasn’t for us. Justin introduced me to cooking when he was applying to The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. I knew my parents would say no. Justin encouraged me to quit my corporate job when I hated it 22 months in. Justin got me my first baking jobs in Houston. Justin left his job here in Houston when I got into pastry school in Chicago and again when I got an externship at The French Laundry.  Perhaps Justin knew me best. He knew I needed to be released to fly.

We helped each other achieve our conscious and unconscious desires. Justin always spoke of being a restauranteur of multiple concepts. I always wanted to redefine the familial label of ‘stubborn’ and to be labeled as someone that powered and followed her own soul. When the pages of this chapter came to an end, I wanted to remove the titles others used to describe me: pastry chef, baker, wife, ex-lover.

Only my closest friends and sister really knew how I struggled. My burnout was physical, emotional, and social. Mornings greeted me with intense pain in my back, feet, and wrists. I hobbled to my toothbrush and sometimes sat on the floor to brush my teeth because standing before my body had a chance to warm up was too painful. I started going to yoga because I couldn’t run or swim anymore. I found slight comfort in moving slowly, having found teachers who would nurse me back to health. I traveled as escape. The more I lived in the future, the less the past mattered. Eventually, I would learn that I needed to find the present.

I staged a lot again, returning to Denmark and Belgium where much of Oxheart began. I took ceramic classes at Glassell because I missed working with my hands and because we once had this sweet idea for me to make all the plates for Oxheart. I took a graphic design class to build on the skills that I You Tube’d to create the first book I published. I put my things in storage, summer after summer.

Many of you ask when I will open a place of my own. You also offer help and I believe that you will. The truth is that for a long time, I was scared at the thought of repeating lessons of the past. I kept telling myself next year, which meant I told you next year. Who will I have to lose in my life? What expression of love will I have to suppress? Will I fear for my life while driving because I cannot stay awake? Every time the talks fell through, I would sigh with relief. The truth is that this year always found a reason to become next. I needed to devote time to friendships, to learning my expression of love, to self-care, to know my physical limits, to exploring other creative disciplines, to studenting again. The universe granted me space.

Next year tallies at three years. I tired of saying, “Next.” Living for next (year) obviously didn’t work for me. 2020. That equals 4. Beyoncé rocks 4. I’m in for that ride, with lemonade.

In releasing control of 2019, I gave myself a year to do any of the things I’ve always wanted to do: learn Spanish, study plants, travel without an itinerary, re-acquaint myself with romantic love. I’m not afraid of loving you, that your spirit is tied up, that you can’t love me back. This year “off” is so I can look inside my soul, feel two planets away, and let myself be in things I don’t understand. Locate me in Peru. In less than a month, I will join the team at El Pan de la Chola, take Spanish lessons, navigate my way through Peruvians plants, and read through a small, highly-personalized library of books.

I need this year to learn how to be fully in love with myself. I have never felt so sure about anything else.

Everything is love, so love endlessly.

feelings

In time, between 29 and 31, I felt the need to express love in a physical form. Having spent a good portion—months often connected—of 31, 32, and in between 32 and 33 away from the people I knew I loved, I discovered and practiced love that could be felt beyond physical form. Spending a few moments in quiet connection was all it took for the focusee of my thoughts to feel the space around them shift towards them. On occasion, I used technology to amplify my intent. The letters that formed words and the words that formed phrases, attempting to describe my current state, reflect back.

The critique on the form of desired affection wasn’t that I lacked love or that we lacked —it was that we each hadn’t been still long enough.

I am,
thinking about,
I am feeling,
and,
I love,
you.

I love,
me.

I love, all of the two of us’.

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. I want to live this next decade much more intentional than the last. I want to get to know the people that enjoy my company. I want to be kinder. I want to love more. I came across this quote and it sums up my thoughts quite well:

“If you understand each other, you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man never leads to hate and almost always leads to love.”
-John Steinbeck

unconditional relationships

I spent a solid hour (and now almost more than two) pondering the thoughts in Mark Manson’s What Love Is. I should never be allowed to get a second wind at 11pm.

They say the older you get, the fewer friends you have. The older I get, the better friends I make and the more unconditional relationships I have. I am extremely aware of how blessed I am.

Two thoughts:

While I agree with his definitions of conditional and unconditional love, I can’t picture how a partnership (traditionally called marriage) between two persons can exist entirely as an unconditional relationship.

Because each friend gives me something I need (conditional), I can love them (unconditional). Because everyone is inherently different and adds a more colorful layer to my life, having multiple unconditional friends actually allows me to maximize the amount of love I can share, resembling very little of the initial conditions that brought us together. The deeper my friendships, the more I am able to love. Do relationships start with conditions, only to become unconditional when it finds love?

The last memories of my 20 somethings

At least this time you didn’t find me huddled in the doorway of another failed business, where a homeless man has slept a few nights in a row, crying. I didn’t need tissues this time.

You wiped my tears away with that mason jar of wickedly strong cold-brewed coffee; its caffeine numbed the lingering pain. The warm shower broke down any tension in my body and flushed the dull, dead cells of the past down the drain. This moment was going to be the start of something special. You approved my hair that is held in place with bobby pins and modeling paste. You pinned up my dress and chose my flash tats to accesorize my newly exfoliated, radiant skin. As we mixed the winning concoction of trash can punch and decorated the sidewalk with chalk, I felt so fortunate to call you my friend. Very rarely do we have time as adults to devote to a birthday shenanigan filled with a unicorn pinata, trashcan punch, glow sticks, sabering of champagne, college football, bouncy water slides, a 25 pound cake, and the most loving people in the city.

I would describe my 20s as a rollercoaster of adventures that sometimes left me barely hanging onto life at times, only to be momentarily revived by phases of euphoria that uninvited spectators would be jealous of. Sometimes I would look back to relive the ups and downs and twists and turns, but only after waiting in line again. The friends that held my hand and cradled my heart through countless cycles remain because they love every part of me. You are one of those friends.