Let no one keep you from your journey,
no rabbi or priest, no mother
who wants you to dig for treasures
she misplaced, no father
who won't let one life be enough,
no lover who measures their worth
by what you might give up,
no voice that tells you in the night
it can't be done.
Let nothing dissuade you
from seeing what you see
or feeling the winds that make you
want to dance alone
or go where no one
has yet to go.
You are the only explorer.
Your heart, the unreadable compass.
Your soul, the shore of a promise
too great to be ignored.
- Mark Nepo
This here poem, its made its way into my consciousness much the way that Sam Harris drops big words on the daily. Yesterday I learned a new word, "Liminal". Its hardly a big word, but its new, slightly alien to me.
Like...hey, I use the word "Subliminal" all the time, but who on earth has ever thought to say, "Liminal"???
When I was young, many moons ago, I used to cherish those moments when I learned a new word. I am not talking about being 5 or 6, I am talking about being an adult, confident that my grasp of the English language was pretty damn good for a half-breed growing up in a former British Colony...I scored high on my SAT's...for English...my Math was just about scraping by in the "very average" range.
Who cares though, right? Its been proven that language ability is a greater indicator of success than Math ability...so I am sticking with that little bit of nonsense for now.
Anyway, where have we been and where are we going?
You ever wonder that about your own life?
I do, a lot. I think after I hit 40, its like I wonder about that almost daily. Some days I am ahead of the game and some days I just don't want to play.
The thing that keeps coming back to me is this here one question, and I joke with my husband that one day I need to write a book by that very title:
Whats the point?
Or more like, "Whats the point!"
No really, what the hell is the point of it all? Of life, of making any effort to learn, of being someone bigger than yourself, of doing more to make the world somehow more habitable...
Whats the point...
And that is why this poem I share is so poignant.
I can't take credit for finding it, Elizabeth Gilbert can take that credit, and the Calm app can take credit for sharing it with me...
Every time I feel dejected and out of my element, I return to that one 30 min masterclass on the Calm app, and I remind myself, sometimes with tears welling in my eyes, that there is a point.
There is a point to trudging through one more day, even if today felt thankless.
There is a point in showing up, being present, even when no one else shows up to stand with you.
There is a point in choosing to create, even if no one will see your creation.
There is a point to caring, communicating, being...because if you chose to do nothing at all, there would be nothing you can contribute, you will stagnate, there will be no point.
Creative types, pshhh.
That, I guess, is how I understand one would describe me. I never thought that of myself. I always thought of myself in the ways others define me, from my mother when I was young, calling me, "Wasted potential" or my teacher in boarding school calling me, "Instigator"...we all, as we come into our own, do everything we can to prove those folks wrong, and hopefully, while doing so, we don't lose ourselves along the way.
I know now, I love to create. Creating something new, coming up with new ideas, making reality of ideas or dreams, that is where I find my purpose and fulfillment. I am constantly evolving, making a decision, changing my mind, looking at a problem from every angle and still finding the angle I like best. That is me.
Its been tough, let me not kid, these last few months have not been easy. We can't pretend that the protests haven't hit us like most of our compatriots in FnB. We were hoping it was because of the summer, there is always a downturn in the summer as people flee the insane heat here and holiday abroad. Kids are out of school so parental date nights and such are less...who knows, I wouldn't know what to compare it to because I've never actually done this before, Its gonna be a few years yet before I say, "This isn't my first Rodeo!"
We have been waiting for September to roll around, to see if the trend has to do with the protests or if they have to do with the norm of summer being quieter months...and well, hard to say at this stage. Hard to figure out how to juggle the numbers while still being in a space where we can continue to innovate and to create.
The most important part for me at this stage, I guess, is to ensure that the food quality remains good, the team remains happy, and I don't run myself into the ground by trying to do more, be more, and generally lose myself in doing and being.
I would never have thought I would do what I am doing...or for that matter, consider doing more...and yet, here I am, chomping at the bit, wanting more, and knowing I have to be patient as we weather the current economic conditions.
Hong Kong was teetering on the brink of a recession before the protests kicked off, some 15 weeks ago already, but now, we are in a recession, and its not looking great for most businesses, 40% down in most FnB businesses and many hotels have been running on 25% occupancy when they need at least 75% to be in the comfort zone.
We are lucky our business isn't supported by tourism, we are still very much supported by the community we cater to, so for that I am grateful. I guess I am also grateful for the fact I have nothing to compare my experience to, one day, years from now, I can look back on this and understand it much the same way I know how to read a map. For now, we wait.
As long as we keep doing what we have been doing, we will survive. We just need to be more conscious of how we operate, our food costing, avoiding items that are wasteful, maybe we will even have to trim our menu down a bit to a manageable number of dishes, I think as much as we love choice, its clear we have too many choices.
Its not easy to predict how things will turn out, Sometimes I lie awake at night and think about every bit of prep that needs to be done for the next day, and the next, and I think, "whats the point?"
Why do I do what I do?
And you know what comes to mind? Apart from this poem...the movie "Chocolat"!
Ever watched it? Its an old movie, well, old as I can call something old...and its about a woman who makes chocolate in this tiny french town and the chocolate she makes brings up all these suppressed emotions in the people who buy and eat her chocolate.
I am not saying I am the chocolatier lady, all I am saying is that I remember loving that movie, the idea of food and its connection to our emotions, food as love, food as happiness, food as nourishing and innately good, food as a feeling...its what impacted me the most when I watched that movie.
You know what it feels like when you eat something not great for you, you feel terrible afterwards.
And I am not saying food is something we do to feed our emotions, like, when people eat to fill an emotional void, almost like they are eating their emotions...
Food, good food, tasty food, clean food, for me, is about happiness, love, kindness, care, joy, patience, integrity, honesty and sharing.
Hmm, is that a run on sentence? I don't care, because, in the end, does it matter?
We break bread together, we communicate over a meal, we share...or we can even quietly look within, eat alone, and still enjoy a good meal and appreciate the effort that went into it. If there is any reason I do what I do, its because it makes me happy to share the kind of food that I would like to eat myself. Not everything we serve is a dish I would eat daily, not myself anyway, but everything we serve is a dish I am happy to eat. Hell, I barely eat, I have to remind myself to eat most days because we get busy and I lose my appetite after being around food all days long.
You know on my Sundays, our one day off, I eat out every single meal. I eat out because I don't feel like cooking or cleaning. If I cook, I cook for the kids, that is about it. I would be happy to just eat noodles all day if that were up to me, Sundays are a lazy day for me.
Have I gotten any better at taking care of myself? I can't say that I have. I keep meaning to, and then somewhere sandwiched between my "Whats the point" moments and my "I love what I do" moments is this thought about how there simply aren't enough hours in one day.
I need sleep, more than anything, I need a good nights sleep...and right now, I am sure I will finally get decent sleep in a few years time. I have eye masks from some fancy sleep focused website, Manta Sleep, their logo is a Manta...not sure what that sea creature has to do with sleep, but hey...super soft ear plugs to block out the noise...a weighted blanket that makes you feel like you are being hugged all night long...the whole lot. More pillows than you could ever dream of...and still my smartwatch clocks my sleep at an average of 5.5 hours a day.
I used to pride myself on getting 10 hours of sleep a day...and here I am, struggling to get to bed by 11pm only to wake the next morning before 6am. And so I do everything else I can to feel rested, short naps mid afternoon. Meditation in the morning. Avoiding caffeine after 12pm...and who knows what else, I am sure if I stopped making excuses for why I can't make it to the gym, I might actually be forced to organize my schedule in such a way as to make it all work. The one day I could be doing all that, ensuring I can get myself organized for making time for myself, is Sunday...and sadly, all I want to do is nothing on Sunday!
So maybe today I will do everything I can to ensure I get myself organized and actually make time for myself, make time for the gym, make time for my kids, make time for my spouse and make time for the future that I want to be living into.
I will sit down at the tiny table in our small apartment and I will hand draw the new menu so I don't have to make a mess of a crappy word document because I don't have any graphic design software or knowledge!
Yeah, maybe that is what I am going to have to do this evening :)
More hours, I need more hours in my day, and a side of fries with dip-dip!
We finally hit the one year mark on the 15th of May. Well, officially it was more like the 22nd of May because we opened our doors on the 15th of May 2018 not knowing what the hell we were doing, wholly unsure what to expect, and truly scared half to death of the "how to" and the "what to" of it all. When we opened on the 15th we had so much food and no one to eat it...we each had to take a lot of food home so as not to waste it. Its also how we came up with "tofu fries" because we had so much tofu we didn't know what to do with it!
Funny how a year can make all the difference.
Six months ago, I was curled up in a ball, crying my bleeding heart out, truly scared at the crazy task I had taken on. I think at the six month mark I realized, oh man, all this is on me. These guys, the team, they are depending on me for leadership, for everything from as simple as "we need more take away boxes" to "thank you for my paycheck".
I felt like...well, I felt like I was drinking water from a fire hydrant!
I felt like one of those crazy Japanese people who ride a giant tree trunk down a muddy hill for that Shinto festival (you gotto look that up!) in nothing but a kimono! I mean, there are bodies flying everywhere and the last man still on the darn thing is somehow blessed!
I truly felt like, "Oh man, this won't end, will it! I am IN it now, I have to see it through to the end!"
I was so full of ideals and optimism when I started, I just didn't realize the toll it would take on my body, my sanity, my family.
It was at about this point, exhausted, crying, having panic attacks, that I reached out to others who knew better.
The best advise I got was this:
"You need to take time to care for yourself, because in this profession, all you do is give, you give to your team, you give to strangers, you give to loyal customers who become friends, and if you don't take time to replenish your reserves of energy, your well will run dry, you will break down."
And then came the advise from my Doc, "Stop with the Jiu Jitsu, your body is in Fight or Flight mode as it is, take up yoga, meditate, slow down, work less..."
Blah, blah, blah...well, I stopped Jiu Jitsu, to lower my "fight or flight" response and my cortisol levels, I started meditating, I downloaded two super expensive apps, CALM and WAKING UP...you know, to help me get mindful! I moved house, well, WE moved house, so I could be so close to work I could practically smell the food...and initially that seemed like a good but bad idea, because I ended up going into work even earlier and leaving even later, but at some point I had to force myself to slow down, to take time for myself...more on that later, I guess. I even signed up for a yoga membership...I have gone six times since December...Its June now...so yeah, its just across the street, too! What can I say, it gets busy.
Now, that one, I simply haven't been able to figure out. I reckon I find a way to take a break more, but the hours are still just as long. What has happened in the last six months though, since my borderline nervous breakdown, is that I have learned to look within, I have made time for my family, even if its only on weekends or mid afternoon. I bought a fitbit to track how active I am during the day, and let me tell you, I did 22,000 steps yesterday and 36 flights of stairs...its no wonder I can't gain any weight despite sometimes eating utter rubbish.
Yes, I also take care of what I eat a lot better than I did 6 months ago. I was eating Dal and rice daily for almost 6 months, not taking time to eat much else unless it was chocolate. You know how it can be, you spend all your time cooking for people, you smell food all the time, that whole process of hunger and emotional experience that comes from food, it kinda gets eroded. You love to see food, you love to plate food, you love to cook food, you love to serve food, you love to watch people eat food, oh, that last bit, I love it! Lol. But...somehow, when its time for you to eat, its 4pm...and your fellow chef says, "So? what shall we eat?" and all you can think is..."I dunno, man! I don't know!"
Surrounded by food and you simply aren't clued in what you want to eat. You are physically hungry, but just...blank.
Anyway, what I am saying is, in my trying to work on eating right, I have also pushed the team to consider what they eat...we were all in the same boat afterall. So we do alright, I think. We are a solid little band of minions. I would never have expected that the plan I had, the dream I dreamed, would be a success. I love each and every one of them, fiercely. Even the ones I have had let go, often I sit awake at night and wonder how they are and wish that they are well.
Majority of the team has been with me from the start, it kinda makes me tear up to think that they are the people I see more than I do my own family. Its a strange thing when you come to accept that about "WORK". You know? You see those people more than your family, so you better make sure you are in the right place. You don't want to work for an asshole, so don't be one. At least, that is what I tell myself. I've worked for my fair share of psychopaths, and I always believed that in order to become a CEO, you got to be a psychopath, but then now here I am, when my business partner and I sad down to allocate titles, he said, "Ok, you be the CEO!" and I was like, waaaaaaaait a minute.....
I am pretty sure he took the title that gave him greater control in the end, we laugh, coz technically none of it means a darn thing, maybe, hmmm, personally I just want to create, I want to cook, I want to be around food, I want to see people eat the food I cook. That is as simple as it gets.
I love what I do.
I have learned the why of what I do. I have learned more with each passing day, of what I am capable of and how hard I am willing to push myself.
I love my team, I love so many of our customers, they give me so much in return for what I feel is just a drop in the ocean of positivity...
I have learned to appreciate my family more now than I could have ever done before.
My husband, that man, what a wonderful human being he is. He works so damn hard and is more present in the kids lives than I am, I could not do this without his support, his friendship, his love and his presence in my life.
There I go getting teary eyed again.
So much, so, so much to be grateful for.
This was the biggest part of my turnaround from near breakdown.
Practicing meditation and learning a Grateful Attitude.
It made the difference in my cortisol levels, it made the difference in how I viewed myself, it made a difference in my anger management, it made a difference in how I approached each day, it made a difference in every interaction and relationship I had, and it made a difference in how I view the business and the long haul.
I am grateful for everything I have now, this shop, Confusion...all of it, has taught me this.
My team, my customers, many of them now my friends, my beautiful husband, my kids who have learned to read in the last year without my help....my kids who can speak to me of how they miss me but also how they understand what I am doing and the why...I am grateful for my parents for instilling in me this urgent need to succeed and to make a difference in peoples lives. I am grateful for the suppliers I work with, each of them so hardworking too, and willing to respond to messages at ungodly hours...
Thank you, one and all, for teaching me why I am here, teaching me how I aspire to greater heights of creativity, teaching me that money isn't the be all and end all, its about the people in your life that matter...and thank you for waking this sleeping dragon.
Until the next time I decide to ramble...Mahalo!
My name's Lisa. I love to cook, I love to laugh, I love to write. I don't always believe I have the time for creating, and now I am going to work on simply going with the flow, with the food, the restaurant, the writing...and if I can, for one moment, spread a little joy along the way, well, its worth the effort.