Order to Chaos—A Tiny Rant About Why Cooks (and Writers) Mmmmmmmight Be Crazy

This piece was previously published on shakeyourcookie.com, my weird blog, on 1/9/2018 with the title “Order to Chaos—A Tiny Rant About Why Cooks Mmmmmmmight Be Crazy.” I got super bored with it being a food blog so, I started to tell stories about life and cooking and other stuff so that I would start posting again and so it would be fun to write. It’s so much more fun.

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*Disclaimer: not all cooks are crazy. that’s not true. all cooks are batshit*

It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that most professional cooks are a fairly broken bunch of folks.
One could even say “mentally ill” if one was to forgo diplomacy. Having worked in kitchens for many years and living with myself for even more, I cannot debate this theory. I am, however, going to try to defend it. Or, at least myself.

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Where do you draw the line? An experiment with “found” writing

Due to a recent tweak in my insomniac four-year-old’s bedtime routine, I now spend hours each night sitting outside her room waiting for her to fall asleep while answering the questions that run through her head while she winds down: “Mum, what’s a fawn?” “How do you spell poison?”

It’s painful, but at least it affords me some reading time, and as a consequence I’m churning through the books at the moment. One of the latest is The Beat of the Pendulum by Catherine Chidgey.

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Writing Places

Places have always riveted me. As a young girl, I would ride with my Dad in the car on our frequent trips from San Antonio to Taylor, a small town north of Austin, to celebrate Christmas Eve with family. I would read the mile marker signs and call out the names of towns we passed through.

I took my first trip out of the country (if we’re not counting childhood road trips to border towns in Mexico) when I was 20. It was a study abroad trip in Costa Rica, a country I explored for six weeks one summer. I traveled with a group of students, and we all met for the first time at the Houston airport. The company that arranged our travel had assigned us host families, and two of us stayed with each family. My roommate, the woman who shared a wing of the house I stayed in, had a bit more international travel under her belt. She taught me the difference between travelers and tourists, and turned me on to the Lonely Planet series of guidebooks.

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Connecting + Writing = A Happier, Healthier Brain

Recently I watched an eight-part docu-series about the brain from Dr. Mark Hyman who, among other things, is the Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. It was filled with words like mitochondria, neurotoxins, and glutathione. Each episode would expire after a short period of time so I watched them intensely over the course of the week.

Of all the things I heard, there were a few stand out concepts that made a big impact on me. In discussing exercise, one of the doctors used CrossFit as as an example but not only due to the activity but also because this group in particular supports each other within that culture—it’s a sense of community. Her research suggests that being cared for could cause the brain to release chemicals that inevitably lends itself to healing (biological changes in the body) and happiness.

Since hearing this I felt compelled to reach out to a few old friends that I love but let the business of life grow distance between us. Because why not—I want a brain that’s full of happy pathways free of plaque. I didn’t expect the outcome of relieving a bit of my self imposed isolation, nor did I see that this would make for a more powerful writing experience.

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The Five Truths of My Writing Process

The writing is not happening. Even though I try not to get caught up in the New Year’s resolution “live your best life” hoopla, every January I still secretly think maybe this is the year I will finally get my shit together. But here’s the thing about shit: it likes to spread itself around and stink up everything. And once it gets into the carpet, well, it’s never coming out. Too much? Right, too much. My point is, I will never have my shit together because life is messy and unpredictable and I have to learn to deal with it. (A zen master I am not.) However, I’m not a victim of circumstance either. I can buy some bleach and get a new carpet. What I need to do first is get real about my writing process and what I need in order to make the writing happen. So I made a list, and I’m sharing it with you here because the Internet loves lists almost as much as cat videos and trolling.

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Seeing Myself As A Writer

A couple weeks ago I found myself in the office of an ophthalmologist I hadn’t been to before.

“Alright, Jessica,  I need you to lean forward, rest your chin here, and press your forehead against this brace,” she said as she turned off the lights. “Now tell me, which one of these is better, one or two?” She continued, “one or two?”  

“One,” I answered.

“Okay, now three or four? Three or four?”

“Three?” I said, less confident.

I doubt myself sometimes when answering these questions. The stakes feel so high. Like if I somehow pick the wrong number, I’ll end up with contact lenses that make my vision worse, not better.

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I Don’t Really Write Happy Endings

It’s funny that my compulsion and decision to write came simultaneously with having children. The moment I lost control of my time, and my emotions started to run a little more wild is the moment I picked up the pen and paper. I took control of words in a way I didn’t feel like I could control my life anymore.

After the birth of my second child I decided to take a writing class. This soon turned into a writing practice that has become one of the driving forces in my life. Doing this while working full time and raising two children is not easy. There are times when the guilt I feel for deciding to take the time to write is overwhelming.

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On Writing Through The Pain—Literally

Here’s a dispatch from smack dab in the middle of 4 years of chronic pain past self me. I somehow, some which way, wrote it, prolly while eating my weight in chocolate pudding and coming down off of some super sweet ass nerve blocker whose side effects included:

  • Twitching
  • Slapping my mom’s hand out of mouth
  • There’s a murderer outside waiting for me to fall to sleep and then stab me to death so I def should not go to sleep
  • The eating and eating of chocolate pudding
  • More nerve pain
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Screaming in my sleep
  • SO SO many other things

I’ve since had a major miracle spinal surgery that worked.
It worked!!!!!
So, dry your tears and read about the abject terror that is Chronic Nerve Pain.

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Getting Naked

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but in 2018 I would really like to take my clothes off in front of a room full of strangers.

Slowly, in moments snatched between feeds, nappy changes, and coaching my four-year-old through her powerful emotions, I’ve been compiling a bucket list. Things I want to do for me, when there is a me again. As I’ve assembled the list, I’ve noticed a theme. They all involve exposing myself in public.

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