This is me…
I was a fearless child.
I was a child for whom the unknown held no terrors. I can’t say as much for my ‘known,’ but when the unknown came knocking, I invariably rolled with the punches. I was nothing else, if not resilient.
My ‘known’ was bad enough.
I’ve often examined how as a survivor of childhood sexual and emotional abuse, I was unafraid most of the time. You would think that boogeyman would have scared me, but since there were so many bogeymen whom I knew on a first name basis (hello mother) it was as if a private little voice were always whispering in my ear from the time I was a little child, “everything is going to be OK, it’s all going to be ok” ….and that comforting voice was with me through some very dark nights.
Of course, it sometimes felt as if that sweet little reassuring voice was somewhat deranged, since most of the time everything was emphatically NOT OK during the majority of my childhood and early adulthood. Regardless, I continued to believe in that voice. ‘If it wasn’t OK, it wasn’t the end,’ the little whisper promised. I held onto that promise for dear life during some of the darkest nights of my soul.
So many of the ‘that really wasn’t OK’ stories are in my soon to be released memoir about becoming a chef. It was as if I took all the times of doubt, sadness and despair, and then turned them into the fiery heat which forged me from its depths. Then (thinking at the time this was a really good idea) I wrote them for strangers to read, (and some people I wish were strangers) and then take ownership of. I cut out a little piece of my heart and bled a tiny bit onto every page of the book which was ultimately published. It became a chef’s memoir about the darkness and ultimate redemption where food became love.
At one point I write about not divulging too much about myself to the strangers who entered my restaurant since I don’t want them to own too big a piece of me, yet I have done so much worse in my autobiography. How do you let go of your life story enough to expose yourself so brutally to complete strangers? I still don’t know, but tomorrow when I hold the first copy in my hands and hand it across the table to the first person who buys one I might know the answer. I will discover what it feels like to tell the world about my darkness. ‘This is me, this is me, THIS IS ME’ that little voice is now whispering fervently.
This week I have cried and raged and doubted. I don’t know whom to trust and I realize this question is fatuous considering I have just put my heart on four hundred and twenty pages for anyone to examine. This is not just my first book; this is my life story, my fabulous dysfunction, my multiple failures. I lay it bare for everyone to poke, prod and gawk at. Not just telling stories to those people I love, but exposing myself to those who want to hurt me as well.
My fear is palpable; you can see it rolling off of me in waves. I’ve never done anything like this before; the throw downs, the competitions, the contests to be the best were only about my talent. I really didn’t care about the outcome. That was my craft, not my heart beating outside of my body. ‘When It’s Done: The Making of a Chef’ is my soul, bared and naked and bleeding. I care about what people see. I care about who I am. I care enough that I have become someone who opened their life for the world to judge. This is true fear, anything else was merely foreplay.
(Shortly after I wrote that last sentence some clown posted on my book link, ‘they make anyone a chef nowadays!’ and I surprised myself by laughing out loud. So I guess I am not quite as fragile as I thought I was.)
I guess I don’t expect the people who love me to love me any less after I expose myself. For the people who don’t love me I’m pretty confident I don’t care what they say. I just want the people who have followed my career for years to not say ‘OH MY she is such a HOT mess’ (and yes, that is definitely true) but rather to say, ‘what resiliency!’ We all have that little voice in our head that says “It’s going to be OK in the end,” but usually we don’t pay attention to it, we mute it in a haze of worry and fear. I want this book to be about finding your happy ending or at least beginning the search to find your ‘this is OK place.’ It is about embracing that voice no matter what else is happening in your life.
This is me telling my story, but it could easily be your daughter, your son, your sister, your wife telling their own journey of dysfunction and redemption. Love them, and say it’s OK to have those dark nights of the soul, and it is OK to get a little lost along the way.
Somehow you will always find your way home and I hate to spoil the ending of the story, but it is going to be OK in the end.
Because it will.
It always will.
No matter what.
If you are alone, and also afraid, I will be with you pushing you forward. Be brave and fearless. Walk into the abyss and kiss the darkness hello.
You can do this.
I can too.
PS Hope I see you all tomorrow night 11/16 at 36 Rehoboth Avenue, second floor of Grotto pizza at 6-9PM. Join me for a glass of champagne if you wish, but event is family friendly if you want to bring the kiddos.