They did it for the James Beard Award

The other day I was at a really nice restaurant eating some delicious food with a friend of mine. We were commenting on how flavorful the food was and how nice the service was. The next time our waiter came over to our table, we decided to compliment him, as well as the chef. The waiter then proceeded to tell us about how the goal of the restaurant was as to do “x, y, z” things differently because “they wanted to receive a James Beard award.”

And then I just suddenly lost my appetite. Like, I wanted to regurgitate the delicious food I had just ingested. Something inside me had such a strong reaction to his statement: “we are doing this–making good food, giving you excellent service so that we can receive an award.”

Really?  That’s why you’re making this food good? It’s not about nourishment or providing healthy and delicious creations to your community?

And I’m really trying not to be judgmental here, because I want to approach this young man and this beautiful restaurant from a place of love for their food and love for the community they have built within.

But what I am trying to do is to point out that our intention for doing things is important. And, I am hoping that this restaurant does not go over to the dark side and turn into one of… them.

Who is “them,” you ask?

I’ll tell you about “them.” To be truthful, there’s all a little bit of us in them. But I need to tell you about “them,” so that you don’t completely cross over to the dark side and fully BECOME one of THEM.

“Them” includes people who work for their egos. Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “But don’t we all need to work to provide for ourselves and our families and for a source of income?” Yes, yes, we absolutely do.  But I’m not talking about that kind of work.  I’m talking about the work that says, “HEY LOOK AT ME AND LOOK AT WHAT I’M DOING!”

Why do they do it? Our culture rewards them. They are intermittently given accolades for their hard work and for the attention they receive from others. I mean, after all, they are doing the work, right?  They are in there, day after day, giving it their all.  They are doing the thing–whatever that thing might be–to the best of their ability. (What’s obviously not being examined, however, is why they are doing it.)

Our culture–our internet–our society LOVES celebrities like Kim Kardashians and Donald Trumps and people who continually put themselves out there, in order to receive something in return.  Those people are rewarded frequently with “likes,” “retweets,” and even AWARDS–fame, offices in politics, and 24-7 spotlight and access to microphones to say to the whole world whatever their hearts desire.

I’m not just talking about famous people of course either.  I’m talking about those in your community, your church, your workplace, and maybe even in your own family, who are operating from a spirit of “them.” They are working their butts off, and want someone to just pay them in return.  They deserve that, right?  They do good continually on the outside and for others…AND YET: it’s for the benefit of themselves and what they can receive in return: attention, acknowledgment, awards, etc. 

The spirit of them may look shiny and bright and perfect and good, but it’s actually kinda dark underneath.  It’s the birthplace of fear and of wanting love and attention from others because deep down there’s some emptiness.  There’s a fear of missing out and of losing acknowledgement, since the attention of our culture is so short spanned. The spirit of them measures success with public acknowledgement, words, attention–not growth.  It is not resilient.  It is not based on how far someone has come.  It is based only on what someone is doing right now and how loudly he or she is doing it.

And think about it–can you imagine if all the people in your lives working around you did what they did so that they could receive acknowledgement or attention or an award?  What if the main reason I was a teacher was so I could get an award?  What if, I showed up day after day and did my best performance in the classroom, for the sole purpose of being recognized? Would you want me to teach your child?  HECK TO THE NO.  Because what you want is someone who cares about teaching your child because she cares about your child and wants him to be successful. 

The people who are truly doing beautiful, good, and right things are not doing them loudly or saying “look at me.”  Instead, they are showing up, day after day, and doing the work and minding their own business.  They don’t have time to worry about attention, because that is not what they are there for.  They are there to do good work– work which positively impacts others and their community regardless of whether or not they receive accolades.  They draw attention to ISSUES–not to themselves.  They draw the attention to what needs to change for the good of the people–not about what needs to change for them to make their life easier.

And here’s the thing: every beautiful, true, steadfast thing I know of does not ever come from a place of them.  Like, ending a war.  Walking away from an abusive relationship. Deciding to get sober and stop using drugs.  Beginning a non-profit to help children in the community have a safe place to go after school.  Standing up for those who cannot fight for themselves, and addressing racism and sexism by taking responsibility. Those are ALL actions that are BEAUTIFUL and TRUE and HAVE DEPTH. They are all hard work, but do not ever come from a place of “them.”

So if we can just do one thing today, I hope it is this: can we acknowledge–whether that means give a voice to, or lift up, or honor– those who are there for the good of the cause, not for the good of themselves?  I, for one, am determined to not go down in history as someone who gave a microphone to someone who already had one.  I am going to give that metaphorical microphone to those who don’t necessarily think they need it, but who have a voice that needs the volume to be turned up on it because they are seeking change for the greater good.

I heard a quote this week, which I believe sums this sentiment up:

“Our metric for success, it seems to me, is off…  There are no reliable statistics for hearts opened or wounds healed.”– Josh Radnor

And guys, I’m all about the hearts opened and wounds healed. Let’s create a community where we can share the microphone with those who do not receive attention, but who are working for open hearts and healing.

“Mom, Keep Some Room in your Heart for the Unimaginable.”

Seven years ago, I was in the hospital in the middle of a thirty-four and a half hour labor. 

When I finally saw my daughter’s face on Sunday morning, June 15th, 2008, it was nothing short of surreal.  I didn’t know she would be beautiful. In fact, at that juncture in my life, I was on such a streak of bad luck, that I expected everything about this baby to follow suit to my bad karma. I was expecting my baby to be average at best. (Isn’t that an awful thought to have about one’s unborn child?)  

I know that my low expectations came as a result of how I felt about myself. I thought there was no way that anything remotely beautiful could come out of me and/or the dysfunctional relationship I was in.

But back to this baby. This baby–MY baby–a beautiful, alert, tough-looking baby looked at me with this exceptional look on her face when the nurse brought her over to me. I actually remember mentally picturing her quoting the poet, Mary Oliver, and saying to me, “Mom, keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable. Cause it’s coming. Big time. Some amazing shit is about to go down.” 

(Only the first sentence of that was actually Mary Oliver–the rest was just me, making crap up.)

So that’s the kind of baby she was–smart as hell, strong willed, affectionate, and even better at reading people than me.  It seemed like she would always cry if a douchebag or super fake person wanted to hold her. It was moments like this that caused me to smile, and say, “Atta girl.” 

I remember being at church with her when she was around two years old, and an older woman said to me, “She sure is pretty. Let’s just hope she doesn’t become vain.”

And I wanted to say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa–what??? Do you know how much I struggled with my self image when I was younger? Do you know that I never thought I was beautiful? Do you know that it has taken me years to actually feel okay about what I see when I look in the mirror?”

But instead I just walked away. She was elderly and had no idea what my experiences had been. 

I remember that “pride” and “vanity” were frowned on in my upbringing, particularly in the church. I think there’s definitely wisdom in knowing that our inner beauty is our true strength. But since we live in a culture that bombards children with images of beauty, I think it’s only normal that both girls and boys would want to know that they are beautiful both outside and inside. Yes, inside is what’s important, but MAN, I would rather have my daughter know her beauty in every way possible so that she can face the challenges before her.

And there will be challenges.

There will be people that will comment on her body. They may tell her that parts of her body are too big or too small.  There will be children that may advertently or inadvertently ask her to compare herself to them. There will be people that say things, not because they want to hurt her, but they do end up hurting her with comments like, “Your hair is scraggly, your skin is dry, your teeth are pointy, your feet are big.”

How do I know this? Because these are things that have already been said to her.

So, with that in mind, I would rather tell my daughter that she is beautiful everyday of her life, and err on the possibility of her becoming “vain and conceited” than have her grow up thinking that she is not beautiful enough. 

Because she is SO enough. And although I have made mistake after mistake in parenting, that is the one message I want to convey to her about herself. 

She has changed my life. She has caused me to realize that there is always room in my heart for the unimaginable. The fact that I carried this human being in my body and am now raising her is beyond my wildest dreams. The fact that parenting is like getting a job that you’re not even qualified to do but you do it everyday for the rest of your child’s life because of the incredible LOVE you feel for him or her–that just blows my mind. The fact that God entrusted me to raise her–that he gave me this responsibility to be her female prototype–whoa, now that’s some deep stuff. It’s crazy hard for me to wrap my mind around it. 

I don’t know what the future holds for me. I’m 38. I’m no spring chicken. I do not know if I will have the opportunity to have more children or not. But I am SO grateful for this beautiful child that God entrusted to ME. This responsibility and life I have is too short to not make a difference to her. 

We went into the donut shop the other day. She was wearing these shoes, which are kind of obnoxious, because she will attempt to tap dance in them even though they are not tap dancing shoes AND she has never had tap dancing lessons in her life.  

 

As she was “tap dancing” up and down the entire shop, the woman working behind the donut counter said, “I LOVE those shoes! They are like music to my ears! Keep on dancing. Never stop. Keep on dancing.”

Aliana smiled and tapped her way at the door after we purchased the donuts. 

Aliana, my daughter, has taught me the art of rejoicing in the NOW. She embodies this other poem from Mary Oliver, which is one of my favorites:

“The Summer Day”

by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

 

 
She has taught me to dance my way through my one wild and precious life. ❤️🙌🏽💃🏻