It’s still all about what it can mean to Come Home to Cooking – no matter what or where you are or call “home”. It’s also always all about what actually matters most in any given moment. And how much we need to keep creating new possibilities that can generously serve the purpose of being alive. To help us remain connected to ourselves and each other.
The first few weeks after I carefully considered, created, and then started living in harmony with my own Joie de Vivre Schedule, I couldn’t believe the immediate difference it made. My basic needs, wants and responsibilities, as well as the number of hours in each and every day had obviously remained the same. But suddenly there was the gift in an already secured time and place for everything that actually mattered most, and all of those everythings could more effortlessly just happen in their coordinated time and place slots. I really had to laugh — both with relief and in amazement.
We make our plans, and then Life intervenes, right? So it really helps to first get in the habit of fitting both your regular and desired additional activities into your carefully defined time frames. That way you don’t set up a ripple that creates unnecessary stress and/or sabotages your other high priority activities — either solo or coordinated with others.
For so many decades, even the most challenging of my jobs included the resulting buffer from essentially non-negotiable duties and schedule demands it’s an employer’s role to require of us. Working as a head chef with round-the clock responsibilities, everything always had to rotate around that commitment. So both my personal and social life opportunities all had to show up at the given restaurant, and then at the end of each long day blurring into night, I’d just go home to shower, sleep a few hours, put on clean clothes and return to work again. And, of course, restaurants also often make a point of being open on holidays to help customers celebrate the occasion with greater ease and festivity, so that’s definitely not a guaranteed time off for staff members. It’s all part of the deal, and so obvious that you’re always at work, people typically neither hound nor honor you with additional requests. They quite rightly assume you just can’t, so they don’t even think to ask. In fact, I always wondered what people who worked at or from home did all day with so much imagined free time and choices available. Now I know. It’s never easy. (“No, no, no, I really can’t!”)
It’s “Picnic Monday” around here today. That’s what we’ve long called the day after Easter Sunday, when we always look forward to cruising on the intended overflow from generous holiday preparations. This year we’re actually both back at work instead of basking in an extended weekend, and it’s not even sunny enough to eat outside in our spring-blooming garden. But at least what’s for lunch and dinner is already taken care of, and we’re still savoring all the fresh family memories for a lasting sense of sweetness that takes both my mind and heart on a picnic.
Back in the last century, but really not that long ago, American families felt lucky enough to have even one car. Since the dad usually took it to work every weekday, while the mom managed everything else on the home front, that meant grocery shopping (and family chores) could only happen on Saturday. Stores weren’t open at night or on Sundays, and you had to make sure to stock up and menu plan for the whole week.
Looking down the predictably long list of everything you might need and want to accomplish even in one day — let alone week, month, year, or life — can easily prove overwhelming. As a result, we often resort to hiding behind distractions and procrastinations, instead of consciously moving through each moment in a way that can serve our intended purpose. But by dividing everything into manageable categories to first think about and then do as separate blocks, we reliably boost both our available energy and probable success levels. I certainly spent decades first learning and then practicing this critical lesson in the restaurant business with all the trial-by-fire demands in line work and kitchen management responsibilities.
In a recent blog post, I addressed the power in learning how to make mindful daily choices that respect and conserve our time, energy and resources, while also supporting and reflecting our true priorities to make room for an expanded sense of creativity, connection and fulfillment. Whew! That’s both a mind, mouth and heart full. But in the past year, I’ve discovered the most effective way to honor these worthy intentions is to first carefully define and then establish a dependably regular work and personal life schedule. What I like to call a “Joie de Vivre Schedule,” that provides a strong yet harmoniously balanced and flexible framework to best serve my purpose with respectful boundaries for all involved.
But Our Daily Choices Are Still More Powerful Than We Might Realize …
I recently ran into a culinary colleague I hadn’t seen in quite a while. He had read how the unexpected changes in city regulations had suddenly and no longer allowed me to teach classes in my professional home kitchen about a year ago, so he wondered what I was up to now. “After all these years of working so hard as a chef, are you starting to think about retirement?” Without even considering the question, I immediately blurted out, “No! I’m currently focused on fulfillment instead.” (Who said that?) It just came out of my mouth. And a few days later in a rare moment of personal consumerism, I actually bought myself an inspiring fulfillment necklace (instead of the classic retirement gold watch) to wear in recognition of this energizing realization.
While I like to live the belief that if we keep on dancing, we’ll never grow old (at least in our minds and hearts), as I come up for air this January 6th to take a fresh look around, I realize once again what more primal creatures both instinctively know and automatically practice.