HH Death Spiral

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DOP1 (2010-11) VINTAGE POST:

September, 30th, 2011. I think we’re done. I know we’re done. The food court, which I never thought really hit its stride, certainly isn’t hitting it now – yesterday was the least amount of business I’ve ever seen in the court, not counting bad weather days. These nice fall days would seem to be perfect for getting outside to eat, if that’s what you’re into, but the court remains desperately vacant. And it doesn’t appear to be just the food court – I don’t see as many folks on the streets period. What the fuck? I had really thought the cooler weather would bring them out. Not that it fucking matters, the concept is not sustainable anyway – I knew that from the beginning. So, we’re done; the hh food cart odyssey is over. I’ll hold onto the cart for awhile, take a breath, pause, try to regroup, listen to my heart, and just rest for a bit. It may be that the cart has some purpose left in it, but I’ll more than likely try to sell it from the web soon.

Despite the end of the hh food cart vision, I actually feel great today. I don’t have a clue or any idea why. I know I feel “freer” today – not having to hustle around like crazy for that cart just to make chump change is part of it. I’m really in tune to what that court could’ve and should’ve been and Mark H. isn’t interested in making it what it could be and I’ve run into that scenario so fucking often in my other “careers” – the trying-to-make-a-job-into-something-that-it-isn’t problem. It’s not just me, it’s anybody who’s ever seen potential in something they’re doing and has ideas for change and improvement and is stifled by the simple fact that they’re powerless to change it. Whether it’s the food court or the zillion corporate jobs I’ve had – it’s that powerlessness to engage the “change-it-fix-it-make-it-better” part of me, that skill set and talent that I have – that just shuts down my heart and happiness and I start to suffocate. Mark’s Carts has turned into that. I quickly proved that I can sell my food to folks. I also quickly proved that there’s no profit in it of any magnitude whatsoever, and it just seems like it dragged on way too long. The only thing I was hoping for was the Grant of Inspection to try full-time wholesale headcheese production for Zingerman’s or somewhere else, while at the same time finishing the cart season as a sort of added promotional “stage” for the headcheese. I may decide to indeed finish out the cart season, but the “traffic” in the court is so fucking thin now, I don’t see how it’s worth it for me to keep opening the cart up. Maybe, we’ll see, it doesn’t feel in my heart like we’re completely done yet; it feels like the hh cart part of this personal myth isn’t quite over, but we’re close.

Anyway, I feel good, despite having absolutely no vision of the future. THAT isn’t good, but for some reason it’s not bothering me today. I just feel free and the future is unwritten but at least more under my control. It feels exactly like quitting a shitty job – it’s great for a day or two – you feel empowered again. Unfortunately, the euphoria – the little victory – doesn’t last and you quickly settle into another soul-crushing slog to find new work. But that’s what I want to keep out of – that slog – that dead, heart-killing process of grinding away, forcing your life into somebody else’s dream. I don’t exactly know what’s next, but I’ve learned to be careful during times like this – I can’t go rushing back to what I know – EHS – just because it’s familiar and “safe” and I can tell folks that don’t really give a shit that I have a job. To work just to be working. Working for somebody else isn’t a bad thing, it’s the working in the wrong job for somebody else. So I need to review my vogs and make a new one for this post-cart part of my life. It’s okay to have done this and had both a “failure experience” (the court isn’t as successful as it could’ve been) and a legitimate “success experience” (my “hook in” may be the headcheese and now I know I don’t like restaurant work). So that foggy fantasy of owning a restaurant is now nothing but a rock – dead weight – that I’ve chucked out of my biophycomythological backpack – whew!

The vocation that may have to change is the one that was the least fleshed-out to begin with – it was the biggest stretch: gastrofarming. Having a public house with a pig farm is really the one idea I need to either crystallize or dump. It’s going to take financial assistance to start it, and I don’t see the rewards-commensurate-to-my-efforts thing working out at all. I don’t see myself as a farmer and in my guts, in my heart, I just don’t like the idea of having a brick-and-mortar retail business, one that relies on the whims of the immediately surrounding population; of having a space (building, grounds, etc.) that sits and waits for folks to come to it. I walk by these restaurants and storefronts, closed, open, empty or whatever and I just think “ugh” look at this: these places are just sitting here desperately waiting and hoping people will walk by and notice them, or drive here (and somehow find convenient parking) to come here and eat. I know ZCoB started that way and they’ve become successful, such as it is, (such as you can be in the food service business) and have moved beyond just being physical storefronts, but that’s still a very large part of their business: plopping yourself down somewhere and trying to get people to come to you. There is something about that that just doesn’t jazz me at all. I’d also feel like a moron and a sucker to ever pay rent to a landlord again – I knew that would be a problem for me from the very beginning, but I tried to ignore how much of a negative it really is. Those mistakes of turning a blind eye to what you know isn’t right for you – of ignoring the facts in front of your face, of putting on rose-colored glasses so to speak, are the mistakes so many small business start ups make. I’ve read that and did it anyway, that’s how strong the pull is to make it work.

Now, the only way I’d even consider a storefront is to own everything about it. Of course that’s not a realistic dream or vision given our finances. If I had enough money to play with, I might consider looking for a potential storefront, like the Zal Gaz Grotto Club location – I can see that working for my vision. I’m envisioning this as I write – owning the Zal Gaz spot in A2 or something like it – but, when I listen to my heart, there’s still something missing in those ideas. What is it? Pigs? Variety? My other vocations? Is it just that I don’t want to be chained to a physical spot in Ann Arbor; that I want the freedom to get the fuck out of this state if I feel like it? I don’t know yet, but I’ll work through this carefully and mindfully – this is no time to panic or start running around like a fool and getting lost again. I need to stand still for a time, I don’t know how long, but I’ll keep listening to my heart, taking a step, listening, taking a step, listening….

Kev was talking last night about how he enjoyed the grad school experience he had but how now, years later, after feeling like he’s dismantled his life at least partly because of it, it’s like the experience never happened. I can identify with this. It’s the feeling that the experience hasn’t added lasting value to your life, that it hasn’t helped at all, that it was a waste of time, money and energy. I’m at that point with the hh cart thing. All the bone-crushing, mentally obliterating hard-ass all-consuming work that this Mark’s Carts thing ended up being has come to seem, if I’m not careful about my perspective on it, like a crazy, fun, nuts experience that was, in the end, just folly. Like just another fiasco. But here’s where I’ve learned some things I think: looking at what I got out of it – the knowledge of what I don’t want and the making and selling of my headcheese – is good enough. As a worthwhile return on my investment of blood, sweat, tears, time and money, the cost can seem far too high. One likes to imagine that effort adds up to something, that there’s a payoff, but as I’ve discussed already, outcomes can be hellishly mysterious. There are plenty of limit-pushing items in my hh vog that have not come to pass, at least not yet. But I’ve got the “opportunity” generated that I hoped the hh cart would accomplish. It’s just that it’s difficult sometimes to accept the seeming “smallness” of the accomplishment as sufficient to inspire all the work and time that still needs to be applied to it. I’ve discovered that I want to wholesale headcheese. That’s all I know right now. I can’t envision anything beyond that, not yet, and I think the USDA Grant process is one thing that is hanging me up, legitimately, because if I can’t get this Grant, then I can’t wholesale headcheese across the country – I’d have to really shrink the goal down to just selling within MI and that just does not jazz me. But I’ll cross that bridge…. For now, I think I need to quit trying to get in front of things that haven’t played out – when I get too far into future, the importance of the present diminishes and that’s not a good way for me to live, it’s a mistake that I’ve made before. I need to have a solid vision, but I need to play it out, mindfully, and live my life in the moment for what it is, and allow the myth to happen – if I bail out on my commitment to it, then I’ll leave something on the table. Life takes place in Time, not outside of it, and it doesn’t matter how much time you think you have, the things that are farther and farther outside of your control will come to pass or not according to their own time.

I think that’s the “unattachment” part that I need to work on – to accept some of these things that require the universe’s help, in its own time, and to not just sit and stew, or try to get things going faster than they can go, and stressing about what else I can do to expedite things. Yes, working diligently on the components of the creation equation and leaving no stone unturned, going over, under, sideways ‘round to realize my visions is good, but I can’t strangle the fucking thing by being in a hurry. There’s something to be said for holding on loosely. The entire hh story hasn’t played out yet and that’s something I need to try to enjoy – the process; I need to dump the idea of demonstrating my success to others, of explaining, justifying and otherwise trying to legitimizing myself to anyone but myself. I feel like good things are happening. I’m experienced in these things, I’ve done a hell of a lot of biophycomythological work and now is no time to doubt my efforts and derail or self-sabotage my legitimate progress and success by being impatient. I’m still moving forward, that has to be enough, and I want to enjoy it.

So here’s what I need to wait on, to show patience with:

The info from ACH that the USDA is requesting. I need to let them do the work. Until then, I make sure my other HACCP system documents are tweaked up and printed off and that I have what I need when I get the info to jump all over it and request the walk-through. I’ll give it until the middle of next week: Wednesday. If I don’t get anything, I’ll call and email and then look for another vendor.

I’ll also look for a job that fits in with my biophycomythology and that can drive my myth forward, instead of just bide time – whatever I do to earn money, it should fit with my vision and add value, not just pay me. Jobs can do more than just pay bills, they can pay bills and add value to my myth. I need to choose these things and not just take what I can get. I need to remember to hold out for the great and not give in to the good.

At least one of my “vikalpas” may be that I’m impatient to prove to the world that I’m indeed worthy of success and not a fuck up. There are more than several others:

  • I’m impatient to begin living my fullest life, my life’s purpose, before I die.
  • I’m afraid of dying before achieving anything worthwhile.
  • My life has been one fiasco after another, and I’m afraid I’m in the middle of another one.
  • I often don’t trust my heart, especially when it appears to have placed me in a embarrassing failure experience; it’s then that I begin to let my mind take over and ram things into a vision of existence that might be more palatable or understandable by other people in my life.
  • I don’t want to appear to be a failure.
  • I want to prove to everyone that my self-improvement efforts have not been a waste of time, like so many other things I’ve done.
  • I think I’ve wasted too much time in my life fucking around with impulsive dreams.

Falling back into the familiar, the old habits, is something I tend towards when I’m under duress or stress. I’m under stress and duress right now, and I think I’ve pretty much made it all up to be more than it is – I’ve distorted it. Both my dreams and my stress seem to be stretched or expanded into an “out-of-whack” state – my dreams for hh, which have been a driving force for a year – a sankalpa – seem to have shrunk to a tiny blip of meaningless frivolity and self-indulgence, words that I think might come out of other people’s mouths when they look at what I’ve been doing; the “I told you your idea sucked, what the fuck did you expect?” response.

I feel like I’ve had two opposing experiences with the hh cart sankalpa – one that reinforces the successes of my biophycomythology and one that demonstrates the worthlessness, futility and misguided-ness of the whole thing. “Misguided?” How can I say that after all this careful self-examination? Here’s where I piss myself off – how can I start doubting my heart again, knowing that in so doing I’m doomed to closing myself down, trivializing my visions and my heartmind and surrending not to my heart, but, again, my rational mind, a mind concerned with thriving but only surviving.

Everything gets blurry when I don’t get support for my visions. Everything seems silly. That’s what I’m allowing to happen; I ask myself why I can’t just get down to business, get a job, get in line and be like everyone else? All my life I’ve fought the impulse to comply, compromise, join in, shut up, quit complaining and try to be who I’m not. In the mid-west, we don’t get crazy, we just dutifully shut our lives down in service of not causing a stir. We respect convention. There have been many times in my life where I’ve just decided to get practical and I’ve almost completely believed in shutting down so-called silly dreams in favor of chasing a buck, being financially stable, and piling up money for weekends, trips, houses, vehicles, stuff, whatever. That’s what led me into a life of schism in Texas: following somebody else’s path; ignoring my intuition and trying to change my heart to be like somebody else’s heart, all to ease the pain in my own (what irony). That’s what the mind does – it tries to survive every moment, and pain in the heart is something that poses a risk to survival, so the mind attempts to shut down that pain and redirect that energy. The energy of your heart burns and burns, like hot coals, and I don’t think it ever completely goes out until you die. But the heat and light can be diminished, covered, insulated from your day-to-day existence. Why would my mind do this, why does it seem to betray the heart? Because it’s doing its job of surviving – keeping the body alive in this dangerous world. You could call it inappropriate instinct; it’s so out of place, so contextually inappropriate in our comfortable world – there’s no immediate physical threat, no fight or flight necessary

Angie and I are arguing, struggling against what we want from life, struggling to move forward. It’s crazy. After all this work, we’re letting the strain tear us apart. Impatience. I’m incredibly impatient to realize my purpose. I feel like I have so much to do yet with my life and that I won’t get to it unless I quickly get my shit together and start making money off my dreams. Making money feels like part of my biophycomythology. It doesn’t have to cheapen or diminish the value of it. Money is a tool. I know this, but there’s something about the making money part that seems to fuck up the progress of following my heart. Is it just that money begets impatience? Yes, that’s part of it. Angie and I want to get back to where we were financially – beyond where we were – while at the same time living our new dreams. This so often seems just impossible to reconcile – dreams and money seem to be, for so many of us, opposing concepts. I need to discard this burden, this weight, of trying to reconcile or otherwise “prove” that dreams and prosperity can co-exist. Hell and fucking blood – I’ve read enough about how to do this shit but I’ve made halting progress at best. I need to cut myself some slack. It’s impatience now that’s really fucking me up. It matters what Angie thinks about my plans and what everyone else in my life thinks, but it shouldn’t affect how I proceed if I know in my heart that I know where I’m going. Your family is usually not your guide, but simply (in the best situations) support. I think it’s got to be rare as hell to have members of your family be your guide(s). That’s okay because who the fuck said they were supposed to be your guides? But that doesn’t mean you cut them off, like I’ve been trying to do, out of fear of getting cold water thrown on my dreams. Hell, I’ve thrown cold water on other people’s dreams I’m sure, maybe even inadvertently, so I can’t call the kettle black.

Whew. I need to slow the fuck down, do the biophycomythological work, however painful, and show some patience. The deal for hh was to finish the cart season, which ends near Thanksgiving, not today. I need to trust the work that I’ve already done and the plan that I’ve created and when we complete that sankalpa – season one of the food court – only then should I be concerned with what’s next. I’m doing what I ought to be doing despite not knowing all the answers. That’s living in the moment. Guided. If you could just write it down, believe in it, and it happened, then we wouldn’t be a part of this thing called life. I am in the world. I impose, and the world disposes, to paraphrase something from Stryker. Things are as they should be and I just need to relax into my place. I’m not lost, I’m just frustrated because life is happening. I have my guides and my vision and I’ll refocus until the end of cart season when the next step will be more clear.

I just got back from Whole Foods, where I had another good shopping experience. I’ve always felt good in a good grocery store; it’s a life-affirming experience. I’m having a nice lunch at home while listening to music and writing this. I’m as much in the moment as I can manage lately. Soon, I’ll be off to the kitchen – walking – to get pig heads cooking and also the last two lamb legs – Molly’s seven-hour recipe actually takes about 5 ½ – 6, so we’ll have some hh chow for tomorrow and probably much of the week in the court. Stepping and listening, chunking it down, not getting too far out, not too impatient – if the squirrel in the front yard can have what looks like a pleasant lunch on this sunny fall noon-time, eating a nut, then fucking hell so can I. What I REALLY want to be doing is firing an email off to USDA with the spice supplier info so we can schedule what will be the last visit before going “green” with hh headcheese wholesale. But, I can’t control when I get that info. What I CAN do is enjoy my lunch, listen to tunes, walk, cook and go from there….