I did it.
I took a step that was not my normal step, and after saying 5 words out loud, I put myself onto a different path.
Last week, after teaching yoga, I was driving through Gloucester and instead of taking a right onto Route 128 to go home, I found myself continuing straight towards the Serenitee Restaurant Group offices. I silently decided that if there was parking available in front of the building AND if the owners car was tucked into the not-a-real parking space near a particular dumpster, then I would go inside and say my truth. I had spent 6 months arguing with, reasoning with, and wrestling with the words that I knew needed to be said out loud. The incessant “Not This” feeling had started to take a vibrato shake to its tone because the notes had reached World Record lengths. And finally, in the moment after leaving yoga, alone in my Volkswagen; my heart, my mind, my soul and my body caught up with one another. There was a spot directly outside the building. The owners car was there. I parked. I walked up the stairs, knocked on his door, sat in the leather chair across from his desk and said, “Ohmygod Jeff, my heart is beating out of my chest. (Big inhale and a short stutter step exhale). I can’t manage Cala’s anymore.”
And that was that.
Six months ago I started to notice a change in myself regarding Cala’s. Things that hadn’t annoyed me for T E N Y E A R S, suddenly started to become really bothersome. I was getting angry at my phone for blowing up with text messages and calls from work. I started referring to the restaurant as “work.” Even low maintenance, happy customers were irritating me because I needed to hurry up and serve them diet cokes so that I could continue doing behind the scenes paperwork in the kitchen. I was becoming cynical. After 3 months of this, I tried to switch my perspective and remind myself of how grateful I should be to have employment, a flexible schedule, a steady income, kick ass health insurance, and a role in management that highlights and challenges my strengths and weaknesses. But it didn’t help. The truth words kept screaming at me and stirring my gut each night before I fell asleep. Every morning when I woke up, I was physically tired and my mind felt like it was spinning in the furthest ring of a really wide tornado. Anytime I tried to organize my thoughts and prioritize my hours at home and minutes at work, everything would scramble into a place of anxiety where nothing could actually get done. A mess. On Thursday morning’s, I gavemyself pep talks out loud on my way to work. They were happy and light and good and I would leave my car and walk in the building, chat it up with the Chef and my Amigos and then the phone would ring for a large-party reservation (a perfectly normal every day occurrence) and I would be bullshit, angry and incredulous (a perfectly not normal reaction to simply doing ones job within the restaurant industry).
Last month, I had a private discussion with someone who is on “The Panel of Guides” in my life. Jake* is truly genius level smart, holds more degrees than anyone I know and has the rare ability to put himself in someone else’s shoes and use empathy as a way to help direct his questioning/reasoning/ thought process. He is unattached to outcomes. He is a life long student who is constantly learning and evolving. When we met 15 years ago, we were like oil and water. But we have grown up together. We have found an emulsification that IS our friendship and I hold him dear to my heart. Now we are kindred. I told him about the truth words in my head. About how I have a good thing going at Cala’s. About how the restaurant was legitimately BUILT for me and Scottie. About the AMAZING health insurance that I would be giving up (ehem, I NEED GOOD HEALTH INSURANCE). About how I can do the job in my sleep because it’s second nature to me and how I should just push through these truth words, take the paycheck, and keep my head down. And then I told him about the book I want to write. About the blogs I want to publish. About the Soulcation Retreats I want to lead. About the talks I want to give. About the yoga classes I want to teach. About the mom and wife I want to be. He said, “Which one of these is the least fun? And what do you leave behind when you go to where you feel joy?” I knew. All of the excuses to stay had finally lost their power. I cried because it would be a loss. It would be leaving a role that is comfortable and familiar and that I love for something that I can only FEEL bursting at the seams within myself. And then I stopped crying and took a moment to reevalutate because something clicked further into place. I realized I didn’t love it anymore. That I had ONCE loved managing and being in charge, and it had ONCE been “my great,” and now it was just my “ok.” And there is value in that: To honor what ONCE was. But I knew I would have to switch my path because “ok” doesn’t serve me or anyone else in this world. I need (and am worthy to give and receive) “great.”
At the end of September I will lose my salary but will have the option to pay up-the-ass for my really good health insurance. I can also jump onto Mike’s insurance through the Fire Department. I am going to be serving my regular shifts (My last name is Robbins, not Rockefeller (!)… and I still love Cala’s). Bartender Mike is taking over my role in management and HAVE NO FEAR, Scottie is not going anywhere. He has been my work-partner since the beginning. Cala’s is still his “This,” and it’s apparent that he loves, lives and breathes what he does. Perhaps it was HIS energy that kept me holding onto my role for as long as I did.
On Sunday, I returned from the most epic, soul-transforming, bucket-filling Soulcation Retreat that I co-lead with my Guru, Jen. When we were driving home after our (very first) 3 day soul-intensive weekend in Maine, I felt a clear, joy-filled peace. The kind that whispered in a soothing, settling voice, “Yes, This.”
*Blog photo is with Jen on Soulcation Maine 2017, in Cape Porpoise Harbor.
“Most of us, at some point in our lives will have to face a terrible moment in which we realized that we have somehow ended up in the wrong place, or at least, in a very bad place… this moment of realization is seldom fun. In fact, it’s usually terrifying. I call this moment of realization: NOT THIS. Because sometimes that’s all you know at such a moment. All you know is: NOT THIS. Sometimes that’s all you can know. All you know is that some deep life force within you is saying, NOT THIS, and it won’t be silenced. You body is saying not this. Your heart is saying not this. You soul is saying not this. But your brain can’t bring itself to say not this because that would cause a serious problem. The problem is, you don’t have a plan B. This is the only life you have… It may not be great, but we have to put up with it, because there are no other options. You’re not sure how you got here, to this place of THIS, but you sure as hell don’t know how to get out. So your brain says, “we need to keep putting up with this, because this is all we have.” But still, beating like a quiet drum, your body and your heart and your should keep saying, not this…Rationally, it’s crazy to abandon a perfectly good life (or at least a familiar life) in order to jump into a mystery. No sane person would advise you to make a leap with no Plan B in place. We are supposed to be careful…And yet if you keep ignoring the voices within you that say not this, just because you don’t know what to do… you may need up stuck in NOT THIS forever. You don’t need to know where you are going to admit that where you are standing right now is wrong. The bravest thing we can say is: what comes next? I don’t know. You don’t know. Nobody knows. It might be worse. It might be better. But whatever it is…? It’s NOT THIS.” -Elizabeth Gilbert