I’ve written before about some of what I’ve learned from owning a business, specifically a restaurant. I recently reread that piece and, while every single thing I said at that time remains true, I was struck more by what I didn’t say. It was pretty friggin vague in a lot of ways.
I went into the project with an ultimate goal of creating a warm, comfortable environment for a diverse group of guests, feeding them and taking care of them with sincere professionalism. God, that sounds pretty damn Pollyanna-esque, yes? Note: making money was never primary. I’ve concluded I’m not a good businesswoman, but I am a good hostess and that’s truly more important to me.
I’m sure it’s challenging to work for someone like me. I was not incredibly consistent, other than about the ambiance I wanted to create. I gave a lot of leash because it wasn’t possible for me to be on site enough hours to micromanage all the details. Maybe that was perceived as a lack of interest, but that wasn’t really the case.
If I couldn’t be there, I couldn’t be certain that the business was reflecting me and my hospitality sensibilities. If the business wasn’t projecting the way I wanted it to, it frustrated me, a feeling which was multiplied by all the pressure to keep things going. My business life was negatively impacting the quality of my life, something I just won’t tolerate.
Physically, I could do it. I let the accountant go and began managing all the banking and invoicing and daily sales journal activities. I figured it the f*ck out. I canceled the linen service and took on the laundry, front and back of the house. Despite all of this additional responsibility, and the physical exhaustion from running 20+ miles a week, I couldn’t sleep more than 3 hours before being interrupted by thoughts of the restaurant. Mentally doing math, feeling heavier and missing free time and, now, missing rest.
Something had to change.
There are so many thoughts and ideas bouncing around in my head about my experience as a business owner. It’s like too many, almost, and the words are choking me instead of flying out of my mouth. I can’t settle on where to start.
Other than with Day 1.
Waking up Saturday morning was different. The entire day ahead was completely my own and immediately it felt new. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had other days off when I had no professional responsibilities to address, but after knocking off the banking and the daily journal, there was nothing left for me to do, nothing further to take care of.
It was Day 1 of not owning a restaurant, the perfect day to begin processing the experience of owning a restaurant.
- Owning a restaurant is like adopting a family.
- Owning a restaurant is more stressful than you can ever imagine.
- Owning a restaurant is unequal parts challenging and inspiring.
- Owning a restaurant taught me so much.
Each of those above bullets deserves its own spotlight. Stay tuned.
Ever since the news came out that I was selling Lark + Lily, I’ve been asked what I’ll do with all of the time with which I will find myself. Because my love for the hospitality industry remains, (and may in fact become stronger than ever once I no longer bear the business responsibilities), I’ll continue to work a couple of nights a week. As for the rest of the “extra” time, here’s what I’m going to do:
Hang out with my kids
Cook more interesting meals
Participate more politically
Dust my house
Take at least one yoga class a week, every week
Write more – blog posts, letters, cards, poems
Go to more events and shows
Try to amp up my running a bit
Work on my yard and house
Go out for cocktails
Spend some time eliminating possessions which do not bring me joy
Learn how to sell some of said possessions
Entertain at home
It had been a pretty terrific Monday. I got to the bank, took care of payroll for the second to last time and had a reasonably productive day at work. Dinner was takeout, restaurant kitchen linens were in the washer (for the last time) and Quinn and I made it to the Spectrum in time for all the previews. We had flow.
Sitting in the dark theater next to him and watching Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was more fun than I expected. I had fallen asleep, more than once, to the first Guardians movie and I had imagined something similar happening tonight. Surprisingly, though, that didn’t happen and I remained awake for the entire 2+ hours. The movie was entertaining with a likable cast, great soundtrack and gratuitous shots of Chris Pratt’s chiseled abs. It was a great escape.
As the credits ran, I told Quinn I’d meet him in the lobby because I wanted to use the bathroom. I reached for my phone to check the time as I waited for him, post-potty break. The alert from the NYT was the first thing I saw: 19 Dead in Terrorist Attack in England My brain’s immediate response: For f*ck’s sake. When will this stop? Can’t we just go to a Monday movie or concert or sporting event or shopping or church without being touched by terrorism?
The closing credits song was still running in my head and I imagined those concert goers in Manchester. I pictured teenaged girls, some perhaps at their first live concert ever, their joyful exhilaration changing to fear and horror as violence and chaos became the evening’s show. Echoes of music are what one is supposed to hear when leaving a concert, not screams, not explosions. Jesus.
I’m left to wonder – who’s guarding our galaxy?
Sometimes the hardest part of a run is getting your sneakers on. You know, just finding the time and the motivation to get out and get it done. Often, that first mile just feels endless as tight muscles loosen and lungs gasp to find their rhythm. I’ve learned to endure these sensations, knowing that it’s going to get better, easier, less painful. And it does if I push through and keep going.
There’s a lesson in that which goes far beyond feet and pavement.
Many runs are less traumatic to the body. They’re just an opportunity to exercise your limbs and your muscles and they provide a certain sense of satisfaction and accomplishment upon completion. I have a lot of those runs recorded in my Runmeter app. I consider them standard.
Once in a while, though, you hit a run when everything is perfect. You’re with one of the few people in the world that you enjoy running with. The weather is ideal, with a light breeze, warm sun and shade just when you need it. The air smells incredible wafting around your head with the earthy smell of the Hudson softened by the fragrance of the last of the lilacs. The path feels flat and smooth under your feet and all you can do is smile as your legs and lungs unite to set a pace as one you feel you could maintain for countless miles.
I had that kind of run yesterday – all the way to Troy
I’m still smiling.
In the early 90s I visited Washington for the first time. It was easy to see why it was such a magnet for creative, artistic people. There were mountains, rivers, desert, islands, and even a rain forest, to inspire and awe, and as a tourist, I fell in love. I’m no camper, but I’d go back to the San Juan Islands in a heartbeat and sleep in a tent happily.
We spent some time in Seattle, a city I found to be smartly set-up with highways that flexibly changed their direction according to traffic demand and rush hour. Clever. Of course, we went to Pike’s Market and did a little shopping. I don’t remember buying anything from the market other than edibles, but nearby at sidewalk booth, I found some pottery that I immediately loved. The pieces on display were gorgeous – rich colors, weighty and beautifully formed. At the time they seemed expensive, but as a recent college graduate living in NYC, many things were beyond my financial reach.
The replacement piece
It turned out that there was an outlet nearby where Bruning sold their pottery seconds. You know, stuff that might not have turned out as perfectly as planned, yet still was lovely and useful. I came back east with a couple of pieces and an undying love for their work. Over the years the collection has grown (we eventually had dinner service for 6 or 8), divided (divorce) and diminished (breakage), but there was one steadfast piece that I retained and used regularly for making quiche and pies and serving, a deep blue dish that I absolutely loved.
The bonus piece
I noticed a couple of months ago that a crack had formed in this dish and was paralyzed by the thought of no longer having it in my cabinet. I went online, searched Bruning Pottery and got a contact email address. After a series of emails, I selected 2 dishes to replace my old steady, one a very similar color, the other completely unlike any that I’ve owned before. They’re a little fancier with their fluted edges, but when they arrived in the mail I felt like I was welcoming an old friend home again. I just may bake a pie this weekend.
Consistency is not my forte, but there are a couple of little customs that center around my going to sleep and waking up that I find myself doing regularly. For as long as I can remember, I’ve read myself to sleep and my nightstand always has a stack of books lying in wait. When I pick up where I’ve left off in whatever I’m reading, it feels like I’m punctuating the day and I like drifting off to sleep with someone else’s tale in my head. Sometimes it just feels good to escape my own story.
Morning brings a different ritual. I generally wake before my alarm and reach for my iPad to ease into my day with a few rounds of solitaire. I’m probably deluding myself, but I feel like it helps wake my brain up and ease into a new day.
I usually play the 3-card version because it reminds me of a family I babysat for a long time ago. The dad had taught me the game explaining that in Las Vegas a player would pay $52 for the deck of cards and then win $5 for each card removed from the board and placed in Ace through King order. Yep, I’m a real hardcore gambler!
There’s a feature to the app I use called “Daily Challenge.” Sometimes I think this particular hand is easier than a typical random deal, but I won’t complain about that – an easy daily challenge is welcome in a world where there is so much difficulty present every day. Recently, I’ve gotten a little obsessed with the daily challenge. It’s almost as if I need to win the hand to ensure that I have a good day. Not rational at all, I know, but it seems a fairly harmless way to increase the odds mentally of my having a positive day.
There are days, though, like today when I could not get the cards to cooperate no matter how many times I re-dealt that hand. I kept trying other things – moving this 9 instead of that one, choosing another way to shift a pile of cards…all to no avail. I couldn’t win.
So, I’ll make my day a good one in a different way. I’ll consider all the alternative paths I can take to feel that my day was a success, even if it means just letting go of conquering a challenge. Maybe surrendering is just another way of winning.