Week 3 of Quarantine: the death of Monkey Mind 

Something changed in me this week.

Usually, I'm restless.  I worry about what others think about me. I crave being understood.  I'm anxious about making the right decisions. I feel guilt. I feel fear.  And I even feel envious of others who don't seem to feel these heavy, distracting feelings.

(For those of you thinking I just need a drink, you're incorrect: booze is no match for my unsettledness).

But when I woke up on Tuesday morning, my restlessness seemed to have dissipated. Overnight. As if by magic. Poof.

Bye bye, Monkey Brain.

The concept of Monkey Brain was first introduced to me by a friend who explained it to me while we were walking in a department store.  I was asking why he thought most shopping aisles have an end-cap section.  To which he replied: "because the store knows we all have monkey mind." Meaning, the store puts attractive items in prime spots because they know our capricious, fanciful natures will tell us we can't leave the store without the shiny thing on sale.

Through the years, I've been aware of my Monkey Mind, that whimsical, unevolved part of my mammal make-up that's operating on full steam when I feel out of control.  But something in this quarantine period silenced it.  I feel at peace this week.  I feel calm and focused.  I sit here wondering why, and it's a simple answer:

Because (outside of media), there is nothing in front of my face telling me I'm missing out, that I'm wrong, that I'm not enough.  There's little to distract me, aside from the spring flowers in our woods.  There is just my little family and our home.  

And apparently the little we have is bringing out the most in me this week. 

Reader, for the first time in everybody's life: there is NOTHING to miss out on, except the present.  We're all inside in our homes.  It's a great time to work calmly, get things done, and enjoy.  I'm off to enjoy a little walk with my old dog, Hank.  See you next Monday. -Em  


Week 2 of Quarantine: too hot out of the gate 

This week, I tore down the posters for all the concerts & events that we missed hosting at my restaurant since the quarantine began, including what would have been a nice rosé wine dinner last Friday.  I downed a bottle in its honor. 

Then I got to work. 

I filed applications for every SBA loan our country is offering.  I applied for grants.  I helped my employees w/ their unemployment claims. I planned out family dinners. I made a daily home schooling schedule for my kids, including a big focus on literacy, math, and music.

(Full disclosure: my lesson plan has devolved into around-the-clock gym class. I'm rolling with it). 

I wrote and charted 4 new songs.  I watched the first non-kid movie that I've seen in months ("Inside Llewyn Davis" was a winner). I cleaned every room in the house. I organized the damn freezer. I taught the kids how to make bread, cookies, & play dough.

Amidst the flurry of initiative today, my son put his hand on my arm.  He asked to whisper in my ear.  So I put my head by his mouth and he said, "Hey Mom, could you slow down and hold us a little?"

And there it was.

Reader, there is such a thing as too much initiative. No sense burning out just yet.  We're going to be holed up for a few more weeks at least.  This isn't the Quarantine Olympics, and they aren't giving prizes when it's over. To all of you still working your jobs out there, thank you.  To all of you suddenly at home with a lot of free time on your hands, let's not forget to enjoy the opportunity to not be on our A-game every second of the day.

With that, this non-medalist is going to hold the kids a little.  See you next Monday. -Em


Week 1 of Quarantine: the end of bullying 

I just spent a week doing things I never thought I'd do.  

After laying off all my employees (and myself), I filed for unemployment.  It didn't take long, and it didn't feel good.  It was a reminder of just how fast everything can change.  Last week, we had a humming restaurant.  This week, all the lights are off, and all of us are sheltering in our respective places.

I also made the tough decision for our restaurant not to remain open for take-out and delivery, despite the government calling it an "essential service." The decision was based on two realities.  First: I couldn't ethically make it work in my mind to tell my staff to work during a pandemic so that others could stay home as instructed. We have diabetics on staff, staff members with ailing parents or children, staff that have pulmonary issues.  As essential as brunch can seem, it's not worth spreading a disease that kills people.  I'm still not certain why the government considers to-go grub essential.

Second: my restaurant just doesn't have the infrastructure in place to give staff enough hours to survive that kind of pivot.  Only .05% of our sales come from take-out. If I thought I could have done something to make ends meet, I would have. But I just couldn't pay staff what they would have needed to make it through this strange time anyway.

So after turning off every light, all the heat, and emptying our fridges at the restaurant, I then proceeded to try home schooling my kids. It hasn't been effective yet. I've just been too distracted, mentally beating myself up for my decisions, wondering if they're the right ones or not.  I've been spinning my wheels all week, moving quickly, but not actually getting much done.  I've been worried about my staff, worried about my restaurant, and worried about my family's financial future, as well as their health as this virus spreads.

Basically having the same worries as every other person on the planet right now.

Reader, if anything gives me solace, it's this: everyone's world is upside-down right now.  Not just mine, not just yours.  We're all facing problems we've never faced before. There isn't a right move, and we won't know what will come of everything until it's "over," at some undetermined time in the future.  The only thing that's certain? 

Beating ourselves up isn't helping anybody.

So today I focused on enjoying the kids.  We built a snowman.  I made hot chocolate. They colored.  We sang songs.  I got in a pillow fight. We built a tent.  We then proceeded to destroy the snowman, because it just felt good to destroy something.

But at least it wasn't ourselves. So I count today as a win. Internal bullying and self destruction have come to an end.  Finding the best in the uncertainty starts NOW.  

See you next Monday. -Em

No words 

I have no words tonight; I just had to relay to my 30 restaurant employees that they no longer had jobs, as of today, and that they needed to file for unemployment.  Even though that's their best option, I still feel as though I failed them. I'll need some time to collect myself before I can speak about it.  Until then, be safe, be smart, & be kind. -Em

Taking hits 

I got to play a show on Saturday night in Chicago.  It was a small but warm crowd, and I decided to play several of the new songs that I wrote in Colorado. I felt so happy.  I felt alive.  I felt like myself again.

After the show, I asked a friend in the audience what she thought of the new songs.  She said, "Honestly? I couldn't relate to them. They made me sad that you don't live in Chicago anymore. I like the old stuff better..."

And just like that, I felt torn apart. I felt embarrassed.  I even felt a bit of shame.

I was wallowing in self-loathing while I drove home.  After about 30 minutes, I did a little self-assessment.  Was I really letting one comment change my feelings about my entire experience?  Am I  walking around completely at the whim over every person who offers a critique? Could I really be that much of a pansy?

Well for 30 minutes, apparently I was.  But that was enough of that.

Reader, when it comes to criticism, we can either allow it to wound us, or we can learn to take the hit without being hurt by it (I guess we could also fight back, but I'm not much for sucker-punching my old pals).  Anyway, as you're dealt blows this week, remember it doesn't have to hurt you.  You can absorb it, and then get along with your day.  Learn, move on, and keep at it.

With that, this resilient writer is off to write more un-relatable tunes to everyone but herself.  I'll see you next Monday. -Em

Who Done It  

I wrote nine songs last week.  Today, I'm charting them, and I'm suddenly feeling insecure.

I noticed that some of my chord progressions sound oddly similar to the Sharon Jones records I've been listening to this month. And as much as I didn't intend to lift any of her ideas, I've apparently done so.

"Copycat," I hear an inner voice say.

It's funny, because I've noticed all week that people in my life have also stopped themselves in the middle of creating for fear that they're copying someone else.  At my restaurant, our chef didn't want to make fritters because her mentor made them. At our bar, the mixologists had the same issue making original drinks. And at home, the kids have been mad at each other for who decided to dress up in costumes first.

It's bizarre. Why do we stop ourselves from creating the next good thing because we weren't the first?

Reader, everything is derivative. If you find yourself stymied in your creativity because you weren't the first, take heed: it happens to the best of us.  As for me, I'm going to focus on being grateful for the all the talent that went before me, sparking my own desire to keep making things.  (I'll likely spend this afternoon once again unconsciously stealing from others at the piano). And my kids are apparently off to continue their dress-up, regardless of who did it first. 

I'll see you next Monday. -Em


It Wasn’t A Good Time 

It wasn’t a good time to take a vacation. 

We have too much debt. The restaurant isn’t running very smoothly. The kids have been needy lately. The house is a mess. My dog is getting older. I’m behind on paperwork... 

In other words, it was a perfect time. 

I rented myself an old one-room cabin in Estes Park this past weekend. I had no screens with me. Cell service was patchy. My closest neighbors were pine trees & a herd of elk. 

In the mornings, I took long hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park. Then I would head back to the cabin & write songs until I fell asleep, exhausted, but the happiest I’ve been in years.

I even saw a moose.

Reader, there’s never a good time. We’re never ready. But man, we all need breaks. A person isn’t meant to work for a hundred straight days before they get to rest. 

I would know.  

This rejuvenated writer is off to catch up w/ her family. I’ll see you next Monday. -Em

True Love 

I--Emily Hurd--am going on vacation. 

Having just worked every day since Thanksgiving, this is a wee bit overdue.

A week from tonight, I'll be flying home from a tiny cabin that I rented in Estes Park.  It's right on the border of Rocky Mountain National Park. I'll be doing some hiking, songwriting, and bonding w/ a moose or two.  

It's my dream vacation.  And I'm living the damn dream.

The funniest part of this vacation?  I'm taking it alone.  Even funnier? My husband bought me the plane ticket. He knows how much I've been craving solitude and space.  So for my birthday a few weeks ago, he got me the ultimate space.

And that, dear Reader, is true love.

In the wake of Valentine's Day, I've been thinking about what love is.  I used to think it was a feeling of irrepressible desire for somebody, to want them, to want them to want you, to feel lit up by their presence forever and ever until your guts exploded in a puddle of love-steeped goo.

Today, I can say that for me, love is just good old fashioned listening.  It's caring for a person's heart, even when it isn't in alignment with your desires or what lights you up.  It's breezy. True love doesn't have wants or feel a sense of ownership.  It is selfless.  It's respectful, playful, and simple.

And it's what I've got.  How much more could a girl ask for?

(Besides a cabin and a moose).  

I'm off to read books to the kids. Wishing you playful and kind love this week. I'll see you back here next Monday, hopefully with back country moose stories. -Em

P.S.  This pic by Owen Slater is the image that I'm trying to hike to see.  Wish me luck.

When Logic Fails 

I like to think things through.  

 A LOT.   

Because there's a feeling of security when thought goes into something. The more we think, the more we think we understand. If we put our minds to it, we feel a bit of certainty, maybe even a sense of rightness.  

The trouble is, our thoughts--as thoughtful as they are--sometimes are just not right.  In fact, sometimes, you can't trust them at all.  They're sneaky buggers.

For a few weeks now, my thoughts have been lying to me. 

Lately, I've been noticing my staff has been really stand-offish at my restaurant.  It's been taking me down, mentally and emotionally. I'd even call myself depressed.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my team has lost respect for me, that they feel I'm not working hard enough, and that they just don't like me at all. 

Until they threw me a giant surprise party last night.   

So much for my damn logic. 

Reader, in the words of my dear friend Mike Werckle: we need to stop believing our thoughts. Just because we think them doesn't make them "right."  Bad thoughts can make us spin out of control, spiraling downward over something that may not even be true.  And that's because thoughts tend to intermingle with our fears and insecurities, making us draw faulty conclusions that feel very real. 

With that, this over-thinker is off to spend a little more time observing what's happening and a little less time trying to think about everything all the time.  I leave you with a picture of me on my FORTIETH birthday this week.  No make-up, no filter, no glamour, but I've got a good life, and I'm looking forward to the next 40.  See you next Monday. -Em

Birthday Eve 

No blog tonight; I'm celebrating the eve of my birthday w/ family.  

Keep on fighting the good fight this week. See you next Monday. -Em