If you’ve ever worked at a restaurant, you’ve probably partaken in “family meal.”  It’s the meal the entire staff enjoys together at the beginning (or end) of a service.  It’s usually cobbled together by throwing a bunch of errant ingredients in a pan, and even when it doesn’t taste great, it still tastes pretty damn good. 

Family meal is meaningful in the service industry because we spend our entire days serving others. So when we slow down and take the time to serve ourselves and our crew, it feels extra replenishing. 

And holy hell, do we need replenishing these days. 

I don’t know about you, Reader, but for the past week, I’m not even running on fumes anymore.  I’m a walking zombie, scaring small children and even myself. My restaurant is in constant flux that’s out of my control. (We’re open!  We’re closed!  We’re half-way open! Somebody’s got Covid!  5 people have allergies, but what if it’s really Covid??!)  It’s been incredibly draining, and my crew and I are running ourselves into the ground, trying everything to give our restaurant a fighting chance to make it through this pandemic.

Rewind to a few weeks ago. A friend who works at Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford reached out to me and asked if I’d play music outside in the garden on October 17th. I never say no to playing gigs outside, so I agreed.  I forgot all about it until this past Saturday, when I realized that I had to leave my restaurant to go sing and play music for koi fish overlooking a pond at a Japanese garden. 

I felt so frustrated as I was driving to the gig.  (Why do I sign up for these things?  What was I thinking?  I don’t have time for this!)  I loaded in through a winding pathway up a hill. (This is insane!  Who lugs an 80 lb keyboard uphill through a rock garden?! Are those tourists taking a picture of me right now?).  I set up everything in a small pagoda, just as a huge gust of wind came by and blew my microphone into the pond. (This wind is crazy! I’m going to freeze out here!  My nose is running!  OMG DO I HAVE COVID??

But then I started to play. Singing has a way of forcing us to breathe.  We take deep breaths in, then we make long, controlled exhales, emptying our diaphragms. The gig was 2 hours long.  By the end of it, I felt absolutely restored. 

And I even got paid for it. 

The moral is: replenish replenish replenish.  Just like family meal, we cannot serve others well while we are zombies.  We must sit and serve ourselves as well.  You’d think I’d learn by now.  If you too are feeling zapped, take two hours to nourish your body.  For me, it happened by accident this week.   

And what a happy accident it was.  Take care of yourself, and I’ll see you next Monday. -Em

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