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Mindful(less?)ness

Free the space for nothingness

It was August 7th when David Kanigan suggested I write a post based on my response to his post “You Missed That…”  Here we are, the last day of August and I am finally writing it.  I did start composing last night but it took me so long to find David’s post because my computer decided to be slower than molasses in January that I abandoned the project in frustration and decided to watch the second half of “Chef’s Table with Jeong Kwan” because watching the first half the night before is what brought me back here in the first place.

So, here I am now.  My response to D.K.’s post was this:

Yes. Mindfulness is a state of being.
It’s funny. On Wednesday, while sitting in my canteen, for a “quiet moment” (i.e. no customers, everything stocked, nothing needing my attention) I was so aware of just how many sounds I am being bombarded with in that tiny space. The hum of the three fridges – each their own sound, the clicking of the hot plate, the whir of the A/C, the flapping of my protective plexiglass “window” every time a breeze came. It was both disconcerting and oddly soothing at the same time.

David’s response was:

You should write a post based on this comment. That’s beautiful.

Kiki seconded the motion and, after a chat on Messenger with Sawsan, I said I would.  Thank goodness I didn’t say when I would do it!

As I worked yesterday, I kept thinking of Jeong Kwan and her being present in the moment – giving herself completely with an open heart and love to whatever task she is doing.  I decided to try to be mindful (instead of incredibly bored) as I made the sandwich fillings:  weigh the meat, calculate the percentages of the add-ins needed as per the recipe such as mayo, sour cream, old-fashioned grain mustard, etc.; take out the food processor, wash and chop the celery, add to bowl sitting on scale, add each ingredient by weight, mix with spatula.  Then, process ham or chicken (or pass hard-boiled eggs through a cooling grid) and add to bowl. Remove my ring and go in with my hands (except for the eggs) to mix well as it is way way more efficient. Feel the cold ingredients and their textures as I lift and fold, almost in a kneading motion, scraping sides of bowl with the side of my hand to bring into the mix.  Let my mind remain empty as I do it, focussing solely on the task, a meditative state.  For me, this is the form of meditation that works for me – besides walking. Of course, today, of all days, I was disrupted by a client who scared the bejeezus out of me by calling out.  No matter. I was able to get back into that frame of mind after I got him his hot dog.

By being mindful, it somehow felt less monotonous; less brain-draining. It helped me give meaning to a simple, repetitive task that I do three times per day, twice per week.  Does this mean I love it? Hell no. Not even close.  What it has done is confirm that I definitely do not want to work in the food preparation business ever again.  I shall, however, not leave them hanging and finish my season. Even if it kills me. Slowly.  Is it mid-October yet?

Dishes done for the third time, vacuum-formed packs put away, I was able to relax between sporadic customers. It had rained non-stop on Tuesday so I was frankly surprised there were as many golfers as there were. The air was crisp; the wind, fierce, the grass certainly soggy, and yet there they were.  They truly are a special breed of fanatic.

I sat there, trying to read when the various hums and clicks got my attention and I realised this was the reason for this post in the first place!  So I set my timer to see just how often the two most annoying and loud items go off.  The vent, the air-conditioning, the small fridges each have their own humming sound that remains constant.  The hotplate starts an almost frenetic clicking sound that goes up to reach its crescendo then slows down until the clicks are more intermittent. The cycle takes 2:35:42 exactly – I timed it.  Twice.  The big-ass Foster fridge motor starts off with a thud and a shudder and this odd echoey-rattly sound before lowering into a loud hum. The cycle takes about 5:03:07.  I timed it twice but missed the start by about 5 seconds as my phone had turned off and frankly, I hear the damn thing all day, I was done focusing on it for this.  I have noticed one of the other fridges has its own sort of shuddering restart or whatever you want to call it but I didn’t bother with it.  I actually took this video two days after David’s post, thought I’d try to redo it and then decided meh. This’ll do to give you an idea.

I have never spent so much time alone and in my head, as I have since I started this job on June 18th. Yes, there are busy moments and lots of customers but they come and go quickly, in a rush to hit their first or back nine. It’s not like serving in the restaurant of the previous golf club I worked for where you get to know the customer’s names and favourite beers and create a rapport.  Sure, there are quite a few regulars, here:  Monsieur Pomme, who orders an apple-oatmeal muffin every single time – and says not a single word other than to order, or now, smile as I put his muffin on the counter before he asks; or Mr. Oxford (from whence he hails) who orders his coffee with four laits – pronounced lays (milks). There are friendly and not-so-much-so types and no one lingers.  That’s to be expected in a canteen or casse-croûte, as we call it.

Random view from my window to distract you from how long this post is

Employees come to get their lunches and snacks as well and some, a few only, take a moment to chit-chat. Other than that?  Me, myself and I.  And my head. And my thoughts.  And the incessant humming and clicking.  I tried putting the radio on to drown out some of it but, being under a cement terrace, the reception is not always without the grating scratchy sound of not quite being on the channel – you remember those? A radio with a dial that you have to adjust ‘just so’ to get your station? I know, I know, I should simply download some music on my phone but honestly? I don’t think of it.  Regardless, it’s not worth it, it just adds to the cacophony.

Somehow this post has not turned into what I thought it would. So since it was a reflective piece, I’ll leave you with a nice little reflection of the setting sun on my just rained-on street.

 

 

121 thoughts on “Mindful(less?)ness

    • Put that way… you’re right.
      And it’s funny because I had a little catering business making meals for families and people would try to convince me to do more. Nope.

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  1. Of course, golfers want to get out and knock their balls around instead of chinwagging. We had a commercial refrigerator we used for keeping roses fresh when were were competing in rose shows. It finally drove Laurie crazy enough with its incessant noise, that we gave it to Tristan, who has a big house that absorbs the noise better. You exercise in mindfulness seems like a good way to deal with the doldrums and equipment drums. I can see how October would feel like a lifetime away.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s fine and I don’t expect them to hang out, really.
      It is crazy the noise pollution I work in. There are times I can tune in out (mostly). And I had to do something because honestly, I feel like my brain is being turned to mush in there.
      It IS!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The noise would probably drive me crazy. I’m one of those people who hates white noise, and hears voices and things in it. 😀. I think being mindful when you’re in a place where you’re content and being mindful in a place where you’re not so happy are very different things. I love the reflection photo–of course!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It drives me crazy, Merril. The only “white noise” I can stand, usually, is my fan in my room which somehow blocks the sound of traffic – for those nights when it’s just too nice to not keep the windows open.
      And yes, I agree. I had to force myself to find some sort of good in my movements. I figured I’d use one of my more subtle ones and keep the vibrant ones for something better!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Frank. I skipped the part where my mind goes places that are relatively dark… I, as we all know, am NOT an introvert. I have, in the last almost six years, become rather comfortable with myself but that works best in my own environment.

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  3. This is so beautiful, Dale! This whole post, the way you wrote it, felt like Katrina Kenison’s The Gift of an Ordinary Day. The presence, the moments of heightened mindfulness.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Q

    I remember when you talked about the sounds and the moments in which you kind of just “stood still” inside your head and examined the motions, your reactions to the motions and the genuine feeling of undertaking something altogether different in the process. It’s like saying a word you’re uttered a million times without once stopping to think about it, and then you stop to think about it and all of a sudden the word sounds foreign to your ears. THAT is what mindfulness does, so long as you keep it harnessed. My challenge, constantly, is to allow the mindfulness in without letting thought processes follow, because they sure as hell will put a crimp in things, quickaly.

    Nicely woven capture of a mindful moment in time.

    B

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  5. This is awesome Dale, I cracked up over “time to make the donuts”. In nursing school I took a part time job at a children’s hospital. Turned out it was in a tent outdoors. My job was to file address cards by zip code. After one day I was pulling my hair out. To this day Im wondering …why?

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  6. I’ve always believed that the energy going into making the good–good or bad–impacts the food. So I guess mindfulness would be a key ingredient in that scenario:). And boo/hiss to the man who never speaks or smiles. Bad form!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, absolutely. It’s hard to keep that energy all gung-ho when you make the same damn thing twice per week.
      There are a few cranky broads and buggers, lemme tell you. Thankfully there are more smiley ones.

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  7. Dale, I loved this piece – so much information, lovely writing too. I never heard of an egg cooler, the customers’ names speak volumes and I think canteen sounds much nicer in French. I hope you keep this piece as a work in progress and weave a story into it one day, because you have created real atmosphere.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Jilly. I agree, casse-croûte – means break crust – of course that would imply better food 😏. Love that you love this and feel I created an atmosphere and I honestly never thought of weaving it into a story. Till now. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I used to work in the music industry so noise was my home. I now don’t miss it at all and even drive without the radio or any music at all. I listen to audiobooks at home rather than music. I am forever amazed at some writer’s genius.
    I was in hospital for a week once. I shared a room with three others. We all had our machines to pump blood, and other fluids through our bodies, to monitor hearts and lungs and other things that needed monitoring. I lay in, what I thought was silence, then notices that each of these machines had its own noise, a hum, a tone a beep beep. I wondered if the nurses set them up so they can distinguish between the machines and patients if an alarm should go off. But in that low sound emission atmosphere I could hear the symphony of the machines. It had a rhythm, it had a melody. As a singer, I was able to record on my phone the simple melody it made. When out of hospital I got with a friend of mine who was a classical composer and we wrote it out. It became the melody of a surreal scene in an opera we are writing together.
    So you can find beauty in sounds, even the sounds of silence.
    Dave

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, Dave. I get the desire for quiet now. Before my husband died, there was always music or a TV playing. I now sit for hours, on the computer or cooking in silence. I’ve not gotten into audiobooks yet, though I’m contemplating it.
      That hospital story is amazing and reminds me when my first son was in hospital. All the beeps and clicks and hums and alarms of all the various machines – there were up to 12 patients in the NICU. And I’m no musician but that thought did cross my mind. A symphony.
      I love that you and your friend are putting this to music. And yes, you can find beauty in the sounds and silence. Honestly, not where I work, though. 😉

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  9. Favorite post I’ve read in ages… love the sense of mindfulness and being in your own head due to this new job. I almost want to steal bits of this and wrap it into a story… what would a person here be thinking, if I’m a golfer, and I’m ordering my apple muffin? What’s the story? Who are we?

    Wish I could be more mindful and present in myself. That’s a goal, perhaps.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow! Thank you, Trent. I had to do something before losing my mind. And go ahead and allow yourself to be inspired.

      It does take effort. And usually very easily achieved during my long walks. Try for five minutes. And increase minute by minute… You might be surprised. It’s meditative.

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  10. I agree with David, it was worth the wait! 😉 That clicketyhumming can actually hypnotize a person!!!!
    What I think is wonderful about your mindful experience is that you were present and remembered all these details. There are so many moments in our lives that go unnoticed…as if they were never lived… moments lost.
    Thank you for the reminder! 😉🤗😘🤗

    Liked by 1 person

  11. As I sit here drinking my mind altering elixir of morning life, Black Silk coffee, I am reminded that I have those never ending noises as well. The refrigerator is a non-ending producer of background hum, the the best one is the incessant “crack, crack” of the ice maker as it goes through its cycle of dumping the newly created gems of frozen water into the bucket. Sometimes it comes out of total silence and scares the heck out of me. What was that? Oh yeah, never mind. Mind games. Good story.

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    • Wow, Jan! You’re rather poetic this morning. I think I need me a cup of silken black elixir before responding adequately!
      It’s when we stop and listen that we hear just how many sounds our appliances and house make. I used to have a fridge that made ice (oh, do I miss it) and would jump when it dumped.
      Glad you enjoyed 😊

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  12. You are right, not what we expected. But so real, so true, and I saw and heard the kogs of your mind whirring and grinding….. My ‘off’ time was when, in France, I watered the garden. Often I read a book (which made regularly messy wet pages and occasionally a print of a dirty finger from checking the dryness of the soil), but mostly I was alone but in great peace with my thoughts. I re-made the earth during those hours…. (refaire le monde). I’ll probably miss those hours of emptiness, busy but not challenged, watching the birds and the bees, stamping in anger when I got bitten again – and again – by some crawly or flyer…. I couldn’t do that work you do, neither be in the service nor preparing those fillings. And I look forward with you to mid October, when ‘this’ is going to be over. Thank you for sharing, Dale, my brave friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not that I knew what I really expected to write but I guess I had a sort of idea it was going to go in another direction. Ah well, that’s how I roll. I am real.
      I think we all need “off” times and a garden, for me as well, is a great place to turn the thoughts off and be aware of where I am and what I am doing. That and when I took my long walks with Zeke (much shorter now, the old guy can’t keep up). I’m sure you’ll find a new way to spend those hours of emptiness. Eventually. I can barely do the work that I do without losing my mind. I dunno that I am brave but just doing what needs to be done 🙂
      Thank you, Miss Kiki!

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  13. Dear Dale,

    i love the reflective nature of the piece. You certainly had me in the moment, which is something you do so well. I could even feel the ham salad in my hands. Food service sounds and scents are all to familiar.
    I’ve high hopes you’ll find something better suited to you and pleasantly challenging.
    My meditative state happens underwater. 😉

    Shalom and lotsa stimulating hugs,

    Rochelle

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Rochelle,

      I love that you love and that you feel I am able to bring my readers into my moments. I’m sure they are way too familiar 😉 It’s funny, when I first started, I though, this will be cool. Yeah. No. That particular bloom faded right quick!
      I am hoping for it as well. But not only hoping, applying left, right and centre.
      I know yours does 🙂 And that’s a wonderful thing. I’d prefer to get into that state while gardening or walking and taking pictures.

      Shalom and lotsa humming love,

      Dale

      Liked by 1 person

  14. This introvert would likely go crazy in a job like yours. As introverted as I am, I need more human interaction than that. And at some point, I’d likely try to draw some of the customers into conversations instead of letting them eat and run.

    The thing for me though is this … even when I’m with people, I’m still mostly in my head. Can’t quite get out of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m thinking most introverts would go nuts in this job. And, trust me, with some I do. My personality is the type to bring people in and open up, but man, it is hard work, here. This job is suitable for someone who thrives on repetition and not having to deal more than politely and briefly with other people. I honestly think an autistic person would love it. And I mean nothing negative by saying that!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I get it. Totally get it. I crave “real” human interactions. In my 20s I worked as a receptionist at the law school I ended up attending. So many of the students were so hurried and so focused they were incapable of real interactions. I’d try to draw them out occasionally with a snarky comment. For the most part, it worked, but every once in awhile the student couldn’t pull themselves out of their own heads and … well those times it didn’t go so well. 😉

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        • I crave it, too. I am far from an introvert, myself. Weirdly, where once I would have completely lost my mind with the situation we are living, now? I’m surprisingly okay with it. I haven’t even gone to a restaurant yet. Simply because I have no pull to it. Especially not alone, nor as a third wheel which I am frankly tired of being. I suppose I could go with my boys.
          But yeah, as a receptionist or even as waitress in both restaurants I’ve worked at, I am rather good at drawing people out. Part of my charm 😉
          There will always be those so stuck to their own belly buttons, there is nothing to be done. And why waste energy there, anyway?

          Liked by 1 person

  15. The random view saved me!
    What’s going on?
    All I see are eggs. All I hear are 60 cycle hums.
    Muffins away Mr. Muffin pommes!
    I’d wish October came now, but I don’t like wishing life away.
    An interesting post, all in all.
    Love to you dear Thunder!

    Liked by 1 person

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