Sometimes, it’s a while in between episodes of Chef’s Table. I always say to Jow, I don’t feel like crying tonight. Because usually I find my eyes welled up and feel overcome with sympathetic emotion for the chefs. The hours, the isolation, the obsession with whatever is their thing, the failures, the long road to other people understanding what they are trying to create.
I have a friend who decided to teach himself how to make French macarons. He did it, but as I said to him, I don’t like recipes with that many caveats. I love to eat them. But I don’t want to make them. It only took him a couple batches, but he got there.
Jow spends long hours holed up in Spare Oom studying, studying, studying. He’s so close to finishing school he can taste it.
A2 is so into the Ring Cycle opera, she’s friends with several valkryies and watches documentaries about the Met’s take on it so she can track which performances she’s seen.
I spend hours knotting and unknotting macrame knots in rose quartz colored twine while spinning rose-pearl fiber into thread.
Obsession makes you boring, it makes you single minded, it makes you a lackluster party guest. But without it, where would your Great Work be? You need to burn with what inspires you, it’s the only way to progress with your Great Work. You want to be boring because you’re so obsessed, that means you’re doing it right.
I think that’s the stumbling block many of you are facing. That you like many things well enough, but you don’t want to fully commit necessarily. Because that’s scary af and you are signing up for years, possibly even a decade of long hours, small returns on your investment and missing out on normal life in the process.
Let’s talk about where I am decisively half assed in my commitment. That would be anything involving eating delicious food and exercise. I will have moments where I think I could be fully committed. That if I just got my shit together and stopped eating sweets, drinking booze and really worked hard at exercise, I could obviously look like Erica Jayne. It’s just those few teeny tiny things keeping me from that. The truth is I’m unlikely to ever look like EJ. EJ looks like EJ because she’s 110% committed to looking like that. My vanity is very half assed when you compare me to either a later in life pop diva or a French chick. Because the thing is, the world has truffle butter ramen. That’s a thing that exists. That’s a thing that I ate earlier today. I have some vanity, but not enough that I could have only eaten four bites and been like, oh I am so full and done.
I’m still working on this whole thing because I desperately don’t want to be a super creaky old lady. I want to be a bad ass biddy who hangs upside down on the yoga wall like Batman. I love wine, wine gives me disturbed sleep in return. Sugar has decided to join wine in this endeavor. Having too much of both (which is now defined at like, two glasses and half a piece of cake because they are traitorous bastards) now makes me feel hungover and sluggish. It’s bullshit and I hate it but I’m working on trying to have less of both in my intake. That means saying things like, we will not be drinking at home anymore unless there’s a party. We will not be eating sweets with more than 8 grams of sugar anymore unless it’s something really worth eating like sesame ice cream. But, I will be honest, my will is weak during tax season and especially weak this year. Will those things happen? Maybe? Hopefully? The thing is, worrying about all this shit is not my thing. I don’t love working out. I don’t love not doing what I want to do when I want to do it. Do I want to miss out on normal life and not do normal life things for vanity? Mmmmmm. Maybe? But I know I have to at least try, so I am trying. Trying however, is not committing. At all. But like, I only have so many effs to give in a day and I try to give some here but I’m not exactly exhausting my store of effs in this area of my life.
As you can see, this is not something I’m really actually obsessed with. I’m not thinking about how to manage a box jump, like ever. I’m not doing planks when I’m watching tv. I drank beer this weekend and ate far too much soda bread. Beer and soda bread spark joy in me. Not eating soda bread and drinking beer does not spark joy in me. But I accept it as something I need to do to live the life I want to live so I’m trying to make some progress. If you are noting my process with this seems minimal, that’s because it is.
On the flip side, in actual obsession land, I wanted the picture for Salt Circle to come out just right. I’m no Christine McConnell, but I wanted to convey a certain vibe when shooting it. I’m not a great photographer, but I am dogged in my pursuit. I had seen a few pictures that I loved especially and found inspiring in my creation process. I tried big chunks of pink himalayan salt, but I wasn’t happy with that. With a candle holder, with the blue eye, with a large candle. It looked clunky. Then I tried a ring of salt around the little wood piece but it was shaky. Okay, I got a powder brush to neaten my lines. It still didn’t “read” as a salt circle in pictures. I looked at more pictures and then realized the obvious – I could use a teacup and pile salt around it and then pick up the teacup. Bam. Awesome. Then I needed to make labels and I decided to use the alchemical symbol for salt on them. Then I needed to write the copy. Then I needed to put up the Etsy listing and then the mailing.
This was on Thursday night. I had worked ten hours at the firm where some of us were sending this gif to each other because the tax code kept changing that day and the software companies were all trying to implement the changes by messing with their coding which in turn messed with completed tax returns. So it was a super joyous day that also included replacing our dishwasher that is sitting in a gross swamp of its own making, but appliances really like to make everything as difficult as possible so that’s actually a two step process to get the fucker installed which is a process I got to manage from the office, earning me all the esteem and praise of the partners as you would expect. I was supposed to get to shower, but that was a bust by the time I was done with all of this, as was the gym and as was eating warm food from a location that wasn’t my bed. Because this is what actual obsession looks like.
If you don’t know what your obsession is, don’t stress. But really lean into some of the things that could be your obsession. That’s how you’re going to figure out what it actually is. Because you’ll find yourself leaning further and further and being willing to deal with more inconvenience and stress for it. Will you love all that delicious stress and inconvenience with all your heart every day? Um no. You’re not a Disney princess. Being willing to put up with the crummy parts, being willing to not have to like it and just have to do it, managing the small ROI and feeling like it could be worth it is the actual target.
And the thing is, when you are actually obsessed? You don’t care. You don’t care about missing normal life (most days), you don’t care about your gross hair (as much as one can not), you don’t care that you are eating semi cold food before you pass out to do it again. Because this is your thing. Because this is what you think about. This is what you dream about. This is what you keep pushing yourself forward with, no matter how painful the process can be. This is what you do magic for, this is your whispered wish down at the crossroads, this is what you will keep burning the dross off yourself through austerity for. Secretly, this world is obsessed with obsessed weirdos because that’s where glamour is created, when you really own your own weird. Whether it’s writing electric cello songs about dead animals like Melora Krieger, whether it’s straining cereal milk into panna cotta like Christina Tossi, whether it’s putting together a series about Muppets and intricate craft work like Christina McConnell, put your shoulder into your weird. Own your obsession. It will be glamorous. I promise.