This morning I read a quote that said, “You are watching people go through withdrawal from the emotional addiction to the myth of certainty.”

And I didn’t think that was inaccurate. Because throughout the last two+ months, I keep thinking of the ways that all of this feels like a strange version of rehab where we’ve all been asked to give up our habits—good or bad—cold turkey.

Three weeks into the stay-at-home order, I started to feel a little better than the constant unease of those initial days. And at some point I started to think of the pain of those first few weeks as withdrawal symptoms. My strong addiction to busyness had meant that I was never just resting at home. And then, quite suddenly, I was always just resting at home.

For me, this time has slowly revealed how entrenched some of my bad habits had become. It took three weeks to break the busyness one. But there are more that the weeks have slowly revealed. And I’m betting others relate.

You hear a lot about the tangible things people want to continue past this time—things like spending more time with family and going on long walks with their dogs. This is what I want to bring out of this time. I don’t want to return to these habits.

I think it goes back to the quote I read this morning—the addiction is to a myth anyway. They’re all actually myths I’ve created in my own head— things like “being busy equals being happy” or “working hard will make people like you more.”

And so, while I don’t want to in any way downplay the sad and terrible side of this time— and, of course, there are many things I’m eager to return to once it’s past—my hope is that I come out of it having permanently left behind these emotional addictions to myths.

So, what about you? What bad habits has this time broken for you?

Top Ten Restaurant Experiences—Ever

Pre-Covid, I was a person who piled work trips on vacations on weekend getaways until I was exhausted and honestly just missed being home. I traveled almost frenetically—like one day there’d be a travel-shortage and I needed to stockpile the experiences.

Now, the shortage has arrived, and I feel a little like an animal that’s been storing up for hibernation. As it turns out, I may just have enough memory nuts stored for this quarantine winter. (I took that metaphor too far, didn’t I?)

So, as I find myself often daydreaming about travels I’ve taken, I thought I’d share some fun memories—and maybe a little inspiration for your next trip (once those things happen again). And, because for me, the most fun memories are always the ones around a table, I’ve created a list of my top ten favorite restaurant experiences ever.

Now, to set some parameters: These are not necessarily the restaurants with the best food—that goes to fancy pants places that everyone already knows about. These are not the craziest restaurant experiences I’ve ever had—that goes to a Thai restaurant run by a crazy Scotsman on a remote hiking path in Panama and a commune cafeteria in the Arizona desert. They’re also not the most exclusive—anytime I’ve been anywhere like that, I’m too distracted trying to spot a celebrity to actually enjoy the experience. And, finally, they’re strictly restaurants, not dining events, otherwise Outstanding in the Field would sweep the category. Ok, now, here we go:

Zsa Zsa Bistro, Rio de Janeiro

It’s been almost a decade since my visits to this bohemian restaurant in Rio’s beachy Ipanema neighborhood, but I still think about its fresh seafood tapas and innovative cocktails. It’s impossible to fully paint the picture of its atmosphere, but imagine flickering candlelight, a cosmopolitan creative crowd, open windows with a salty breeze, and poetry scrawled on the walls.

sketch, London

I see this stunning spot sometimes in movies or magazines. If you Google image it, you’ll understand why it’s impossible to miss—especially those bathroom pods. The restaurant is Michelin-starred and feels like an Instagrammer’s visual fantasy life, but it lives up to the hype. It’s the only one of Mourad Mazouz’s restaurants I’ve been to, but Momo (London) and 404 (Paris) are on my list.

Podere Concori, Tuscany 

At this tiny biodynamic vineyard outside of Barga, Italy a friendly donkey named Pietro greets visitors. Lunch on the sunny patio is prepared by the winemaker’s wife and includes vegetables from their garden alongside fresh breads, cheeses, and cured meats from the nearby village—all paired with amazing wines. It’s like a dream. (If Tuscany is too far, Scribe in Sonoma offers another incredible lunch/tasting experience.)

Norma’s at The Parker, Palm Springs

If you’re into design at all, this hotel is a must-visit. And if you’re into brunch, then indulge in a decadent one on this restaurant’s airy terrace. You could splurge on the Zillion Dollar Lobster Frittata for $2,000. But if you have a normal human’s bank account, I recommend the donuts with lemon custard followed by an afternoon napping in one of the hammocks around the perfectly manicured grounds.

Quince, Mallorca

This is the only spot on this list I just stumbled across without research. I was in Mallorca for a friend’s wedding (at this other insanely cool dining destination), and on our way to the beach one day we happened to walk by this colorful waterside restaurant in Porto Cristo. We ordered a ridiculous amount of salty snacks and cold wine, and spent the best lazy afternoon on its charming patio overlooking seaside cliffs.

Chat ‘N’ Chill, Exuma Bahamas

I’ve been lucky enough (through my job) to go to some super nice restaurants in the Caribbean—the truffle croque monsieur at Cheval Blanc in St. Barts will forever be in my food memory hall of fame—but my favorite island spots are always the most low key. The best way to experience Chat ‘N’ Chill is to order a cold Kalik beer at the bar, then head to the seaside conch shack for the citrusy Bahamian conch salad—and watch it be made fresh, straight from the shell.

Bar Vendome, Paris

I realize that picking the Paris Ritz for this list feels a little obvious, but I couldn’t leave this gorgeous conservatory-style restaurant off. Tucked just inside the famed opulent hotel, this sunlit terrace is the perfect escape from the city’s crowds. Personally, I can’t afford more than a glass of wine here, but there are amazing complimentary snacks with the $40 glass and isn’t it worth it just to hang out at a place once frequented by Ernest Hemingway and Coco Chanel?

Cumpanio, San Miguel de Allende

There are like 18 restaurants I’d recommend in San Miguel—including another breakfast spot called Lavanda Cafe that serves the lavender lattes of my dreams—but this little European-style bakery is my favorite. We discovered it on the first day of my first trip to San Miguel and have returned at least half a dozen times since—primarily for the perfectly sweet almond croissant. I would (and will) return to Mexico just for a morning in this bakery.

Coqui Coqui, Tulum 

There are more famous restaurants in Tulum (see Hartwood). And this small beachside hotel in Tulum’s jungle is actually known for its luxe perfumes (you know, just like you’d expect in a Mexican jungle). But I really loved its restaurant where the hotel’s minimalist design is reflected in simple beautiful dishes—everything here just feels so thoughtful and well-curated. (Interestingly, this was another place where lunch was followed by an on-site hammock nap. I sense a trend.)

Restaurant Bobby Chinn, Hanoi

I pushed this one to the end because it’s the only restaurant on the list that’s no longer open. But I wanted to include it because you can still go to Bobby Chinn’s restaurant in London and because its crazy mix of international flavors and ingredients (from a New Zealand-born French-trained chef living in Vietnam) really did make this one of my favorite dining experiences ever. We spent hours here, indulging in tapas fusions before retreating to its lounge for Egyptian shisha and French wine. Still around or not, it’ll always be one of my favorites.

In February, about a month after Michiel died, I thought I was breaking. I don’t really know another way to describe it. If you’ve lost someone you loved deeply, then you know. There’s this moment, when life feels like it should be returning to normal—and it has for everyone around you—but you know that there’s no normal to return to. Life, as you knew it, doesn’t exist anymore.

And so the feeling is one of being unmoored and adrift. It’s something shattering into sharp little pieces. And it’s being utterly and completely alone even in rooms filled with people.

One night in February I’d had friends over for wine and snacks on a Friday after work. And I laughed and told stories and then they walked out the door and I felt something break inside of me as clearly as if I’d heard the snap.

That was a very hard night.

A few days later I was talking to my mom on the phone and told her I was struggling. She invited me to come and stay with them for awhile—until I started to heal and feel a little better. I told her that I appreciated her offer, but I had a life in Charlotte I couldn’t leave. I had a job I went to daily, a social life, and other obligations. Not to mention, I had my pride—while it may have sounded tempting, running away to my parents’ home just wasn’t an option.

A month later a worldwide pandemic closed that office I went into every day, eliminated my social life, and pushed any other obligations into Zoom calls. And so, I moved into my parents’ home. And I began to heal.

Life is so peaceful here. I’m writing this from their porch, where I’ve spent countless hours listening to the breeze and wind chimes and birds chirping. Our mornings start with warm coffee and conversation in the living room in our pajamas. We go on long walks around the farm with the dogs and hug each other goodnight before bed.

It’s not all perfect. Work is stressful and my heart still hurts. But I keep thinking that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. And I wonder if there are other people who feel that way too. A friend told me the other day that being furloughed at home has meant he’d been there for his daughter’s first word and first steps. Another friend has talked about how this time has reminded her to slow down and take care of herself—for the first time ever.

I would never want to downplay the pain of what’s happening in the world right now. But I also think that I want to be grateful for every moment I’m given—and I’ve realized that I’m actually especially grateful for the moments over the last six weeks.

I’m not sure I’m jumping on board with all those hippie memes about how this was the time for the earth to take a breath. But I do know that in the strangest way this time has been an answer to prayers I didn’t even know to pray. And I’m betting I’m not alone in that feeling.

Yesterday, I clicked on an article called “6 reasons why we engage in behaviors that risk COVID-19.” I’ll be honest. I clicked on that article in hopes it would provide more material to lecture my parents on about their risky behavior. I felt certain that all six things would apply directly to them.

Unfortunately, the third thing on the list read—and this is a direct quote—”Don’t live on Cheetos.” This felt like a personal attack because I have not made a grocery store order without Cheetos since March 11.

So, obviously, I felt like ignoring that stupid article would be in everyone’s best interest.

Anyway, I share this because the details of this story really reveal my current life. While I’ve actually (secretly, don’t tell them) loved living with my parents during this time, our differences—and similarities—have presented some challenges.

For example, they take naps almost every afternoon. The other day I was in the middle of a stressful conference call for work and my dad walked in and announced that he was going to sleep and would like for someone to wake him up from his nap at 5 pm. It was 1:41 in the afternoon. I don’t need that kind of smugness in my life.

That same night, we were watching the DVR’ed Jeopardy from the previous night (as we do), and fast-forwarding through the commercials. There was a commercial for Bojangles chicken tenders. My dad yelled at my mom to hit pause. She did, never questioning him. They watched the chicken tenders commercial. Then, because they were curious about the accompanying sides, they rewound it and watched it again. And then once more because they were confused about how many tenders each order included.

I’m honestly still not exactly sure what happened there.

Our most serious dispute was last week was when my mom said that Pawley had a “weird bark.” Obviously, I was deeply offended. I told her that Pawley’s bark was beautiful and that Gabe, their male dog, had a high pitched bark that made him sound like a whiny little girl. This was a legitimate argument. It went on for some time.

You know, it’s funny because the article I mentioned at the top also said that “mental health, in particular needs your attention” right now. But, once again, I have to say that ignoring that article is really in everyone’s best interest. Because obviously we’re doing just great on the staying sane part of this quarantine.

 

 

 

 

I don’t really ever/basically never post about my day job over here. But this week my team created something that I think is really great. And even though it’s for our company, I think that maybe it’s something that could inspire anyone. (My mom got teary watching it. Although, that may have been less about the film and more about me having moved into her house for almost a month now.) Anyway, I think we could all use some inspiration these days. Hope this brings a little to you.

“When something hard happens to you, you have two choices in how to deal with it. You either get bitter, or better.” – Donald Miller

Before 2020 began, I thought it could be a pretty decent year. I’d set a few goals for the year and made a few plans. I had some fun travel booked and some ideas for cool new things at work.

Then, in the second week of January, everything changed. Michiel died and my world became so small. My goals became things like “get out of bed in the morning” and “don’t cry at the office.”

The day after I flew home from Michiel’s service, the first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in the United States. Within a month the first death had occurred. And, of course, we all know how things went from there. And so now we’re not even a third of the way through 2020 and it feels like the story of this year has already been written.

But I keep thinking that in December I thought the story would be one thing and in January another and now in April another. Which makes me believe there’s still time. I can still change the story.

Of course, like everyone else, I’m hoping the bigger story changes because of a miraculous vaccine or treatment. But what I’m talking about here is my story—or, in your case, your story. When I eventually tell the story of 2020, I don’t want the entire plot line to be “I survived it.”

I want it to be a comeback story because I love those stories—the underdog team that roared back in the second half, the person who fell down but got back up stronger, the one who came from behind to win the race.

When I tell the story of 2020, I don’t want it to just be about a year that happened to me. After all, I’m the hero of my story. Heroes aren’t sedentary and they don’t let fear stop them from fully living. I want to have done things that matter this year. I want my 2020 to be a story about triumph and hope.

I have some ideas about what this looks like for me. What does it look like for you? It’s a fun thing to consider. What could you do this year that would make it so that one day, when you tell the story of 2020, it will be memorable—not because of what happened to you, but because of the story that you wrote instead?