Today I said the words “Maybe I won’t be a Chef anymore”.

I’ve never said that before. What struck me even more than the words themselves was that I was comfortable with them. I wasn’t experiencing the same sensations I was getting when I tried to picture going back to the kitchen, planning an event, building a recipe. The thought of doing these once innate skills suddenly brought on feelings of dread, anxiety, tension and stress. But none of that happened when I made that comment.

This is my career, my passion. A lifelong joy, dedication and decades of hard work. Then suddenly it’s not. It was gone quickly after the death of my husband. I’ve slowly been putting myself into work, but I’m not getting the same gratification from it. Food doesn’t really look good or taste good or inspire me. It’s important to do the job right, make my customers happy, never let them down; but what I get in return is not what it used to be. And that sucks. It’s really messing with my head.

And then I made that comment to my therapist. And it felt ok, it was ok. There are several theories as to why my grief has created this barrier for my return to work. Is it because work was an escape and I no longer need an escape? Is it because I have already decided I can’t go back to my “old’ life and that was part of it? Or maybe it is just the universe keeping me on a new path. I have long known I don’t have the hands for many  more years in production; but suddenly I don’t have the head or the heart.

That became clear when I took the bandages off after trigger finger surgery. Because I was losing his insurance, I had to expedite the surgery planned for later in the year to shortly after his passing. The visible wound finally “healed” but I was not able to do what I used to. That’s when I realized it wasn’t just the hand. Without the head you can’t run a kitchen, it’s a multi-tasking skill of planning and timing; I’m functioning on a single task mindset. Without the heart the food falls flat, it has no passion or character; there is a difference, you really can taste the love.

Then, there is the issue of my muted taste buds. I have not had a properly functioning palate in months and let me tell you, it is a cruel hell on earth for a Chef to lose their taste. I believe it is a situational manifestation of my current situation…. and not permanent. Fingers crossed.

When I take a step back and realize I presently can’t taste food well, am not physically able to cook well, don’t “feel” like doing it and don’t see myself doing it; then maybe I have to acknowledge there’s a reason for that. Maybe, if I allow myself to make that a possibility, then new opportunities will open themselves up to me. I don’t feel like I have to walk away from everything I’ve created, I just know I can’t go back to what it was.

Recreating myself, my career, my business, my family, my future, my home, my habits… will take time. It’s all in transition and interwoven with grief and trauma. I’m just kind of a mess right now, even while getting the best care and love anyone could ask for. It seems to me the wisest things I can do for myself is to let it happen with an open mind, an open heart and honesty. And get good sleep.

Whatever I end up doing it’s just part of my new life. I don’t need to understand the hows and whys to see the signs telling me that what is coming is better than anything before; with effort, patience and time I will reap the good stuff.

Kind of like Artichokes and Abalone.