When I was 18, I was waitressing at a Cracker Barrel in Spring Hill, Florida, and I was that odd and skinny vegetarian girl who was always trying her best to avoid stepping on toes.
“How’s the country fried steak?” a customer would ask.
“It sells well!” I’d respond cheerfully.
“What do you think of the chicken and dumplings?” another would ask.
“We’re always running out of the stuff!” I’d laugh, cutely sidestepping away from a direct reply.
Loopholes; I’d find ways of answering their questions in ways I knew they wanted their questions answered without offering my unwanted opinion. When a man or a woman ordered a plate of scrambled eggs, fried apples, and ham, I would say “got it!” or “alrighty!” instead of asking, “Do you think that the pig they killed will feed three other guests this morning, or was it killed just for you? If it was a tiny one, maybe… such a shame that it had to die for your 5-15 minutes of flavor.”
People understandably bristle at my strong opinion on meat eating, but imagine it like this: When I see an animal (whether they’re attractive, like a German Shepherd, or not, like a pig), I see a SOUL. A person. Not an entree. And knowing that people kill these souls just to eat them… well, it’s outrageous! It enrages me! If YOU discovered that the people in your neighborhood, community, state, or country were killing and eating people – NOT out of necessity – but out of pure selfishness (“I just like the way people taste!”), wouldn’t YOU be outraged also? Who in their RIGHT MIND wouldn’t?
That’s the soul-crushing reality I live with every single day. I was crying on my bed this morning, genuinely wishing for death, for release from this hell, because of the cruelty of humans. I want to save, NOT just one, but ALL of the goats, the pigs, the chickens, the cows, and the rabbits from their terrible, senseless demise… but I really can’t do a damn thing about it, other than piss people off via this blog and post annoying pictures of my attractive, cruelty-free meals on IG.
As a waitress, I preferred opening shifts to closing shifts for (3) reasons:
- I’m naturally more inclined to be productive in the early morning/afternoon than in the evening.
- I like going to bed at 8:30, and closing pushed 8:30 out to like 11:30-12:30, which totally SUCKED.
- Getting off of work at 1, 3, or even 4 PM allowed me to make fun stops on the way home… like driving over to Pine Island to stare at waves and ponder the pointlessness of existence, or popping in for a quick visit at the local health food store.
I loved the health food store.
Right as I was emerging out of my mild but long-term case of anorexia, I was on a pretty fixed eating schedule:
Morning: nothing (or, sometimes, a banana)
Afternoon: a single cornbread muffin (at Cracker Barrel)
Evening: an Amy’s all-natural cheese pizza pocket (the kind you stuck in the oven for 20-25 minutes — around 300 calories) and a Blue Sky (also “all natural”) orange creme soda (less than 200 calories)
I also liked to throw organic sharp cheddar cheese cubes with thyme poppy seed crackers into the mix, and these were luxury items that, at the time, I could only find at the health food store.
So, on the way home from work, I’d call my mom.
“Hey Sierra! Do you want me to stop by the health food store today? Grab some cheese and crackers and those orange sodas and anything else we might need?”
I could picture her smiling, on the other end of phone, at the word we.
“Sure, sweetie! Will you please grab me a loaf of healthy bread? I’ll pay you back for everything.”
And she always did. If the total was $26, she’d hand me a twenty and a ten. And she also compensated me for my gas, too, though she wasn’t supposed to.
I can remember the conversation.
“Mom, if I’m going to work to save up for college, I really don’t want to be wasting the money I earn on the gas it takes to get there!” (ha! so young, so naive) “And it’s really not my fault that we live way out in the country,” I continued in a reasonable tone. “If it had been up to me, we would have situated ourselves smack dab in the city so that my twenty minute commute would take just five minutes. Then, I wouldn’t mind paying for the gas.”
Sierra is a truly kind and generous soul, so she agreed. But before finalizing the deal, she mentioned the idea — compensating me for gas so I could keep all the money I made waitressing — to Padre, and – being a man of firm work ethics – he answered with a decisive no.
“She’s an adult, Lucy. SHE needs to pay for gas to get to and from work.”
Sucks, doesn’t it? But here’s the thing: Sierra was good at finding loopholes, and I adored her for it.
“Hey Rose,” she’d call out (every couple of weeks). I’d visit her in whatever room she was in — usually, the kitchen or living room.
“Here’s twenty dollars,” she’d say. “Thanks for helping me with the laundry!” she’d smile mischievously.
We both knew, though, that laundry money was gas money. No clarification needed.
I first noticed her loopholes in childhood.
The home phone would ring, which was terrible, because Sierra hated talking with people on the phone, as well as talking with them in-person (unless the other person was me or Bobby or Grammy or Padre).
“Ohhhhh,” she’d fret. “Rose, will you grab it? Tell them that I’m in the shower,” she’d plead, bolting, like a deer, into the bathroom. I’d answer the phone, recite what I’d been told to say, and hear the shower nozzle spray into life on the other side of the house.
After a minute or so, the sound of water would cease, and Sierra would creep out of the bathroom — fully clothed, and totally dry. “You told them?”
While she never really got IN the shower, the shower was running, and she was in the room with it, so… it counted.
Another famous and recurring loophole was the unstated-but-implied “this is all I got at Ross, Dudley,” loophole.
We’d go shopping at Ross together (Ross is a place that sells clothes and decorations for the home) and Sierra would assign me a dollar limit.
“You can have forty dollars’ worth of clothes,” she’d say, “so whatever you end up liking, try it all on and figure out what you like the most and we’ll get it.” It seemed very fair to me; walking in to a store with nothing and then leaving with a couple of cool, new things.
When we’d arrive back at home, I’d scramble out of the passenger’s seat, eager to put my goodies away, but I’d always end up waiting in front of the locked front door. Turning around, I’d see Sierra walking towards me, carrying her keys and a single bag in her right hand.
“Mom, don’t forget about the other stuff — it’s in the trunk. Want help getting it inside?”
“No, that’s okay,” she’d answered quickly. “I’m going to leave it outside for a bit.”
Weird, I’d murmur. But eventually, I understood the logic behind the delay.
Scenario A: Come home from Ross with two bags and five new pictures (mock-royal art for the walls) and Padre’s going to start asking questions.
Scenario B: Come home from Ross with two bags and no pictures and then slowly replace current pictures with new ones (over the course of a week, or a few), and Padre probably won’t notice.
It was brilliant. I had to admire her foresight.
And I think I, subconsciously, adopted her charming system of loopholes as an adult — clearly, with the waitressing, and in other ways, too. Yesterday, a new loophole became apparent to me.
I was helping out at a local branch — opening new accounts, pinning debit and credit cards, and taking loan apps on the desk — when an email from a co-worker appeared on my screen. It was short, simple, and full of both intrigue and impact. I noticed that they had sent it to a group of people whose names I couldn’t see (and I’m wondering, now, if the email affected them as deeply as it affected me). It read something like:
“(Insert name), I forgive you for… you choose the name and find out what’s been holding you hostage. Then, let it go, and have a wonderful weekend.”
Huh, I mused. Who do I need to forgive? A name jumped out at me, which I won’t share here, because it’s personal (and I never get personal on this blog, do I?). 🙂
With this person’s name in mind, I asked myself, what have they done to hurt me?
“They’ve made me feel small,” I thought. “Well — that’s not exactly right. I don’t know if that’s an intrinsic thing or because of them.” So I dropped it and continued thinking.
“They’ve — made me feel inferior,” I offered. “Ahhhhh — that doesn’t work either, because again, I can’t get at their motive.” I sighed.
Then, it hit me. “They’ve made me feel jealous — which is an authentic emotion that I’ve unintentionally been burying because, growing up, jealousy was a sin.” It was a kind of earth-shattering realization. Emotions — even the “bad” ones — help us navigate the world around us, and help us understand ourselves. If you’re feeling jealous, why? Then, why? Then, why?
For me, it went like this: I’m jealous because this person is taking up all of that person’s time. I’m jealous of that because I want to spend time with that person. I’m jealous — and feel inferior and small and uninteresting — because the person I want to spend time with wants to spend TONS of time with this other person but doesn’t want to spend any time with me. I’m jealous and sad because I feel unloved.
So I didn’t really feel jealous of this person so much as I felt unloved by that person. Bam. Uncovered. Ever hear of a ‘rebel without a cause’? Well, most of the time, emotions have a cause, or a root, and you’ve gotta dig to find them. If you don’t? I mean, they won’t kill you, but they WILL try to run your life and will certainly rob you of a great deal of your peace.
And honestly, I don’t think that they — this person — meant to make me feel jealous, or unimportant, or unloved; I think that – and this is probably their honest, faultless motive – they are just trying to be happy. And I shouldn’t confuse their pursuit of happiness with unkindness, and I definitely shouldn’t imagine that someone else being happy restricts or limits my own capacity for happiness.
And you know what? Feeling jealous (but not fessing up to it — not even internally!) and maligning this person’s character in my mind was a loophole for me. It was a way of pinning my unhappiness on another person and making it their fault instead of accounting for my own sadness and (lack of) peace of mind.
So, in my head (I didn’t feel the need to message or call or approach this person, because I really don’t think they even knew how I’d been feeling), I said: Person, I forgive you for just trying to be happy. I want to be happy, too. And I let it go.
And then I was as weightless as a feather and drifted, instead of down, up into the sky where I dissolved into outer space and then, somehow, woke up perfectly reassembled on a planet with people who didn’t kill animals but loved them instead and we all coexisted happily ever after until we all died, all of us at the same second so that no one felt sad or alone, and there was no heaven, and no hell, and nothing in-between… just peace and quiet.
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