I am thinking a lot this morning about expectations.

Because, you know, it is my birthday.

I think one of the easiest and quickest ways to get to the stress zone is to have high expectations…for anything. And yes, This is getting dangerously close to the passive-aggressive zone so I will be careful. It it not meant to be… at all.

I think, as a chef, I have a lot of training in low personal expectations around holidays. On the first day of culinary school, in fact, a giant, well-worn, angry, and most likely Austrian, chef told all of us bright-eyed young chefs these luscious words of encouragement:

“When other people are having fun that is when YOU WILL WORK!”

In other words, if you have any expectations of enjoying Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years Eve and, yes, even your birthday then step out now and find yourself a nice 9 – 5 office job.

You might enjoy a free beer at 2:00 am after a long shift behind the line on your birthday but the chef will most likely remind you that it is not actually your birthday anymore anyway so don’t get too excited.

So, now, cut to about 22 years later and it is all still there. Yes, today is my birthday, and yes, I have no expectations. This might sound a little glum and even a little self-depricating but I believe quite the opposite. Why? Well, because this means every nice birthday gesture, whether it be a kind word on Facebook, a nice note from my mom, or a call from my brother is a beautiful surprise. A wonderful shock. I see so many people setting all these high expectations for things they can not control and then, most likely, ending up disappointed. I have catered many a dinner party and watched the host be upset and stressed the whole time. Isn’t a dinner party supposed to be fun? Especially, when you can hire a private chef to do all the cooking and cleaning? Well, not if your expectations are too high. The flowers won’t be quite how you imagined them, guests will be early…or late. Food will come out too slow, or too fast, or this or that. It goes on and on.

I have seen this enough (a lot!) that I finally figured it out. The flowers can’t cause stress. But, your expectation of what the flowers were supposed to look like can. Nothing out there in the world can cause you to stress…it is only your reaction to those things that does. The day I figured that out was the day I stopped blaming anything and anybody for how I feel. And, it was the day I figured out that I can control how I react to anything. This is a very freeing way of living but takes a lot of practice. I am not there yet.

Yesterday (and the day before) I tried to record a podcast with my two girls. An episode of The Chef and Father Podcast but with the girls instead of other chefs. I had these expectations of how great it would be. We would chat and be funny. The girls would tell stories that inspire other parents and kids or, at the very least, entertain them. I was thinking it would be about a 30 minute gem of a podcast but it wasn’t. It turned out to be two 3-4 minute files that now reside in my virtual garbage can. It upset me. Both times. The girls were goofing around, banging the mics, blowing whistles, hiding under the table and, basically, doing everything but talking. I am sure you can guess the reason it upset me by now and it has nothing to do with how they were acting.

I decided today I am going to try again. This time with zero expectation of how it is supposed to be. I bet we get a much better podcast. Or at least have a much better time even if it results in a third file in the garbage can.

But, as I said, today is my birthday. The big shocker is I don’t have to work. This, is only because my birthday happens to fall this year on what is my usual day off. Still, I have my birthday off work. Yes! But, I still have a the business of taking care of two girls. Made breakfast, made lunches, drive to school, pick up one, after school club for another, pick up from that, sure they will need some food at this point so try to squeeze in some sort of dinner before back to school for open house at my oldest daughter’s class. By then it will be bath time, reading, then get them to bed.

Sounds like a usual Monday around here….

I wouldn’t expect anything less.

Much love,

Chef Greg

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