Gratitude feels like this

There was rocks and rain being thrown inside the truck yesterday. I couldn’t stop feeling wet and getting lumps stuck in my throat.

I’ve had some rough days. I’ve had friends tell me that they don’t believe my symptoms are real. I’ve had many change the subject immediately after asking how I’m doing. I’ve had some people straight up ignore me when I’ve asked them directly for something small (simply sharing a post – nothing more). I’ve had people talk condescendingly me towards me for not wanting to try a remedy without discussing it with my physician first, telling me I was giving up or not willing to get better by trying different things. It wasn’t that I wasn’t willing, but I wanted to ensure there was no (or limited) risk that my doctor might have known about before trying it. If he felt there was no harm in trying, then I’m all for it. I’ve had people mute me on social media because they’ve said they just don’t care.

Some of those things  I can chalk up to not being about me. Some of those things are limiting factors on the other person’s end, or awkwardness towards the situation, or just not knowing what to do or say. Those are things I understand, and I have no problems with.

But some of the other comments, actions and inactions hurt, and they were difficult not to take personally. I managed it, eventually, but that initial reaction felt like an icy cold slap to the face, and it stung when it came from a small handful of people I have known for a long time and I thought cared. That they didn’t is actually ok – they have things of their own to worry about, and they have their own agendas. Me expecting them to look out for me is my problem, not their’s, and I don’t typically expect things from others. I was (and still am) feeling extra vulnerable, and was grasping onto things that weren’t mine to hold onto. (I’ve let those things go. I was feisty, nervous, sad and didn’t fully have awareness of my overabundant emotions at the time. I’m human.)

But then, everything changed. And those small handful of people who I had allowed to drive me deeper into a downward spiral are suddenly muted by the huge outpouring of love and support from so many others, and from some people I don’t even know.

Seriously, universe, you have some amazing people in you. And as much as I often question the direction of humanity, this lesson has taught me that there is more kindness than there isn’t. There’s been tears and feels, but they’ve been good (if not complicated) ones.

It’s been weird for both my husband and I. Admitting to needing help is hard enough. Especially publicly. Taking help is a whole other matter. As mentioned previously, I’m one to give things away. I love it. So when people have been buying product, I’ve been wanting to give them gifts with their order, as I always do. Jess, the superhero who has taken over selling my products, has slapped my wrist numerous times for that. I gave her complete control over all of the inventory, selling, discounts and everything associated. And she’s been rocking it, without the discounts. She’s selling things better than I ever did.

We’ve both shared that we’re better at selling other people’s products than our own. At markets, I’d sell my neighbours products easier than mine. It was fun, and they were appreciative. They’d be quiet about their product, and strike up conversation a little, but wouldn’t want to be pushy with sales and allow the customer to browse. I’d pop my head over, grab my favorite product from the table (which would change with different customers) and start asking them questions about it, and commenting on the things I loved most about it. I was also sincere about it, which I truly believe made the difference.

Most of the time the customer would buy one of whatever I was oohing and aahing over.

I excel at retail sales when I have fun with them. At the sports store I used to work at, I’d focus on the customers in front of me, and not focusing on making specific sales. I worked the quietest shifts, but always had the highest sales, because they were my focus, no matter what they were looking at. My specialties were the people on a budget – because I could relate the best with them. It was amazing how much some of the other associates took advantage of people, and it never impressed me. We got commission at the time. I’m glad that practice has been ended since I worked there. The managers loved those associates for selling the high ticket items, but then they didn’t have the highest average sales.

“They are so cute, and anything has to be more comfortable than these. Where did you get them?”

I remember one elderly gentleman had come in to pick up his shoes he had on hold, and I couldn’t help but pry. He was there to purchase the newest, greatest Nike Shox, which retailed for the great deal of $299 at the time. The associate that had helped him previously convinced this man that these shoes would help his knees stop hurting while he was in the garden. The man was on disability and in pain, and he was desperate for relief.

They were basketball shoes, meant for a basketball court, with crevices in the soles where dirt could pack into and compound, rendering the “shox” useless once dirt got embedded in there. He obviously had crippling arthritis in his hands, and the work to clean the shoes in order to keep the dirt out from those areas would add to the list of things he shouldn’t have had to do.

I downsold him to a reliable, comfortable, supportive pair of $60 New Balance shoes, and gave the associate the sale for those.

Oh dear, did I ever cause a kerfuffle. The other associate complained to management, who had to reprimand me for stealing a sale even though I didn’t take it myself. The associate was also reprimanded for the unethical sale. 

I didn’t make friends there. Apparently ethics doesn’t belong in retail sales, and I’ve always tried to live up to a strong code of ethics for the benefit of others. I could not in good conscious let that man pay for those shoes without feeling guilt, and to this day I do not regret my decision to downsell him those shoes. He came back to see me personally and thank me, as the shoes actually did help reduce his pain while in the garden. This was the kind of thing I worked for. 

I had the lowest amount per sale, however the highest total monthly sales for my department, because there were customers that refused to see other people due to my honesty. They simply wouldn’t deal with the other associates in my department, and would ask for me specifically. The managers had to deal with fires often from disagreements on fairness. No one could control who the customers wanted to buy from, however, and there was nothing that could be done about it. I was always on time, I didn’t steal sales from other associates, I found associates to pass customers to in other departments and I treated everyone fairly. I was isolated from the others, but it wasn’t a big deal to me. I was there to work, not to make friends, which wasn’t the same attitude that many others had. I didn’t mind.

When it came to my own products, however, I was no different than those other quiet handmade vendors. I’d converse, talk and answer questions, but didn’t want to come across as over zealous, so didn’t push sales. And I’ve never done so poorly selling products as I did my own.

That’s not to say I did poorly, mind you – but I didn’t have the same exuberance about it as I did selling other people’s products.

It was never for lack of confidence in my products – while sure, I’ve made a few mistakes and bumbles (seriously, what company doesn’t), I’ve always loved the things that I’ve made and have been proud of what I’ve  done. I think the issue lies more in the self, in asking people to pay me for the things I do. As much as I’d try to talk myself up that I’m worth what I ask for, I think deep down, I didn’t believe it myself and it came across that way. Or, not that I wasn’t worth it so much as just wanting to enjoy what I was doing without worrying about the monetary aspect behind it.

Which makes for TERRIBLE business practice.

I was quiet yesterday, and my husband noticed. My feelings were strong – and confused. I was elated by the outpour of support from so many people, while dreading taking their generosity, while grateful for it, while sad that those I thought would be more supportive disappeared, while humbled and embarassed, but proud of reaching out instead of falling into further trouble. I was also glad to have the thought of business off my mind, while sad to be letting it go.

Emotions are complicated and hard, man. But I’m ok. I’m more than ok. I am so, so blessed to have such amazing people in my life.

But gratitude and love win. Every time. And that’s how I’m feeling right now.

Plus exhausted beyond reasonable comparison. The last few weeks have taken alot out of me, and I don’t feel like I’ve given myself the proper chance to rest and catch up. And the more tired I am, the less I sleep, and the worse it gets. And today I’m definitely in a huge energy deficit, and I’m just staying in bed. I’ll take a break from that to do a small yoga practice and move some blood and tissue at least a little, but I don’t think I’ve got much else. And that’s ok. I don’t have anything I need to get done today, and nothing pending, and anything that’s on my to-do list can be put aside for another day.

This is where my boundaries and self care kick in. I’ve pushed myself here and there, mostly to see how my body would respond. It’s little experiments to know how far I can go and what activities I can do. Sadly, it’s not nearly what I’d have hoped for, but I’ll take what I can.

My MRI is on Saturday, which is faster than anyone expected. If the MRI comes back with issues, I’m being sent to a neurologist. If it comes back clean, then a rheumatologist. 

We’re narrowing things down, finally, and I’m looking forward to finding a better normal than I’ve had recently. It’ll still be awhile, but it’ll come. I have faith.

But in the meantime, I feel so grateful for everyone who has helped us, and I’m excited for the day that I can pay it forward again.

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Little changes can be bigger than they seem

My days are plugging by, with me plodding along an old, worn path I’ve never been down and I’m taking in the scenery as I go. I have no idea where I’m going. I’m just going, and wherever I end up…. there I’ll be.

It’s really not such a bad thing, most days.

Other days, I’m struggling. I get frustrated, sometimes, especially when the brain fog is thick and my eyes are tired. Have I mention I wake up exhausted? Sleep doesn’t help, and getting through simple tasks takes all of the energy I don’t have. I’ve been a person with goals for so long, even if they weren’t incredibly clear, I had them. They were fluid, often transparent, occasionally tangible, and seldom met to completion. And it worked for me. At least, I thought it did.

Changing that way of being out of necessity has it’s ups and downs, and there are no words that can really portray what it’s like. Most days, I’m content to just do my thing, which is maintaining the house, writing, crafting a little and taking care of the plants of animals. Very simple, very easy, but still exhausting. Other days, I’m frustrated, mournful of the life I had and want back, and resentful that the more I tried and still try to be healthy, the more my health deteriorates and there seems to be no way to win.

(Don’t worry. Those phases pass. But they happen, and it’s ok that they do. I’m human. I’m expected to have bad days, too, and I have to allow for that.)

Life is life. It’s not a game. There is no winning or losing – there’s living. And either you’re living or you’re not.

And oh, the things people say without really knowing how much they hurt. I’ve been learning this lesson, and learning to control my knee-jerk reaction.

“Keep your chin up! At least you don’t have cancer, right? At least you’re still walking. At least you are functioning. Don’t worry. Everything’s going to be alright. I’ll buy you a drink when you’re better. Oh, you look so healthy! You look so great! Are you sure you’re not too focused on your symptoms? Have you tried supplements/vitamins/magic smoothies/dart frog poison/essential oils/acupuncture/stabbing yourself in the eye with a fork?”

The list grows. There’s always some new miracle cure, some amazing diet, some medication or happy thought that will make everything better.

It’s hard to cure something when you don’t know what it is, nevermind if it’s curable or not.

And the thing is, as frustrated as I get, I have to remember that not oh-so-long ago, I didn’t understand either. I didn’t understand the crippling exhaustion, or the heavy brain fog, or the heavy weight of the limbs, or the affects of gastrointestinal distress. I didn’t understand that sometimes eating healthy isn’t as easy as it seems. I didn’t understand the fear, the insecurity, the disbelief from others. And I definitely didn’t understand how unhelpful I was being while trying to be helpful. I really wanted to help. I really thought I could. And this experience has taught me that, sometimes, it’s just not as easy as it seems.

It’s a good lesson to learn. One that I’d like to graduate from and move on, now. The lesson is imprinted deeply. It’s a humbling experience, to be sure. I honestly felt like I was healthy and would live a long time that way, and I really thought I could help others feel better, too. 

But that certainly changed. I have no idea how long I’ll live. Maybe a long time. Maybe a week. That’s the thing, though – we have no control or insight over that, do we?

I wanted to help people feel the same I did, because I felt SO GOOD. I was on the healthy bandwagon, because I really believed it was the thing to do. And lately, it’s been really hard to know what to do, what to believe and how to move forward. If I can’t help myself, how can I possibly help others? This has been a huge blow to my own confidence, and I find myself questioning everything I’ve learned and everything I thought I knew.

And where I stand is where I am. I’ve let go of so much. I’ve let go of the things I thought I knew. The things I still know. The things I didn’t know. The things I have yet to know. I’ll know what I know as I get to know them. But sometimes, things change, and so does the knowing that comes with those changes. 

Letting go is hard to do. But it’s getting easier, and the more I let go the easier it is to move forward into the big, scary unknown.

Multiple Sclerosis. Lyme Disease. Lupus. Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia syndrome. Neuralgia. Mast Cell Disorder. Myasthenia gravis. Fibromyalgia.

We don’t know what’s up. The big ones on the table right now are MS and Lupus. It’s a waiting game that I’m just trying to survive with the best quality of life I’m able to have… which involves warm blankets, heating pads, furbabies, hugs, forehead kisses, hot chocolate, and a whole lot of forgiveness for myself. This might not be enough for many people who want to know answers right now – but it has to be good enough, because it’s all I’ve got at the moment. So I’ll take my comfort where I can, and be grateful.

Hari om.

What is “Ugly Soap”?

I confuse many people when I call my soap “ugly”.

What does even that mean?

Ani DiFranco has a wonderful song that sings to my soul, and is relevant to the story behind my ugly soap. Check it out.

When I was making a batch one day, I was cutting it thinking, man – there sure is some pretty soap out there. Mine’s not so pretty. The inevitable happened, and I found myself singing “Not a Pretty Soap” to myself. It became a bit of a joke, and I lovingly refer to my soap as “not a pretty soap”.

This isn’t a bad thing, though. What this is, is my reality.

I grew up under intense pressure. Lose weight, do my hair, paint my nails, be prettier. Some encouraged nicer clothes, while others told me to do what I wanted – except when I did, they’d mock me. I didn’t fit in at school, no matter how hard I tried. I was the fat kid in class (even though I actually wasn’t, looking back), I was insecure, I was strange, I was the teacher’s pet.

So I stopped trying. I started doing the exact opposite. I was already isolated, so I further isolated myself. I started finding friends in that isolation – others who didn’t quite fit in. I tried to give the impression of having self confidence, but it was the last thing I had. I was an insecure, confused teenager growing up, and had a long, long way to go and many obstacles to overcome to finally find the real confidence to live in my skin, and be happy.

How is that different from anyone else?

It’s not. And that’s a problem. Except, you see, I have finally found that confidence where so many others haven’t. Or think they’ve found it, but either want it badly enough that they try that much harder or don’t want others to know that under that exterior strength…. they’re just as unsure about themselves as everyone else.

I have many customers who buy a bath bomb or soap, and comment that they’re saving it for a special occasion.

That day is today. There is absolutely no reason that you can’t celebrate yourself RIGHT NOW. Stop waiting – stop putting yourself last – and please stop undervaluing yourself. Treat yourself always. What you perceive as the perfect day to spend time with yourself has long past. Find that time, learn who you are and learn to love yourself as much as others do. You ARE loved, you are appreciated and you ARE beautiful. Isn’t it time for you to know that?

Everyone has a kind of art. Some people sing. Some dance. Some paint, play, capture moments, create accessories or furniture or poetry or so many other opportunities to shine. My art is here.

No, not my soap or any other product I create.

You.

I don’t need to make you beautiful – you’ve got that nailed on your own. My art is helping you feel how beautiful you already are, and helping you feel comfortable in your skin. I want you to take your clothes off RIGHT NOW and stand in front of the mirror, accept your imperfections that no one else really notices, and look deeper. We don’t live in magazines, and the true beauty is your raw, natural self. There’s more to anyone than what a person sees of themselves. The beauty that you can’t see, others do – so put some trust in them, and in yourself. There’s no reason for anyone to feel uncomfortable with what they’ve got, or with who they are. We all have a path, we all have obstacles, and I want to help you overcome whatever you can – one layer at a time.

So strip down – run that water – and go enjoy the moment. Right now is all any one of us has got – and if we don’t enjoy it now then we may never be able to again.

K's Comfort SoapMeet K’s Comfort Soap – it’s ugly. It rices due to the essential oil blend in it, which makes it seize and gloopy and terrible to work with. But….. After it’s set and cut, it’s actually not as ugly as originally thought it might be. It has it’s beauty, artistic patterns, swirls and marbling. I don’t do much to do that – I just mix it. The soap works its own magic.

What I do, however, is mix it with powerful ingredients for you to love. Herbs and clays and essential oils that cause this to be one of my best selling items, because it works so well for so many people. It helps tone while moisturizing, but gently pulls away the unnecessary oils without overdrying.

There are a multitude of soapmakers that are discouraged when their swirl isn’t perfect, or their pattern ruined or the colors not quite right. While I admire the skills of these artisans, I do not have the same idea in mind. I want to make something that is good for your skin, health and soul. I want you to use it for what it is – which is soap. Nourishing, natural, old fashioned soap made by hand. It doesn’t look like food, it doesn’t have jewelry in it, and the colors are simply a fun side effect of the ingredients used, but I don’t add colorants for the sake of making my soap more attractive. Your skin doesn’t see – but it does feel. And it deserves to feel as amazing as you are – so why would you undervalue yourself so much?

 

You are worth so much more than you give yourself credit for. It’s time to cash the cheque!

 

I Am Enough

The information provided is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to test, treat or diagnose health problems or diseases. This information is not meant to be a substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional.