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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Lessons Learned

Admitting that I need help with something has NEVER been easy for me. And normally, the things I needed help with were minor, so it wasn’t so bad asking for (and getting) the help, because it was small and easy.

This time it’s a bit different.

I grew up knowing that you don’t ask for help. You don’t take help. You do it yourself, or you don’t do it at all. Sure, you can give to others, as long as there’s benefit for you in it, even if it’s later. And you hold them to that. You make sure that whatever they give you, you give back in some way, because that’s the way things are done and there’s no way that you “owe any favors”. It was like being a Lannister: We always paid our debts. There is no giving without receiving, and no receiving without giving in return. It’s a tedious account of cheques and balances that can be a hard game to keep up with.

I remember one Christmas during an especially tumultuous time in our family, and my sister and I opened our gifts. One that I opened was an electric keyboard. I was confused. The betrayed and disappointed look on my sister’s face is unforgettable. My sister was the one who had asked for it, so I started to hand it to her thinking that the tags had been mixed up, and my dad stopped me. “No, that’s for you.” He turned to my sister, and explained that if she wanted to go ahead and move in with our mother, then she could go right ahead, but the keyboard was mine and she couldn’t take it with her. The keyboard was a bribe to make her stay and make her feel guilty. I don’t think we ever really talked about it. I remember being too young to truly understand the significance of this action, but I remember the hurt involved, and I remember aplogizing to my sister for getting the gift she wanted. I felt guilty.

That guilt, as well as much more, followed me into my adult life. 

This is the way I learned about gift giving. It wasn’t about making the other person happy – it was about doing it out of expectation. Sometimes even out of manipulation. The gifts I gave were often disengenous, insincere and unwanted, because the thought behind it was typically  to get them SOMETHING, even though I didn’t know what. So most often it was a guess to wrap up a thing prettily and have something to exchange, in hopes that I lucked out and they were appreciative. Sometimes the gifts were made, sometimes bought, but more and more often I found people were indifferent to the gift and I became more and more insecure about my gift giving abilities. I learned to loathe Christmas and birthday shopping, because I just didn’t know how to give something that I felt the person would genuinely enjoy. The more I loathed gift shopping, the worse my gifts got. The times I enjoyed gift shopping I usually nailed it – because that person was truly in my mind as opposed to the expectation of giving something for the sake of giving.

I didn’t understand the true value of gift giving until much later. I’ve always tried to give in whatever way I was able, without wanting anything back. I was always told that I was selfish and disingenuous when I was a kid, and I was trying to be better than what they said I was. I didn’t want to be a bad person and I wanted to be good and generous. But then I was asked by my elders what I got for giving so much, and happiness just wasn’t an acceptable answer. Trying to find a balance to please everyone seemed impossible.

When you’re growing up and trying to figure these things out, it gets really confusing to have such conflicting theories.

So for years I tried to maintain that balance of cheques and debts. If someone did something for me, I’d do something in return. If I did something for someone else….. well, I didn’t always get something in return, and usually it didn’t bother me. But I have always had a hard time taking a gift as they were, with no expectation or guilt if I didn’t have something to offer in return. It’s just the way I knew the world.

That mentality has been slowly worn down over the years, and I’ve learned that I love to give. The shift truly started with the threat of going to jail. And it’s a story I’m going to share. Not one I’m proud of, but it was a humbling lesson for me.

I was 17 or 18 years old, working two jobs to cover rent and food, couldn’t afford a bus pass and used my bike to get everywhere, no matter what the weather was like. It was exhausting. Being on my own was still fairly new, and I was struggling trying to make everything balance. One day on my way to work, my bike brakes stopped working in the middle of a major rain storm and I was scared to keep going, so needed to hop on a bus with it. I always tried to keep bus change on me, just in case, but I had nothing at that time, and I knew I was short on change. I had checked all corners, drawers and couch corners for every nickle, dime and penny I could find. The driver wouldn’t have known for sure, though, since my fare was paid in such small change, and I could only apologize and let him know it was all I had. He scowled in suspicion as each coin tinkled into the container, but he gave me my transfer and I got my bike settled in for the rest of the trip, quickly forming my own indoor pool underneath me in my drenched clothes.

In getting to work, I realized I had no lunch. I can’t remember if I forgot it or if I didn’t have any food at home. I was in the habit of not eating breakfast. And I had to work my second job after the first one. I tried to make it through the day, but by the time my late lunch came on, I was lightheaded, hangry and ready to eat anyone that crossed my path.

But I was proud, and didn’t want to beg for food.

I went to the Zellers and stuffed a pack of ichiban noodles into my shoulder bag, hoping no one noticed, and went for the exit to go eat it. I was floored when someone grabbed by elbow tightly and whipped me around. “You can come with me, ma’am”, store security said.

I was terrified. I had no idea what to expect. Obviously, I was caught. I was hungry. And I had to be back on shift in 20 minutes.

I hadn’t realized that I was carrying a second package in my hand at the time, as well. Apparently I had grabbed another one without thinking, and very obviously walked out of the store with it. I’m not the best thief that ever did thief, apparently. My sneak skills were apparently not very finely honed. (Although, there was that one time I walked around a dollar store twirling a fun keychain with full intent of buying it, only to realize much later that I had this thing on my finger and couldn’t remember where the hell I had picked it up. When I did, I brought it back with so many apologies….)

She sat me down and asked me what else I took, and I pulled the other package out of my bag. She just looked at me. I was crying. I was apologizing. She asked me why I stole $3 worth of product, and I told her I simply didn’t have anything to buy it with, and I had no food until I could get home after my shift at the bar that night. It was early afternoon still. She said that she was under obligation to report me for minor theft, but if I didn’t want to have a criminal record then I could do community service. The thought terrified me, but having a criminal record scared me more. So I agreed to the community service.

She put the soup packages back into my bag, with a few dollars to grab a snack later if I needed. I was so grateful for her kindness. I never went through Zellers again while I worked at the mall. I wish I had gone back later to thank her and bring her coffee, but being young, I was too embarrassed or insecure or scared or something – because she was so nice, despite sending me for community service, and I didn’t know how to deal with that. I wasn’t used to it.

Experience lesson #1: Don’t forget a lunch, or at least a snack.

Lesson #2: It’s better to ask for help than to take from someone else. Someone will help. And we’ve all been there.

Lesson #3: Humility. 

Lesson #4: Kindness from strangers (or people in general) isn’t a thing to fear, and they aren’t always looking for something in return.

Community service terrified me. The volunteers at the homeless shelter knew I had committed a crime, so how would I be treated? As a criminal? I was proud, bold, and didn’t want to show my fear. I had to work in one of the shelters downtown – a place I had never experienced before. I scrubbed toilets, washed walls, changed bedding and washed dishes for the homeless. Some made dirty comments and catcalled me as I worked, but most averted my curious gaze and my attempt at a friendly (although scared) smile altogether, when I finally pulled out of my own shell to look at my surroundings a bit more.

Lesson #5: Be humble.

By the time I finished my community service, I had experienced a whole new world that I hadn’t really known before. Many had mismatched shoes and socks, they were unwashed, they smelled terrible and they didn’t help around the facility. Some were quiet. Some were angry. Some were sober, others were not. Some glared at me with obvious resentment, while others had looks familiar with envy.

And they were all thankful for the help offered at the shelter. And they all had a story to share.

Lesson #6: Listen.

I was welcomed to eat with them. I didn’t, at first, but eventually took them up on it. The volunteers shared stories. Some were previously recipients of the shelter’s services. Some were homeless. Some had homes, but nothing else, and came for food. And the more I listened, the more they shared what I now know to be normal people who once led what we know as normal lives who got lost in their situations that brought them to this place, to teach me these lessons they learned themselves that would take much longer to truly sink in.

Lesson #7: Be kind.

I think of that situation often, from my own mistakes, to the kindness of the security guard and the kindness of the shelter volunteers and the people who frequented that location. And I’m grateful for all of it, because many of the lessons I learned immediately while others took a bit longer to take hold. But it changed my life and my outlook on people and their situations, and especially on judgement.

And I’ve learned that I don’t need to please anyone else with the methods of my giving, and it’s my decision to make. I learned that in giving, I always get something in return regardless. Friendships, knowledge, love, satisfaction, smiles, hugs, lessons…. it’s something I found I loved doing, but started not wanting anything back anymore. No credits, no debts, no worries.

Sometimes I gifted money, but more often it was time, or food, or things we could part with or gifts that we’d find that just suited a person so well. It just felt good to do it. I still had a hard time accepting things from others, though, and would respond with statements that it was too much, or that I didn’t have anything to give back, or that they shouldn’t have. 

And in doing so I truly was ungrateful. Someone went out of their way to do something kind for me, and I didn’t want it, because I didn’t have something to give back, which made me feel bad. And I couldn’t get the comments about being selfish or what I knew about having a debt to pay out of my head. But what about the other person?

In reversed roles, I’d feel bad if a gift was given back to me, because I’d see it as a sign that they didn’t like or appreciate the gift, or perhaps some other hidden reason that I didn’t understand regarding our relationship. So in refusing gifts, was I causing harm to my relationships? Probably. I started practicing gratitude, and accepting what people offered, how it was offered, with sincere appreciation. The hardest of those gifts to overcome have been compliments. But I’m working on it. It’ll be a lifelong practice that I’ll never perfect, I’m sure.

The best I, or anyone, can do is to be better.

Since it’s just my husband and I, we frequently buy each other gifts randomly throughout the year, as well as things for others as we see them and feel it’s something that person would truly love. When it comes to traditional gift giving at Christmas and birthdays, we’ve stopped following tradition altogether. It was just too much. We don’t give or expect Christmas or birthday gifts at all anymore. We’ve been called grinches at Christmas, and we’ve been given slightly dirty looks, but we decided to do what was best for us. Christmas used to cause us both alot of stress, and it wasn’t fun. We realized that this was not the spirit of gift giving, and we have no regrets for making this change. Due to work schedules and time off around the holiday season, it usually also caused much financial distress ontop of the expectations, which has been alleviated. We’ve learned to truly simplify the holidays and only do those things we are able without reaching a point of exhaustion, and the time spent with friends and family mean so much more to both of us now than they ever have. We can be truly grateful and loving instead of stressed and excited for the season to be over.

We gift as we’re able and as we’re thinking about people specifically. We make gifts, as well, for those who enjoy the handcrafted wares. We used to both volunteer quite a bit, but as that has declined we’ve donated monetary gifts to different organizations, events and people who need it, instead.

This year, things have changed, and we haven’t been able to gift much at all.

Asking for help is not something I’m well practiced at… but that’s changing, too.

There really is life after death.

I’ve been super excited for spring. More excited than I ever have been before, and spring is usually a pretty amazing thing to me as it is. Most people don’t really understand what it is that I’m so excited about – it snowed the other day, everything is wet and dead looking, the dust is aggravating to the lungs and the mud is thick on everything.

Sure, if you want to look at it that way, things might be a little overwhelming.

But I just can’t see it that way. The snow is almost entirely gone. The sun is out – in fact, I’ve already sunburned my face. And life is abundant everywhere! Don’t believe me?

I love moss, fallen trees and mushrooms. They are some of my favorite things when I go out into nature, and the happiness I feel when I find them is a little silly sometimes. These are the things that make life happen, though. When you look at a forest, or think of a forest, what do you think of? Most people will answer with “trees”. It’s not trees that I think of, though – it’s LIFE. When I think of a forest, there’s always specifically a visual in my mind of the moss and lichen that grows up the trees and layer the ground with green, of a rotting three log and of vibrant red, orange and white mushrooms littering the floor.

When winter settles in, people think of outside as dead. Nothing is vibrant, nothing is alive. But it’s really not, and spring time is the best time to see that. When things are still looking drab and dreary and gross, there are always tiny, minute details that really shine if you take a moment to look at them. These little details are what makes life abundant. A tree dies and starts to rot. What do you think is the cause of rot, though? With the help of tiny little micro-organisms, the energy that tree carried is broken down and shared among neighbouring plant life, creating new plants, helping others grow stronger, feeding wildlife and creating new birth of different species.

It’s in this way that life is everlasting. We’ve come to fear death, and mankind is continuously working to keep people alive in body for longer and longer periods of time, even to the detriment of health. Having a body that functions is not quite the same as being truly ALIVE.

And alive is what I’m feeling. I have grown up clinging to the idea that as soon as we’re born we start dying – but when does that leave time for anyone to BE? It doesn’t, and it’s taken me this long to finally embrace life. As my husband put it, I’m finally coming into my own spring. I’ve been dwelling on the wrong things, and for the first time in possibly forever, I’m just ready to live. I’m ready to be. Ready to love. Ready for life. Whatever happens, we’ll sort out, no matter if it’s good or bad. The universe has got my back, and anytime some bump comes in the road, we find a way to manage – even if it means taking another direction. I’m happy following the flow. Whatever direction I’m going, I’m happy to embrace the adventure. There’s SO MUCH to see, and I don’t think I’ll be able to see it all in this lifetime. So I may as well enjoy everything I can until the next one!

I’ve been getting better and better taking photos with the new camera, and I’m loving getting out there and enjoying. And even better, is the macro capabilities. When you can’t see something so clearly when it’s so small, magnifying that can show you an entire new world you can’t see everyday or that is extremely easy to miss. Seeing the tiny details that are so easy to overlook is such a great reminder that no matter what, the little things can sometimes makes the biggest impact on daily life.

What, why am I posting a journal instead of getting my website back up??

Because there’s more to living than working so hard that I forget to live, that’s why. And I’m excited to share all of the things I can with you. Progress is being made on the website! Products are coming back up, and this is getting worked on every day that I’m not making custom orders and doing aromatherapy consultations. I’ve created my work limits and boundaries, however, so that I don’t fall into that overworked, corporate trap. There’s no point working for myself if I can’t stop to enjoy the freedom of it, now and again.

Don’t forget, you can always contact me if there’s something you’re looking for!

 

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