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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Everyday Heroes

When you ask a child who their favorite hero is, you’ll most likely hear answers of the Marvel universe. Don’t get me wrong, Thor and Iron Man are awesome (and can I mention hot, too?), but they’re just not realistic. Gods have better things to do than save puny mortals, and rich men aren’t looking out for the better of mankind. It’s a nice dream, though.

There are people who surround us that have more powers than they are aware of. I’m so thrilled to have been able to hang out with some of my own heroes this weekend. And I’d like to share these amazing people with you.

CathyMy aunt Cathy is someone I looked up to when I was little (and still do!). She was fun, flexible, lived outside of the box for as long as I could remember, and laughed SO easily. I was in absolute awe of her belly dancing career, which is so much different than the paths most of the family would even consider, nevermind pursue.  And that has never changed. She has an amazing smile that lights up the room and when she starts laughing she drags everyone with her. She’s infectious, and I’m glad to report that there is no cure. There are some things this world need more of, and it’s real people, living real lives in real time. She rolls with the punches and helps anyone who asks for it – even when she’s struggling herself. Her heart is so huge, and anyone who has known this woman in any kind of capacity is lucky to have her in their life. She doesn’t realize how much of a positive influence she has on this world just by being herself and by smiling. She stands up for what she believes in, isn’t afraid to rock the boat when there’s a snake on board, and is the first to jump in and help patch the holes. She’s not afraid of learning and living, and she has been such a strong influence in my life and I couldn’t be more grateful to have such a strong, positive person to look up to.

NicpatNicole and Patrick are part-in-parcel. I’ve known Nicole since I moved to Edmonton in 1999. Our boyfriends at the time introduced us to each other, and it was instant soul sister cake mix – the only ingredient missing was music. We clicked dancing to a Nine Inch Nails song together … or was it Tea Party? Hm. That part seems to be fading, but I feel that it was “The Perfect Drug” by NIN. While the boyfriends are long gone from our lives, we’ve held strongly to that bond and have grown together in our own ways. Ours is a path that was meant to cross. She’s fun, opinionated, insanely smart and an incredibly talented artist and writer. She has always worked hard for everything she has wanted to do, and lives the way she wants to. She’s inspiring and empowered and has been one of the most grounding but encouraging influences I’ve ever known. After she met Patrick at a poetry meeting, my very first knee jerk reaction at meeting him was not exactly a good one. He had reminded me SO much of a terrible ex  boyfriend in some of his mannerisms and stature that I had to shake off that impression before imprinting a new one.

It took all of maybe five minutes, if that.

rowanThe pair of them are amazing, positive and life-filled people who experience everything and want others to do it with them. They are open, inviting and welcoming. The warmth they share is contagious and you can’t help but fall in love with both of them. I am so, so happy that they found each other – they work so well together with their lifestyles and compromises. Very recently, they’ve expanded their influence to create the leader of the Universe, who is already learning about cognitive abilities and how to form the perfect bowel movement (which many people haven’t mastered after 60 years). Nicole and Patrick have  broadened their art to collaboratively create Baby Rowan, who will one day rule the world with kindness and super Ninja skills. He’s my newest hero-in-training, and damned cute at that.

DaveAnd then there’s my Wookie. His hands are large and stained and rough. He often has crazy hair and a wild beard, he’s large and has a deep growl.

And he’s the softest, warmest and gentlest human I have ever known (all fuzzy jokes aside).

David has a large part in saving my life. In my 20s I had a lot of struggles and personal growth that I needed to do. Where I was too intense for so many people, he loved me. Even when I didn’t want it, he loved me. I fought against it tooth and nail. The reasons are numerous, but they were my own insecurities. He has always been calm and understanding, and he’s a rock to many people. Myself included. He has helped keep me grounded and safe when everything around me fell apart, he took care of me when I broke my knee, he encouraged me when I felt the most discouraged and he’s always there for a silent, loving companion whenever I need it.

And even when I don’t.

David’s love is reciprocated by everyone who knows him. He is a hard man to dislike by anyone. He has a cheery demeanor (after his morning coffee) and loves to adventure and explore, but also to relax and just be comfortable. We work amazingly well together, which is a rare thing for me, and he is compromising, kind and generous.

I’m not rich nor famous. I go camping in a tent. I rarely have disposable funds and have to budget carefully. I don’t drive a fancy car (truthfully, it’s a rust bucket that’s super reliable and has great gas mileage, and I’m just not ready to give up on it yet!), I don’t own a trailer, I don’t travel out of the province often and I can’t afford to open a shop of my own.

And that’s all very ok with me – because I’m the richest person in the world.

I love my tribe, and they mean the world to me.

We can all be heroes, for more than just a day. Be good, be kind, be someone you can look up to, so others can look up to you as well.