My recent highs and lows are always a surprise because I am normally steady in temperament, upbeat and optimistic. My default is optimism, looking for the silver lining, the gift in the delay, the light in the dark, the lesson in the conflict.
I’ve read that others are also feeling extreme shifts in emotions day to day, and that does bring a small comfort. This pendulum swing may actually reflect the strange times we’re in more than a change in my personality.
It’s been confusing lately because I’ve had some really great highs, notably getting my 2019 bookkeeping completed in May. On time. That’s a first, I’m usually late and only this last January completed 2017 and 2018 bookkeeping which had been hanging over my head for years like a thick soupy shadow.
I vowed never to put myself through that kind of stress again and this quiet spring offered that opportunity.
My happiness and relief was palpable when the files were handed off to my accountant. I could not even begin to imagine that for the rest of this year that pressing task would NOT be waiting around every corner to be completed.
Now I actually have time to put together systems in place to keep on top of the monthly expenses in an organized way so it’s never the huge task of going through masses of receipts involved in manufacturing my fabrics, clothing and running my business and showroom.
I was happy for a few days, feeling relieved and proud to have kept my promise. I went on to write up a final order to consume the last of the printed fabrics before putting this production year to bed.
I wrote up the pattern changes for the new styles. This was the first order with a new tailor and we’re just working out a few bugs, dense with details of communicating instructions clearly. I was so productive for these days. And then the next day came.
Not too much to do. Then news from yet another show that decided to cancel. A show I’ve been looking forward to in October, prestigious, popular and lucrative. I wanted this one so bad. They decided to cancel citing anticipation of low turn out and low spending. Understandable although not reasons I'd complain about.
It was my 16th event cancellation to date. Although not surprised, still deeply disappointed, and then discouraged as I faced again the very real probability all shows this year will cancel. Totally out of my control.
My mood dropped. It was only May and hope for October was already fading away. I felt quite useless for the rest of the day, restless, grumpy. Bored. I had already done so much important work but that wave of satisfaction was long gone.
Fortunately I know enough at this point in my personal growth and spiritual journey that if I come back to the moment, not fixate on the future unknowns, just come back to NOW and be present, then relief and comfort are available.
There’s nothing in this moment, this now, to fret or be upset about.
However that process works mostly for my fears, worry and anxiety. I was planning on writing a blog post about its effectiveness...
This was different.
The mood lingered and that’s what really got my attention because that’s not like me. I had a wonderful Zoom party with a dozen beloved neighbours Friday night, and long chats with dear friends on the phone. But this cloud sat and waited. I found that disturbing. I could not shake it.
Yesterday I had a great video production meeting with my tailor. And right afterwards, blah. I sat in the garden on a sparkling sunny day, my beautiful green thriving sanctuary and felt alternately numb and sad. This was not OK and I didn’t know how to move through it.
I created and sent out a newsletter announcing the end of a 2 month sale, then watched a movie on my ipad in the garden and that along with a nice lunch was helpful. Often I feel I SHOULD be outside enjoying the day when I am in my den disappearing into a film, so this was a great solution to that. But nope, only a momentary fix.
My week ahead has no pressing agenda. I can catch up on decluttering tasks that were put aside while sharing the new collection with clients this last month. There’s something helpful in that but not enough.
Reality is I’ve got the rest of the year gaping wide open with no structure in place. No plans. All the diligent work to research and register for these 30 events from March to November are disappearing daily and leaving a crater of unknowns, presenting an employment void I’m not emotionally prepared for.
I was talking to my dentist in April, surprised to discover I can’t get my filling repaired and would have to manage through cold sensitivity until she was allowed to service non emergency procedures, and she said, people need to work. Want to work. Need to work. It’s important. She wasn’t talking only financially, but as a fundamental cultural, societal and personal value and structure to uphold.
It’s so true. That comment stayed with me. In April I still believed I’d have my great summer of shows to participate in. Then they cancelled- the worst day was getting cancellations from 6 shows!
In May I thought I’d have autumn events to look forward to after a summer of finding other things to occupy me, but no, that’s falling apart too.
So as the province ‘opens up’ for business, all artisans relying on shows for a living are shit out of luck for the remainder of the year. There’s nothing in place to go back to. We have to wait for 2021, and hope it’s OK by then to exhibit to the public.
No matter how much fun I have, or what I accomplish, or even the wonderful online sales I get to ship out, I pivot back to this grim mood.
I am very uncomfortable.
This is NOT ME. And that makes it worse.
Even when I’m pissed about having to figure out a wider online presence or social media brand awareness, I know I’m going to one day be in a frame of mind to tackle it or find hired help. That’s not it. That’s not what’s behind this relentless low front.
Even as I feel overwhelmed with the volume of inventory I have yet to move and with no clear way to do it, I know that’s not what’s eating away at my Joy either. I will figure that out step by step. I believe solutions present themselves through intuitive inspiration. I'm good at that.
Sure I get weary, even momentarily resentful, thinking about having to reinvent my business plan from scratch, but that’s not it.
Finally this morning I understand the nature of my feelings.
I am grieving.
Grieving something very specific.
I've known I was grieving the loss of the structure of my year. Grieving the opportunity to work. Grieving the loss of income and my plans and ambitions for that income.
Yet as I consider the vast emptiness of the coming months, many coming months, they feel so essentially empty.
I realize I REALLY MISS the PEOPLE who come to the shows.
It’s YOU who have disappeared along with each event cancellation.
Aside from how physically demanding shows are for me schlepping around 400lbs of clothing in and out of my car each weekend, building and tearing down a store booth every few days, aside from what that takes in energy, OH I just love talking to the women who drop in to look.
To chat with you, find out a special nugget about your lives. I adore seeing you shyly light up looking in the mirror.
It thrills me to hear the plans you have to wear your new outfit, the festivities or adventures.
We have so much fun.
It’s interesting talking to the husbands as they wait for their wives in the change room, or the sister as she comments yes or no to an ensemble.
I love talking about Bali and the hand printed process involved in the fabrics I design with so much care.
Whenever there’s a lull in my booth I love darting over to other artisan displays and reveling in the creativity all around me. Oh the art I collect and trade with other artists at every show. Truly a highlight of each event. My home and garden brim with these treasures. Human creativity is truly intoxicating.
Chatting with organizers and food vendors, volunteers and my Airbnb hosts. Although it was my work, it was also a huge part of my social life much of the time, because at this point in my young business it is how I live most of my time.
This is the loss of YOU I’m grieving, that won’t go away by distraction or achievement.
I miss you. All the HUMAN LIFE in my shows and as one event after another cancels, it’s a fact I have to face and feel.
Just feel it.
At least today I know about all your beautiful faces behind my sadness.
There’s no comfort to reach for or film to distract. Just feel my heartache.
Recognize this specific flavour of loneliness that lingers each weekend I am not working at a show.
This is different than simple home isolation. As a social introvert, I've been doing fine on my own. But as it stands this is how it’s looking to be for all 2020 even as the lock down mandate lifts.
It’s so interesting how my spirits lift as I just write about the human social aspect of the shows- favourite things about my work. Revisiting special parts and truly enjoying that reminiscing... like I was there again….that will lighten this load as I think about how much I LOVE meeting all of YOU who attend the festivals.
There’s no quick fix here.
Everyone is going through this process in their own realm of loss. Grief for lost work, privacy, money, family gatherings, prom, travel, weddings, death, hope...
I’m learning the multifaceted aspects of our/my social nature and how this Covid time is affecting us/me so deeply in the fundamental structure of human social organizing habits and the essential fabric of our lives.
How precious the connection is to each other, strangers, friends and family alike. However casual, or temporary. The need to mingle and interact.
The absolute necessity to express ourselves
I’ll leave you with the paradox of change: When you consciously surrender to what is, it begins to shift.
I'm actually less sad after my awareness of my grief of losing connecting with you this year, and especially after writing these thoughts down.
The mystery behind my mood is revealed. I’m now feeling more neutral than anything else.
I can hold myself with compassion through my process and acknowledge the life still pulsing around me, comfort waiting when I’m ready. Little by little.
This too shall pass.
This I know for sure.
and now there’s a robin splashing in the birdbath in the garden…this time I'm grateful it makes me smile.
Update June 11: It only took a few days for this cloud to pass after writing this blog. I am happy to report I've defaulted back to my more cheerful and productive self in a sustainable way. Till the next thing trips me up for a time...
Grief is an interesting process and really needs to be identified and honoured. I encourage you through your own process. There's light on the other side, I promise.