I haven’t written a blog post in a few months. I know this isn’t the most interesting opening sentence, but it’s what comes to mind.
I didn’t realize how far I had withdrawn from everything until this past week. I was looking at posts on Facebook from a couple of my very favorite indie authors. Both are wonderful women who I have grown fond of in the past couple of years. They were sharing a table together at a convention, and their happy faces filled me with joy. Seeing the additional posts made me feel wistful. Not because I had written anything to contribute at this convention. Not because I would have been there if I had written something interesting. Just because I wondered why I had put myself on the other side of the window looking in.
I am not really sure if there was any one event that was some sort of “lightbulb moment”. At the beginning of this year, I was really feeling charged up and empowered. Or so I thought. I was attending networking events. I was making plans for “getting my wraps out there”. I was on a new vitamin regimen that had me feeling very strong and healthy. I was doing all the right things. So what happened?
Well, life isn’t always a 60 minute drama that has a “cause and effect” storyline. Lots of little things happened. And didn’t happen. I spoke to my next door neighbor one day, and she was telling me how she really wanted a couple of new wraps. I told her I had perfect ones just waiting for her to stop by and look at. Months later, the Rubicon still has not been crossed and they are still hanging in my garage. Somehow I just couldn’t make myself chase my neighbor to make a sale. I know she has a life so busy that she should be cloned. I love her dearly, and don’t want to be “that annoying neighbor”. We have lived happily and peacefully next to each other for over 20 years, and I like it that way. But I had to wonder: If what I make is so cool, so nice, how come I can’t even get someone to walk next door to buy one? Hmmmmmmm…….
Even though I was attending networking events, it was getting to be more and more like being back in High School. You show up at some event by yourself, and you try engaging people in conversation. They fall into three categories. Category A is comprised of people you do know, who are very nice, but who really don’t want to buy anything from you, although they really like what you do. Category B is made up of people who are very pleasant, who want you to buy something from them and are polite when you try to give them your card but who don’t bother to pick it up. The third category is the group of people who you try to engage in an initial conversation and they look at you like you just interrupted them during Confession. They aren’t interested, they really wish you would go away, and they are trying not to just tell you to piss off. I may love what I do, and I may think what I do is great, but that kind of thing just makes me tired. Or makes me wish I had brought my dog with me as a conversation starter.
I have donated wraps to so many different causes and events that I have lost track of who, what and when. Not one of those donations has ever resulted in a new customer. I don’t regret making the donations. But after a while, it becomes one more hand in my pocket, just less intrusive than telemarketers from charities.
Even as I watched the bank account get smaller and smaller, I kept moving forward. I kept reading all those positive affirmations about never giving up, success is just around the corner, blah, blah, blah. I don’t doubt the sincerity of all those positive thoughts, but none of them were putting the money back in the bank. Neither was networking, attending events, or buying vendor space and bringing my products to sell.
I think the final event that rocked me back on my heels was kind of funny – in a humiliating kind of way. I met a woman at a networking event. I didn’t get a brochure from her, but I did give her one of my cards. She seemed interested in buying a wrap from me. About a week later, I got a phone call from her. She was so friendly, so chatty. I think it must have been either misplaced hubris on my part or just lack of attention, but I never asked myself why this person was so interested in me. I just thought she was interested in buying a wrap and was a chatty person. I also thought she was some sort of life coach, which accounted for the conversation. I agreed to meet her for coffee a week later. Off I went to the meeting. When she arrived, she was a bundle of energy. Brochures, laptop, lots of stuff everywhere. She also was busy taking calls and apologizing for taking calls. I sat waiting to find out what she wanted, if she had someone special she wanted me to make a wrap for. (This isn’t that unusual. Lots of people who order custom wraps have a story to tell about the person they are buying for. It helps me to connect and make the perfect wrap.)
Then, she started asking me questions about how much credit card debt we had, savings, stocks, etc. Yes, by now I was thinking: WTF? Before I could ask, she made it clear that she sells life insurance. In fact, she is a star in her region, selling lots of life insurance. And because we must be woefully lacking in coverage and savings, I had been doing something wrong for A Long Time.
At that moment, it was like an out of body experience. Here I am, sitting in Panera Bread, head buzzing from way too much French Roast, and this perfect stranger is telling me I have screwed up my family’s future. Just what I had been thinking lately as I was trying to keep my business going. Was I wearing a sign? Did I have that desperate look in my eyes? Had I turned into one of those people who never give up chasing their dream, no matter the cost? Was I the female equivalent of that 59 year old guy who still thinks he is going to make it as a rock star, receding hairline groomed into a greying mullet and still playing Whitesnake to crowds at the VFW on a Saturday night? It made me want to throw up.
I will say this. She was sensitive. When I stared at her like she was a serial killer and told her I wasn’t prepared to sign a document promising to pay $150 a month for insurance and I had no idea that was why we were meeting, she started to say how cute the wrap was that I was wearing. She then asked me if I could mend the sweater she was wearing or make something like that for her.
That was my Wake Up Call. I wasn’t Shark Bitten by watching the TV show; although the comment that “If your idea is so great, how come you aren’t making any money after 6 years” kind of hit home. I just finally wondered what the Hell I was doing chasing this dream. It didn’t matter whether I put in too much or too little energy. Too much or too little time. The fact was, this was NOT going to be “It” for me. I needed to stop and take stock of my life and stop flushing money I didn’t have down that black hole.
There comes a time in our lives when we need to just stop and be still for a while. Breathe. Look around. Tend our own garden. Dust our own entertainment center. Go through our own closets and get rid of the things that no longer serve us. You can’t be open to what God has in store for you if you don’t make room for the message. Sometimes, this is humbling, painful and bittersweet. Sometimes, you have a whole room full of fabric that you bag up in case you may want to make something one of these days. Perhaps I will figure out how to make that room full of fabric work for me, or at least make it put a few pennies back in the bank.
So I have been spending time with me. Not pushing at things I stopped wanting to do a while ago. Not going to events to see the same people and ending up with the same empty wallet. I like those people. I recommend those who I think are really good. I buy from others when I need their services. That will never change. (And no, I did not buy life insurance or agree to make a wrap for Little Miss Epiphany.)
What I have learned in these few months is that we all need to just stop at some point and get to know ourselves again. Maybe for the very first time. We need to stop doing things and living our lives based on what we think other people want us to be. Yes, that means that people who used to comment frequently on your Facebook posts will forget you. It’s ok. You enjoyed them while they were around. But you need to be your own best friend for a while, and be comfortable letting go.
I know there are a bunch of memes floating around to support what I am saying. But I would rather spend my time improving than looking for them on Facebook. If you want me, I am here. And I am Becoming. When I figure out what that means, you will be the first to know!