Are you there, Stella? It's me, your groove.

So I fell off the Cabbage Patch blogging wagon. While I started off with a blogging bang, I quickly lost my groove. One day without blogging turned into another, then another, yet another, and before I knew it, an entire year had passed by. An entire year! What in blue blazes happened?

Life happened. Chronic health issues continued to dog me. Stress, both personal and professional, took its toll. Before I knew it, I was couch surfing, Netflix binging, Candy Crush Saga playing, and eating whatever salty and sweet treats I could find in the house. I was doing anything and everything I could to avoid my situation and my life.

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But one day I finally woke up and, even though over one year has passed since that awakening, I am still amazed by the event that caused it. It wasn’t a near death experience which sometimes causes people to affect major changes in their lives nor was it a bolt of lightening striking me from the high heavens and setting my mind ablaze. Rather, it was something that other people might shake their heads at in utter disbelief causing them to ask, “Really, that is all it took?”

Really. This is all it took. After months of dealing with dissatisfied and rude customers (my business had not recovered from its devasting 48% retail sales decline, a consequence of almost seven months of road construction taking place in front of my gift shop, and my inability to restock it with new inventory), it took one GG (grouchy grouch) customer to awaken the giant within. This particular GG got in my face simply because I didn’t have a particular pendant in stock that he was looking for.

In my 14 years of customer service, never before had I felt vulnerable in front of a customer. This GG was so angry with me, he was leaning over the jewellery counter pointing his finger in my face and yelling at me. I explained that, being a small speciality store, it was impossible to have in stock every single Celtic piece of jewellery ever made. I explained how the construction had affected the business. I offered to order the pendant for him and have it at the store within three to five business days, the norm for this type of specialty item.

Nothing I said or did appeased him. In complete exasperation, he yelled, “So you’re telling me that you do not have THIS pendant in stock, right here, right now?” (his index finger was slamming against the jewellery counter with every word yelled). I stepped back and thought to myself, this behaviour can’t possibly be over a Celtic knot pendant, can it? Something else has to be going on but that still doesn’t excuse his behaviour. I closed the catalogue that was between us, walked to the bookcase and returned the catalogue to its rightful place. I turned to Mr. GG and replied, “That is exactly what I am telling you.”

Customer is just an asshole

And with those words I made up my mind that I had to change my life before I myself became a GG.

That evening I was quiet at home and somehow Sauerkraut knew that I needed to be that way. It was not until the next morning that he asked me, “You are very quiet. What’s wrong?” That’s when the floodgates opened, the tears starting running down my face and the words began flowing. “I cannot do the store any longer. It is sucking the life out of me. It is changing who I am. We have to close it before there is nothing left to me.”

I talked for a long time. Sauerkraut listened for a long time. I told him how the customers were changing. How there was this sense of entitlement now and that some people were beginning to think they could treat others any way they felt. I told him how there was this expectation of instant gratification regardless that we were a small speciality store and how it didn’t matter that the store was failing due to circumstances beyond my control. I told him how demanding and belligerent people were getting and I provided all the examples I could think of such as the woman who said, “You might want to consider getting some more greeting cards in. With the price of gas these days, I don’t want my next trip here to be a complete waste of my time” or the other woman who told me how “disappointed she was in me for letting the business fail” as if I was a five year old child who had done something terribly bad and on purpose.

Then I told him about Mr. GG’s Oscar winning performance. Sauerkraut’s face was displaying so many emotions, anger, sadness, empathy, concern. But it was the word’s that soothingly came from his mouth that told me that everything was going to be okay. He reassured me that this wasn’t my fault, that he knew this day was coming, that he knew what the store was doing to me, to us, but most importantly, he told me that he was going to get me out of this and help me get my life back.

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We took the next week to plan our exit strategy and made a list of what had to be done in order to prepare the building for its sale. Sauerkraut worked his cabbage off over the next six months using his weekends to help me any way I needed. The building was placed in real estate in June of 2015 and I am happy to report that it was sold six weeks later. The closing date was September 30th and it has taken me until now to truly start to feel somewhat better. It didn’t help that I had the shingles virus while trying to pack up the store and that people who had never set foot in it before suddenly felt they had the right to come in and grill me on just what I thought I was doing. Others felt compelled to tell me just how devasted they were that I was doing this to them. It was ludicrous really.

Thankfully, it is all over and now behind me. I could easily have spent my time beating myself up over it, telling myself how awful I was at running a business, at blogging, at keeping a promise. I could have told myself that I was a failure and that I should have known that this would happen. I could have listened to that that inner voice telling me that if I truly wanted to blog, I would have made the time to do so. But that is not me. Me is knowing that eventually I would find my footing, find my resolve and definitely get my groove back. I have had enough trips around the Cabbage Patch to know that “this too shall pass” and that eventually I would come full circle and find my way back to me. Praise be for life’s lessons.

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Which now brings me back to Stella and her lost groove … like Stella from the movie “How Stella Got Her Groove Back”, I too had lost my groove. Unlike Stella, my getting my groove back did not involve a trip to Jamaica nor did it involve getting into the mischief that Stella found herself in once she got got back home from her vacation (although the thought of being somewhere warm being served tropical drinks by a ripped pool boy name Juan has a certain appeal to it). No, getting my groove back involved taking control of my life by stepping away from a toxic situation and starting over. And there most certainly is nothing wrong with that.

So, thank you, Mr. GG. Without even knowing, you awakened the cabbage within. Oh, and, you may now call me Stella.

Groove: 1
GG: 0

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P.S.: On the bright side of the patch, even though I wasn’t writing, I never forgot about my promise to YC. Since I knew that I would eventually find my way back to my promise, I kept notes in a folder on my laptop as well as on my iPhone. I left a trail of sticky notes from here to Timbuctoo about the new things I not only tried but could try. I wrote down possible blog titles, scratched a word here and there to jog my memory about something I did, and I prayed bunches to St. Jude (patron saint of hopeless causes) for his help in getting my blogging groove back. I also petitioned St. Anthony (patron saint for lost and stolen articles) for his help in finding my lost mind (which I knew to be lost rather than stolen because who the heck would want to steal this hodgepodge of a mind of mine?) but that is a whole other story. Stay tuned for these titles which are just waiting to be shared:

• The Christmas Stocking Purse
• Ringing in the New Year — Get a Room Donnie Wahlberg!
• The Eyebrow Pact
• Men-oh-pause
• Walker Rage
• Move Over Martha Stewart. There’s a New Crafter in Town
• Nightmares on Foresters Falls Road (Sauerkraut Needs Protective Gear)
• Greetings from the Camp
• Urology Waiting Room Entertainment

a promise is a promise is a promise

It is incredibly easy to make a promise. It can be made flippantly in order to deflect someone else’s concern or to avoid an argument. It can also be made in earnest because we feel so deeply moved to change and we know that it is the right thing to do. My promise to Youngest Cabbage had me floundering somewhere in the middle. While I did make the promise flippantly at first, I did know that it was the right thing to do. The challenge was going to be how to put the promise into action as well as how to keep it once I started it.

I began by telling myself that I could indeed do this; I could indeed try something new each and every day. I used a mantra of self-affirmation “I can do this! I will do this! I am woman, hear me roar!” In my mind I was jumping up and down with all the fanfare of a cheerleader minus the short skirt and pompoms. I quickly grabbed a pen and paper and began to jot down new things I could try.Something new cartoon

  • Learn to meditate
  • Yoga
  • Reconnect with friends
  • Travel Europe
  • Learn to say hello in ten different languages
  • Smarten up
  • Be the person my dog thinks I am
  • Exercise
  • Eat better
  • Stop swearing
  • Sign up for a class, what it would be I do not know
  • Consult a psychic
  • Belly dance

(By now Julie Andrew was singing in my head, “Climb every mountain, Search high and low, Follow every highway, Every path you know” from The Sound of Music and I felt like my head was going to explode.)

While my ideas were clearly all over the place, I felt fairly good because I had, at least, begun a “Try Something New List”. It also meant that I had moved one step closer to putting my promise into action. Things were looking good on paper but I quickly realized I was facing some challenges:

(1) I live in a small rural community where the possibilities of trying something new are limited and not readily available

(2) I have limited energy due to chronic health conditions, particularly challenges associated with living with multiple sclerosis

(3) I have limited financial resources

But I was certainly not going to let these factors deter me. It only meant that I was going to have to think outside the box, be creative and resourceful, motivated and determined. I also did not want to be one of those promise makers who embraces the promise with gusto at first but loses momentum after a while. Knowing myself and my history (isn’t it Dr. Phil who says ‘the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour’?), I knew it was going to be a challenge for me to stay on task. Since I did not want Dr. Phil’s voice going off inside my head saying “I told you so”, I decided I had better call in the recruits.

It only made sense that, in order to remain true to my promise and to elicit some ideas, I would enlist the help of the other cabbages in my patch. Every one of my fellow cabbages thought it was an awesome idea and were grateful that Youngest Cabbage had roped me into such a promise. They were quick to chime in with their thoughts and suggestions. I told them what my limitations were and what parameters they needed to work within – the something new had to be within reason, legal and not cost much financially. The most I would be able to swing is $100 every now and then.

This was a strategic move on my part. My cabbages would not only hold me to task on this promise (you know who you are) but I also knew they would provide me with much needed support, fodder, and ammunition for this blog.

Here are some of their suggestions:

  • Make a bucket list (this appeals to me because it is similar to a ‘to do’ list and would keep me focused and organized — plus I like checking things off.)
  • Wine making (hiccup)
  • New haircut/hair colour (scary)
  • Write something every day (doable and manageable)
  • Tie a cherry stem with my tongue (not sure if I possess such a talent but I guess I will find out)
  • Join a book club (this appeals to me very much – are any available online?)
  • Shooters (hiccup x 2)
  • Karaoke (hence the shooters)
  • Take a photo a day (it would encourage me to get out of the house more)
  • Write a random address and see if they write back (with my luck the address would belong to an axe murderer)

Even Sauerkraut had some suggestions:

  • Learn to drive a standard (not sure the jeep would survive this)
  • Learn to pump my own gas (why I have not learned this, I do not know)
  • Learn to check my oil (clearly car maintenance is on his mind)
  • Go an entire day with his being right (he included ‘no back talk’ as a requisite and, while he may have had me there for a minute, he blew it with the ‘back talk’ part, so, no)

Middle Cabbage thought I should try these:

  • Drink a cup of coffee (ooooh, yuck)
  • Pee standing up for a week (really?)
  • Marijuana (for medicinal purposes, I am sure)

So there you have it. A promise is a promise is a promise and I intend to keep it because I am no longer floundering in the middle. I have put my fear to the wayside …. Plus I have the best and most supportive cabbages in my patch. What could go wrong?

Promise into action:  1

Floundering:  0

to post or not to post, that was the question

Already I am trying too hard.  I have spent the past several days fretting over what the first entry of my blog should be.  While I have a whole hodgepodge of misadventures, blunders, and anecdotes to draw from, I find myself staring at the page wondering what to write about.  Family and friends have been consulted and asked what it is they think I should write about.  I have read other people’s blogs hoping that an idea will spring forth from the computer screen and light a creative spark.  But, nothing, absolutely nothing comes to mind.  With each passing moment, I feel the all too familiar wave of anxiety begin to well up because I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT and now I have gone and told people that I am writing a blog and they are expecting something wonderful, fantastic, witty and insightful, but I do not know what to write about, and, oh, my word, this was the worst idea ever. Or so I tell myself.

It is easier to tell myself that I do not know what to write about than it is to admit the truth:  I am afraid. I am afraid of being perceived as foolish, insignificant, vulnerable, and, well, not good enough. I am also deathly afraid of being rejected; the reasons for this better left for another time, another blog.

So why write a blog which by its very public nature puts me ‘out there’ and has the potential of setting me up for all of things I fear the most:  rejection, criticism, vulnerability? Because I made a promise to someone I love, a promise which involves stepping outside my comfort zone with a conscientious effort to try something new every day.

Back in November, Youngest Cabbage (Y.C.) came home from university for a surprise twenty-four hour visit.  He was somewhat philosophical during this visit and it was obvious that he was trying his best to talk to me about something.  Naturally, I assumed it was university, co-op job hunting or his life related.  Imagine my surprise when I realized that, saints preserve us, what he wanted to talk about was, well, me.  Double take, back the bus up or start the car, I wasn’t sure which one I should do.

The conversation went something like this:

Y.C.:  “Hey, Mom. How are things?”

Me:  “Pretty good, thanks for asking.”

Y.C.:  “Really (sarcastic tone)?  You don’t seem all that good.”

Me:  “I’m fine.  I just have a lot on my plate right now.”  This is my usual response to all me-related questions.

Y.C.:  “Well, before I go back to school, I want you to promise me something.”

Me:  “Sure.  Name it.  What would like?”

Y.C.:  “I want you to promise that you will try something new every day.”

What the hell?  Why would I do that?  I had taken the bait, hook, line and sinker and was now committed to something big before knowing what it was I was committing to.  Man, oh, man, this was bad. I had gotten myself into yet another pickle and I was back pedaling as to how I could get myself out of it.

The long and the short of it is that, even though I thought I had everyone fooled, this mathematical genius of a child (who has gone through his entire twenty-one years of his life being teased by his older brothers for having his head stuck up in the clouds) hit the nail right on the head:  his mother was slipping into the mundane and she was struggling with something far deeper than she was willing to admit or could even articulate.

But Y.C. knew.  Before Y.C. left for an eighth month co-op placement back in December of 2011, I was attentive, bubbly and talkative.  When he returned, I was distracted, quiet and pensive.  By November not much had changed so Y.C. bravely crossed over into dangerous territory; he talked to me about me.

So here it goes.  I am posting my first entry despite my fear of rejection, despite my fear of being told it is a stupid idea, and despite my fear of being laughed at or told that my efforts are not good enough. I am exposing my vulnerability in the hopes of escaping the mundane and also in the hopes of showing others that, while we all experience periods of vulnerability and insecurity, it is only when we face our fears and step outside our comfort zone can we truly begin to shine.

AND, equally, if not more importantly, I am posting my first entry because I made a promise to someone I love.  Thank you, Y.C., I owe you one.

Something new:  1

Fear:  0

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