After the last of our Holiday houseguests left on the eve of January 1st, I consumed an entire Hershey’s chocolate bar with almonds, dipping each bite in peanut butter and chasing it with a swig of milk and then promptly fell asleep in my bed, fully clothed at 7 pm. I have not partaken in that kind of chocolate indulgence in years. It was just that kind of Christmas celebration. An exhausting but exhilarating week and a half long celebration of family, a full house, way too much great food, and a cleaning of and moving out of an apartment for child number 3. I am not complaining by any means… it was pure heaven but it was the kind of heaven that is like the devouring of that chocolate bar… it has its repercussions. Specifically in making one very sleepy. That Christmas celebration followed that kind of the second half of this year.
Having a large family and a few acres on which that family lives, there is always something going on; needs to be met, to do’s to be done, meals to be cooked, things that break, trees that fall, pipes that break, activities to partake in, etc, etc, etc. Having a small business… there is the same. There is no floor manager, no foreman, no parking guy, no maintenance guy, no human resource person, no clerical staff, no PR person, etc. Our very small team covers it all and we wear many hats. So before I get into the nitty gritty of this post, I must thank them all deeply, for I could not have gotten through this crazy second half of the year had I not had all of you to wear all of those hats. And wear them well you did! Not to say that wearing a hat in November and December was not imperative in the freezing cold arena in which you work. The period between September and December is our busiest one by far, with three back-to-back sales, and many changing over of vignettes in the barn, unpacking and processing of new merchandise, ordering that said new merchandise, etc.
It was a busy end of year that was also filled with change. When there is change, there is often confusion and unsettling due to that change. That was no different here, when Maggie, my long term right arm joyously announced that she was having her first child. All of you who have visited the barn, have seen her here, met with her or have dealt with her smiling disposition personally or from afar over the Internet or email. There is no problem too big or too small for her. I often feel as if we were made from the same cloth… she a much younger version with a lot of technical and current issues prowess and me… well, lets leave it at that, but with the same love of vintage and family. While we were all over the moon concerning her news, upon hearing that her due date coincided with our Fall Barn Sale, my stomach did a flip flop. What the heck am I going to do? I know Maggie, and if she could have she would have had that baby and jumped right back into the melee. But who would want to after having their first born, delicious, honest to goodness cutest little man you ever did see, who will not be that delicious little man for ever? I know that, and all of us as moms know that. That phase is short and sweet and having lived it quite a few times with various bundles of deliciousness, we often didn’t see it for what it was when we were in the middle of it. We are pooped, tired and often overwhelmed, but in my eyes, it is the best most awe inspiring phase of life there is. So to shorten what could be an incredibly long missive, I had to embrace this beautiful change and say goodbye to my right arm for a few months.
There it is, that word that makes many a heart skip a beat. For a select few, it might bring excitement and elation, but for many of us it brings fear. What to do with it? How to handle it? Where do we go with this change? There is change happening all around us, some for the better and some of it just rocks our world.
Our family has experienced quite a bit of change in the last few years. Change that has resulted from health issues that were not even in the figment of our imaginations a few years back. Change in the hats that we wear ourselves in our own family. Change in the loss of a loved one. Change causing readjustments of how we do things, of our goals and aspirations, of just living life itself. We all experience change often. New jobs, new houses, new schools, new relationships, health issues, the loss of a loved one… the deepest and most earth shattering change of all. We have ups and downs with these changes. Seeming to succeed well with them one day, and then taking a major fall the next. Such is life. Nothing is permanent, nothing is forever, nothing is to be taken for granted. Change causes fear and fear eats away at your inner soul and often takes away your decision making process. If I don’t respond to this change for I am afraid, then won’t it just go away? NOOO it won’t my friends. Take it from a fearer of change who is often accused of being too nostalgic…. of holding onto things that need to change or that should change due to the natural path of progression and the march of time.
This concept never rang truer than it did when I stood in my skis on top of Mont Tremblant in Canada on our recent vacation. Having learned to ski late in the game, say in my late teens and only really going skiing once a year for a week on this family journey to this same destination, let’s just say that I grew more confident and proficient, as my children grew as I followed them down whatever slope that might have been. Green circles (beginners) when they were just up on their skis for their first forays down the slopes, slowly graduating to blue squares (intermediate) and then with a major pit in her stomach, down the black diamonds (expert) and then even some double blacks… eee gads, you guys are on your own on those ones! My husband always led the way, having skied when he was younger, having no fear. Someone had to bring up the rear and make sure that none of her precious cargo ended up in a tree or over the side of the mountain for that matter. I never became a good skier in the form department, for I kind of look like the energizer bunny, but I could get down whatever trail I was following them on, in one piece, right behind them, usually without falling. Funny that my most major of falls took place walking back to our unit after a full day of skiing when I slipped on a patch of ice, hidden underneath the snow, legs flying out from under me, landing me flat on my back with my helmeted head hitting the ice hard. Skis went flying and broke my cell phone that was in my front pocket as they fell on top of me. Aside from being a bit dazed upon getting up, I wasn’t really hurt, just my pride. Slowly though, the symptoms I had been experiencing for years came more often and lasted longer. The pressure headaches, the numbness in my face and fingers, the swallowing and breathing issues, the memory issues. Later that year, after finally having a doctor tell me that I should have a CAT scan and asking if I had hit my head recently, we finally put two and two together. The fall had knocked my cerebellum even further into my spinal column due to a Chiari malformation, which was causing my nerves to be pinched and my CSF fluid to be blocked, thus causing those massive 3 week long headaches and a host of other issues. We scheduled a decompression surgery with a neurosurgeon in New York City to take out a piece of the back of my skull, take out the top of my vertebrae in my spine and open up the Dura of the brain to patch it thus making more room for my brain which was now in an area it really should not be. That was two years ago this past weekend. Why am I telling you all of this again now?
Because, every picture tells only part of the story. We see pictures that are perfect on our websites, in our social media channels, and in our lives. Those photos do not show the backstory. They do not reflect the chaos, the relationships, the hard work… the fear… the change that MIGHT be behind them. So we are under the perception that life must be so easy for those that post those beautiful photos. It must be effortless. Their life is easy… perfect, just like their photos. Of course we all know that to be false, but why do we think it anyway? Why do we measure ourselves against those images? I’m not sure, but when I figure it out, I’ll be sure to let you all know!
This picture is from our family reunion on my mom’s side that we held on the farm this past summer. I used it for our Christmas card, that I never mailed! This is what happens when you wear too many hats, when life is not perfect, when time is a hot commodity, when the picture you see does not reflect the change that is or has happened in each of the participant’s lives. A few of the subjects in this photo are experiencing change and doing things in new ways in order for them to succeed and to live life happily. One of the subjects in particular experienced a very different type of trip to Canada than in prior years, not being able to follow his siblings down the mountain as in prior years, but there is hope that next year, this same group will gather and we all will swoosh down Tremblant mountain together. For that would be good change.
I do know one thing though, and that is that upon standing at the top of that mountain about to ski down for the first time in three years on legs that have not been worked out as they have been in the past, having experienced health issues that have been very foreign to my old self… I was afraid. Pure fear was running through my body. What if I fell and smacked my head again? I had received clearance from my surgeon that I could ski again, but to be careful of not hitting my head. I have been given the same warning when riding in a car. Be careful not to get in a car accident, so as to not jar my neck or have an air bag knock my head back. Same thing with riding a bike or walking down the stairs. Seriously? Am I never to do those things again for fear of hitting my head or wrenching my upper neck which is now holding part of my brain? No sir and no ma’m! Caution I will follow, and I have had to change many things that I used to do. It is humbling to do so and to ask people for help in areas that you used to not need it… humbling indeed. But the fear of never doing this activity again with my family was motivating me even more. Even if I had to stay on the green circles, just as my young ones had done when they were first learning, I was going to do so. Not to say that they would be following behind me, but that is okay, that is the course of life. They are on their own paths now and I will forever be following behind them… to catch them if they fall, as my parents have done for me.
The fear continued to knot my stomach, causing me to gingerly proceed forward. The wind was a whipping, I kid you not, almost blowing us backwards. It was the kind of weather that made you feel alive in an instant yet in the next moment you wanted to duck for cover. All the better to keep moving in. My first run down the mountain was anything but pretty. Stiff, turning side to side, I think I hit all of 4 mph, but I made it. Second run down was even better and by the third everything had returned, except the feeling in my hands and toes for it was all of – 12 F degrees with a real feel of -46 F. One thing I know in this long life is that if you PRETEND that you are confident, you will become so. I repeatedly said to myself while going down the mountain, “left, right, left, right” rhythmically as if that would force one leg to lean against the mountain and go first as it should, and then the other. If you face your fears, you will conquer them, if you can get out of bed first. Sometimes, it seems far easier to stay under the covers as we all know. Throw those covers off for you will be thankful that you did. Surmounting those fears requires you to spend less time in your own head and more time doing what proves that fear wrong.
My little business has experienced a great deal of change over the last year, all of which has elicited fear, especially fear of the unknown in me. One being the change that I spoke of above. Another being the growth that we have experienced, especially in this last year, and how to proceed with it. We are experiencing it daily, as positions shift, as those hats that we wear, are continuously switched. As we find a balance of who wears what hat in the best possible way. As we add more people to our little team so that we can fill your needs in a more fluid, effective and dynamic way. As we embark on the restoration of an old Inn in dire need of some loving… a passion project that I am incredibly excited about. One that is pulling so deeply at my heart strings that I cannot do anything but answer, knowing full well that this project will elicit even more change in my life and our business.
I do know that change can be good albeit it hard. Maggie’s sabbatical away from us at Life’s Patina has forced me to find someone who can be my right arm on site here at the farm while Maggie will come back in a position that fits the season of her life right now, mostly from home but enabling us to share more information, more of how we do things, beautifying the facets of Life’s Patina that we want to share with you, bringing you more of my little snippets on a more regular basis. I will be sharing more information on that person and our little team in a later post. It has also reinforced the concept that I can handle a lot more than I ever thought I could.
The other thing I have learned is that if you wear too many hats, one or two is sure to drop. Thus my silence and lack of posting in the last couple of months have proved. We cannot do it all. We do not do it all. We need to lean on others and bring others into our life. More about that and many other topics will be coming to you in this New Year. Without having time to put pen to paper, the thoughts that come spilling out of my head in the middle of the night have to find themselves put somewhere! Follow along if you like and if it’s not your thing than that is fine as well. We are all different, coming from different places. You have to find your place. For all of the fear, uncertainty, and change in life, and the journey in finding your place… beauty can exist as well and that is our focus in this new year.
Bringing more of that journey of finding the beauty in life, no matter the changes, and finding your place while facing the fear that often exists hand in hand, to you this year ~ that is our promise!
Happy! Happy! New Year!
xoxo Meg and the team at Life’s Patina