When trying to come up with words that truly describe the year that has just passed, a litany of them come to mind. Yet, when penning this missive, I feel that using any of them by themselves doesn’t justify the emotions that have come with them. Standing at the threshold of the new year last year, I remember feeling that anticipated energy of excitement of everything new that might come in the new year. You know, that clean slate feeling? After the beauty of Christmas had just passed, I was still filled with the joy that gathering together with family at this time of year always invokes. The sparkle of the season had not disappointed and as I launched into January, fueled by that energy, I made promises, set goals, filled up my calendar pages with activities, both business related and personal, as we all traditionally do in the beginning of January. I even wrote about that exercise in my New Year’s blog post last January, which you can read here if you so desire.
In that post, I also wrote about nostalgia, which again, by definition is a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal association. When one feels nostalgia for something, they are most likely feeling that for a happening or a place many years ago. Who would ever have thought that this year…
we are feeling nostalgic for just LAST YEAR. For the time prior to this pandemic.
In typical fashion, I started 2020 out by attending the Home Furnishings Market Show in Atlanta, Georgia. I began attending this show ten years ago when I first dreamt up this little business having read about it and then blindly registering for it with my then partner-in-crime, Chris, who propelled me to take the jump and follow my dream. Figuring out how we made that registration come to life with particulars like where to stay, how to navigate 3 twenty-story buildings for the first time, and how to change hotels at midnight when the one you had booked from afar had alarming questions about our safety could definitely be material for a future post, or a book for that matter! Adjoining rooms typically do not have doors between them that don’t lock when the guests staying on the other side are strangers and most often hotel rooms are not in the basement and they do have windows? Regardless of the answers to that question, my current teammates and partners-in-crime had a stellar trip to Atlanta finding unique and new items to order in anticipation of the year ahead. Having placed the majority of our orders in Atlanta, we headed home to await their arrival while we continued to plan and carry out the tasks needed to bring those plans to fruition.
- Our Spring Barn Sale in April
- The hosting of exciting special events, both private and non-profit
- The ongoing design, restoration and health department planning of the Jenny Lind House, site of the future Life’s Patina Mercantile & Cafe, so we could open her doors in 2020
- A design and build project in North Carolina
- The scheduling of vintage buying trips
We had a full docket of super exciting things planned that we truly were chomping at the bit to attack. We had an even more thrilling possibility appear with travel to Germany and Switzerland alongside our son, who was in his Senior year but needed us to attend his senior trip with him due to his medical condition. We were elated that this trip could actually happen for him and we flew to Europe in the last week of February, just as word was really spreading that this virus might be entering the countries in which we were traveling in more quickly than had been thought.
Upon our arrival home from Europe on March 5th, one by one, things slowly began to erode. Things that we had no forewarning about erupted onto our agenda causing us to cease doing things that we had perfected doing over the last several years. The scheduled events on the calendar slowly, began to get crossed out. The Spring Sale was cancelled while all of our inventory that had arrived from our Atlanta orders that Julie and her sometime helpers had painstakingly unpacked and priced sat in the barn. The construction on both build projects that I had in motion ceased. Our days that had been filled with a schedule and a list of to-do’s based on that schedule slowly unraveled into a “what now” mentality. So many things to think about on just figuring out how to survive these unexpected situations from a small business standpoint.
Does this scenario sound familiar to any of you reading this? Our business goals were being revamped daily as we sidestepped and pivoted trying to figure out how to do things in a new way to survive changes, all resulting in the loss of revenue streams that keep us going.
Side by side with these worries on how heavily this pandemic affected our little business were the more intense feelings and concerns of how this virus could affect our loved ones? Our older parents, our grandparents? Some of us feeling this situation more than others, based on pre-existing conditions or being one of the “at risk” population who might be more greatly impacted by others should they become infected. Were those people in that population, the elderly and the people with health conditions any less deserving of a healthy outcome should they encounter this virus? Here in our home, having both older parents and such pre-existing condition family members… we hunkered down. How blest were we that we had Willowbrook Farm to hunker down at? In our state, we entered a period of stay-at-home orders, a total cessation of doing things how we used to do them. Many of us complied, if not out of a response for fear for ourselves but out of respect for others. Complying with these orders even though knowing full well that they damned the businesses that needed to be open right now. Another worry adding to the heavy load of emotion and uncertainty that was now filling our days and added to the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” mentality.
On a personal level, and you know that I have shared some personal stuff over the years on my little blog, unexpected health issues of my own erupted that were totally out of the blue that have resulted in an almost year long journey. Navigating health issues in a non-Covid atmosphere can be daunting on their own but in this current climate of delayed testing, canceled procedures and surgeries, even more so. Waiting for answers was a challenging and steely test of the mind. Again, content for another post that pays homage to all of the people who have waited in dark testing rooms in hospital gowns with the wall clock ticking, each slow second agonizingly passing and if you are a person of faith… the pleading and bargaining while entirely irrational, commences. Yes, content for another day that I strongly feel needs to be voiced.
So into this new year we enter, hoping for change, making our resolutions while willingly knowing that we have control over very little these days but our own actions, and even then… our actions might not be enough. So how do we proceed? How do we continue on? Even with the speed of the vaccination, there is no actual end in sight. There is protest, there is unrest, there are monumental concerns for climate change (watch David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet) there are people who daily are loosing their lives to this virus as well as to other illnesses and diseases.
But dear friends, there is Hope, that thing that sings in the dark.
As Emily Dickinson wrote:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers-
That perches in the soul-
And sings the tune without the words-
And never stops – at all-
And sweetest- in the Gale- is heard-
And sore must be the storm-
That could abash the little Bird-
That kept so many warm-
I’ve heard it it in the chilliest land-
And on the Strange Sea-
Yet- never- in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
Hope is not a frivolous idea. It is defined in Wikipedia as:
An optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.
It is defined in my world as the most important thing we have to erode fear and doubt. When put into action, there is a constant pull to dethrone it from your mindset, by actions that are counterproductive to maintaining it. Yet when coupled with the lessons learned from those negative influences and situations… thus promoting resiliency… you can maintain it. There certainly are days when it is elusive. There WILL be days when you are bone weary. And bone weary can look different for everybody but all forms are relevant. Bone weary of how hard we have to work, especially in a small business to try and keep that initial dream alive that propelled you to build something that could crumble even though you work every waking hour at it. Bone weary of how hard you have to work to put food on the table. Bone weary of fighting succumbing to the darkness, to the loneliness of isolation. Bone weary of living with an illness and all that it entails. Bone weary of the worry. Bone weary of how last year has changed your life. Bone weary of missing the gatherings of friends and family. Bone weary of loosing someone you love…
When those issues are eroding that hope, reach for a friend, reach to a loved one, reach to your prayers, reach out to put those fears and experiences out to another… for they will help you carry them. We are ALL walking with them! The strongest thing that this past year has shown us all, I think is: how much we need each other! While our own personal burdens are great, they are often lightened by reaching out to another.
If you know of someone who is alone, send them something… a card, a gift, a text… some gesture to show them they are not as alone as they feel.
If you know of someone who is trying to keep their small business afloat, support it, in whatever way you can… even if that is only spreading word of what they do… for that is not an only.
If you know of someone facing the fear and uncertainty of an illness make time in your world to let them know that you are with them in spirit and with them should they need any assistance at all.
If you know of someone who is in need, see if there is something you can do to alleviate that need.
In this New Years message, my intent was not to bombard you with another dark message but one of reality based in hope. We, too, are living that daily alongside you, for you are not alone.
While we are plowing on with our plans for a Spring Barn Sale and our intended late spring opening of the Life’s Patina Mercantile & Cafe… one can always hope… alongside our pretty pictures of what we are doing here, I will be sharing blog posts of inspiration and hope in a variety of circumstances.
While we need the pretty pictures and the how-to’s and the inspiration that beautiful images convey, I feel that we also need the words of those who inspire us, in a variety of life circumstances and experiences, especially now. Just as we are lifted and inspired by the gift of a beautiful sunset, our greatest free gift, if we help protect Mother Nature or a beautiful visual of a room or table setting or the like, we are often instantly lifted by inspirational relatable words.
It is our goal this year to give you both… the images and the words. We have been lifted up and propelled to keep doing what we do, to figure out ways to bring you Life’s Patina in various forms, due to the inspiration and encouragement that we get from all of you. YOU fuel us and keep us striving to show up. We are eternally grateful for the ways in which YOU have shown up for us, in your comments, in your encouraging words, in your online purchases, in your physical presence when we could open up, albeit it differently than in years past. We look forward to sharing more with you this year than in years past. More inspirational words and stories, more how-to’s, more information on how we do what we do, more background on who and what inspires us, more beautiful images. Some of them hand drawn and painted by a new addition to our little team who started in the crux of this pandemic when we were still hopeful that we could open the doors of the Mercantile this year. That was not to be but we have hustled and have been able to keep her a part of our small but mighty team that thankfully thus far, we have been able to keep together. Her artwork graces this email that you have just received and we cannot wait to share more of her work with you in future posts!
May this New Year be lighter and brighter than the last and may hope prevail!