I wake with a jolt, full tilt panic before daylight. Mouth bone dry and my heart hammering, I feel the familiar squeeze in my chest-FUCK! I can’t do this again! I am not ready. I am not ready at all. Oh my GOD, what have I done?
I try again. Just go back to sleep, I tell myself; you’ll be meat by noon. Today’s another twelve hour day. Maybe more. But the squeeze is there and I can’t. Can’t sleep. And if I don’t at least rest, I’ll lose my mind. So I lay there until I can’t anymore and I get up.
I’ve always known what hard work is. I’ve worked much harder, in shorter bursts. I’ve worked long hours at times. I’ve had responsibility, and worn many hats. I’ve worked in a hard hat, a cowboy hat, ball cap, a bandana, and a helmet. I’ve worn the employee hat, the manager hat and the free agent hat. But I have never worn all the hats at once.
I am so tired.
I am on a runaway horse, flying by the seat of my pants.
No, really, I am on two horses at once. One is a runaway, and the other I have resorted to kicking the shit out of to keep it moving, and I am trying not to do the splits, which I never learned to do. I feel torn in two, every day, or torn in four or eight or however many different directions I am flying in at once at any given time and I swear I am riding as fast as I can.
I am barely hanging on.
My day ends and I feel like I’ve been to war. Warmth, food, kindness, all like seeing rainbows after being underground; miracles. I have maybe an hour, two. There is not much time for those little miracles, because there is only time for things that are barely getting done, and just have to be. And then I sleep, and wake with the squeeze in my chest, the hammering heart, the bone dry mouth, the fear I will just not make it no matter how hard I try.
There is no time now to ponder, muse, reflect. There are no days I just follow my words to my heart.
Words flow from me all day and every day. Words that get me where I need to be to survive. I think on my feet and I use my words and people listen to me so I try to choose them well. I am sincere and creative in my approach.
But I can barely write an email now. I am so tired of the talking and all the words, I cannot even write. I cannot join two thoughts together for that. Maybe not even two sentences. All I can write is this.
It would seem to me easier to stop having a struggle and just say I can’t. I can’t write. Maybe simpler to quit, to stop torturing myself with my imagined need to write. I chose my life as it is right now, and for a good reason. One cannot always do all things. There is a season for everything. Perhaps it is not the season for writing, for me, for now. Maybe what I am doing really will take everything I have, and more, and there is just not room for anything else. Sacrifices must be made. If it were easy to do what I am doing, more people would do it. It’s not.
And yet, here I am. I don’t want to quit. I can’t quit. Neither can I quit what I spend all my time doing. Because I do have a dream, and dreams are what I live on.
Everything is a matter of perspective. Do I sound unhappy? Well, some days I really am. Some days I want to close the doors. Go ahead, fine me for breaking the rules. I just don’t care, because I am exhausted beyond all reason. It’s too much. Too much for one person. I want to quit it all, give it back; turn the headache over to someone else.
I don’t have the time, resources, finances to do what I am doing in any of the prescribed ways for doing such a thing and I’m just worn out by my own creative ways of making up for that.
And then a magic thing happens. A person comes with a story, and I know they are coming to me by no accident. They bring something that I’ve never seen before, and the something has a story too, and of course I have to know the story. I fall in love with the thing, the story, and the person. I wouldn’t miss this for the world. I have to hang around to see what happens next.
Someone else finds this thing, falls in love with it too, wants to know the story, and then has to have the thing. I am now part of the story, and this is how I make my living, one story at a time.
I don’t always tell the whole story, nor do I usually really know the whole story at all. Sometimes I have no vital information at all, but that creates a mystery which I am happy to segue to another story. After all, possibilities are just my game.
I’m never dishonest, but hey, I was a waitress in another life, and I can read your mind before you know yourself which dessert you really do want after all. This is an art, trust me. How good would I be if I didn’t try at all to anticipate what you might fall in love with, and help you along so you might realize what you must do? Like I said, I’m always honest; I’m just helping people be happy. I’m kind of like a matchmaker.
I’m enjoying, just a bit, the way I’m beginning to be the “go to girl” for some folks’ favorite things. What a hoot. Do I know where to find it? Do I even know what it is? Not necessarily, but I might find it anyway. I often do. Even if I can’t profit, it’s the possibility that draws me, and the mystery; the magic of finding just the thing asked for that makes me feel like I’ve won something.
I’m living the dream. I am a business owner. I wear the Boss hat now and I don’t punch a time clock or ask other people what they want me to do. I can’t be fired and I can make up rules and write my own contracts and have a cigarette whenever I please, if I can ever find the time. I eat, sleep, breathe this business and I worry all the time how I will pay the next mind-numbing power bill or even buy the next boat-load of light bulbs and tubes I will shortly need yet again. I borrow from this, cover from that, float what I have to. I have no idea how this will ever work, but I am the mistress of my own destiny. I have bought myself a job. If I might fail from working my ass off and receiving no pay-off, let it at least be for myself. I have possibilities!
Every day I meet someone who thought they had a “future”, who went to work every working day for a decade or two, until one day they went to work and were told their job had been eliminated. And most everyone else I know has lost their ability to work for themselves as well. They have lost homes, assets, credit, bonding, licenses, equipment, and sometimes self respect; they chase work and leave town to find it. They take what they can find and put up with conditions they would not have before. Most of them just cannot find work, or only the most sporadic kind. Everyone is insecure. Things have become simple, basic, and the survivors get creative.
I am a survivor. No, I don’t know what I’m doing. Yes, I would like to go back to an easier time, when I could work as I needed to and have a “life”. Yes, I am in over my head. No, I don’t enjoy this every day. Yeah, you will get really sick if you work all the time, don’t eat or sleep enough and get really stressed out. Whatever, that was the way it went down, that’s what it took. If I knew what I was doing, I’d have not done it.
But News Flash: there is no Play It Safe way left. There is no “I want to have a life” anymore. This IS my life. There are no avenues that do not include big risks. There is nothing to be gained by not trying, and if you’re going to try then try with all your might, and don’t be a quitter. Against some of my own limits, I’m making new ones, and I haven’t quit.
I do realize that most do not understand if I say sometimes it’s just too hard, that I’m overwhelmed, that I don’t know if I have what it takes. They are visibly distressed to hear me say I don’t have the means to do this and would like to walk away every other day. They think “business owner” and assume solvency, competence, and consistent income. They don’t understand even if I tell them, that I’m not in a position of any glory and I’m not “getting all the money.” They don’t know that “success” for me today might be staying open another month. I realize that all I do is scare some people when I tell them how close to the bone this is, and that some other people may only judge me stupid for taking such a risk with so little means or know-how.
I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut. They don’t need to know, and only those closest to me know the truth.
So there it is. This is all I have; running on empty with no resources and little experience and a bit of nerve. Not as much as people think. And every day is a ride I wonder if I will live through. There’s no time to regroup, and most of the suggestions people have given me for improving my business are things I struggle to not snort at. They have no clue that it’s simply not possible, that anyone would dare to do this without the means to replace, repair, hire, buy, and borrow from a bank. They have good ideas, and I file them away for future reference.
Am I crazy? A fool? Some days I think so. On sleepless nights I definitely think so. And then I go back and do it again the next day.
I want to write. I can’t find my magic place, the place I used to write from. There’s nothing in me right now but this runaway horse, and the one I keep kicking along. Maybe I will have to write about the ride, even if I write it badly. And if I am willing to do that, I can always write about the Dream. I’m living it.