A few weeks ago, I was at my favorite coffee shop and the barista asked me how my week was. I reached into my thoughts and fumbled around like I do when I need to find something in the bottom of my too-large purse and fished out this as an answer: "Oh, busy."
And as soon as I said it, I grimaced and thought "Gross." I looked at her friendly face and said, "That is such a boring answer to your question."
For months now, I have been living inside the busy machine, watching the wheels go around and around, observing the mechanisms, trying to figure out how to stop it. I paid attention to what I enjoyed, but I had trouble really feeling that. But I started really noticing that my customer's questions on Etsy were beginning to anger me more and more. If anyone but Robb could have heard the way I answered in my fantasies, you might be equal parts amused and horrified. One shopper inquired if she could have a discount by way of free shipping. Out of curiosity, I asked for her zip code. She replied by telling me that she actually has two houses, one in an expensive city, and that would be her preference that I send it there.
I fumed for a whole night and the better part of a day.
"So let me get this straight? You have TWO houses and you want me to give you something for free JUST BECAUSE you think you ought to have it? Do you really think I'm just here to GIVE away my product? Never mind that I took my baby out to a thrift store, sorted through aisles and piles of stuff, identified this item as one of value based on over a decade of experience, brought it home, cleaned it, photographed it, listed it so you could shop at your leisure, buy it with confidence that I would package it appropriately, ship it promptly and deliver it to your door.....you are so damn special that you deserve to get a discount, functionally asking for this service for FREE. "
"Thanks for the offer, but I'm going to pass this time!" I breezily replied after hours of trying to decide what to do.
I actually considered taking her offer, because I hadn't had a sale in a few days and I was missing the money and the hit of adrenaline that selling brings. But selling is hard these days. In fact, the whole platform at Etsy has changed in the last couple of years, especially since the company went public. Gone are the days of simplicity and smallness. Gone are the days of curating pretty treasuries that you hoped would reach the front page. Instead, it is a huge marketplace with ever shifting suggestions and tips for mastering SEO, becoming a wholesaler, joining networking teams, blah blah blah....
I've been an online seller for almost 13 years. I started on eBay back in the day when it was new and hot. I had a borrowed digital camera that loaded 8 pictures at a time on a dial-up modem. I reached Power-Seller status and we still eat at the kitchen table I bought with my first real profits. Over the years, I've been able to spin a lot of hay into gold...scouring garage and estate sales, thrift stores and flea markets for treasures that needed to see the light of day. And it was fun. For a long time, it was fun. It was work too. An actual career. It fit with our family's time and values, and it helped pay for so many small, unglamorous things like school lunches and school clothes and furniture and paint.
When I was pregnant with Whimsy, I had that dream: the one where you find a room in your house that you didn't realize you had and weren't utilizing. It's a dream about potential. It's your mind telling you that you are capable of something else. That other possibilities exist. At the time it made so much sense. Obviously, my life was going to change and I was amazed that I was still capable of having a baby at my age. I knew that having a baby would affect my work, and I was open to what the experience had to teach me.
|treat yo' self... to a decent breakfast at your own table|
I love the character Dash in the move The
Incredibles (That movie has been an metaphor for my life on many occasions and it's one of my favorites). I love when the family is all working together, doing what they do best and the mom tells Dash he can go "as fast as he can." I totally understand his overjoyed disbelief at this permission. "AS FAST AS I CAN?!" There have been many times in my life that I have longed to do that. To just break it open and do everything I have inside of me as fast and as hard as I can. To work without any limits, to express every creative urge, to bury myself in projects that interest me. But it has been a long, long time since I felt that way. For months now, I have confused low grade depression for what it actually is: burnout.
My anger at my customer...while pretty legitimate...was disproportionate. Paying attention to that anger was healthy. It helped me realize just how much of myself I have been giving away without being replenished. I have some huge projects on my plate right now. I have said "yes" to some things that are very good things. And now I need to say NO (maybe even "HELL NO!") to some other things. I cannot keep living in violation of my own values and nobody but I can make that happen. (Although, encouragement and support from my husband certainly has helped.) At the most basic level, I am a wife to Robb. I am mom to four amazing kids in super transitional seasons of their lives. I am pastor of a fascinating church where I am just now recognizing the possibilities for me to lead and grow. I am a creative and I long to give my creativity to those who will benefit from and enjoy it the most.
|My biggest mosaic project yet.|
|More on this later...|
|this hand-lettering class was very relaxing|
|Find Old Wallace Simpson at The Little Craft Show on May 7|
So for now, I am putting The Classic Butterfly on vacation. In a month, after I have finished the Little Craft Show and completed two other large projects, I will re-evaluate selling online again. I suppose in glancing over this post, it seems so obvious that this is a good move for me, but it's hard to describe how much this job affects my daily life. I get up and check messages first thing every day and answer customer's questions. Whatever I have planned to do otherwise gets pushed aside to ship orders before the carrier arrives each day. I am always on the lookout for new product. Sunshiny days always mean taking some time to photograph stock and push myself to be better at product photography. The marketing and networking never ends. And in any free moment, I am writing listings. This has been my routine for more than a decade and more than a whole room of my house is devoted to storing, photographing, and shipping product. If you think it's going to be easy for me, please think again.
But I had that dream again the other night....the secret room. I am open to some possibilities again. There's more to my life than I thought.