When I look at this picture of Audrey on Cannon Beach this August (you should click on it and see it big, if you can), I can't help wishing I was back on vacation. I honestly think that watching dogs run on the beach is one of the best things in the world. The dog was so happy -- Andy or I said, probably a hundred or more times a day, "Ohmigod, she is so cute." We laid on the beach, day after day, watching the water and watching the dog play. She was a different little lady by the end of the week. More of a grown up, somehow. Maybe the way a kid looks taller, older after returning from summer camp.
It was a hard summer. After moving the store this spring, and being (frankly) overwhelmed by the process, and the sheer physical toll it took on me, I wasn't really ready for the publicity coming in Country Living in August, although I was so excited about it. I spent every day of May, June, and July getting the Posie and Ella Posie web sites redesigned and rebuilt, and every minute I wasn't doing something on the computer I was crocheting something, or sewing something, or in the shop, or on the phone trying to fix some problem with something somewhere. By the time the article hit, I was feeling sort of floppy and light-headed. I could hear the pitch of my voice rising in even the most casual of conversations. I was so strung out to begin with that when the orders started coming in, I could only feel a remote, wavering happiness somewhere beyond my exhaustion as I packed and shipped and packed and shipped. It made me sad, because I was so looking forward to the article and the experience and when it finally came I felt in some ways like I was just trying to survive it, more than anything else. I was so worn out.
There's something about owning your own one-person business that over the years has manifested itself more than once. It's the strange solitude that accompanies the big moments. I don't know if solitude is the right word. It's probably, actually, "aloneness," or something closer to that. I remember when I worked in offices, as part of various "teams," going through crunch times, doing major pushes to finish a book we were working on by deadline, or get a catalog out before a sales fair. Small breaks felt like stolen and decadent luxuries. I once made a dramatic performance out of pouring a can of Coke into a big glass of ice in the conference room where we had been proofing bluelines for hours and hours -- "Yummy," said I. People looked on, longingly.
My boss said, "Hmm, that looks really good. I should go get one." (The Coke machine was down the hall.)
"Oh, you should," I said. "Absolutely. It's so great." Then, whoosh! I knocked my full glass over and flooded table and bluelines with pop and a million cubes of ice. Everyone at the table sprang into action, lofting the huge, dripping papers to safety. My co-workers looked at me in terror and disbelief, as if I had just started singing at the top of my lungs. It was so horrifying and ridiculous that we all started sort of laugh-crying with exhaustion. I burst into paroxysms of apology and embarrassment, sure I was about to be fired. But my boss was like, "Dude, calm down. It's fine. We'll deal with it. No biggie." Carry on, troops. Things happen. That's life. Let's just fix it. (And that was a super-cool boss moment, too, which made me love my boss and pledge to act as cool when some doofus wrecks my project -- but I suspect there is no way I will, being hardwired to have hissy fits, as I am. . . . Anyway, Tim Frew if by some fluke you ever read this, thank you for that lesson.)
I thought of that day with the Coke and the table often this summer, and thought about my old friends at work, and how there was a irrepressible camaraderie in sharing the stress and tight deadlines and impossible tasks that seem about to overwhelm. Even though everyone has their own job to do, there is something comforting in the collective suffering -- a shared context that doesn't need explaining. But when you own your own business and do almost everything yourself, you sometimes miss that context (not to mention, of course, the physical help, but that's something else completely). You have to tell complete strangers how busy you are -- you tell the mailman who's bringing you more mail-order yarn, "Oh man, I am so busy! I'm freaking out!" and he's like, "So what, who cares?" Because there's no one else in your "office," no one who is really a part of the hard times, when things get messed up or aren't going right, when balls that have been dropped need to be picked up, and, often, to be launched back into the air. It's just you -- little, overwhelmed you, in sweatpants and glasses with no time to eat lunch -- who bears the responsibility and the challenge. You don't want to crash and burn. At the same time, neither is there anyone who has had a significant hand in the work around to celebrate when something really great happens -- a big order, a little publicity, a pursued opportunity granted. You walk around the studio grinning like a fool, and calling your friends who are in other offices, doing other jobs, on teams of their own. Bearing the brunt of stebacks and successes, is, for the most part, your task alone, and finding the ability to keep in all in perspective -- well, it can be lonely sometimes.
Don't get me wrong; I mean, I am never happier than alone with a new skein of yarn, a hot cup of coffee, and a private plan. But still -- some days, the harder days, there's nothing like a team to get you through.
Anyway, by the end of August, I was beat. We hightailed it to the beach for a vacation planned months before we knew what a busy month it would be. I was extremely anxious about leaving at such a busy time. Turns out, it was just what I needed. I am the type of person who can lay on the beach from noon until night and not get bored. We stayed at our friend Susan's darling beach house, and it was so lovely to be there surrounded by Susan's sweet touches (she is an interior designer, to boot) as opposed to staying in a hotel or an anonymous rental. I felt myself finally deflate. The dog was so tired every night she lay contentedly flat on the linoleum floor and barely lifted her head until morning. Andy worked on a paint-by-number of whales breaching and got tan and happy. I read mysteries about Italian cops and closed my eyes in the sun. It was so great to get a break I can't even tell you. I think I need to work more beach into my regular life.