Laura's annual holiday letter
marching, with hats

a pay it forward surprise

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Ok, so first of all I should tell you that I haven't cried since... well, a while ago. Certainly not since the election. I keep wondering if there is something wrong with me. I even checked out a bunch of tear-jerker movies from the library just in case I just needed a jump-start. But I couldn't even watch them. And I know this probably doesn't fall into the category of healthy coping mechanisms but I just feel like there is too much to do. To be clear, I have most of my evenings to myself in my cozy little apartment and there is certainly time enough to spare for crying. I don't know, the tears just aren't coming. It's not just the usual holiday busyness that needs to be done, but the work, all the work, to keep this country moving on a path towards the ideals it likes to promote so much. Like preparing myself to be better as an ally or interrupter (already a friend was on the phone in a Best Buy and someone came up and yelled at him "English! English!") I don't think it should be the job of those who are the targets of hatred to be the sole defenders - I think it is something we must prepare all of ourselves to do. So, no time for crying just now. 

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Add to that, this season has been full of slightly more than usual stressors. And, yes, I am aware that what I consider difficult is nothing compared to what other people face. But the end of the year/holiday season is a stressful time for an introverted shopgirl, as we count down the number of days I have left to modify the end of year profit report, and as I talk to what seems like exponentially more people per day, all of whom have their own stresses which I feel like I should try to ease, at least by finding the right card to send to Grandma, or by finding that thing they remember seeing maybe a year ago here in the store but they don't remember what it was but maybe I can help?  Then there's the uncertainly of bad weather falling on what could have been the biggest shopping day of the year for us but which fall flat because we live in Wisconsin and Mother Nature is fickle. Why she couldn't act out on Tuesday, I have no idea. Dad is fine but I did have go to the ER with him a few weeks ago after finding him unconscious in the other room. I am spending a little too much time thinking about what it would have been like if he died while I was just a room away playing internet games. I mean, at least I was at their house and not already at mine, but still. I am generally getting closer to having to face up to the mortality of parents. The holiday letter got done but now I'm obsessing over how it is being received (or even if it is received seeing as two have come back to me), presents to finish (WHY did I introduce a 9 year-old to Pinterest?!!). There is the whole disaster of a Trump presidency. Oh, I lost my wallet on the bus in the same week that I found out my tarot card for an art show I am participating in was the five of pentacles which is all about material loss and poverty and sickness and generally too much material lack for a shopgirl going into the 10 days she's been preparing for all year long and which, while, they can't make or break the year, can certainly do a lot of damage if they choose to. Well, I did work through that whole tarot card thing and am happy with where it ended up.

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Oh, and I was also in the middle of an argument with someone who told me I had to consider the greater good so I was wrestling with my feelings of what the greater good was and their definition, as well as that annoying spot in an argument where both sides are just repeating themselves and not really getting anywhere. Anyway, as I said, all things that fall within the range of typical challenges that everyone is having to deal with. I am well aware that many people are facing much worse.

But last week I went to breakfast with Dad and quickly ran over to Bloom Bake Shop to get some treats for the store. The woman behind the counter told me that it was my lucky day because someone had paid it forward and was treating me to my baked goods. I did start crying. I didn't totally collapse in a sobbing heap as I keep thinking I might do so I feel proud of myself for mostly holding it together. Now, honestly, I've never received a pay it forward before. I don't quite know what the proper etiquette is. I have had friends who get one while they are buying coffee and they are inspired to pay for the next person's coffee so it keeps going. And I don't mean to sound so terribly selfish, but I just didn't think of it. Naturally I protested and tried to decline but the manager said I had to take it. So I did. I still tear up thinking about. But it was a good little "snap out of it" moment - just a reminder that I was getting a little caught up in what is beyond my control in the realm of sorrow and anxiety, and forgetting that there is also surprise and wonder that is beyond my control and that comes to us as a gift. So, yes, just a little reigning in on the holiday stress level.  I did narrow down my to-do list to things that need to be done by 12/25, just not going to think about the following week or inventory that follows shortly after that (another stressful thing!). Everything fits on an index card and I'm not going to allow myself to get a larger piece of paper.

Anyway I didn't realize how much the pay it forward was needed which makes me hope that we all find ways to give and receive this time of year, and all times.  I know I don't know who it is who left the pay it forward at Bloom but I feel such gratitude to that customer, but also to Bloom for creating the kind of environment where a person is inspired to do something like that, which leads me to all the people everywhere who are working and creating and doing, who are committed to seeing the promise in other people, to expressing joy and gratitude.

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And just to reassure you, instead of paying it forward in place, I brought it downtown and made up little pay it forward packages for our customers. It was a perfect thing to occupy my time, instead of worrying about cold weather effects on sales or arguments I was in the middle of, I was putting my energy on positive things and gratitude. Naturally I had to put in our unicorn card.

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So, anyway, that's where I am this Christmas week. Feeling thankful to be in Wisconsin on the cusp of the solstice, knowing that winter is still long ahead of us but that light is starting to find its way in the world. In fact, that light has always been here, whether in the surprises of pay it forwards or all the other ways you can never pay back the generosity of your own life, or in the warmth of family and friends who gather together, or in the random goodness of people who never know you, even in the moments of darkness or stress or sorrow or strife. I have such gratitude for all the ways that Anthology has allowed me to be at work in the world, thanks to you my customers and readers for all the ways that you are at work in the world. I wish you the very happiest of holidays, no matter what you celebrate (even if it is just the end of hearing Baby It's Cold Outside in stores), and a new year that is filled with good surprises, wonder and gratitude.


 


 

 

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