The Time I Fell Down The Rabbit Hole
Musings, Explanations & The Jabberwocky
I have a tendancy towards epic story-telling and wild imaginings. The following tale is neither of those things. It’s a little bit sad, very personal and wasn’t easy to write. (Well actually, the end bit is pretty awesome, you can skip to that bit if you wish!)
I do not wish to mollycoddle you, but I am dropping a TRIGGER WARNING now. I fell deep in the rabbit hole and this is the story of what happened while I was there.
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In the course of holiday social gatherings, the conversation often turns to life, and in particular, what you are doing with yours. The first question I am usually asked is “how is business going?”.
It is a few weeks out from Christmas 2018 and I am surrounded by the people I love. The smell of roasted vegetables and freshly baked bread floats in the air, the adults sip good wine and relax on the deck while the little ones enjoy the company of cousins in the cubby.
I should be chilled and enjoying the afternoon, but instead I am consumed with fear. I know the question is coming…. and I also know what I will say. You see, it will be the same answer I give every time. “Business is great! I love what I do! Oh yeah, Christmas is super hectic.” I am a business owner and these are the acceptable responses. Everyone smiles and is reassured that hard work, passion and dedication is rewarded.
But beneath the surface, I’m falling apart. I want to tell them that I’m not ok. I hold back my tears by focussing my thoughts on chameleons. Exactly how to chromatphores work? Why didn’t I wear a dress that blended better with the colour of the wall behind me?
The thing is, I was telling the truth but I felt like I was lying. I couldn’t explain my sadness, much less, explain what had happened to cause it. I decided to give myself a little break. Seven days. But, I felt guilty. I felt like I was abandoning my customers. I mean, they KNOW I am always here for them!
For over 10 years I have always been there for them, because it’s always someone’s birthday somewhere, because families create fairy gardens together during the school holidays, because it’s always Christmas , then Easter, then Mother’s Day, then Spring, then Summer, then Autumn, then Winter, because it is always time to begin a fairy gardening adventure. Because I love this and I am grateful to have a job that I am passionate about. But mostly, because when I began this, I had no idea how much everyone else would love it too.
Things started to go sideways
I hugged mum and put her suitcase in the boot. As we drove away from the terminal, she eyes me carefully. “What’s wrong?” she asks. “What do you mean? I’m ok,” I try to sound convincing. “You’ve lost so much weight. Are you eating properly?” I make vague noises about being flat out with work/kids/life and hope that she believes me.
I know that I really shouldn’t turn on the computer – it’s Christmas Day! But I do anyway. I wasn’t prepared for what I found. Logging in to my website, I was greeted by the white screen of death. I frantically contacted my web developer, knowing it was pointless – he was on holidays for the next three weeks.
To be clear, I specialize in fairy gardening, which is pretty much the exact opposite of website fixing. However, I thought I would give it a shot. I didn’t have much choice. One day turned into two, two turned into seven. By the end of my “break”, I had almost destroyed what was left of my website, spent no time with my family and was spiralling into a dark abyss.
My three children watched me retreat to the study every day. Any time they ventured in, I would burst into tears. It was school holidays and “mum guilt” overwhelmed me.
My husband tried to be understanding, but I had already begun to disconnect. My friends tried to help but I began shutting them out. My work colleagues had no idea what was happening, I simply stopped going to work. My beautiful business and I stopped talking to each other. She was too needy and I had nothing left to give.
A sad event gave me hope
I dropped my daughter off to her Wednesday night dance class and noticed that my friend hadn’t dropped off her daughter. I called to check on her and got no answer. I figured that she was just running late. An hour later my friend called. Her and the children were in a safe house. They had left with nothing but the clothes on their backs due to domestic violence in their home.
Seven days later I stood with her in her new home, filled with furnishings, toys, clothes, food and necessities. Through FB connections, a group of women (mostly unknown to each other) came together. We made sure that everything my friend and her children needed to begin their new life was in place and money was raised to cover her expenses while she took time off work to heal. I helped to make this happen and it felt good. My friend had no idea what her future would look like and she was frightened, but she knew what her present looked like and no longer found it acceptable. I deeply admired her courage.
A strange thing happened in the days that followed. Something inside me shifted. I realized that this dark cloud wasn’t going anywhere, so I built a nest – a safe place to stay while I weathered the storm. I filled the corner of the lounge with pillows, my favourite blankets, ran an extension lead to it and set up my laptop. If I was to be there for a while, I would at least be cosy and do something productive.
Good things take time
I was exhausted and the mental toll of business ownership had caught up with me. I am the person who needs to walk bare foot in the grass, make flower crowns out of daisies and recite poetry under the light of the full moon while charging my crystals. If I believed in hell, it would look like an office full of spreadsheets, reports, receipts, databases, filing and discussions with accountants about capital investment while drinking bad coffee. I was in hell and I no longer found it acceptable.
I needed to find a way to nurture my creativity, I needed to do something new. I needed to find my old self and forgive her for drinking bad coffee.
So, I made the decision to learn how to code and build a new website from scratch. I’m also the girl who skipped computer class at school and types with two fingers so I was completely out of my depth. I figured I would just wing it, how hard could it be?
Actually, it’s really %&*#ing hard. In retrospect, I should have just took a holiday in Hepburn Springs to perfect my macrame skills and learn how to do fire twirling. However, that wouldn’t have fixed my broken website.
I took the laptop outside and sat in the grass while my kids played. I sat in my nest with my laptop and pretended to watch football with my husband. We built a blanket fort over my nest and my family piled in there with me, watching movies by the silvery light of my computer screen. My family didn’t know how to make my dark cloud disappear, so they made sure that I didn’t sit under it alone.
And, here we are...
It’s now June 2019. I write this because I love my customers and fairy gardening community members. I managed to keep Fairy Gardening Australia operational, but I feel a huge amount of sadness that I completely disconnected from the people I care deeply about.
In my absence, I built you something awesome. I took all my newly learned skills and ground them into a fine, shimmery dust. I steeped them in my imaginings, then poured them into cyberspace. I crossed my fingers and hoping that something magical would manifest upon my server. It did, and this is what transpired:
The Learning Centre
How, when, what, where, and especially WHY! Why do we make fairy gardens? How do we make them? And what happens next? For those of you who don’t know, I have spent a lifetime studying fairy folklore, culture and history. When people visit me in our showroom, we often get chatting about such things*. But not everyone is able to visit our showroom. So, I created the Learning Centre and shaped it as a resource hub. Over time, just like a fairy garden, it will grow. In addition to my musings, I will be regularly uploading activity sheets and projects that everyone can enjoy and access any time.
*While it might seem obvious that this conversation would almost always occur in a fairy shop, it doesn’t always happen. I believe in sharing information at a time when you are ready to hear it. If you are not asking me the questions, you are not ready!
I see lots of the cool kids hanging out on Facebook, but let’s be honest, it can get a bit…. People-y. “Community Tidings” is a pretty name for “newsfeed” and it functions in exactly the same way. You can upload your photo’s, share across platforms, connect with fellow fairy gardeners and journal your adventures. This all happens from your dashboard…..
I created the member’s dashboard to tie all these good things into a neat and easy to use interface. From your dashboard, you can access your orders, interact with your community, get priority support, control your privacy settings, upload photos and redeem magic beans. (*)
*I feel like NEST might be a more beautiful and relevant name for the dashboard. I’m open to suggestions, what do you think?
Loyalty programs are cool, but are usually based around reward for spend. I don’t like that model, it implies that I favour those who spend more. I think my people should be rewarded for acts of kindness, making people feel good, and making Fairy Gardening Australia even better without necessarily spending money. Pretty awesome concept, huh? Heads up, if you are reading this, you already have beans in the bank. Thank you for taking the time to read my story and care about my experiences….. yep, it’s THAT simple. A little disclaimer though: this is unchartered territory. I mean, this is still a business and I have no idea if this model is sustainable. But I’m willing to give it a shot and hope you guys will back me! If it’s successful, it might catch on…*
* imagine getting discounts at woollies for helping to carry someone’s groceries, smiling at the checkout, complimenting the staff, providing valuable and constructive feedback – oh! Brb, I need to spotify me some Lennon.
The website (overall)
I have been immersed in this space day and night for months, it has become my home. I stepped back into the real world the other day and realized that it literally DOES look like a home! How did I not see this before? The shelves and corners are filled with things I treasure, conversations I had with myself float through the hallways. If you have ever wondered what it feels like to be in the mind of someone else, you are pretty close right now.
I hope you like the end result. I know it isn’t perfect, but I am still learning. Web building is fun, until it’s not. It’s also really frustrating, challenging and ridiculous. I still don’t know why they make it so hard.
I am back at work now but I am taking a more balanced approach. Well, I am trying to. I am not sure what it will look like – I feel like it might mean saying no sometimes and taking more holidays.
Our showroom gets exceptionally busy at times and it can be challenging to give everyone the kind of experience that I wish them to have. So, I have implemented a booking system. This simply spaces out arrival times so that both visitors and myself can enjoy the wonder and excitement of new fairy gardening adventures.
And finally, I want you to know that the rabbit hole is a shady kinda place. Falling in is really scary, and if you are there long enough, it’s entirely likely that you have befriended the Jabberwocky. Climbing out of the rabbit hole can be equally terrifying. I know that talking about such matters can be a trigger for some, so I’m just gonna leave this here:
LIFELIFE 13 11 14
I’m back, my pretties!