The weekend-before-last was the 4th annual art festival at our local town hall. And, for ours being such a little blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village (that’s being generous), it attracts a pretty sizable crowd. And, of course, by the very nature of the thing, the Saturday is busier than the Sunday.
In theory, we (artists) are (should be) working from the New Year onward to prep for this festival and, conversely, from July through the end of November to prep for the holiday sales. My point here is that a good amount of my time went in to prepping for the first & biggest day of the festival: Saturday.
Why, then, do you suppose, was there a nicely (machine)-printed & professional-looking note on my table that read “I’m sorry I couldn’t be here today, but come back tomorrow for a full selection of my work. – Chicken Mama.”
The answer is simple: I was done. Kaput. That’s it. You’re getting’ nothin’ outta me. Zip. Zilch. Nada.
And, so, I did what I wanted to do (needed to do, actually) instead of what others expected me to do and . . . gasp . . . called a Personal Time Out!
Not a big deal, right? Well, when you’re one of those people who’s always done The Right Thing (in direct conflict to what she actually needs / wants) . . . there’s a very interesting and thought-provoking “fall-out”.
Here’s the scenario: Friday night, I set up my table with its coverings and just one counter-top card rack and some specialty Origami boxes. Granted, the table held only about 15% of what it usually holds, but what was there was centered on the table and pleasantly displayed. I’m nothing if not aware of visual appearances when it comes to things like that.
That afternoon, talking to my folks, the idea of not doing the Saturday part of the festival (dum, dum, DUMMMMM!) had begun to take root. But, at that time, I was still firmly seated on the ‘No, people will expect me to be there. I can’t just not do it!’ side of the fence.
But, really . . . WHY NOT?
Back at home that evening, talking to Tom on the phone (he was in
By the time I went to bed, my mind was made up . . . but I have to admit that I was a little nervous.
Saturday morning, I – very purposefully - left the dogs inside the house at home (where I couldn’t leave them for very long) and dressed in clothes that were DEFINITELY not meet-the-public-and-please-buy-my-artwork appropriate. As bad as I felt (the exhaustion that had prompted this whole thing), I knew I’d get talked into staying if I didn’t have a viable “excuse” (or two or five).
I drove down to the art fair, arriving at 5 minutes to 10:00 – just before the doors officially opened. I quickly walked in to my assigned spot, put my ‘Sorry I Missed You’ sign on my table, made sure everything looked neat and tidy . . . and walked out.
On the way out the door, I had to take the time to tell just a couple of people that I wouldn’t be there so they wouldn’t worry.
One girlfriend instantly “got it”. No questions asked (matter of fact, the complete opposite with, “Oh, Honey! I completely understand!” and a big, big hug). What made her reaction different than the others? I dunno. Maybe because she’s “been there” before. Does she “know me” any better? Whatever the reason, it really doesn’t matter. My point here is the other reactions.
At the time, all I got were startled “Oh!”s and worried “Are you OK?”s.
But since then . . . there’s been that “fall-out” thing I was talking about. Word on the street is that at least one fellow vendor was kinda ticked off about it. But, WHY?
Had I paid my full fee for both days, not asking to be reimbursed? Yes. Had I worked my arse off volunteering OODLES of time creating & updating the website? Yes. (Okay, so I guess I’m venting just a titch here, too.) Had I remembered my donation (full set of 12 Christmas cards, thank you very much) for Sunday’s silent drawing so that people could bid on it all day Saturday, too? Yes.
So . . . what . . . was . . . the . . . problem? I desperately needed a Mental Health Day. Would I have “gone Postal” had I manned my table that day? Probably not . . . but maybe. I know I felt like it.
And, what was even more telling to me was that at the end of Saturday, after lying on the couch here in the library all day watching the 4th season of ‘Weeds’ on DVD . . . I didn’t feel any better than I had that morning. BUT, had I gone to the festival that day, I can GUARANTEE you that I would have felt worse . . . and in NO shape for Sunday’s fair.
Another vendor and friend – who I usually hear from every other day or so – had been noticeably quiet since the festival. And, even though everyone’s so super busy with all the extras that summertime brings, her silence just didn’t seem “right”. So, I e-mailed her: “did I scare you with my sudden departure last weekend?”
I appreciated her honesty. "Yes", she said. "Your exit on Saturday was unique, to say the least. And I was worried about you . . . always." Then, although she did comment that "actually, the way you did it is the way it should be done", she said, “you weren’t yourself”.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a phrase that I find SO interesting . . . PARTICULARLY in situations like this.
Sure, we are all different parts (versions, if you will) of ourselves in different situations: I am a certain version of myself when I’m with my parents, I’m a certain version of myself when I’m out with girlfriends, a different version with a different set of friends, and so on. The only time we are TRULY ourselves is when it is just me, myself, and I in the room. And, why do we not let THAT person dominate, show his/her true feelings more? Because, the point is, when my friend said that I wasn’t being myself . . . actually, yes, I WAS being myself. More than she’d ever seen, I think!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Bottom line, I did what no one does.
I. Took. Care. Of. Myself.
For the first time.
Did it fix all my problems, take away the exhaustion? Of course not. But it got me through to the next day. One foot in front of the other. Baby steps. Who’s more important: me or the customers I missed or the other vendors? For once, I chose the right answer.
So, I’m proud of myself. I think I handled the situation with maturity, and I wish for all of you . . . that if you need a Mental Health Day, really need it not in the sense of “get me out of this, I don’t want to do it” but in the sense of “I am going to LOSE it if I don’t get out of this situation NOW”, DO IT. You owe it to yourself.
Can see how the whole experience got me to thinking? Why is it that when we don’t do the societal “right thing” that it is the wrong thing? Does that translate into “what’s right for us is wrong for Society”? Not necessarily, but it does give the philosophical mind something to ponder! The only thing I’m sure of is that . . . something (in societal norms / expectations) is screwed up!
And now, to steal a line from Mike Meyers, “Discuss amongst yourselves.”