roach: You don’t have to say Lumos to turn me on.
roach: Does that make you more or less likely to want to give me your number.
Stephan: Please stop using pickup lines from the internet on me.
roach: Is that a yes or a no?
I’ve never hidden my love for unicorns. Back in middle school a group of boys gave me all sorts of grief over it, telling me to never play leap frog with a unicorn; a joke that never got funny no matter how many times they’d yell it at me. Despite this, I’ve not lost my love for Scotland’s national animal. I’m even part of a unicorn gang with several friends. We’re fun and fabulous and will cut you if you make fun of us.
So of course the very first thing I did when I happened upon Spoonflower lo these many years ago was to search for unicorn fabric. Of course the site that gives us Golden Girl Toss fabric isn’t going to disappoint. Here are nine of my current favorite unicorn designs.
Yesterday was Mabon, the Autumn Equinox, a time of contemplation and thanksgiving. I was going to walk to the library and work on a project for a client. I was going to do all the dishes that have piled up and tackle the to do list that had grown longer every day. I was going to have a bonfire to celebrate the sabbat. Instead I slept.
I didn’t intend to sleep. Not at first. The past week I’ve been spectacularly busy. My done list has been filled will several entries each day. I’ve managed to keep the house clean. At night I would climb into bed and fall asleep excited about what I was going to be working on the next day. I’d wake up, sleepy, but able to get Ben’s lunch packed and walk him to school. It was proof, I was sure, that this whole four month plan was the right one.
Wednesday, though, saw an interruption to that productive flow. I was worn down. I decided to keep things low-key, to keep working but not push myself. A reading and writing day would be just what I needed to keep moving forward, if at a slower pace than I was accustomed.
I polished a short story, ready now for feedback. I finished up a blog post for next week and got started on another. I even fit in reading, making some headway into a book that is proving a challenge to get through. The entire day was a struggle. I downed copious amounts of caffeine to stay awake. By the end of the day, despite the work I had done, I was exhausted and cranky and not satisfied. There were dishes in the sink. There were items on my to do list that hadn’t been checked off.
My anxiety went into frantic hamster mode. Doing things my own way is all good and fine, but I have to actually do things. I have to work! I have to justify this experiment! I had to shake off this low energy and get back to productivity! It went on and on, flagellating me with the determination to get! things! done!
Instead, I slept. I thought about how I had traded the anxiety of churning out inventory for conventions for that of marking off a to do list. I’m supposed to be living by my own life patterns, and yet, within the first week I’ve fallen into another trap of “going with the flow”. This emphasis on making every moment count monetarily is so ingrained in my psyche that it is near impossible to root out.
So I slept. I sat in the same chair I had occupied the day before, reading and writing and struggling against somnolence. I pulled several throws over my body, and I slept. I knew I’d lose the whole day. I’m not a thirty minute napper. I’m the kind of napper who sleeps for hours and wakes up questioning what just happened. I slept from 10 am to 3 pm, waking up a half an hour before the kids got home from school.
I can’t say that I had some magical epiphany and now everything is all better. I can’t even say that I felt completely rested. I ended up going to bed that night earlier than usual. But what I can say is that the world didn’t end just because I decided to sleep instead of work. I can say that I gave myself permission to explore a different flow: one without judgement that allows me to find my own rhythm.
Today I am still tired. The exhaustion lurks behind my eyelids. It is a companion that has been with me most of my life. I acknowledge its presence. I acknowledge that it is a tool I can use to shape a flow of loving kindness. And I tell it, “Not today.” Then I make myself another bottle of caffeine and get to work.
roach: When do we get to the boring part of our life? I’m sort of done with all this “interestingness”.
Stephan: In about twenty years.
roach: I don’t think I’ll last that long.
Stephan: You don’t have a choice.
roach: Ah, so that’s how you are going to get into necromancy.
It’s been a couple of days since we decided I wouldn’t be doing any more conventions for the time being, and I feel pretty okay about that decision. As much as I enjoy conventions (in a Leslie Knope kind of way) I feel a certain amount of relief that I don’t have to scramble to find a way to pay for more booth fees since SLCC didn’t bring in money for that.
We made another decision that has been more difficult to reconcile, though. That night while crying in my wine glass filled with cheap cab, I said, “I would give up all my creativity just to be financially stable.” At the time I meant it. Living in the US sucks if you are poor. There’s the being food or housing insecure, but there’s also an added layer of judgement that comes along with being unable to pay your bills. Thanks to our Puritan roots that equates wealth to worth, happiness is seen as only deserved by those who have an emergency fund, credit card balances paid off each month, and a retirement fund. If you struggle from month to month, or live paycheck to paycheck, you are expected to be miserable.
I have struggled with more than societal expectations. My ex made several times more than I did our entire relationship, a fact that became a problem after I had Charlotte. I stayed home because it was decided that my $10 an hour would just get eaten up by childcare costs. And once I lost that income, my worth to the relationship dwindled. It didn’t matter that I was cleaning and cooking (things I did before I left my job). The time that I spent raising our daughter didn’t count either. Because there wasn’t a dollar amount attached to my efforts, I became a sort of indentured servant, paying for my keep with maid, cook and nanny services. There’re reasons we divorced, and that’s one of them.
Coming back to the other night: all of the above was swirling around in my head when I admitted that I would trade the thing that made me happiest, the thing that made me who I am, for a respectable living. I probably would have kept thinking that if Stephan hadn’t asked me if sewing made me happy.
“Yes,” I said, not really seeing what that had to do with anything.
Well then, what if we took the money factor out of things, he asked. Not that I wouldn’t still sell my work on Etsy, or stop taking commissions. Just … stop worrying about making a certain amount each month. What if, for the next few months, I focused on the happiness that sewing and writing brought, rather than the money?
It’s not an easy idea for me to wrap my head around. I’ve been told all my life that I am lazy and irresponsible with money. Just working without an expectation of making money seems to align with those ideas. Jerk Brain, too, has chimed in with all sorts of guilt-inducing comments about how others don’t have the opportunity to take a sabbatical, and that the idea “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life” is just a bunch of privileged, white woman talk.
I’m trying to get around those obstacles, though. I’ve spent the last twenty years of my life trying to justify my right to life through my income. Taking four months to sew, write, bake bread, clean house and be the woman I want to be isn’t too much to ask out of a lifetime of being a wage slave.
After all, Stephan is back to regular hours at work after summer hours saw him working three days a week instead of five. We can make that work to cover the monthly bills and any cash I make can go towards chipping away at our debt. What’s the worse that can happen? We won’t get out of debt as quickly as I had wanted. But since I didn’t have any more conventions planned for this year, and since they weren’t bringing in the big bucks like I had hoped, it’s not like I am risking anything big.
The hardest part is giving myself permission to focus on what makes me happy. I’m not comfortable with that idea. And the fact that I am uncomfortable makes me sad. I have to let go of the idea that I can’t really enjoy what I am doing until I am successful at it. I’m not sure I will ever be okay with the emphasis of gross national happiness over gross domestic product. For the next four months, though, I’m going to look at that discomfort through a lens of challenging my societal upbringing, and assure myself that at the very worst I can go back to measuring my worth by my bank account come January 1.
I headed back to Salt Lake City this last weekend for the Salt Lake Comic Con. It was me, Stephan, our kids, two checked duffel bags of inventory, and a determination to sell handmade geekery to the masses.
So how did that work out?
Let’s start with the good. Despite a mishap that saw myself, the kids and luggage on the train to the hotel and Stephan left behind at the station, the trip there was relatively uneventful*. Ben managed to keep his chaotic energy to a minimum while Charlotte played numerous games of Solitaire on her phone.
We got to our spot in the Salt Palace Convention Center with little difficulty and got set up in record time. Stephan provided extra lung power to get Johanns Rex inflated and ready for his convention debut. I forgot to pack clothes pins so I had to improvise a hanging solution for the skirts with binder clips. All in all, I think the set up was good. Especially later when I raided the empty space next to me for another table for the dice bags.
The good came in many different forms: Several friends stopped by the booth to offer support via food runs, helping to hock wares, and entertaining children. Charlotte spent a lot of time in the booth drawing and running the Square. Everyone who heard the refrain, “All the skirts have pockets” squealed with joy. At least three men picked up a business card because their wives weren’t at the convention but they were certain to be interested in the skirts. At one point, a woman pulled a skirt on over her leggings, paid and then twirled out of the booth.
The bad, though, was pretty bad. At the end of the con I joked with myself that the awesome thing about capitalism is that it could enumerate just how much of a failure a person is in dollars and cents. I had come out to the convention with the optimistic goal of $10,000 in sales. That number would be really hard to make, but I had twelve grand in inventory, plus I expected to get lots of commissions for the skirts. Based on what I made at SLC FanX in March (almost $1,500 with half the number of attendees) I could reasonably expect to make $3,000.
Readers, I pulled in a whopping $915.
Saturday night, as I broke down the booth, I had a hard time keeping Jerk Brain at bay. Every single horrible thing he has ever said to me felt true. I was a worthless loser, a dumbass who chose the wrong thing every time. I was stupid and irresponsible and lazy and a burden to my family. Why did I keep deluding myself into thinking I could support myself and my family by sewing? If anyone could do it we wouldn’t be buying cheap T-shirts from sweatshops.
Sunday wasn’t much better. I became intimately acquainted with the hotel bed while Stephan and the kids spent time with friends. I deactivated my Facebook account because I couldn’t face people with the weight of my failure. Monday we flew back to Chicago with me dragging behind my family every step of the way.
I kept thinking about how I had proven myself a failure, how I would have to give up the sewing and the idea that I could make a living from home. I was convinced that the only thing I was good for was taking up space. Back home, once I was sure that Trixie still loved me, we had unpacked and gotten the kids off to bed, Stephan poured me a glass of wine and we talked. And he pointed out that really, all I proved was that I shouldn’t do conventions right now. The benefit of a host of potential customers in a small space wasn’t actually manifesting. I handed out a lot of business cards and got people signed up to my mailing list, but that was something I could do from home.
You would think making a tenth of what I was expecting would fall under the category “Ugly” and, yet, this isn’t the case. One of the things that I like about Salt Lake City is that people are very nice. When the train fiasco happened people were kind to help me get luggage off the train at the next station to wait for Stephan. A man stopped by and checked up on us when he saw me and the kids sitting out on our own late at night. That friendliness was in attendance for the most part at the convention. The flip side, however, was a level of bad behavior I’ve never experienced at another convention.
I learned when I started vending not to use the line “Everything here is meant to be touched.” While most people would understand that I meant the stock in my booth, there was always one or more men who would cock an eyebrow and say “Anything?” in that gross aren’t-I-so-clever way. On Friday, I learned that the behavior cannot be stopped by using the right words, or is even limited to just men. My friend Kyra was helping a lady and said “You are welcome to touch things in the booth.”
The woman reached out and touched Kyra’s face!
This … this is not appropriate behavior for life, let alone a convention. I didn’t see it happen, else there would have been a body shoved under the table. The woman fled when Kyra told her firmly, “Not me!” Good thing I’m not going to do conventions for a while, else I’d have to make up a sign that read, “Please do not pet the staff.”
Poor Kyra bore the brunt of the bad behavior that weekend. At one point a guy walking past yelled at her, “I’m in the need of some discipline, will you discipline me?” Again, something that won’t be an issue if I don’t vend at conventions, however I am now imagining how I can weaponize my belly fat so I can just start whapping such dude bros.
Because this kind of thing always happens in threes, I overheard a man yelling that he only wanted the two hottest girls from a group cosplay in his photo. Chalk one more person up for a hit a run by my thunder thighs.
So now it is back home time. Ben is now in full day kindergarten, which means I now have dedicated hours to sew. And that’s what I’m going to do. I have a few commissions from SLCC to work on. That should also mean there will be more posting here. First up, I’ll get a tutorial for the skirts posted in the next few days.
*We flew from Chicago to SLC. The train I mention was from the SLC airport to the hotel. At $10 for a one way trip for four people, it was well worth the late night Griswold-esque adventure.