With Brave Wings She Flies

What’s it like to close a store? Honest?  I realized how it’s relatively easy to take 6,000 sq feet completely stocked to zero inventory in 60 days.  Closing because someone outside of your control (the landlord) made the decision, was something my customers didn’t understand.   I kinda did.  I mean, I’d seen “You’ve Got Mail” and “The Godfather” to know the famous quote: “It’s not personal, Sonny.  It’s strictly business.”  But boy it felt personal.  Especially when the new owner was walking out the door.  He half-turned and flippantly said, “hey, sorry”.  I’ll leave it to your imagination as to what I wanted to shout back, not caring about a store full of women oblivious as what was about to happen. 

It wasn’t like I’d never thought about closing, I did.  I think we all do at one time or another.  We get tired, mentally drained, our family feels neglected or we just want to do something different.  It had been an idea I toyed with lately.  A LOT.  Maybe more because I was torn seeing other people live a life I thought it would be like.  My problem was my mind was still so full of ideas and projects I wanted to try to make Absolutely Her even better.  But instead of launching forward, I began to let it really sink in. 

Having always been a planner kind of person, I did what I always do – research.  I searched on the NARTS Facebook page, other groups and, of course, Google.  While the FB groups were trying to be encouraging to those who inquired about it, Google wasn’t.  I just kept seeing the words “Fail”, “Failed” and “Failure”.  Over and over again that’s how it refers to the idea of ending a small business.  And that was certainly a blow to my attempt at keeping a positive attitude. I wanted to just close the door of AH and never allow myself to get caught up in it again. 

But I knew I hadn’t failed.  How can it be that a person fails when they go after something daringly different?  Is it considered failure when I had a new experience every single day?  Giving women a place to go when they are at their lowest points and feel like they need a haven to achieve a little peace, does that mean I failed?  Did I fail by helping others find a way to put food on their tables or gas in their cars?  No, I didn’t fail.  I succeeded beyond my expectations. 

I wasn’t going to go out with my head lowered in shame or guilt.  I was…no, not I…WE were doing it like any other event we had ever held.  It meant not getting caught up in the drama with the gossips, it meant not being angry towards the owners, it meant keeping my employees as long as I could, it meant continuing the mission which was started eight years ago.  It meant the “Peace Out Tour” was brought to life. 

I chose the day because I needed some control in a time when nothing else was in mine.  I was holding on to information that was going to change lives.  For weeks I watched my customers and consignors just go about their usual routines knowing I was no longer going to be a part of it.  I’d duck into the back room to hide my tears and catch my breath wondering how much they were going to hate me.  The moment I went live on Facebook, I felt the anxiety lessen a little and the weight rolled off my shoulders.  It was out.

The front window display became a hippie van with caricatures of the staff flying into a giant dream catcher that read “catching new dreams”.  My husband surprised me by buying tie-dye hippie van t-shirts for all of us.  We had dance parties and our own version of karaoke.  It looked like I had it all under control.  The truth was, most days I did.  For I’d had some signs along the way that gave me a sense of reconciliation about it all. 

My whole goal was to not be bitter - to go out with a sense of peace, not anger.   I had women say to me “so you can’t pay the rent, huh?” or “I thought you were doing well, but I guess not” or, my personal favorite, “you’re not quite as good as you seem”.  I defended my decision to not relocate or not sell.  I defended my decision to not talk about the situation.  I defended my privacy.   I became stoic.  I became robotic in my answers and kept my emotions in check.  I tried to go out with the same encouragement and grace I started with.  The foundation of what I built Absolutely Her on shouldn’t crumble because I didn’t get my way.  It should go on in spite of it.  I wasn’t Absolutely Her, she was a part of me.  An AHmazing part, but not my everything.

The night I turned the key for the last time, I grabbed one of the last things I could find, a clean floppy mop head, went into Dressing Room #5, laid down on the bench and cried.  The sound echoed through the empty space as I stared at the angel wings still hanging.  My outer self posted the quote “With brave wings she flies”, but right then all I could think of was “with broken wings she hides”.  Doubt of everything I knew took over as the minutes ticked on.  And it lingered for a bit.  But then I did what I do.  I placed my feet on the floor, gathered my thoughts and my things, took a deep breath and walked out the door.  For a new journey is about to take off. 

 

*this was written for and published in the November 2019 NARTS (National Association of Resale & Thrift Stores) newsletter

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