Monday, April 18, 2011

Knee Jerk Reactions

...and the people that get kicked when it happens.

Like most people who are concerned about running a successful, thriving business, I often agonize over my decisions as though they were life and death. No decision is ever that serious. What color should the boxes be? Am I using the right brand of butter? Should I have given that stranger so much info about me? Was it okay to accept that favor? What happens if I chose wrong? What happens if the choice I made ends up biting me in the ass?

What happens is that it's going to suck, I may lose some cash, I may lose a customer, I may get angry...But then I cut my losses and I move onto the next thing. I've been told by so many successful people that the right decisions are not always within arm's reach. Sometimes mistakes are made that will cost you in one form or another. However, your success is not marked by smooth sailing and all the thing that went right, keeping things moving. Success lies within stumbling over a mistake, picking yourself back up, correcting it, and getting things back on track. Being successful is all about making the best of ANY situation, and still managing to keep things going forward, despite the roadblocks.

And that's where I fail.

I'm quick to realize where I am wrong. I try not to waste time blaming people who dropped the ball or circumstances that just didn't work out. However, my recovery from the stumble is slow. I get stuck on the fact that I just fell flat on my face, and I have a hard time getting back up and getting things moving again.

It's all in my head. It's in my shame for having failed. It's in my anxiety of failing again. And, it's in my doubt of whether or not I can do this. Bottom line is- all that's gotta go.

I was just in Atlantic City Saturday night for my friend's annual birthday event with her husband and his friends. At one point, things got heated amongst the group, and I took a walk, finding myself in the observatory area of the Pier. If you haven't been there, it's a covered structure attached to Ceasar's that goes out into the water. (See the picture to the right. It doesn't do it justice, though.) The top floor is where all the high end restaurants are. Along the massive windows that surround the area are beach chairs set up on sand. So, it feels like you're sitting on the beach, staring out into the water. Here's a couple of pictures so you can sort of imagine what I'm talking about.

Okay, so that's the set up. Like I said, the pictures don't do this spot justice. As pretty as it is during the day, if you are looking out over the water during a rain storm, in the winter, or at sunset, the views are absolutely breathtaking.

I'm not a huge gambler. I enjoyed going to AC for the shopping, the eating, and most of all this spot. A couple of years ago, during a particularly rough patch, I had this awful nightmare. I was sitting on one of these chairs, looking over the ocean with my bf, (at the time). It started to rain. The waves were getting bigger. It was really so beautiful, we didn't move. As the storm grew more violent outside, the people around us started to run. They panicked that the rising tides would engulf the pier, break through the glass, and swallow everything up and drag it back out into the sea. The scene was still just so compelling, we both just sat there as the people around us scattered in the midst of the chaos. The waves did rise higher and did start to crash against the window in front of us. I started to get scared. I flinched back as wave after wave started to pound against the glass. I wanted to run, too. I wanted to get up and join the crowds scurrying away. My bf just held my hand, smiled, and told me to relax. It was fine, he said. The glass is strong. We would be safe. Just enjoy the show. Not wanting to leave him behind, I sat, holding his hand, still terrified that we were going to be showered in a rain of shattered glass and sea water any minute. But, he sat quietly smiling, stroking my hand, and silently assuring me everything was going to be okay. I watched as the ocean level arose, and half of our picture window was under water. We were alone now in this space. Everyone had run away. My stomach turned, sickened that any moment now, we were going to die. Before I knew it, the windows were completely submerged underwater. We watched the sealife that we didn't even know was out there swim by. Debris from the beaches and boardwalk floated through like toys in a bathtub. Everything was calm. I was calm. My anxiety abated. This was okay. Even if that glass broke and we drowned in those cheap beach chairs, it would have all been worth it to witness that scene and to give into the peace of the moment. It was a peace that I very rarely enjoy...ever.

About a month after that "dream" (or nightmare...I like to think of it as a dream), the bf and I actually took a nice long weekend vacation to AC. We used my timeshare, which was the first time I ever used that overpriced piece of property as an actual vacation for ME, and not my family or friends. As I walked him through this window area, and we sat on these same beach chairs, I tried to sheepishly tell him about my dream. I felt foolish trying to clumsily find the words to aptly describe the roller coaster set of emotions I went though- the happiness, the fear, the panic, the anxiety, and then the peace. I don't think I did a very good job. When I was done with my 5-minute botched summary of my dream, he kind of gave me a polite smile and a quizzical look. "I think you just need to learn to relax more, babe." A quick peck on the cheek, and that was his take of my super visceral dream. Communication was always one of my weakest points. =(

Anyway, that weekend was one of the best one's I have ever had in AC, and it's been difficult  for me to go back there ever since. This past Saturday was only the 2nd time I've set foot on that boardwalk since my vacation two years ago. In hopes of trying to let go of old demons, I tried to go grab a bite to eat at the Piers. They have a set of super high-end restaurants. The ex and I had eaten at 2 of the 4 places there. I was going to try and have a light dinner by myself at Phillip's seafood (our favorite restaurant of all the places we ate that weekend), but my stomach turned and I couldn't bring myself to do it. It's not the whole eating alone aspect. I'm over that. It was the food memory. It's hard to unburn a memory that you've associated with restaurants or food. Ok, well, it may not be hard for normal people, but it's hard for me.

I've said many times over that food is love. I share my favorite meals and foods with people I love. The more I love a person, the more I try to share my most honored foods with them. Since my track record has been so horrendous with life partners, I think I need to stop doing that. I've stopped going to some of my favorite restaurants because of this quirky habit. It didn't help matters this Saturday.

I opted for the high end sushi bar across from Phillip's. That was cool. Nice cocktails. A bunch of other lone diners, and a very friendly waitress and bartender. We struck up a conversation fast with one another when one of them spotted my ring, and before we knew it- we were talking about dragons, Lord of the Ring, Game of Thrones, and other geeky/medieval subjects. Then, I told them about my last vacation there, the dream, the food orgy, and the horrible fight we had the last morning of our trip. Maybe it was all the free drinks they were plowing me with or it was a slow Saturday for them or maybe we all just happened to click, but then everyone started to open up about past relationships and the way it affects them today. The waitress, Kelly, started crying when she talked about her ex. It was clear she was still in love with the guy, but settled on the guy she's about to marry in a few months. "He's good to me, he's stable, and I know he'll be a good husband...but he's not my ex. It's okay, though, I'll get over it." I tried not to judge her for her choice. We all make these decisions based on the hand we're dealt. All I kept wondering was, "What if you don't get over it?"She laughed and said, "Well, I guess I'll find out soon enough!"

I watched a couple fight this weekend. It didn't seem like the fight was sparked by anything too egregious. Someone said something. Words were exchanged. Before you knew it, one person walked out on the other one, muttering that it was over for good and that they were leaving. From my point of view, being a runner myself, I've always been the one to storm out in the heat of anger, muttering that I was done and gone for good....only to calm down, feel terrible, and then come back with a very sorrowful apology. This time, I sat there and saw what happened when the door closes after the person's stormed off, and I saw what it does to the person left behind. My heart broke for them. There were no words I could find to bring comfort because I have always been the asshole in the past. What does an asshole say to justify why another asshole just did what they did?

It's a knee-jerk reaction to a situation that can't be controlled at that moment. For my safety, I've always run. When I say safety, I don't mean emotional safety. In the past, I had to physically protect my well-being and put myself out of harm's way. I learned to run. Unfortunately, once I learned to do that, it was hard to stay put in the company of sane, rational people. Because the fear of getting brutalized is so engrained in me, my "Run" command is on a hairline trigger, and that has lead to the end of a couple meaningful relationships.

My kinks are still getting ironed out on that front, but I realized that I sometimes I take that route with my business. If things feel strange or unstable, rather than taking a risk, I run. I cancel orders. I refuse to take orders, pretending I don't have the time or the free dates. While protecting a larger venture with more money at stake would probably profit from this mentality, when you're a small business like me, this is the time to take the risks. This is the time it's okay to fall flat on my face, because there isn't much to lose right now. It's okay to mess up, because at this stage, it's still easy to clean and start fresh.

I realized that my knee-jerk emotional reactions will continue to hold me back as a person and as a business owner if I don't learn to get those things under control. It's not easy changing a pattern of behavior that you learned in order to protect yourself. As humans, we all instinctively take proper measures to defend or protect ourselves. 

My business is my baby. It's all I have to show for the last ten years of living. I've protected it as if it were my own child, but like a real child- I have to let it go and take some risks. I have to push it beyond what I can see within my own scope in order to realize what can actually be accomplished when no limits are set.

It's time to control the knee-jerk reactions, and stop kicking the opportunities set in front of me. What sucks being in the midst of the storm and reacting to the anxiety is that all that time spent fretting over the possible dangers takes away from the enjoyment you can have watching the beauty around you; things you didn't know were possible because you were too busy running away.

Change won't happen overnight, but it's a new conscious thought I have set in place. Don't be so scared. Don't be so quick to react. Take some risks. If I fail, it's still okay. Deep down inside, hell, I still know I'm awesome. Is there really anything else that matters? ;-)


  1. Go new reprogramming Kat! Maybe you should practice some risk taking exercises? I'm not sure what those would entail, but it sounds like an opportunity to bring out one of the many monopoly boards. Or maybe just being more outgoing, like reading your poetry out loud? (HINT HINT) I'm sure you'll figure it out and make your business prosper! :D

  2. Haha! In this case, for my business, I need to stop being timid about charging more money for more work. My prices are fair, and they are downright criminally low when it comes to the more intricate cakes. I've justified it in the past by saying it was good practice, but my time and materials cost money. I have to be okay charging the right amount, and being okay if they have to walk away. I also want to be more comfortable taking more artistic projects. I've turned down work in the past that I felt was too advanced for my skill-set, but when I've been pushed into a corner and I couldn't say no- the cakes have come out amazing. Better than anything I could have ever imagined that I was capable of doing. So, I guess I'm going to start with those two areas and then go on from there.

    I just don't think my poems are audience-worthy. Really, how can I measure up to your self-satisfaction poem? That was pretty damn bad ass. I think the only one I was ever really happy with was "Dance With Me", but I don't think I can get through that one without my voice cracking and the waterworks coming down. Sometimes I Really hate being a fucking girl. =(

  3. Idk why. Crying for being a girl is a legitimate excuse. Crying and being a boy gets you a punch in the nads. You should come up with some new poems then! I always write mine at two in the morning the day before lol.

  4. Crying over spilled milk should be illegal. I've been blocked for months now. I haven't written anything new at all. I have no muse.