“I think it is time we begin to see other people…”
My first reaction was, “Do we have to do this now… when my business is collapsing beneath my feet?” I cannot remember if I said this out loud or just in my head, but I said it nonetheless. The time was in the early months of 2008, soon after the big crash of the US economy.
Even though the 14.5 year relationship that was ending was probably about 4.5 years past its expiration date, it was the only thing that was consistent in my life. Less than three years prior I was voted out of the company I had created and had built to a moderate success. I walked away from that company in 2005 with my name, my reputation, all of the knowledge that I gained from the experience, my peace of mind and my head held high. In 2005 I put together a new company and started all over from scratch. Needless to say, these were tumultuous years, but nothing like what I was about to experience beginning in those early months of 2008. The ground beneath my feet was shifting so quickly I am not sure that I was actually standing; and it didn’t stop shifting for another four years.
My friends have called this my Dark Period. Those four years were the most difficult of my entire life. Though, I am now very thankful for those years, because if things hadn’t happened as they did I would not have found the peace and true happiness that I am now experiencing. For me, it was all worth it.
In January of 2008 as the economy collapsed, so followed my business. Somehow, without any funding, I kept the company afloat with sheer determination and the will to not give up. I remember saying, “They will have to pry this company out of my dead bleeding hands…” and they nearly did.
By mid 2008, when it was obvious that we were not recovering from the crash, I had to begin laying off my staff one by one until it was just me and one other person. By 2009 we had moved out of our beautiful new offices and into my home office. That one employee I had left, Maggie, ran my office until the end of 2010 and worked several months with neither a paycheck nor a complaint. I had stopped paying myself back in the early months of 2008. From 2009-2010 I made, packed and shipped all of my candles by myself (with occasional part-time help). The warehouse I was forced to use as my production facility had no air-conditioning or proper ventilation. Temperatures inside would reach around 120 with all the wax melters running during the Texas summers. I was often working 6-7 days a week and not taking care of my health. My eating habits turned into (I’m now horrified to say this) what I could afford on the dollar menu at fast food restaurants. I was killing myself with my work load, the working conditions, the stress of my mounting debt and my dollar menu diet. I don’t remember having much if any joy in my life…
Since I had stopped paying myself in 2008, I had no money left and no more room on credit cards by early 2010. Some of my greatest fears were coming true. I was so behind on my car payment that I began to park down the block so the repo men wouldn’t find it. I was also several months behind on the house mortgage and received a notice that if I didn’t make a payment that month, they were going to begin the foreclosure process. Adding to the pressure of this, I had been a rescuer of animals for over 15 years at that point and had a house and yard full of animals that depended upon me. They were my family. If I lost the house, there would have been no way for me to keep my family of animals together. I was on the verge of losing EVERYTHING.
By 2011 I was nearly dead; physically, emotionally and spiritually. In order to save the house and keep food for my dogs, I had to sell off many of my personal belongins, including my prized possessions, my Big Boy statues.
Bye-bye BIG BOYS!
In 2011 I received some reprieve when I licensed my candle brand to another company. This removed the daily stress of making and shipping candles off my plate, though it still left me with no income. I applied at every job I could think of, though no one seemed to want to hire someone who had been an entrepreneur for the past 20+ years. I literally was starving. Any money I could scrap up went into keeping the roof over my head, my car on the road and food for my animals. I had no spare money for anything.
I learned how to live on $5 a week from a friend. He told me about the real Mexican grocery stores, the ones where all the signs are in Spanish, and how they would always have some sort of (unidentifiable) meat on sale for $0.99 per pound. I would go there and buy $5 worth and live on it for a week. I would cook the hell out of it on my George Foreman Grill to kill anything that could possibly kill me. If I was lucky a friend would give me some barbecue sauce to make it, whatever it was, tolerable. Yes, I am serious, I was that poor. The only time I saw a vegetable is when Maggie would invite me over to eat.
During this time I was rather lucky that my dogs had relatively good health and did not require much… if they had, I would not have been able to afford taking them to the vet. There were only a couple of events that happened where I had to turn my kitchen into a triage unit and emergency room. I saved one of my special needs puppies life with a chip clip when one of the other dogs ate 3/4’s of her ear off. That is a long
Hippity Hop in the emergency room (my kithen) and her bi-level look afterwards.
I am usually a very social person, and by the spring of 2011 I had been living as a complete hermit for a few years. My dogs had heard all of my jokes and when they began to recite my punchlines back to me, in unison, I knew it was time to get out of the house and become social again – with people. Who would have thought that a visit to The Round Up, a Country & Western Saloon and Dancehall, would change the course of my life forever?
To be continued.
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