I made it! I keep whispering that to myself these days. February marks the start of my fourth year in business. It also marks the 12th month of operating 100% curbside with the tea stand. I spent 10 of the 12 months of my 3rd year outside in the elements of Arkansas weather slinging tea and finding solace in the faces of my neighbors and customers. I MADE IT!
The loneliness of 2020 was really hard for me. Not just at the tea shop that sat quiet and empty day after day, but the world in general was a hard and lonely place. Isolating from those we love, the tensions of extreme partisanship in our country, and the loneliness of being misunderstood and directly lied about were all things I struggled with more than ever in year 3.
If you asked me last year if I would be sitting in my sweet little tea shop reflecting on the first 6 months of business today, I'd have likely not believed you. This tea shop has been a dream for so long, and those closest to me over the years have known of my love of tea, my heart for service, and the always present call back to waiting tables.
One of my last conversations with my dad was about why I was afraid to open a shop, and all the reasons why it wouldn't work or how it could go wrong. My deep fear of failure. He laughed with me and at me and told me to be brave. We talked about how I felt silo'd in a career that I was very good at, but not very fulfilled. We talked about who I have always been in his eyes, in my own eyes, and who I wanted to be going forward.
At the time, just a year ago, the tea shop was a symbol for who I wanted to be eventually. But to my dad (and to my mom) - they knew it was who I was all along.
When I decided to quit my very GOOD job at a very respected agency with a title and salary that I was very proud of, I had decided to let go of that chapter in my life.
The letting go wasn't really easy, but the 9-12 months that followed - - where I was forcing myself to BE STILL and figure myself out - - that was the hard part.
The starting over.
This morning, I'm sitting in my tea shop reflecting on all of the things that have changed in my life since last February. And, in these last 6 months.
How I've changed, how I've come back to life, how I've stayed true to myself after getting a little lost for a few (like 10) years. I'm thankful for my parents for seeing me even when I couldn't see myself. I'm thankful for my husband who has loved, supported, and cheered me on through all those decisions up the ladder, and now back down it.
And, I'm thankful for every single person who has come to the shop, talked about the shop, and all of you who are not just guests here, but friends.
Gotta go! Aspen is here for his morning treat & head pat! I'm thankful for the sweet puppy friends, too. 💚
When you put your heart on a shelf, it might stop beating.
For years, across various jobs I have decorated my cube, office or corner - surrounding myself with quotes, notes, gifts from friends, art and --- tea. Teapots, tea cups, tea steepers, and actual tea of every kind. Often my desk was known for the afternoon hang out or the place to smell a fancy candle or to just take a minute away from email to laugh, and many times I would make a cup of tea for those who stopped by.
My shelves were covered with things I loved, quotes or articles signifying who I strived to be, notes and kind words from friends and colleagues that were meant to act as reminders of who I was to them at some point in life.
You see, at the heart of me, I so desperately want to be liked - to be loved - to be accepted. I often have to remind myself that I don't have to try so hard, and that I am already loved by so many. This deep seeded insecurity - this forgetfulness of the goodness of my heart (JUST AS IT IS) - this desperation .... it is one of my biggest flaws and a point of frustration for those who love me best.
I am a constant and unnecessary apologizer, too. A resolution I have for myself this year - but one I fail at almost every day - but I swear I am trying!!! And, as soon as I apologize I instantly want to say "I AM SORRY I AM SO SORRY ALL THE TIME!" Sigh.
So, I placed my heart on the shelves of every office I have ever worked in. And, many times that's where it stayed - except for that quick afternoon break. As the years passed and the jobs changed and my shelves got higher and the jobs got bigger in responsibility and "importance" -- that heart of mine remained tucked up on those shelves...untouched, dusty, neglected, and sometimes even too high for me to reach at all.
I would forget to read the words I intentionally put in front of me, and instead I was focusing on the words in my inbox, or the words whispered in hallways about my type A awfulness, or worst of all...the words inside my own head:
"You're so annoying." "Wow, what an idiot, did you just do/say/type that?!" "What's wrong with you, Abbi?!" "God, look at you, you're disgusting." "You're so stupid." The tea shop has been so incredible - we've been open going on 3 weeks. But, to say that it has fixed every single struggle and bout of anxiety, insecurity and depression I have is simply not true.
I am human. I am flawed. I still so desperately want to be liked. I so desperately want to please ... everyone.
But, everyday, I get to be myself.
And instead of having my heart on a shelf I get to wear my heart, I get to share my heart, I get to cover my walls with my heart.
My heart is in the tea, my heart is in the jasmine I planted on my patio this morning, my heart is in the apron stitched together with love and sewn into my father's favorite shirt that I gave him so many years ago.
My heart is in that little kitchen where I bump up against my mom who reminds me every day that I am worthy of this dream come true. That it's okay to be happy for myself. That people like me. That people love me. That I am cherished.
My heart is in every crack and cranny of that old house.
My heart is beating again.
It has been raining for days and it really has impacted me. I am all about some rain once in awhile but the first 17 days of being open 13 of them have been rain and the other 4 have been cloudy or foggy. It's been bleak and I have tried so hard to SHINE BRIGHTLY. Some days I shined brighter than others, but it's been a real struggle to keep the brights on inside of me. Yesterday, I was discouraged and cried quietly in the back tea room with self doubt and frustration. I said to my mom, "I just need the sun to come out. I need to feel the light again. This weather is hurting my heart."
As soon as I got in the car, Who Am I by Casting Crowns came on. Instant tears came to my eyes because it is shamelessly one of my favorite songs and I belt it out every time I hear it.
I have sung this song in the car so many times - second only to Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson - I have sung it on mountain tops at sunrise after hours of driving at night, I have sung it driving over Bonner Bridge, Alligator River, on the beach walking in search of beach glass, and on so many rainy and sunny days. It's one of my favoritest songs.
So, I sang all the way to Home Depot. Embarrassingly loud and with my windows down. When I arrived, they had jasmine. Fragrant, beautiful - jasmine. I bought two trees, and a few other annuals, and some lavender. I headed to the shop and got my hands deep into some soil and let the garden loosen me up. I set up Mimi's garden tables along with a few of mine from the house.
It was the perfect morning. I had dirt under my nails, I had damp spots on my jeans from watering, and I smelled like the earth.
My heart was beating. My was heart praying.
"Let this garden be a safe place for my friends and anyone who gathers here. Let this patio be filled with laughter. Let my heart shine with your light and let that light fill the walls of this tea shop every single day."
And, as my first customer for the day strolled up, my heart was singing...
Whom shall I fear? Whom shall I fear?
For I am your's .... I am your's ...