REPRISE: Epic Fail or Epic Win Saga

REPRISE: Epic Fail or Epic Win Saga

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*This is a reprise of five posts I did starting in October 2013. We all have our shit, and sometimes that shit can facilitate a huge life change. I’ve formatted them back to back, to be able to read them all at the same time. It’s longer than usual, but hey, it’s a three-day weekend. Cheers!

Epic Fail or Epic Win?

I owned a business.

It was several years ago now.
I left a good job that I had been at for close to 20 yrs.
I put all my proverbial eggs in that one basket.
My money, my creative juices, my blood sweat and tears.

I was excited at the prospect of being my own boss,of displaying my wild ideas for all the world to see,
using the skills I had acquired throughout my life.
I felt vulnerable, really vulnerable for the first time in my life.
I was putting myself out there on the big stage, with no excuses.
This was going to be a reflection of me, curated by moi, everything I loved, cared about, and thought was cool.

This was it! I was 50 and this was the beginning of my beautiful “second act”.

The first year was awesome!
It was tons of hard work with no days off, but I was okay with that.
This was my baby.
It needed me to nurture it, to make it my only focus, and all was well.

The following year was 2008.
Things got dicey.
There was a feeling of dread in the air, like everyone was silently waiting for the shoe to drop, holding their breath.
Money slowed waaaaaay down.

Then it was 2009 and the entire closet of shoes dropped.
It was loud!
The bottom seemed to fall out of everything.
People were scared. Fear reined supreme.
I did my best to stay out of the fray, knowing that the people who had money would still stop by and shop; but they confided that even they didn’t want to be seen walking out with bags of new purchases.
It was like nothing I’d ever seen in all my years in retail.

Everything that was creative and wonderful and fun was gone.
Replaced by unpaid bills, days of not a single customer, and sleepless nights with me wondering how I got myself into this! How had I taken such an abundant, wonderful life and created this perfect shit storm?

Then in September of that year God took pity on me.
She heard my prayers.
But God has a wicked sense of humor, and a flair for the dramatic.
She sent a flood. A random, urban flood to sneak up in the middle of the night and wipe out my store.
I’m serious.
The fireman at the scene told me he had never seen water make a hard right turn. But it did, and it all collected around and inside my sweet little store.
The one that was trying so hard, but just couldn’t stay afloat ( sorry for the pun).

This is the first time I asked myself the question:
Epic fail? Or epic win?
What do you think so far?
Janet
(To be continued)…

Epic Fail or Epic Win Part II

Sometimes we have no idea what the Universe has in store for us.
We can have our sails aimed into the wind, sailing full speed ahead, when in an instant, lightening will strike, and a giant rogue wave will capsize us and shred our boat.

We think we have it all figured out. I KNOW I did!

But life took me by the shoulders and spun me around, just like my mom did when I was a kid and told her I had washed my face, when it was evident by the smear of chocolate, that I needed to be sent back to the bathroom.
It shook me a little and sent me packing….in the exact opposite direction of where I thought I should be going.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I can tolerate, even appreciate, a little course correction at times.
But I don’t like drama, and I like to think I don’t draw it in.
This was something so ridiculously out of left field, 
It was a total loss of my business. Overnight.

I had plenty of insurance, so I wasn’t worried……in the beginning.

With the other stores having 12 inches of water damage and my store having 4 feet, recovery mode looked different for me.
It wasn’t clothes and shoes that had gotten wet, or the cosmetic damage the restaurants sustained.
I had furniture and art, lamps and leather chairs and stuff that just shouldn’t sit immersed in four feet of filthy water for six hours.

I heard everyone saying: “at least three weeks to get back up and running.”
That seemed like a long time to be closed up.
Did I even want to get back up and running? Things really hadn’t felt like they were running at that point, more like a slow stroll, or a pathetic commando crawl.
Was it a possibility? Would I even be able to repair the inventory?
Lord knows, I didn’t have the capital to buy more.
That’s when the first of two miracles occurred.
I even knew they were miracles at the time, THATS how “In your face” they were.
(To be continued)…

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Epic Fail or Epic Win (Miracle I)

The dictionary defines a miracle as:
A surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.

I’ll agree with that.

A miracle also makes your hair stand on end and your heart beat faster.
Or a least it does that to me.

The first miracle occurred not too long after I arrived at my store to find it ankle-deep in a slimy, sludgy, mud, which was the lovely parting gift the flood had left me.
I was walking around in circles with my mouth hanging open. Oh…I mean I was professionally assessing the damage.
You really do go numb, like the people say on the evening news when something awful has just happened. You CANNOT believe it is happening to YOU.

The file cabinet behind my desk had filled with water, so I was peeling apart my insurance papers to find the number to call, to get the adjuster out quickly.
This was 6:30 am the Sunday of Labor Day weekend. Good luck with that!

When I did finally reach him, he said he was away for the weekend and he would get back to me Tuesday, like my toilet had overflowed or something.
I told him to watch the news. News Crews from every channel were crawling all over the place, waiting to get in.
Now, the fire department had caution taped the shit out of the entire block,and they were doing some cleanup on the street, so we had to prove we were the owners to even be allowed near the place.

I was inside for about 30 minutes when a scruffy, middle-aged man walks into the store and starts looking around. He’s shaking his head and doing that tisking sound.
I’m on my phone, looking for a flood cleanup company, but I ask him what he’s doing. He keeps looking around with his hands on his hips. Then I ask him nicely to “get the hell out”.
As he’s leaving he mumbles something like “your insurance is never going to understand and pay you for your this stuff, it’s too esoteric”. My husband and I both do a double take, and at the same time yell out: “hey, what did you say”?
He explains: They’ll deny the claim because flooding is subjective, and even if they don’t, they won’t pay. Pennies on the dollar….maybe. He shakes his head and says I’m in for a long fight. He recommends I call a Public Adjuster. “They will take over everything and deal with the insurance company. For a fee of course.”
What?! It’s now after seven and I’m starting to feel panicky.
I’ve never even heard of such a person, and I ask him for a recommendation. He used a certain company during his own personal calamity and gives me the name, but he says there are several, and I should call a few.
I’m writing furiously on some wet muddy paper, and when I look up……he’s gone.
I run out to get him so he can tell the other merchants what he just told me.
He’s nowhere to be found. When I describe him to the fireman they have no idea who I’m talking about. Several friends I’d called to come get a load of what’d happened, had to call my cell for me to come get them past the security line; but somehow this guy showed up and gave me the information I needed.
I enie , meenie, miney, moe’d and picked one company out of the three names I found.

Gary was there in an hour, fired the cleanup crew that was walking around clueless and overwhelmed, hired some pros that specialize in art and antiques and got the whole thing under control. He was professional and comforting, and knew exactly what to do. Ten percent sounded like a bargain, I would have paid him a million dollars at that point.

For the first time that day I took a deep breath, and started to cry.

Oh, and my scruffy, middle-aged angel? He was exactly right! When the adjuster came on WEDNESDAY!!….he denied the claim. He said “flooding” was open to interpretation, and I didn’t have flood insurance anyway. But that was okay, I had Gary.
We were in for a long fight.
(To be continued)

Epic Fail or Epic Win , Miracle II

The second miracle occurred during cleanup.

We were about four days in.
The mud had been cleaned up, but the floors, walls, windows and merchandise, were still covered with a layer of smelly slime.
We covered our faces with those cloth masks, and plugged on.
Oh yeah, did I mention it was over 100 degrees?

This was the day I was told that the walls of the building had to be cut open up to 5 feet in order to air them out and avoid the dreaded black mold. I don’t know why that hit me so hard, but it did, and I went outside and sat on some hard concrete steps across the way and cried while the sawzall carved up my beautiful little store.
This felt serious…….and sad.

Gary came outside and put his arm around me, and we sat silently watching the carnage. When he finally did say something, he asked me if I wanted to go in and box up the things in the bathroom storage closets that hadn’t gotten wet.
Since the walls would be wide open, someone could potentially get inside and help themselves to whatever was left behind, so he suggested I go take a look. I think he also just wanted to keep me busy, so he didn’t have to look at my big, sad, soggy face.

The bathroom was pitch dark as I poked around in the back closets with a box and a garbage bag, waiting for my eyes to adjust. It felt weird to me to be salvaging windex, paper towels and toilet cleaner. It occurred to me I could just leave it for the salvage crew. I was numb, just going through the motions, trying not to feel too much. Tucked in the back was a box of Tampons with the top torn off. All my good customers knew it was there. I would occasionally bring a handful from home to refill it. All the women reading this know what I’m talking about. There were several left in the box, so I tucked them into my pocket, and tossed the empty box in the garbage bag. But it wasn’t empty….There was something heavy that was sliding around the bottom of the box as it hurtled toward the trash. I reached inside and pulled out the expensive watch my husband had given me for our 5th anniversary.

I stood there in the dark, the hair stood up on the back of my neck, and I started to shake, then I started to scream!
That watch had been “missing” for about 2 years.
My husband had just recently mentioned how disappointed he was that I hadn’t yet found it. We both knew I wasn’t someone who lost my jewelry. In my previous life as a jeweler, I had worn the watch a lot, but since opening the store, it seemed too fancy, and I only took it out of the safe for special occasions. I NEVER wore it to the store.
One day I had gone into the safe to get it……and it was gone.

Did I mention I found the watch on September 9th?
Our anniversary is September 9th.
The missing watch had mysteriously appeared after 2 years, on a sad but significant day, in an impossible place.
It was a sign. Don’t lose hope. Miracles occur.
I couldn’t call my husband fast enough.
(to be continued)

Epic Fail or Epic Win Part III

The claim was denied. Then it wasn’t.

Then the insurance wanted to pay me $10,000 to settle.
They sent a letter basically patting me on the head and sending their best wishes on my “fresh new start”.
I was advised not to settle, and I didn’t.

The 100-year-old pipe that ruptured was called a “trunk line”.
It is 6ft in diameter and carries water from the reservoir into the city. That night, I was told by a DWP official, 30,000 gallons a MINUTE had burst through the asphalt and formed a flash flood that took out my store. It took them over 6 hours to get the water off. DWP said to have my lawyer file the paperwork, and they would get back to me in a year and a half.
After all, they were busy, they were having water-main breaks almost daily. Days turned to weeks, weeks to months.

Now, I know life isn’t fair.

I once had a snarky t-shirt that said something to that effect.
But I did everything right, and I trusted the system. I carried the big insurance policy, with the giant monthly premium, I kept meticulous records. I had every receipt. My books were completely transparent, But somehow that wasn’t good enough.
Somewhere the tables had turned and I was the villain in this drama. They asserted that I somehow had a direct line to God, and had arranged for a flood to come and wipeout my store because business wasn’t great.
It was 2009. Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual Bank and Circuit City were among the over 200 big businesses to file bankruptcy that year.
They could have just asked God for a flood and saved themselves a lot of trouble.

After 18 months it was clear, I had to lawyer up to get any real money from the insurance company AND DWP. Oh yeah, and a third one because my landlord was suing me for every dime of back rent.

Realization number one:
Well, life isn’t fair is number one, so…
Realization number two:
Insurance companies will do ANYTHING …NOT. to. pay. you.
They will drag their feet, and lie and be just awful. And that surprised me.
Realization number three:
You still have to pay all the bills on a flooded, cut up, closed business.
No slack…no kidding. That STILL gives me a stomach ache.
Realization number four:
Next time ask God for a fire.

It’s feeling pretty Epic Fail right about now, isn’t it?
(To be continued)

Epic Fail or Epic Win Part IV

Let’s get to the Win, Right?
I’m gonna tie it all up now, in a nice neat bow.
Readers digest version. Get the Kleenex.
Kidding….sort of.

I sued and was sued every which way you can imagine.
And it is really not my nature. I’m not the litigious type.
I’m the artsy fartsy type. I’m a lover not a fighter.
I was a fish out of water…swimming with sharks.
I found myself wanting to blurt out in one of the numerous depositions, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Some of the people who worked with me were great. Gary and his company were great. Others were not. Let’s just leave it at that. You know who you are.

There were no more miracles.
God had shown off early in the game, with two back to back.
I was lucky to have those.
But the quota had been met, and now, she was uncharacteristically quiet.
She must have been working on more important matters…..Like world peace.

So I prayed for an answer. Why me? Silence
I prayed for relief. There was none.
I felt ignored and alone.
When I felt emotion at all, I felt rage. 
Now I realize she WAS there, she just wanted me to go inside.
To pull up my big girl pants, and find my own courage there.

After three years I eventually recouped 80% of the COST of my merchandise. Then the lawyers took 40% of that.
I owe everybody in the world money, and I’m slowly paying them off. I probably owe you some money…….get in line!

I’m normally an optimistic, happy person. My sister used to ask me “who blew sunshine up my ass.” This had turned me into a sad sack. I became super serious, with absolutely no sense of humor, (Which really COULD have saved me). 

I had absolutely NO coping skills whatsoever.

Some people handle adversity with strength, wisdom and grace. Yeah. That was NOT me. I wanted to go live under a bridge with the trolls. I hated answering the phone or looking at mail. It always seemed to be bad news.

But…I’m SO lucky!
Honestly!
I always had a roof over my head and plenty of chocolate to eat. My husband never left me, which was a miracle, given my disposition and the fact that 2009 sucked for his profession, construction, as well. We made it through with our deep un breakable love. Oh, come on! Let’s get real! That and copious amounts of wine.
My friends and family have also been there for me, helping me feel like I wasn’t a total deadbeat. “Look, you took a shot at your dream” they said.
Secretly grateful they still had their day jobs.

The bottom line is this:
I know things always work out for me.
I WILL pull a rabbit out of my hat!
This transition feels big, and beautiful and perfect.
So I’m now looking forward to the next chapter,
And I’m starting to believe that the best times of my life are ahead of me.
I’d say that’s an Epic Win!
(To be continued)

Epic Fail or Epic Win Finale
My reasons for sharing all of this are two fold.
The first is purely selfish I must admit. I still have a dark pocket of pain around this situation that still holds me down.
And I’m finally done.
I’m done with the shame.
I’m done being scared.
I’m done feeling unworthy.
I’m done not trusting myself because I think I led ME astray.
I’m done punishing myself 
And I’m done being diminished.
And by that I mean living a small and non abundant life, because I’ve listened to the peanut gallery, I think that’s what I deserve.

Here’s where the Epic Win comes in.
I NEVER would be writing this blog had things stayed the same. This energy has been wanting a conduit for 20 years and I wouldn’t allow it. Not as a jeweler, because I felt safe, and not as a store owner because I never had a minute.
But the real reason was: I wasn’t in enough pain.
There! I said it!
The pain made me do it, and it’s been such a gift.

So now that I’ve found this outlet of writing, 
I wanted to share my feelings at the same time I was processing 
all the curious things that happened around the loss of my business. It has been cathartic…and extremely uncomfortable.
Re living these events can bring me right back to the smells,
the sounds, and most importantly now, now that I’m finally able to really process them……the feelings.
I was in “get it done” mode, so I stayed pretty numb.
I’m done with numb!
When you numb the sadness you also numb the joy.
That is a price I’m no longer willing to pay.
I’m not certain if it was just that it’s the same time of year, 
or that four years have passed, Wow, It can seem like a million or the day before yesterday.

Maybe it’s my newfound commitment to vulnerability,
But I felt compelled to share this story via my blog.
What I know for SURE is we all experience a wake up call in our lives. It can be disguised as an accident or an illness, A panic attack at three in the morning, a divorce or break up, the death of a loved one or another profound loss.
It leaves us open and raw and ready for change.

So there you go!
That’s the second reason.
Everyone’s life looks so shiny and perfect from the outside.
Mine does. But here’s the thing, we all have our shit.
Really. You are not alone. Here’s MY expensive, crazy, messy, miracle inducing, Wake up call.
It’s changed me in ways I can’t even express.
But it didn’t kill me.
I’m a grown up now, my eyes are WIDE OPEN, and that’s a good thing. I feel endless empathy for people going through their hardships. “Been there, done that” big hugs. I’m kinder, more compassionate and thoughtful. I’m over pretending things are great when they’re not, so I’m an open book, (much to my husband’s chagrin, because he’s still pretty private).
I’m reaching out and helping people, at least that’s my intention.
Thanks for indulging me.

Now tell me your Epic Fail/Epic Win stories.

Xox 


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