The Kindness of Strangers, and the Importance of Friends

So this pandemic, right?!

Sheesh. Everyone has suffered to differing degrees during this crazy time. I still feel extraordinarily fortunate that none of my family or friends has gotten physically sick. All of our lives have been impacted, and now that the intense fear seems to subside a bit, the stress of it all has begun to reveal itself to me. I’ve started to show my cracks lately, and I’m more easily disposed to tearing up or having an intense sob sneak up on me all quick-like.

It’s an emotional time.

So personally, the ways in which my little family, my husband, daughter and I, have been impacted are not that special or different from most other people. My shop, Handcraeft, totally exploded with sales in April. It was incredible. I felt a little bit guilty enjoying the success of my shop when so many people around the world were suffering and sacrificing so much. But I also took seriously the fact that so many people were searching for meaningful ways to pass the time, time in their daily lives that, for a while, looked a bit different.

I exchanged some of the most tender, sweet, thoughtful messages with customers all around the world, sending me good thoughts and healthy wishes, telling me to take care and sending virtual hugs. This was a simultaneously terrifying and heart-squeezy time.

So yes, the shop has been doing great. I’ve sent hundreds of orders all over the world since the beginning of the year, but guess what: it’s taking forever for some folks to get their packages. Some folks are getting really anxious and annoyed that their things, the things they wanted to have to help them pass the time, never arrived in time. I get it. I also ordered stuff online for similar reasons that definitely did not arrive on time. I received a one-star review in my shop this past week, solely because the mail is taking too long, which is 100% out of my control, and I totally lost it. I was so upset. Worse, because I have hustled and tried so hard to keep up with everyone whose packages have gone astray, or are traveling by boat (seriously). The overwhelming majority of folks are understanding and patient. Others, not so much. I guess sometimes it’s easier to have someone to blame.

I’m not going to change the way I do things, and I’m trying my best to feel all the feels, yet still keep a smile on my face. I can honestly say I am doing the best I can, and I am intensely proud of my burgeoning little business. My dear husband has been a champ, and has been super supportive of me through this whole thing. My little one is turning six this summer, and she’s definitely shown her cracks throughout this crisis. I’m so happy to see that we’ve taught her well how to name and express the emotions she’s feeling. It is deeply rewarding as a mother to witness my child benefit from our guidance in how she copes with life.

This experience has shown me, reminded me, that the kindness of strangers should never, ever be underestimated. As I write this, it chokes me up to think of the supportive words of some of my customers, especially those who now feel like friends. I’ve been candid and honest in my exchanges, and this has reminded me of the value and importance of being authentic. I know I can be a bit emotionally flingy, but you know what, that’s how I am. I like that about myself. I wear my heart out, right out there on my sleeve for everyone to see.

The other thing I’ve discovered, or rather rediscovered, is a yearning for deep, long-lasting connections with people. It’s so hard to have moved across the planet at 40 and have to start all over again, to forge new connections, and to be patient enough to have new friends long enough for there to be any history, share stories and inside jokes. I definitely like my new friends. But I miss my old friends. I find myself daydreaming about sleepovers and whispering secrets, and prank-calling people with my best friend on her double-receiver Swatch phone. I miss her. I miss eating french fries dipped in frosties and Taco Bell after school, giggling about boys and passing very important notes.

And, oh, living in Portland in my 20s and 30s. Good glory! My apartment at The Rasmussen. Karaoke at Chopsticks, cheese fries at Dot’s, pinball at the Flag and late nights at Beulahland with my friends on and around 28th. It’s a visceral craving; the stuff that makes for deep, long-term connections, great stories and inside jokes.

I’m a very sentimental person by nature, and I realize I’m selectively plucking out favorite memories to remember. Sometimes I spend too much time missing versions of me that were and won’t be again. Do you do that? Of course, no time in my life was lived without good and bad. That lightness and darkness exists always, but the strangers and friends we meet and hold dear can keep us company and help the lightness to outshine the darkness, to feel brighter and warmer and better.

I know that plenty of other people and shops sell a lot of the same things I do. But I sincerely hope that it will be apparent, by the way I put things out into the world, that there is meaning and love, giggles and tears and good intentions behind all that I do, make, sell and send. This business of mine has been built slowly and carefully, and everything about it is heavily laced with experiment and experience, nostalgia, wisdom, struggle and joy. There’s an undeniable, tangible influence by the women in my family who have also practiced textile arts and other related creative arts. All of us are (and were) scrappy and stubborn, resourceful and resilient. Self-discovery is a life-long process, and for me, having this creative outlet, made richer with familial connections, is absolutely my saving grace.

I turn to my stitch practice for sustenance, of which there is an endless supply. I am grateful to be here to share it with you, and hope that my presence here can somehow shine a little lightness your way. 🖤



2 Responses

  1. Hey Jennifer, I totally relate to your post. It’s been strange times, where life had a different speed. I too have been emotional at times, crying for no obvious reason other than it was just overwhelming. Life (school, kids, work) went on, but with a different set of rules and a different speed. I found it hard to adjust at times, although it had some definite upsides as well! I truely hope we can catch up soon, Ive missed you! Take care, all my love and best wishes to you and your family ❤️

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