Monday, November 29, 2010

Success As The Absence of Failure

Recently, my days at the café have become a series of "Lasts…"

On Thursday, we toasted The Last Thanksgiving at the Hot Flash Café.

We've decorated The Last Christmas Tree(s).

And I'm beginning to think about The Last Christmas Party.

In the months ahead, there will be The Last Valentine's Day Dinner; The Last Easter, Mother's Day and Father's Day Brunches. No, wait. No Father's Day. We'll be closed by then. Whew.

I look ahead to these things, not sure whether to dab at my misty eyes, or rub my hands together in anticipation. So conflicted. Guiltily happy; frustratingly maudlin. Shoot me now.

But it got me thinking, today, about success, and failure. What they are. Whether they are. Do success and failure even exist, in the context of personal busyness?

Not "business." Busy-ness. The things we do keep ourselves busy. Occupied. Off the streets and out of trouble. Alive and vital. Interested and in touch. Is success measured only by accomplishment, or in simply doing?

Because it's certainly true that we enjoyed a measure of success with the café. During these challenging economic times, our doors have remained open. We are solvent. Going on five years now. That's about as much as one can ask for, these days. But…it doesn't feel like success, really. Not as I imagine the world defines "success."

But, for me, perhaps the success was just in the doing. Coming as I do from a family of devoted non-risk-takers, the kind of people who get a job and stay with it for as long as it will have them, or as long as they can stand it, 'til death or retirement do they part… It feels like a tremendous victory to have stepped out and actually DONE the thing I thought I wanted most in the world.

That it turned out NOT to be the ultimate solution to my life, NOT my highest and greatest destiny, NOT the thing that completed me…doesn't seem to matter.

Because I would never have known that if I hadn't tried. I would always feel as if I had been short-changed by life, or as if I had short-changed life, if I had not at least given it a go.

Am I disappointed, disillusioned, distressed and exhausted as hell?


But I am NOT a failure.

I am left with that. That tiny leg up…to my next adventure.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Season of Letting Go


We cracked open a bottle of fourteen-year-old Dom Perignon (a years-ago gift that I found when I was cleaning out my pantry on Wednesday)

and drank a toast

to the last Thanksgiving at the Hot Flash Cafe.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Peace? Have I made peace with the coming major change in my life? It seems as if I have…at least for now. I don't quite know where the peace is coming from. But I won't chase it away…

I have a feeling that it partly comes from knowing that there will be an end to this. A stopping point. A point at which I can sit down, wipe my brow and declare, "Done!" For the past four years, I have not had the luxury of even considering that option.

When you run a business—a business that you have no business running by yourself—you are NEVER done. There is never a time when you can sit back, look at it and say, "I DID it." There is never a sense of achievement. You hardly have enough time to pat one accomplishment into place before turning to confront the Pile of UN-done things that you never seem to be able to get to. Pick one and start hammering away at it. Accomplish it, or not, depending on how many other fires you have to put out in the process. Meanwhile, ten other things have been added to the Pile.

I'm sure there are people out there who can live this way. Maybe there are even people who thrive under the pressure. There was a time when I thought I was one of those. 
And, truthfully, if I had only had to face that kind of life for one or maybe two years—kinda what I thought it would be when we went into it—I might have made it. 

But it just went on too long. Too many years of not being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Too many years of juggling…always with one or two things popping out of the pile I was trying to juggle and clattering away across the stage. And no lovely assistant to at least pick them up for me and chuck them back.

So now I can at least say, "In six months, I'll be DONE."

I'm finding it's a marvelous thing to look forward to.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Today, we broke the news to our landlord that we would not be renewing our lease. 
That's as official as it gets, I guess. And when he asked why, it was a lot easier to answer than I thought it would be.

"Basically, I cannot do this by myself anymore."

I'm surprised at how eagerly I have embraced this…this dissolution of the thing I thought I wanted more than anything else in the world. Mr. Landlord started making noises to the effect of giving us a month-to-month lease if we haven't sold the business by the time the lease is up.

"Absolutely not," I shot back, almost before the words had finished leaving his lips. "As of June 30, I'm done. Period. I'd be done as of today if I could."

We spoke to an agent last night…who basically told us we'd be lucky if we could GIVE away a business in this economic climate. Oddly enough, that didn't bother me. I knew there was a strong possibility that we would end up locking the doors and liquidating rather than turning the keys over to a new owner. In some ways, that is a far more attractive option to me than having to possibly train my replacement. For many reasons—some emotional, some practical—it will be a lot easier to just brush the dust from my hands and ride off into the sunset.

So, yeah…I'm counting the days. In fact, I realized today that it may be a much shorter time than I thought. I was thinking in terms of June 30—the day our lease is up—being my last day of work. Then I realized we will probably be closing the doors more like May 31—since we will only be responsible for paying June's rent, and that money comes out of May's proceeds.

Six months, then. Six months and twenty days, to be precise.

Yeah. I'm all over that.