The problem with problems
An esteemed philosopher once wrote, 'Mo money mo problems'. I first came across this pearl of wisdom at the age of 11 and immediately disregarded it as nonsense because at that time I had exactly no money and many problems. Furthermore, my problems were of the variety 'My trainers don't light up when I run', 'There's never enough ice-cream in the fridge', 'I've got a comb stuck in my hair', most of which could have been completely solved by money. (Regrettably, the comb problem was not solved by money but instead by olive oil and a saw - I'm not kidding - and the outcome was that I spent the next year looking like a short, brown Backstreet boy whilst I waited for my curtains to grow out.)
Today, however, I've realised that Biggie was right all along. Our business has grown substantially over the last few months and we're delighted. Or at least we will be delighted as soon as we shake these headaches. I distinctly remember lying in bed one night when we first embarked upon this journey daydreaming about the day that we would be inundated with orders. I pictured an office filled with sunshine and laughter, birds chirping at the window, squirrels arranging glorious blooms on the mantelpiece, Jack and I, a vision of serenity, reclining on a stack of pillows sipping on passionfruit daiquiris whilst a team of happy little fellows packed our cards. This is NOT what it looks like. It looks like 3am in a dimly lit room, piles of cards on every surface, two neglected cups of coffee hidden under a flurry of post-it notes, Jack staring at me absently through a pair of bloodshot eyes whilst he picks the self-seal tabs of the cellophane bags from out of my hair. It looks like panic when more orders marked 'Urgent' flood in and you know that your next delivery of stock is still five days away. It is the despair that sweeps through your body as you discover that the envelope people are having some issues and they don't know when they'll be able to ship your envelopes. It is the desperation when you notice that someone has stolen an entire weeks worth of packaging materials. It is the disappointment when you have to admit to yourself that no-one stole anything, you're just the moron who forgot to place the order last week. It is the moment your nervous system breaks down when your stock finally arrives and you realise it's all wrong and you'll have to wait another five days for it to be corrected. It is the quiet acceptance that this isn't just a rough patch, this is business.
But then I take myself back a few months. We were having a terrible, terrible week. For no apparent reason, the orders had suddenly slowed right down. The one week that we actually had every item of stock in abundance, the week that we could have handled a snowstorm of orders, none came. (Stupid Sod and his stupid law). I tried to push the dark thoughts away. It was just a blip, maybe the phone lines were down, maybe my email was broken, maybe everyone had gone on holiday, maybe there had been an earthquake. But as I stared out into the remarkably placid garden I knew deep down that there had been no earthquake. I went outside and wept. I have to point out here that I am very rarely moved to tears, and certainly never by fear. Trapped alone in a burning building at the age of fourteen, no tears. Shot in the arm as I drove home from work, no tears. (I'm just going to leave those entirely true statements there without explanation and casually move on. Jack hates it when I do that.) So it came as quite a surprise to learn that when I do finally succumb to total fear, it's really rather dramatic. I sank to my knees next to the flower bed and ripped apart a peony, petal by petal. When I saw what I had done, I threw myself to the floor and wept some more. It was really quite awful, and a tad premature. The very next week we took record sales. But it's important to me that I remember that day, that I remember the sheer terror that consumed me. Because when the shit's hitting the fan and we're up to our necks in problems I will know that we can take it. We can handle the stress, we can handle the chaos, we can handle anything that comes our way, as long as it's not defeat. Or accidental curtains.