Photograph of fallen balloon by Nathan Dumlao

Navigating Conflict: Defending Yourself & Maintaining Integrity

Sep 06, 2020

Photograph by Nathan Dumlao

An affront to my business is challenging my will — and soul — in ways that keep me growing yet true to myself

“Momma, you are so easily tricked,” my daughter True, says to me with her sweet smile, shaking her head. As they say, out of the mouth of babes. We can learn so much from our children if we listen, and thankfully I am blessed with a wise one reflecting back at me.

She’s right. I know this about myself. I stumble and fall over it often because I believe in goodness, kindness and redemption to the core of my being. I see life’s glass ½ full, not empty. I don’t like to give up on people. I hold fiercely to possibility. Most of all, I believe that things don’t happen to you, but rather for you. And yes, I know that can be a bitter pill to swallow (which I’ve been swallowing a lot of lately.)

Sometimes you have to see the writing on the wall…and allow yourself to let go, walk away or push back.

Whenever something happens in my life I try to pause, breathe, pray and to ask it…what do you want me to do with this? What am I supposed to see?

I have had a very personal, behind-the-scenes battle going on for years now that only those closest to me know has existed because I’ve kept it under wraps beneath my smiles. It has rattled me, enraged me, frightened me and undermined me. It sucks the life force from me, wastes my energy. It brings up the worst in me and makes me want to scream from the mountain tops. It stresses me and has manifested physically within me from time to time. It makes me want to hide under the covers and cry…why me? It challenges my safety, security — and my café. It has been my cross to bear. 

But like a fierce Mama, I show up and fight for my café baby over and over. Because more than just my lifeline, she is my creation, my community, my calling, my service. But when you are a person of faith, who talks to buildings, listens to angels and knows that things always work out…you also need to be willing to stop digging in your heels.  

That said, being a ‘good’ person doesn’t mean walking away from conflict or being a doormat.

We can’t always understand the motivation of others, but we can keep reminding ourselves that whatever we are dealing with, whatever level of stress and strife — it is OK to stand in your truth and defend yourself. You are still a good person.

This café has been a sanctuary. In ways we built each other — we sheltered and allowed each other to blossom and bloom into all that we could become. Those of you who have been following me for years know that I spent my life working for others — learning from them, loving their businesses as my own. The Garden Café, a manifestation of a dream I once dreamed, taught me what I was capable of. And you, my divine community are living proof of that.

And you know what a loving employer does? They do the same to ignite the dreams of their employees. During the past 5 years, I have felt like a Momma bird shoving employees out of the nest and into their own dreams even when it hurt to let them go.

But then this unexpected obstacle presented itself, and presented itself and presented itself…with one motive: to put me out of business, to get me to move. Yes, even during COVID. And it continues to do so.

I share this with you, not to get into the details right now, but to demonstrate how we can use the things that happen to us, the stressors and the strains. Yes, even the ones that seem never ending.

Life will present bumps in the road, but we can decide how to drive around them.

The café isn’t just a building or a garden or a source of money. Much like a house, I feel it has a soul. I talk to it regularly. I thank it for its support and shelter. I thank the land and honor the indigenous peoples who lived on it before any of us. I pray for protection and guidance.

Interestingly, after another recent frustrating email communication, I was in the garden rattled and clearing plates and scraping food scraps as my heart pounded and adrenaline pumped. Suddenly, I heard the words, “trust me.” And you know what? I did. I didn’t go down my usual route of unraveling and reacting. Maybe I’m naïve, but deep within I believe that things work out even if I didn’t understand how, when or why — even if I don’t like the end result.

I’ve got hurdles before me. This situation is far from over for me, but I’m committed to navigating it differently. Standing up for what I know is right and true is honoring this beautiful gift. Accepting what unfolds is a spiritual journey.

When I look around, I don’t focus on my challenges. My life is a bounty of miracles, blessings, support and abundance. I love sitting in the café at the crack of dawn. Don’t tell anyone, but I often sneak in here in the early morning wearing my pajamas. We just sit together side by side breathing each other in. Giving thanks. I’m grateful to love what I do.

I don’t yet fully know what life is trying to reveal to me with this situation, but I do know that I’m going to keep dishing up love on every plate — and I’m saying prayers of gratitude for you and my precious staff.

Remember, whatever is before you, whatever is rattling you, or making you feel vulnerable — ask it what you need to see. And then have the courage to know, you can handle it. We are each a work-in-progress doing the best we can. We will get through this and we are so lucky to have each other.

—Lea Haas, Owner, The Garden Café Woodstock


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