Staying Open: The Business of Life

May 02, 2020

Photograph by Tim Mossholder

In times of uncertainty ‘staying open’ calls for us to embrace the complexity of our feelings — the ups, downs and everything in between


Staying ‘open’ is more than physically keeping the doors to the café unlocked and food pumping out of the kitchen…it’s about this big, beautiful, messy, uncertain, certain life. It’s about feeling it all, the polarity of our emotions, the complexity of our souls — navigating, navigating, navigating.

It’s about holding onto those pieces and parts of ourselves no matter what comes our way (and God knows a lot has come our way of late!).

I’ve been sharing this crazy COVID-19 ride with you as we went along, but honestly, I’ve only been sharing the parts I wanted to. I pushed the other stuff into compartments…as if to say, Not now! I don’t have time to deal with you.

Anyone who knows me, knows I am bound and determined to show up for life with my pom poms — cheerleading. But that’s only part of the story, the part that wants to make everyone believe that everything will be OK.

When coronavirus was just a whisper, my gut was nudging me, sending me warning signals. But I did as I do…I dug my heels in and worked overtime to help everyone believe we’d all stay safe, we’d all make it through and I was going to make sure.

Of course, we all know how that story played out.

And despite feeling really proud of what I have accomplished — how I am one of the few businesses that has managed to stay open from day one and that will weather this storm — as more CLOSED signs appeared in our sweet town, as more cases of COVID-19 were reported, as more fear consumed my community…feelings of defeat still set in.

Maybe, just maybe I couldn’t hold this all together for all of us. Maybe I had to allow my own fear to the surface. Maybe I had to stop flogging myself. Maybe I had to learn to stay open in a new way. Maybe I needed to surrender to it all.

Could I lose all that I have worked for the past 20 years? Perhaps.

Would we stay healthy? Maybe not.

Would my community and country survive this. I don’t know.

Just sharing this helps release some of the compression. This is bigger than me and as a matter of fact, this is all of me. I’m a cheerleader and a human being. I want to convince you that it will all be alright and I’m scared. Just like you.

So, I just keep showing up. Each morning I arrive early at the café, long before it opens —  pour myself a cup of coffee, turn on the lights and music, lean on the counter and peer through the windows to stare out at my quiet town. This routine has always been a sacred slice of grace. And yet, now there is nothing to witness. Town doesn’t stir and awaken to hustle and bustle, no one is passing by waving good morning. There at the counter, it’s just me, my town and I — breathing more deeply, trying to regulate feelings; the bittersweet, the yearnings, the worry, the blessings, the fear, the gratitude, the stress.

But that’s just it. It’s a mixed bag. We are a mixed bag feeling the polarity of this journey. It’s exhausting to constantly try to categorize everything into ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, ‘left’ or ‘right’, ‘black’ or ‘white’.  This is simply too much work, exhaustive work…so, I sit with it.

All of this reaction to each new development in the news and denial of how it was all making me feel left me depleted. I’ve abandoned many of my go-to’s, the routines that are holy to me like morning prayer, reading, walking, stretching. I need to find my way back to self.

For now, I still show up each morning. I stare at the tulips I continue to buy to fill our cafe with life and beauty and I realize — they have become a talisman for me. They calm me and remind me that even when they bend over…there is magnificence in the experience of this weight of burden and heaviness. Look around. Heighten your senses. Allow them to whisper to you. What do you see?

Yes, we are in a time of great uncertainty. Systems and structures that we have relied upon are being compromised. And yes, we may need to shift and adjust with it…but guess what? We’re still here. We are still standing. I do believe doors will open again and we will come out of this. I don’t know what it will look like, but I want to be open…to life in her fullness.

Today, I  hold onto what I can: smiles on the faces of my staff, the ringing phone, people showing up.

I remind myself that nature doesn’t stop, the sun sets and rises, spring is blooming, birds are chirping, the curve is flattening. My daughter True tells me she loves me, my kitties purr, I am safe and blessed beyond.

‘Open for business’ has taken on a whole other meaning and includes this flip flopping of thoughts and feelings…because they are real in this moment. Embrace your wholeness dear ones. Stay open for the business of YOU.

— Lea Haas, Owner, The Garden Café Woodstock

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