Happy Birthday to Me!

Happy Birthday to me today!  I've got to load up my car to play a Kickstarter show at 1 pm and then hurry home so I don't miss the Justin Timberlake concert tonight (apparently they're going to be playing football, too).  Needless to say, I'll be typing quickly, as I have a lot to write about this week.

Here we go.

In my experience, people generally don't appear the same on the outside as they feel on the inside.  Smooth-talkers can be insecure.  Nervous folks can be resolved. Angry people are generally scared, and the ones who appear happy can be harboring a lot of sadness.  

I know we all know this, but just a friendly reminder.

My website shows me at my best. I have my hair and make-up done in photos.  I put up the good press I've received.  I show all the pictures from concerts where I was having a ball.  To the world, I look like I've got my act together, and that's usually how I like to appear.

Behind the scenes: I am a working mother with an income level that puts me below the poverty line.  I shop at Aldi, and most of my clothes, furniture, and kid toys come from The Salvation Army. I get lots of bad press, I rarely wear make-up, and I often play music to relatively empty rooms. I have spent the last 3 years of my life working unceasingly on renovating an old building into a brunch venue. Most days, I come home covered in sawdust, but there have been days that I've come home covered in other treasures I've unearthed, including dead mice, dead sparrows, dead pigeons, tar, drywall, soiled underwear, vomit, and human feces, as well as used toilet paper, feminine products, and heroine needles.

Now don't get me wrong: I made my bed.  This project was my decision, and I don't need a lick of sympathy for what I'm enduring.  I'm grateful for what I have.  It's more than what most people have got, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.*

(*I may--in fact--trade it for a million dollars so I could throw money at my problems.  But wouldn't we all.)

The point is, I'm a human. It's not pretty around here. I'm learning everything as I go, and I'm trying to operate with integrity, good will, and humor.

Where am I going with this?

In November, I reached the stage in my building renovations where I needed to hire professionals for things like HVAC, plumbing, and electric.  Having never done any of this work in my life, I reached out to friends for recommendations on who to hire.  Based on those recommendations, I put together an experienced, talented team of workers to help with the build-out.  I signed contracts.  Everybody is getting paid a fair wage, and we all get along well.  We've been going full-steam ahead since January 3rd.

Turns out, not everybody is in a union.

But most of them are.  I learned about my workers' union statuses only after the shake-downs started.  Union guys have been coming to my place for a few weeks, telling me I should get rid of any non-union workers and use them instead.  I tried telling them that I could not--in good conscience--break contract with those who l've already hired.  But that didn't stop the social media attack this week, threatening to boycott me, telling me I would lose a large portion of local support, and accusing me of eroding the standard of living of working class families.

Those last words--about eroding working class families--have shaken me to my core.  Not just because they're untrue, but because--had the union guys not come in guns blazing--I could have explained that I didn't know to ask about the union status of my workers.  And I could have asked to work with the union in the future.  And we could have sought to understand each other.  It's maddening. I'm pro-union.  And I'm still trying to figure out the best way to handle this going forward. 

The point of all of this? Reader, once again, let me issue that friendly reminder: not everybody is as they seem.  Perhaps the union people thought I was a devious, scheming, wealthy person trying to use cheap labor.  I don't know.  All I know is that nothing good comes from bullying, harassing, and intimidating.  Nothing.  It doesn't matter who the person seems to be; no soul is exactly who they are on the outside, and no soul changes for the better based on shaming.

So it's my birthday!  What do I want this year (besides more time, money, and Thai food)?  I want all of us, myself included, to remember that guilting people--even if you think they deserve it--is not a great way to elicit change.  People are complex.  There is depth to everyone. And a person only changes in their core through knowledge, reflection, and a lot of love and understanding. So as unnatural as it feels, let's get out there and love.  Sound naive?  I don't care. Let's love the people who live differently than we do. Let's love the ones that VOTE differently than we do.  Heck, let's even love our bullies.  That's where our hope for change lies.  See you next Sunday. -Em




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