I am a chronic migraineur who’s also a successful entrepreneur–I own two bookstores in Athens, Georgia and run them fairly well despite my health issues. I wrote the following letter to my Avid Bookshop staff in March 2017 during a bad migraine week.
Good afternoon, y’all.
Goodness knows you all have been a dream team in so many ways, from the open, sweet way you great every customer to your competence to your intelligence to your endless stream of ideas. As I’ve told you before (and as I know some of you have heard first person), I am frequently introduced to people as “Janet Geddis—she owns Avid Bookshop in Athens, and she has the best staff; they’re just amazing.” I am so proud to be your teammate.
On days like this I admit to being particularly proud. I’m typing this from my home office. Real talk: I’m unshowered and barefoot, wearing my robe over my pajamas even though it’s nearly one o’clock in the afternoon. Spring allergies are tickling my nose nonstop, and my slept-on hair is going in every direction. I keep sneezing as I type—it doesn’t escape me that I am a caricature of every 30-something woman in a cold medicine commercial. Each time I sneeze, my migraine brain seems to rattle painfully in my skull. I’m not exactly feeling my best.
Despite how capable and smart you are, and in spite of how you’ve thrived since T. became the manager last year, I know it’s hard on you when the big boss (that’s me!) is not present. When I know I’ll be traveling for work or pleasure, I can at least try to prepare by getting you in shape for the days to come. I pay bills in advance, let you know the protocol for emergencies, and make sure not to book any meetings or interviews while I’ll be gone.
But when I’m sick, it’s a different story. I don’t get forewarned before a multi-day attack and cannot adequately plan how to manage all these balls I’m dropping everywhere.
I’ve had migraine disease for over twenty years now, and for quite awhile I’ve been right on the cusp of chronic, meaning I have 15 or more days a month affected by migraine. While my migraine attack frequency is high, the attacks themselves don’t tend to be too severe most of the time these days (knock on wood). Key words: most of the time.
This last week has kicked my butt, though, and I know that migraine affects not only my personal life but also my professional life—and that includes you. You’re independent and trained to do your jobs well, but I know it’s helpful to have me around to count on. When I’m gone for just a day or so, the well-oiled machine that is Avid Bookshop doesn’t seem to falter. But when migraine steals me away many days in a row, causing me to scramble to get bookselling shifts covered and cancel meetings, I know there is a ripple effect, a wobbly circle of stress and unsteadiness that affects the entire operation. You handle it with grace and agility, but I still hate that my illness can bring stress to the business and to you all in particular.
Those of you who’ve known me for awhile know my thought process isn’t exactly marked by clarity during attacks, so I hope you’re able to follow my thoughts in this letter.
In sum: I’m writing to say thank you for being my team, my Avid family. Thank you for catching the balls when I drop them. Thank you for making customers smile day after day, and thank you for bringing this bookshop dream to life not only for me but for yourselves. Thank you for the thoughtful emails and texts when I’ve been away from work for awhile. Thank you for being the open-hearted people you are, for making it possible for me to be honest with you about my struggles. I could not be more proud to call you friends and coworkers.