It's Thursday, January 28: The 4th day of the work week, 4 months into building my new business from scratch, four o'clock PM, and I am:
Completely. Melting. Down.
In my kitchen. Taking my husband, who is just walking in the door, quite by surprise. Its the end of a day of high productivity, after a week of high productivity. But for some reason, I find myself at the height of dissatisfaction and frustration with myself and my business. In the height of my drama, I enter another reality, the way you do when you really need to have a big cry and your psyche produces whatever whacked interpretation of your life that it takes to finally get you to let it all out. I bet many of you who are building businesses (or doing any kind of epic project) have been there, right?
But it alarms me. Because I am usually very good at rolling with punches, remembering the long haul, celebrating my victories, finding reassurance and joy in creativity and loving myself in the midst of uncertainty. I am a person who brings new things into being. I make things, big things, out of nothing. And I enjoy the cliff edges. This is how I roll, and its what I love.
As the storm clears I am able to WTF my situation, and unpack the drama to its sources, or at least to its triggers. And it looks something like this:
MISSTEP NUMBER ONE
This week, I got hoodwinked by the toxic myth that says:
If you work really, really hard, you will succeed.
Blood, sweat and tears, baby. No pain, no gain!
Not "if you work efficiently and passionately towards a well-planned goal, you will succeed." And not "if you take really good care of your mind, body and spirit, and stay true to your values and vision, and do your work in its proper time and place, you will succeed." And not even "If you stay connected to people and the earth, and nourish your relationships, and keep your channels of creativity open, you will succeed." nope - its just about hard work. And if anything stressful or uncertain is rambling down the road towards you, WORK HARDER.
I've found that this mindset is a quick road to self-exploitation. Its the sick pace of our larger economic system - you know that one that exploits natural resources to the point of mass extinction? The one that exploits human beings through slavery, historically and in the present? That one - trickling down from the macro to the micro, and settling right into those muscles in our shoulders. Sinking right into our nervous systems, right into those places where we feel small, ashamed, and afraid.
As soon as I remembered this, the words spilled out of my mouth: I am not here to be fracked, mined. My mountaintops will not be removed. My fossil-ancient sources of energy will remain in my cool, dark earth. I will not exploit myself. Ever. No matter how scared I may occasionally feel!
A business is not a to-do list, a race, or a battle. Its is a creation. Creations are each unique, and each must unfold in its own time, at its own pace. To rush it is to lose focus and harm yourself and/or your business. To truly embrace this perspective is countercultural - its a paradigm shift that must be defended, daily, against the culture of WORK HARDER, SACRIFICE YOURSELF FOR SUCCESS that surrounds us.
A body is precious, and is not to be exploited. The body's pace is its own, not to be dominated or owned by the time of markets, of business, or the violent pace of contemporary culture. To rush it does harm to the body and the spirit, and confuses the mind.
MISSTEP NUMBER TWO
Whoops. I looked for too much help!
That's right. Those of you know know me know that I am the world's biggest champion for support and connection. If I remade the world my way, none of us would ever even take a pee by ourselves.
So what's the problem? This week I watched excellent free training videos, read informative blog posts, and generally absorbed every bit of good business building perspective I could - from some of the people I most admire and respect in the business world online. People from whom I am receiving a top-notch education to support my business, and to whom I feel tremendous gratitude for the value they provide. Sweet, right?
Yes, when that outward attention is in balance with a hearty practice of looking inward, slowing the f--- down and listening for the wisdom and information that comes from within, and in my experience, the earth. This week, as a component of the DRIVEN way I was working, all that good education was turning into a kind of obsessive consumption of information. Does that ring a bell? Obsessive self-education. A seeking of answers and info from out there - while in here is simply ignored. And when in here is neglected, out there becomes a destructive rather than generative force.
As all of this becomes clear on Thursday night, I decide: Friday is slowdown day, self care day - a day of reflection. To break the addiction of information consumption, and the addiction to hard work for its own sake, and care for my body, mind and soul. To fill the well, choose TRUST - in my own business, and in TIME: the time of the body, the time of my creations. To once again retrain myself to shift into a paradigm of health: in money, business, creative practice and especially in body. To listen to my next steps and trust what I hear.
THE DREAM THAT NIGHT
I am taking classes at a university. Running from room to room, taking tests, buying books. Leaving to work at a restaurant, then back to school. I am happy, productive. Working hard. Every once in a while, I remember something important. REALLY important: that the day before, I had given birth. To a baby. My infant son. That my mother, bless her heart, is caring for him in my dorm room while I take classes. As I remember, I am horrified that I am taking classes instead of caring for my sweet new baby, falling in love with him, feeding him with my body. I try to hold on to the memory of my baby, as the distractions creep back in. And then I forget again, and I am running, running. Several classes later, my mother calls.
"Amy, you need to come back here and feed your baby. Your milk is going to dry up. Your milk is drying up."
Overwork and distraction are not simply annoying addictions for the reasons we usually think, like they leave little time for our leisure activities, or they make us eat addictively, or raise our blood pressure. Overwork and distraction is devastating for another reason.
There is a beautiful, innocent, and infinite creature waiting for us, and its our humanness. Its our creativity - our very soul. Its need us - rested, open, receptive, willing to be in slow time, willing to listen. It needs the milk of our attention and our confidence, our vulnerability and our wildness. It needs us to take a stand against the violent pace of the outside world, and curl up with it in a sunbeam for the afternoon. Without it fed and loved, our accomplishments can never mean much - to us or to the world.
I decided to build my own business after being diagnosed with an illness that forced me to slow down and heal. I took a vow the day I began this business: If its not sustainable to my body and soul, its not worth doing. I remake this vow over and over, as I learn what it actually means to do this. Im grateful for this week's lessons, and for the dream I was given.
Is your business sustainable for you? What would it take to make it so - what myths and cultural patterns will you have to resist? What within you will be able to awaken?