This post was originally published on the Being Boss blog on September 7th, 2016.
Life has a way of throwing some wicked curve balls. Things can be going great—the family is happy, business is growing, the home is cozy. Life is good. And then BAM. The ax falls.
This happened to me about a year and a half ago when my little boy was diagnosed with Craniosynostosis. The seam in his skull that runs from ear to ear had fused prematurely and his brain didn’t have enough room to grow. He would need a major reconstructive surgery.
During my postpartum period, I had a hard time adjusting to life as a new mom. I kept piling my plate higher with projects and clients, driving myself and my husband totally batty in the process. I knew that I would have to handle this new situation differently. I needed to clear my plate and unplug.
Coping With Difficult Emotions
The four months leading up to the operation were fraught with fear and worry. Within a few days of getting the bad news, I went about putting my business on hold. I set my Etsy shop to vacation mode and created autoresponders for incoming email. I had a couple of client projects on my plate that I was able to wrap up. As a side gig, I work as an editorial assistant for a wedding blog, so I contacted my colleagues to let them know I would be offline for at least a month.
Of course, everyone’s situation is unique and putting business completely on hold may not be an option. It’s a good idea to delegate wherever possible and minimize any stressful or emotionally charged interactions. For me, I was feeling pretty lackluster about wedding invitations and emotionally drained by the customer service aspect of the work, so hitting the pause button felt right.
My son’s operation went very smoothly, and we were lucky to catch the problem in time. However, the recovery period was incredibly challenging. The experience was emotionally traumatic for my son, and he ended up regressing developmentally quite a bit. (If your child or the child of a loved one is facing synostosis repair, please don’t let this scare you. Developmental regression is rare, and full recovery generally happens relatively quickly.)
In the weeks just after we came home, he was on heavy pain medication. He and I spent all day every day lying on the couch together. This was a strange time for me. All kinds of funk started to bubble up from the depths of my psyche. So I went on a little bit of a self-help bender.
These are the gems that I found most helpful:
- When Things Fall Apart
- Radical Acceptance
- Heart of Forgiveness
- Start Where You Are
- The Miracle of Mindfulness
- The Power of Now
As great as all that introspection is, it can get a bit heavy. Mixing things up with some fiction is a good way to lighten up. Here are a couple recent favorites:
The Importance of Self-Care
Being a caregiver is very demanding. Practicing good self-care is a must! For me, this started at a pretty rudimentary level: self-talk. With no distractions around, I became painfully aware of how negative my self-talk was: from my life-long struggle with a crummy self-image, to the sinking feeling that the timeline of my life was not shaping up as I planned, to the guilt I felt about having unwittingly passed along a heavy genetic burden to my sweet little boy. Up until now, an undercurrent of self-abasement was kind of an unquestioned given in my thinking. Being able to take a step back and acknowledge that was a big deal all by itself and over time by practicing mindfulness, I’ve been able to keep that tendency in check.
Resources I found most helpful for self-care:
- This ecourse offered by Vital Medicine that changed the way I think about my health.
- The Vitality Map by Dr. Zucker
- Superfood Kitchen cookbook
- These journaling and writing prompts
- Woman’s Comfort Book
Overcome The Anxiety Of Not Being Productive Enough
Taking a leave of absence from business has been hard, but I had to do it. Prior to my son’s operation, my business focus was primarily custom wedding invitations. Talk about a tough customer! I knew I couldn’t deal with client work during my son’s recovery, but I still wanted to feel like I was making progress and being productive. I took some fun ecourses for textile design, stationery business, Illustrator for print production, and a paper/book arts class.
During this time I read Firestarter Sessions and Desire Map. The timing was perfect! I was completely uninspired to get back to custom wedding invitations. These two books helped me to reconsider my goals and as a result, I decided to revise my business model. I found licensing opportunities for my stationery and textile designs (Society6, Zazzle, Spoonflower) and decided to focus my energy on fine art, especially book arts.
My family is lucky in that we can get by on my husband’s income, but I know this isn’t the case for everyone and the loss of income can be devastating. But there are some crowdfunding platforms to help raise money for emergencies:
After about a month of being completely offline, I returned to my side gig in a limited capacity. Minimizing social media interactions and focusing more on behind-the-scenes stuff helped to stave off overwhelm. For bosses who are unable to put their business on hold, the best advice I can offer is to delegate and automate as much as possible. I found the care packages from Cranio Care Bears to be extremely supportive during this time. And for the early days after surgery or childbirth, a meal tree can be a life-saver.
The Silver Lining
It’s been about a year and a half since my son’s surgery and in some ways, he’s still recovering, but the worst is behind us. He’ll be in preschool four days a week this fall and I’ll be getting back to work. This experience put a lot of things into perspective for me. I know with every fiber of my being that my sweet family is everything to me and putting my creative ambitions on hold for a while is not that big of a deal. I managed to face and befriend some of my own personal demons. I also have a much clearer vision of what I want to focus on creatively. I’ll be licensing out my design work so I can focus on fine art. I have a ton of ideas for fine art projects and I can’t wait to get in the studio! As luck would have it, I just happened to discover the Being Boss Clubhouse and have found it to be incredibly supportive.
If you’re struggling with a hardship, my heart goes out to you and I hope that what I’ve shared here can be of some help.
For the past couple of years, I've been choosing a 'word of the year' as I reflect on the year that just passed and get ready for the year ahead. My family and I had some big challenges over the past few years and things are finally starting to settle down. It's so satisfying to just stop and enjoy each other's company. This is going to be a year of nurturing.
I started off by focusing on my physical health, which I haven't paid much attention to in a while. I'm on day 24 of my first Whole30 now and feeling great! Whole30 is a 30 day elimination diet, that focuses of nutrient dense whole foods. The diet eliminates grains, sugar, legumes, additives and alcohol. It turns out I love eating this way! I have a ton of energy, I went down two belt notches and it's helped me to evaluate some bad habits. Perhaps best of all is that the care and attention that I've brought to my relationship with food has had a domino effect into other areas of my life. I feel more patient, organized and focused. Yay!!
All this got me thinking about systems. Fun, right?! Actually it kind of is. I hate a messy workspace, whether it's the kitchen or the office. The French culinary phrase "mise en place" which means "putting in place" has inspired me to take a minimalist and ergonomic approach to work. Everything in it's place, single tasking. For business systems, I started using Asana, a free online project management program. The book Work Clean has been on my reading list for a while; it's about mise on place as it relates to work and life. When it comes to systems for life, I start to get a little overwhelmed. This post by Leo Babauta of zen habits does a great job of outlining how systems can bring simplicity and ease into the everyday.
Another area of my life that I really want to nurture this year is creativity. I have some projects planned that will be all about fun, experimentation and collaboration. (Sneak peaks to come!) I'm not going to be worrying about trends or what Pantone's color of the year is. I will be exploring new processes and techniques. Next month I'm going to sign up for this ecourse: Personal Mythmaking. I'm super excited about this course! I think the course material will tie in really well with a big, crazy art project I'm working on now. (You can take a peek at that project here.)I've taken a few of Janelle Hardy's online workshops and have loved each one. Her classes have become a sanctuary for me.
I've learned the hard way that if I don't take care of myself, being around me (or being me, for that matter) isn't much fun. I feel snippy, grumpy, frumpy and totally put upon. Fuck that! I get the sense that life is challenging me to be my best. If that means saying no to some opportunities I don't have time for or eliminating some energy draining habits, fine by me. I'm thinking less mindless Netflix watching in the evenings, more snuggling, giggling and conversation. At the end of the day, that's what it's really all about.
Textile design has been a passion of mine for a long time. I studied textile design in college, worked in textile restoration and exhibited my designs in a NY trade show a few years ago. Recently, I started sharing my designs on Society6, a print-on-demand website. I love the variety of products that they offer: home decor, stationery, tech cases and clothing. Everything is manufactured domestically and the quality is excellent.
This collection, Arabesque, was inspired by Eastern architecture and textile motifs. I kept the color palette simple, shades of peacock blue. The focus of this collection is the interplay of intricate design elements. You can see the whole collection here.
The dreamy wall art is a reproduction of a monoprint. I love monoprint techniques and the enormous variety of textures that can be created. It's also very process driven and experimentation is a big part of the process, which I find incredibly fun! This print is available in a variety of sizes, framed and unframed. Check it out here.
Thanks for looking! Let me know what you think of this collection in the comments:)
Where to begin? A lot has happened. I've been on the down-low for about a year and a half due to some pretty intense family stuff, which forced me to slow down and take stock of a lot of things. I've re-launched Odd Duck Press with focus on fine art and home decor. Since I'm just getting back to work after a really long break, I thought I'd share some of the resources that helped me get back into the groove.
Finding Balance and Connection
Being a solo business owner, mama and wife is tough; feeling pulled in a hundred directions at once. By practicing mindfulness, I've been able to spend more time in the moment rather than obsessing over all of the things not getting done, which has really improved my quality of life.
As a loner (and kind of a contrarian) by nature, the notion of finding a professional network that I really click with always struck me as pretty far-fetched. I was wrong! Just a few months before my re-launch, I discovered the Being Boss Clubhouse and it's been a huge help. Having a network of like-minded, super knowledgeable, wildly creative go-getters is indispensable.
Reconnecting With the Joy of the Creative Process
Shifting my focus to fine art and surface design has been a real game changer. A couple of books that helped to inspire that shift were Big Magic and The Desire Map. I'm picking up where I left off on a big project that's been waiting patiently for about a decade. Yikes! How does that kind of thing even happen? It's a bit surreal. Here's a peek at the work in progress. The final piece will be 50 8"x8" panels.
How do you find balance and connection in your busy life? Are you working on any projects that light you up? I'd love to hear; please share in the comments:)