COVID Times and Business

Disclaimer: It’s a little all over the place, but writing is how I process so it is what it is. This is not referencing my newest venture of Doux Wild, but it’s possible the changes will lead up to spending more time on it.

When my car is silent on the way to work, it’s a clear indication I have too much on my mind. Music is an outlet and an expression. If I need to blow off some steam, that is the best avenue to let it all go.

When no sound is coming from the speakers and I’ve arrived at my destination without recalling the trip there, I realize I’ve got some serious contemplation going on. Another indicator: Overwhelming grief – even though I haven’t lost anything. Or I’ve ordered a coffee and I already have one in my hand.

2020 was supposed to be a banner year. As a business owner, our numbers were up significantly in month 1 & 2 and after four long, hardworking years, I was looking forward to bringing in an income that didn’t equal $1/hour. (Honestly, it might be less than that, but whatevs.) We have hit all our goals, both financially and in the services we offer.

Like everyone else, the last three months has changed everything. The experience was eye-opening. It was then I realized that in 3 months (March – May) is when my business makes the most money. I knew spring was our busy season, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t shocked finding out that we lost a half years income in that time span. Maybe being this far in, I should’ve known my numbers better, but that’s the hazard of working IN the business… it takes away from working ON it.

This realization was a devastating blow. I knew I’d be essentially starting over, but losing that much money in such a short period of time was crushing.

I can’t fully put into words what being home for that long was like. There were some really nasty parts – like getting sick twice – and losing full days because of it. I remember wanting to use the opportunity to restructure and brainstorm about the future. Brainstorming is a creative process and I love the planning that takes place. But I couldn’t even do that. I had migraines like I’ve never experienced and an overwhelming urge to sleep (when I wasn’t homeschooling the kids). It was consuming.

At the same time, there were some really amazing things. We had family and friends show up when we needed it most – and they didn’t even know it. Small acts of kindness filled my heart. Snuggling with my family and having full days outside was spectacular. Movie nights, popcorn and camp outs in the living room… I loved every single bit of it.

This forced lifestyle change really shed some light on areas I need to be spending my time, both personally and in business. I looked at my life and what was / wasn’t working for me. I realized that the pressure I put on myself and the level at which I want my business to run, doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.

I have a vision of what it means to be a business owner and contributing member of our community. It’s a high standard. Oddly, I’ve created a box of expectations I’m not sure even I fit in.*

The nature of my business serves it’s local community. How it operates I’m not sure I can change. Now is the time for thinking out of the box, but how do I shift things to stay in business, not let down my customers, but also save some energy and time for my personal life?

That’s the key point. I desperately need to reclaim my time. I have set boundaries and created processes to funnel tasks and reduce overlap in my personal/business life, but I’m quickly realizing that these issues and hurdles aren’t ever going to go away. People will always need an answer RIGHT NOW or go elsewhere. And people will always pepper every avenue of contact without regard that I might actually be helping another customer at that moment. Or god forbid, eating a meal. In a world where everything is instant, it’s just how it is.

Even with regular working hours, my time is dictated by how many walk-ins and messages I have to answer. Then I stay late to finish the things that need to be done and the cycle starts all over again.

In short, the thought of starting over is daunting. I’m tired. Working 60+ hour, sometimes 100 hour, weeks no longer serve me. It doesn’t serve the business or the customers either. When I find that I’m reluctant to post anything to social media, because I’m overwhelmed and don’t want to draw more attention, something is wrong. It feels self sabotaging and unbalanced.

They say where you spend your time, energy and thoughts will give that “thing” momentum is absolutely true. Magic blooms every single time. The crux of this is that if you’re focusing on one thing, it might be taking away from something else. Sometimes something more important.

With a schedule like ours, you would think we’d be beside ourselves with boredom and eager to get out there into the world. Nope. Being home was just what we needed. It brought us back together and we loved every minute of it. (Except for those first days of homeschooling. That was rough, but we won’t talk about that.)

I’m a person that needs to compartmentalize tasks, wherever I am and whoever I’m with has my complete 100% focus. The problem with owning a business is it spills into every aspect of life. It becomes you. It makes total sense, since you’re creating something from nothing and pouring every ounce of blood, sweat, and tears into it. It IS the definition of grit.

It’s not surprising that connections are made when you aren’t at work. They are made at parties, celebrations, while picking up the kids from school, etc. But when is it too much? When will I be able to get my hair done or spend a spa day with my daughter and not have to answer questions or be expected to give quotes while paying another business to receive a service? When is it too much that I’ll receive a request through a personal outlet on a Sunday afternoon while spending time with my family and worrying about if I’ll lose the job if I wait until the next business day?

I’m aware there are some fixes to these issues and I have tried some of them. I’ve implemented policies and funneled messages to more appropriate avenues. It really comes down to being firm and not caring so much. The trouble is: that’s not in my DNA. If we have set open hours and you pull on my door after those hours, I will open it. I’ve been advised not to and I understand why, but if you are looking at me through a glass door, I am physically unable to turn my back on you.

As a possible solution and a mini biz facelift, I’ve installed full size sticky window coverings. And because I get excited over the completion of projects, I was excitedly telling my husband about it. I mentioned how I probably should’ve had a second set of hands since these things were so huge. At one point I was in a pickle, but managed to get everything in place without even a wrinkle. I said, “it looks like they were professionally done!”

When he replied, “because they were.” I cried.

Window signage is not my business, but it’s a close cousin so to hear that he thinks I’m a professional made me a little teary. (For the record, he’s not a bullshitter, so when he says it, he means it.)

Anyway, not sure what the real point of this post is. I’m in a funky place. I know changes are coming as I’m not one to sit idle on something that isn’t working, but the exact changes will present themselves soon. I hope.

*Side note: Mostly, I realized, I just need to get over myself. If operating my business in a different way, makes me less than a qualified “business owner,” so be it. Life is too short to give a flying F about what someone thinks about a life they aren’t living.

Guest Post: Remembering the Importance of Self

This guest post is written by Tracy Bradley, massage therapist on sabbatical, in Arkansas.

Find more guest posts here. Enjoy! 


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Self-care, The Plan:

  • Journal everyday
  • 5 minute meditation daily
  • Start sun salutations
  • Read for pleasure daily
  • Go outside with the kids
  • Long baths
  • Special treats

Self-care, What Really Happened:

I joined the group when Amber started the 100 Days of Self-Care Challenge. I’ve been so focused on my family that I let my needs go. What a great opportunity to turn inward and slowly start a habit or two soley for my well-being! I’ve always “written” so journaling seemed like the easy start. Yoga is enjoyable, therefore Sun Salutations seemed the comfortable start. I LOVE to read great books but busy-ness and social media have edged books to the side. A challenge seemed the perfect nudge to change a few things.

My journal received three dreadful, melancholy entries. I still haven’t done a single SS. Reading is a success, although sometimes it’s only for 5 minutes a day. No baths. No meditation. No treats. I literally could not do the things that should have been so easy.

I didn’t realize I was one level above rock bottom. Postpartum Depression and Anxiety had taken over my person. Taking 5 minutes to jot down a few words felt like a knife ripping through my head. The only thoughts I could think to write were terrible. So I skipped it. Yoga would have felt amazing if only I could have moved to the floor. Crippling anxiety prevented me from leaving the house most days. Isolation was comfortable until it began to hurt.

Self-Care, The New Plan

I reached out to my healthcare provider who is also a close relative. I unloaded my thoughts and symptoms into her small exam room. She was understanding. She listened. She asked questions. She answered about a million questions from me. We discussed options and decided to try a medication. I was ready for it. (I know medication isn’t for everyone, but this is my personal story.) I left relieved, optimistic, and terrified of horrible side effects. I realized how low I’d gotten. My family was suffering, but more importantly, I was suffering.

My new self-care habit is taking one pill per day. At the conclusion of the trial period I am overjoyed to say I feel human again! In addition to taking my meds, I do other self-care things. I leave the house for fun now. I haven’t been writing, but I’ve been contacting friends and family. We meet for fun things now and I don’t have paralyzing anxiety about it. There are almost no words to express my relief.

Self-care is important, but it can look different for different people. While some may balk at the idea of an hour with a book, that scenario excites me. Running for any reason other than escape is torture for me! However, there are thousands of people who pound their stress into the pavement. Our unique ways to care for ourselves are good. We just need to remember how important “self” is and take action and take care.

 

If you are struggling with PPD, anxiety or depression, please do not hesitate to seek help. Reach out to your healthcare provider or call Postpartum Support International at 800-944-4773.

The Sweetest Gift.

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Yoga session with my boys. Classic: Chewy right there with me and Kiko giving me his opinion.

It hasn’t been terribly long without our boys, Kiko and Chewy. They were a pair. Chewy may have left us first, but our boys were always “Kiko and Chewy.” Like salt and pepper, they were a set.

Now, I won’t get into all the mush about “the hard” since we had to let them go a short time ago. Our hearts are healing, even if a few pieces are missing.

This is actually happy story. 

Chewy was laid to rest, but with the timing of everything (like the frozen ground) we could not do that with Kiko. Hats off to the peeps who handle that sort of thing. They sent us a paw print and a tuft of fur along with his cedar box.

More than a month ago, I came across a website that makes actual gemstones from the ashes or hair of our loved ones…. something we could easily do for Kiko, but not for Chewy. This was problematic.

For weeks, I wondered where Chewy could’ve been that we haven’t cleaned yet so I could get a little bit of his fur and then it hit me like a freight train. 

About five years ago, I had a classmate in massage school that spun her own yarn. Since my boys blew their coats at least twice a year – in amounts that could build another dog or two – I offered her some fur and she accepted. Two large (full!) ziplock bags later, she had plenty of material to work with. And that was the last I heard of it.

I held my breath as I sent her a message hoping she was a little like me with a few unfinished projects lying around. 

She was quick to respond that, in fact, she did have some and she would gladly mail it out to me. She wouldn’t accept payment for shipping, even though I would’ve paid double. Triple even.

And then, my sweet girl got sick, then I got sick and I forgot all about it. Until yesterday.

I received a package from an address I didn’t recognize. (Truthfully, I thought I ordered something from Etsy in one of my middle-of-the-night-should-be-sleeping shopping sessions. For those of you who don’t know, it’s the lack of sleep version of drunk dialing.)

A sob caught in my throat when I realized that package contained the two original bags of fur. Each labeled with their names. Apparently, I was so fixated on these bags I didn’t realize there was a third bag. My husband handed it to me.

It was a woven scarf made of fur.

I held it, assuming it was my boys, and tears welled up. It was then I noticed the bright yellow envelope. Upon opening it, I revealed a cute card with two dogs in the back of a pickup truck.

Inside it read:IMG_9515

Amber,

May your memories of Chewy & Kiko be forever happy!   ❤

(The scarf is Chewy.)

In an instant, I felt like he was given back to me. I can’t explain it really. Losing them both was hard, but losing Chewy was almost unbearable. Maybe it was suddenness of it or his lack of ailments/issues or maybe it was because he was mine. 

By some twist of fate, I gave a woman some fur and she gave it back to me years later when I needed it. For that, I’ll be forever grateful.