This time last year, I was just coming off the high of publishing my first book and heading straight into the Christmas season. As a mama and lover of Christmas this didn’t mean slowing down. There were gifts to wrap, lights to hang, cards to send. There was that blasted Elf on the Shelf to position every night (thanks, Mom and Dad) and the anxiety of my son, Kay, discovering gifts tucked inside the bins where the decorations had been.
As the Lady Boss, there were team and client gifts to send, time-off preparations to make, and next year planning to do. My clients all were in the same boat so they were firing off last-minute, end-of-year needs which had me going, going, going…And this was all after a strenuous and stressful first year of living in a world with COVID. By the time my Christmas vacation started, I was exhausted. Burnt out. Lost, even. I wasn’t sure where I was anymore or where I was headed. I knew that the time I planned to take off wouldn’t be enough. I was in a serious deficit of self-care, sleep, and mental space.
And while this swirl of layered emotions was happening, forty-five minutes north of me, my dearest Lonnie, “my second mother,” was dying. She chose to stop chemo months prior and was celebrating each remaining day she had, not knowing how many that would be. Just a couple of days past Christmas I planned to go up and spend precious time with her, hoping for a day of games, coffee, and chit chat. We spent the time writing her obituary instead because it was her top priority and I wasn’t about to put my needs first.
I can’t quite describe the state of my soul last December as no one word could possibly encompass it all, but I wasn’t okay. I wanted to feel the cheerfulness and the love and light of December, but I couldn’t. Not completely.
I wanted to revel in all I had managed to accomplish despite the challenging COVID year, but I couldn’t. I was depleted and all that I had accomplished had made me feel awful. I knew I needed 2021 to be different. I needed to get back into alignment. I needed to evaluate everything.
Then January hit and I longed for hope of better times for this new set of 12 months. But before the first week of the new year was through, Lonnie said it was time. She knew the end was coming; we needed to get hospice in place. So, we did. Hospice started on a Sunday afternoon and the following Saturday, she was gone.
Her death left a seismic hole in my heart, but it also granted me a gift, oddly enough. Several, really. So present with my grief, I didn’t have the capacity for anything that didn’t serve. I let go of two clients. A third, coincidentally, decided it was time to move on. And just like that, half of my clientele and half of my revenue was gone before the first month of the year was up.
Instead of feeling panic about my financial picture changing, I felt relief. Time and space opened up because I had fewer people to serve, less stuff to do, and more mental energy to go to things that mattered more. Like processing my loss, taking care of myself, and focusing on my son.
Shortly after the great recession of clients, came challenges with Kay in pre-school. Challenges that lasted for months and required my attention and energy in spades. Challenges that invited the opportunity for me to reach out to other moms and ask for help. Challenges that stretched my advocacy muscles. Challenges that encouraged me to lean into my own knowing and intuition about my son, who he is, how he learns, how he operates, and to come to realize that these challenges were actually not about him, but about the environment.
My grief and the traumatic pre-school experience required so much of my energy and attention, adding new clients back into the fold didn’t happen. There was a lack of effort and energy on my part but I also think the Universe was keeping anything new at bay, knowing too much is too much and I already had my share.
While I was frustrated a lot of the time about operating at half revenue capacity, the beauty of having fewer clients was that I had enough space to process. I could ask myself what I really want for this business and for myself instead of just “doing stuff that pays.” I could reinvent my brand, where I wanted to go, who I wanted to serve. I had the time to redo my website, redo my messaging, and get crystal clear on what I wanted. And because I was reminded of how short and precious life is, I didn’t feel inhibited. I was ready to just go for it. Understanding how fragile life is is a pretty good motivator.
It’s also a great reminder to take care of oneself. That if you want to be here a while and do this Earthly journey well, you better be paying attention to how you treat yourself. You better make the time. You better make yourself the priority. So I started taking daily meditative walks, increasing my water intake, and exercising a few times a week. I got back into a routine of reading or journaling before bed. Using daily mantras. And slowly, bit by bit, I found some way back to alignment, centeredness, and clarity.
2021 has felt like a slog. I won’t lie. In so many ways it felt harder than the year before and yet, I’ve not burnt out the way I had by this time last year. I’m not lost, wondering what I’m doing or why. I’ve held onto my clarity and focus. I’ve held onto my self-care. I’ve held onto my values and knowing who I want to serve and where I want to go. And predominantly that’s because once that time and space opened up after Lonnie passed, I didn’t want to fill it to the brim. I realized I liked it. I liked having time and space.
And after Lonnie passed, I spent a good amount of time wondering about how I wanted to live my life. Thinking about such morbid things as how I wanted people to talk about me after I died. With that in mind, I made some intentional decisions about my personal life and business.
I’m looking back on this year recognizing that it wasn’t a light load to carry but it was light in terms of showing me a new way forward, in guiding me more to the type of life and business I want. I’ve made less money this year than last, but I’ve gained more this year than last. Perspective. Time. Space. Clarity. Self-love. Mom strength. Caretaker chops. More resiliency. More perseverance.
No matter how this year began, it’s ending with an appreciation for the hard stuff. It’s ending with the recognition that the Universe always gives me some of my life’s greatest lessons through the hardest moments. It’s ending with a reminder I was once given when I was going through my divorce and life felt like it was down around my ankles: “I know this transformation is painful, but you’re not falling apart; you’re just falling into something different with a new capacity to be beautiful.” (William C.Hannan) And though I’m still missing Lonnie and wishing she were here for Christmas, I’m looking forward to the holiday season anyway. Because it’s my favorite time of year and because I know she would want me to enjoy it and do it up.
Wherever you are in reading this, whatever part of your journey you are on, however this year has treated you, I hope you may find the beauty in this year’s messy moments as much as in all the things that went well and right. Each thing we experience is a gift in its own right. A gift that lights our path and shows us some new way forward. This holiday season, I hope you can find these gifts and you can be present with whatever blessings your life holds.