Easter

I had it in my mind to write something about business this morning, as I spent last week at an incredible retreat with some really amazing business owners. But instead, my mind is going to this:

Grief is a strange creature. It appears to come and go without any reason, but more likely, it just slips in and out of the shadows, always there and ready to reappear unexpectedly.

I miss my mom every single day.

Some days are particularly painful. The tears just come, then the heaving sobs. Yesterday it happened at the end of an episode of Queer Eye. Yes, Queer Eye. Because watching a little moment of normalcy in someone else’s life, a woman interacting with her mother, I was suddenly reminded that those moments are gone for me.

Other days are more bittersweet. I see something that reminds me of my mom and my heart warms. The tears are choked back, and even though I’m not crying, my heart is breaking just a little bit.

What is it that they say? “You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens.” Rumi knew the world well. Doesn’t make it any easier though.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Easter. Growing up, we would hop in the car on Easter morning and drive to my grandmother’s house. After she had a stroke and lost use of the left side of her body, Easters were held at my parents’ house. My mother had trained her little miniature dachshunds to hunt for Easter eggs. Lucy, the older of the two, always needed a bit of help, but Amber, a dachshund-something mix that had been rescued from South Carolina, excelled at the game.

I don’t remember where I was last Easter. My mom was in and out of the hospital so much. She was so weak. One dog had passed before she was diagnosed, the other right before my mom returned home from her surgery. We may have been at my brother’s place, so she could be with her grandson. We may have been at home. There’s so much that feels like a blur from that year.

The year before that, she made me, my brother, and my sister-in-law do a scavenger hunt around the yard at her home. Her scavenger hunts were definitely harder when I was a kid, but I loved them, even as an adult. No doubt I’ll be crafting them for my nephew one day.

Each holiday has been hard without her, in its own way. And with each passing day, I learn this:

Grief hits you over and over again. There’s no timeline, no easy clean steps. You’re just there with it, letting it teach you what matters.

Heartbreak

Your heart will break a thousand times in this lifetime. Maybe a hundred thousand.

That may seem like a pessimistic prediction, but let me explain…

Moments of beauty are not only found in love and joy but in loss as well. And when we love fiercely, we feel loss differently: we grieve but we also discover a deep gratitude.

My eldest cat was sick: losing weight and vomiting a bit each day. I had no idea what was wrong until an ultrasound revealed a tumor in his stomach. Lymphoma. He had an emergency surgery to remove the mass, but the vet told me he still only had a month to live without chemo. Chemo itself might only give him a few more months. Scared as I was, I declined the treatment, knowing how stressed weekly treatments would make my cat. I brought him home and took care of him day and night — for 7 months. In those 7 months, I learned about love and acceptance and seeing someone (no animal is “only an animal”). I learned the beauty of little interactions and joy, like watching him lay in the sunlight or touch a slug and jump back. And I felt the devastation of loss as I held him in my arms as he faded. Even then, looking into his eyes was the beauty of the world, of this moment with me. Even with my heart breaking.

I was so grateful for being able to take care of him in the way he needed, grateful for the lessons he taught me in those months and how they summed up what I had been learning from him all along.

My mom had come down when I knew it was time for him. She was with me as I held him.

And then my mom was diagnosed with cancer — bile duct and pancreatic to be exact. The doctors said it was stage 2 and treatment was possible. They prepared her for a surgery that was so complex I didn’t dare read about it for fear of where my mind would go with that information. She was weak for some time then went through chemo, but a year after her diagnosis things were looking up. Thanksgiving came and she was there at the hospital the day her grandson was born; she was the third person to hold his tiny body. But she still said this Thanksgiving and Christmas might be her last. I tried to counteract her negativity with my own brand of hope, trying to instill in her the belief and trust there would be more. But by mid-December, she was in the hospital again and would spend the next 8 months in and out at least once a month. The decisive diagnosis was given in June: the cancer was back and there wasn’t much the doctors could do. They didn’t know how much time she had, but I think my mother had a sense, because when she told me and my brother, she said 2 months.

After other procedures we hoped would help and putting her on hospice the week she got really bad, she bounced back a bit and we had some time together. I spent most of my mornings with her, sitting by her side, getting her food when we could convince her to eat, and organizing her bedside table just so. When the last week came, we knew she was going. It became difficult for her to communicate and we did whatever we could to keep her comfortable. On her last day, I sang to her and sat by her side and reassured her that just because it was time to let go of this body and this life, it didn’t mean we’d be apart. I would be there on the other side of this, and though I’ve never experienced death, I was suddenly sure of this, of how we live on in a new way, and how we live on in those people we love.

My mother taught me so much in my life, from tying my shoes to putting on makeup to being creative. Her strengths taught me, her weaknesses shaped me, and her love changed me. And as absolutely heartbreaking as it was to lose her, the moment she passed was filled with such great beauty, with such deep love…it taught me as well. I was grateful for her, for our friendship, for how she made me, for it all.

That’s what you don’t always expect in heartbreak: the gratitude for it all. You don’t see it immediately, but it’s there. And it changes you.

The Need for Intuition in Business

Last week was full of decisions and opportunities.

It started with a simple phone call. A business writer was creating a small mastermind and I was invited to be part of it. From all perspectives, it was an amazing opportunity I immediately said yes to. And yet, something was off inside of me. I was excited, but more than anything I felt misaligned, as if by saying yes to the mastermind, I was saying no to some unseen thing that I needed to make space for. (More so, two of the meetings were during times that I sensed my presence would be needed elsewhere.) I rarely change my mind, but in this case, I called up my contact and apologized. It wasn’t the right fit at this moment.

Had I deferred my decision and given myself a chance to pause to really check in with myself, I may have had that realization without the complication of communicating that my choice had to change.

As I’ve stepped more and more into my role as a business owner and leader (rather than a technician in the company), I’ve come to understand how important it is for me to have space, not only to logically evaluate plans and decisions, but to also give myself a chance to see how they feel in my body.

You know a “hell yes!” when you have on of those moments. It’s not entirely rational. There’s another part of you that takes over, so you’re not only thinking “hell yes!” but you’re feeling it as well.

That’s what I look for when I have to make big decisions: that full body “yes” that helps me differentiate between a good opportunity and the right one I absolutely need to be part of. That doesn’t mean that fear and uncertainty are immediately out the door and it’s nothing but confidence in the room; a “hell yes!” decision may still be a scary one and push you to that edge of growth.

The second decision I had to make last week was around an awesome PR program, working with a great team that would help pitch me for television, articles, and other media and press. Fantastic opportunity and definitely and edge for me, but once I had the time to get quiet and ask myself if this was the right move, the clear answer I got was “not yet”. It will be the choice I need to make at some point, but feeling into it, I saw I needed space and focus elsewhere, for other things to emerge, things that will inevitably help me when the time comes to say yes to that program.

But the need for intuition goes beyond big investments: it can be used in every part of the business, from making choices about which clients to work with to creating content calendars for marketing to building systems and processes that allow the business to work more efficiently. There’s a lot of logic that goes into these activities, but when I add my intuition in, there’s a greater sense of certainty that I’m making the right decision.

So when you have to make a choice today, I invite you to get still for a moment and see how it feels in your body. Is it a yes or a no? Does your deeper sense contradict the logical conclusion, or support it?

And I’d love to know from other entrepreneurs out there: how much do you employ your intuition when making decisions?Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

Finding Your Purpose

I had a rare chunk of space in my schedule on Friday, so I decided to use it wisely: I called a friend just to say hello. This friend happens to be a past accountability buddy who is building her own business, so I can’t swear we didn’t talk about work. But there’s an underlying friendship there as well and we really needed some catch up time.

She recently discovered some deep ties to the city of Los Angeles and the college she attended, learning both of her grandparents having gone there without her previously having known. The new knowledge led her to a question of purpose and whether we find it, or it finds us. (You can read her article here, which includes a quote from me.)

Her answer: her purpose found her.

My answer: I think we should stop looking so hard. For me, it’s not about my purpose finding me or me finding it; it’s a constant uncovering process. My purpose is my operating principle. It’s how I serve in this lifetime, who I am as a leader or follower. It’s not that I ever had to seek it out. It was always there, in my being.

But there’s another layer of purpose which I think is more important and it’s this: your purpose is in the moment you’re in, even if you have no idea what that is. It may at times be the comfort you give to a friend who’s struggling or grieving, or a simple skill you teach someone, or the encouragement a child needs to try again, or the laughter you share with a partner. Of course, there’s the bigger work we do and purpose we might operate with, but there are so many beautiful small moments of purpose as well, ones you don’t need to look for or define, ones you simply need to be in.

So while you may have a purpose to help people in some particular way that drives you to create and engage and show up, you also have a purpose simply in your being, in your presence, in ways you can’t fully see ripple out and touch the world.

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Credits

Jane Reaction

(logo and original branding) is a graphic design and art director who works with with small businesses and creative entrepreneurs, creating cohesive and interesting brands and websites.

Carrie Coleman

(photography) is a wedding photographer, whose goal is to capture the visual expression of a couple's love through timeless, organic images. She is based in Charlottesville, Virginia.