Mercury Retrograde

Sometimes, everything is chaos.

That’s the way it’s been for weeks now. Since Mercury started retrograding, but even a bit before that.

I travelled to Scotland, spent a night watching old pagan rights reenacted for modern times with big bonfires, drove winding roads that hugged lochs, camped in the cold rain. I went where the world pushed me. And when I returned, too much waited for me: work projects and to-do lists, long hours that passed too quickly with a heavy heart.

I could tell something was off with my cat Marty when I arrived home, and in the past few weeks, he’s gotten weaker and skinnier. I’ve cancelled plans to care for him, because when all is said and done, I can’t imagine a better way to spend my time than loving him. And right now, he’s holding on still, but some days, I’m overwhelmed. My heart is just breaking.

When so much is uncertain, you have no choice but to live in the moment. That’s where I’ve been.

But with Mercury spinning backwards across the sky, I’ve found myself in another place, one where I’m haunted by the past and the future. I feel the weight of where I’m going. It’s as if all the past threads and current threads of my life are finally converging to show me the bigger picture, except it still isn’t clear. But there are changes that need to be made — changes in my business, changes in this blog, changes in how I live my life.

There are more questions than answers, but we have to start somewhere, don’t we?

Inspiration vs. Perspiration

At my mastermind retreat last week (the reason I was MIA from my blog), I had several conversations with fellow business owners about content schedules. Many of them — and many of my clients as well — create content calendars for their blogs and newsletters weeks or even months in advance.

I was being hard on myself at that moment. I mean, I missed both of my blog posts last week because I hadn’t properly scheduled my time around this retreat. Frankly, I was overwhelmed and something had to give.

Several times in the past, I tried to create lists of blog topics and schedules of what I would write when. The problem for me is that it seems so unnatural.

Writing for me is about inspiration first, perspiration second.

I can’t commit to a calendar where I write posts on ‘The Top 5 Things You Need to Know to Do Something” on Tuesdays and share recent projects on Thursdays, or anything like that. It feels disingenuous. I would rather share with you what’s happening in my life at the moment I’m writing. I would prefer to be honest with you about what’s working and what isn’t, rather than “creating” content.

I want it to come from my heart, not my head.

That’s not to say the head stuff isn’t good, or that perspiration isn’t good. Once I have the idea, it’s that perspiration part that makes it happen. I value that push. I just happen to love pushing even more when something resonates with me, when it comes from a deeper place.

So I don’t think you should choose between inspiration and perspiration, but recognize how one can lead to the other and how much more exciting it is when that happens. That’s why I’m blogging what I know, what I want to share, and hope that you connect.

Letting Go of Judgments

Yesterday morning, I was working out with my trainer, Helen, at the gym. We were in front of the large mirrored wall and I was doing squats with a kettle bell. Around me there were guys working out and lifting weights.

The scene totally struck me.

Ten years ago, I would have been incredibly intimidated to be in the free weight area, sweating and turning pink with all the cardio and lifting work I was doing. In fact once I had even gone home and cried after a trainer made me spend the whole session in the free weight area then proceeded to tell me that now was the time for me to “get in shape” and “stop being lazy”. Okay, clearly all of the crying wasn’t just because of where I had to work out. It was because I felt judged, by that trainer and by the people around me.

In my 20s, I felt the weight of judgments all the time. Did that guy think I was attractive? Does that woman think I’m fat? What does he think of me? How does she see me? I constantly was looking at myself through the eyes of other people and wondering. And even if they weren’t actually judging me, I was judging myself. I was trying to force myself into this concept of perfection that I (or society in my head) had created. It was exhausting and I felt small.

It took me years, but I learned to let go of all of that.

It wasn’t a single thing that changed my perspective. It was archery — being around men, jokingly flirting with them all, and having a good time. It was my business — discovering that I could be completely in control of my life, my time, and (most importantly) my self-worth. It was friends — the amazing women who are in my life, each who has helped me expand into myself, love myself, and trust myself.

As I did my squats and pushups and deadlifts at the gym yesterday, I had myself in mind. My thoughts were on how strong I felt and how much healthier I was becoming, not on what the guy next to me thought of me or if other gym members thought I was overweight or chubby or whatever.

That was an amazing feeling: to be focused on who I am, on who I want to become. And to know I’ve given up so many of the judgments that were once in my head.

It’s all a process. The self-judging still creeps in at times, but it’s gotten so much better. I feel like I’m living my life now, rather than shaping my life because I’m worried about what others think.

We can all relate, can’t we?

Snow Days and Sick Days

My Project Manager, Liberty, stopped by yesterday evening to pick up the work laptop; the weather people were predicting 5-8 inches of snow today, so we both thought it best she work from home. She remarked that I was so smart for starting my own business and getting to work from home every day.

Well… yes and no.

I adore having my own business and being able to work from anywhere. The problem? I haven’t taken a sick day since my last “regular” job. I’ve been sick — but when your work is on your laptop, it makes no sense not to catch up on a few emails or small projects while you’re recovering and watching movies.

Even at my old job, I was terrified to take a sick day, because any time off was deducted from the general Paid Time Off bank of hours that I had to earn by working. Every sick day meant one less vacation day. I hated it.

The old paradigm of sick days and vacations days has given way to something new for me, and I’m calling the shots.

While I haven’t taken any sick days, I have taken several “I’m so engrossed in this book, I just need to read it all day” days and “It’s an awfully nice day to be outdoors hiking” days and “I think I’ll go to this archery competition” days.

There have also been weeks where I’ve stayed with my parents to help them out with whatever has been going on. (I went home a few days after my mom broke her hip to be there for her.) And there was, of course, a trip to Paris that was partially spent playing and exploring, and partially spent sitting in Parisian co-working cafes, working and pretending to be a local. It’s a whole different sort of arrangement, but I dig it.

No more sick days, no more snow days, but lots of days of following my heart, taking time for what matters most, and indulging just a little bit.

A much better arrangement, don’t you think?

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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.