I just broke down.
It’s taken 6 weeks. 6 weeks of me white-knuckling it…trying so hard to keep it all together. 6 weeks of staying strong and positive.
Then, this morning, during my morning meditation, I completely lost it.
I let go of trying to keep it all together.
My body was racked with sobs – albeit quiet sobs, because I was crying into my bed so my family wouldn’t hear me. Because I didn’t need or want comfort, or to have to explain what was wrong. I just needed to let it out and not think or talk about anything anymore. Just for a few precious minutes.
And you know what? I feel a little better now. I feel a little bit lighter. I feel a little more like me.
As small business owners, we don’t just worry about our jobs and our livelihood. In addition to the concerns that most people have right now, we also carry with us a responsibility for the people who work with and for us, the people we serve and our mission – our dreams. It’s a lot to carry any day of the week. Then, throw a microscopic, deadly virus into the mix, and WOW, our burden of responsibility just got amplified a thousand-fold.
Let’s take a step back for a moment and acknowledge the situation we are in. Because, if you’re like me, you’ve been so heads-down – so in it – that you haven’t really seen it. Maybe you think you see it, but do you really see it?
Most of us are reinventing our businesses’ offerings at a breakneck pace to meet the needs of the people we serve in a bizarre new reality. All the while, we know we’re going to have to keep reinventing, as the “new normal” keeps changing. We keep iterating the creation process – ideate, operationalize, market, launch, sell, deliver, learn, refine, repeat – again and again, at dizzying speed. When will we get a break?
We obsess over our marketing and messaging. We must revisit (and potentially reconfigure) everything to respond to the new normal, which keeps changing. Is this messaging enough? Is it too much? Is it too sales-y? Is it too direct? Is it direct enough?
We muster incredible amounts of energy to support the people we serve – to be strong for them and one another, to stay positive, to “be the light.”
Many of us are also parents. We must run our businesses with no outside help at home. We are homeschooling (with zero qualifications to do so) and watching small children (requiring many of us to compromise our parenting standards – sometimes it just comes down to keeping them occupied and out of trouble). We worry about how our children are being impacted by all of this – what emotional scars will they take with them? Are we contributing to those scars? Yet, we are incapable of providing them the time and energy to support them the way we’d like.
We worry about the sustainability of not just our business and personal livelihood, but of our mission – the dreams that light us up and bring us life and energy.
On top of the energy required to keep their business going, many small business owners invested significant time and energy seeking out and applying for government relief – only to not receive any. As more funds are being allocated for small businesses, many hold cautious hope, along with a fear that the time and energy invested will be for nothing…only to end in deeper disappointment. What happens then?
And, like everyone else in the world, we are doing all of this while trying to keep a safe, clean home. We wash our hands constantly. We wipe down groceries and packages. We try to keep our small children safe by explaining over and over again that they can’t be close to people, they can’t touch things, they can’t play with friends, they must wash their hands – “Yes, again. That’s not long enough yet. Keep washing.” We are constantly vigilant. We wonder if it’s enough.
We are physically isolated from one another. We suffer incredible loneliness – even if we are with people (the same people, all day, every day). We are going stir-crazy.
Oh, and then there are those everyday “pre-coronavirus” challenges that were already in our lives.
Wow, it’s a LOT, isn’t it?
I. Am. Exhausted.
These past six weeks, I’ve been on a crazy roller coaster of emotions. As strong and positive as I may appear, the following emotions have been simmering beneath the surface:
- Denial – I am fine. This is fine. It’s not that bad. It could be so much worse.
- Anger and resentment – That I have to work twice as hard to run my businesses, yet have half the time to do so (no childcare).
- Fear – For our family’s safety (Did I wipe down that door handle? What did I touch after I opened the mail?). For my businesses that are my life’s mission (all the sacrifices I have made – all the love, energy and time I have poured into these businesses – what will happen to my dreams?). For the world.
- Anxiety – What might happen next? What can I plan for? I will obsess over all scenarios so I can be prepared…yet I know this is futile.
- Shame and guilt – For blowing up at my little boy multiple times a day. For compromising my parenting standards with threats, bribes and screen time.
- Trapped – Yes, because I’m stuck in my house, but more so because I feel so needed all the time (especially by one tiny person who is relentless!).
- Exhaustion – From trying to cram too much into too little time and not allowing myself to take a break.
There are also some really great emotions on this ride. These are the emotions that make it possible for me to continue the journey and have faith that we will get through this (and be better because of it).
- Fulfillment – I get to help people in a deep, meaningful way at a time when they need it most.
- Pride and achievement – We are launching some amazing things in record speed!
- Gratitude – For the countless people around the globe who are working so hard to keep us all safe. That my businesses will make it through this and be even better on the other side.
- Hilarity – Ask me for my favorite quarantine story sometime! 🙂
- Joy – Those precious moments of beautiful, true connection with my family, other people and nature.
- Peace – At times, I feel a deep sense of comfort. I trust that we are all being taken care of, and this is for our highest good.
- Inspiration – I am in awe of the love and beauty that is present in humanity and this planet.
- Deep love and compassion – For my family and friends, for you, for the people I serve, for the world, and for our planet.
- Hope – These are just growing pains, preparing the way for something greater for all of us.
The hardest times are where the best gifts are hidden.
Within our greatest challenges are the greatest opportunities for learning and growth.
The unknown is a place of possibility.
Chaos happens when it’s time to elevate to the next level.
I intellectually know all of this, and I’ve even experienced it on some level. But that doesn’t make it easier for me. Because right now, I am learning it. I am learning it at a deeper, experiential level – a level far deeper than the intellectual knowing.
Even if it is hard, I can trust that this struggle is good for me (even while I am wishing it away at the same time!). I can acknowledge that this is an opportunity for me to deal with some things that I thought were behind me (alas, they are still there, just embedded in deeper layers of me that were hidden until now). I can recognize that it’s time to allow myself to be more human, which means allowing the darker side of that – the negative emotions, the tantrums, the weakness, the despair. I think (I hope!) that when I allow more of the darkness, I can allow more of the light, too.
If you’re feeling sad, overwhelmed, exhausted or angry (or any other feelings you wish you didn’t feel), if you feel like you have to be strong for everyone else – please, give yourself permission to let it all go, just for a few minutes.
You don’t have to be strong for everyone, all the time. You get to be human, too.
What would it feel like to let go of all the responsibility, strength and positivity, for just a few precious minutes? If you allowed yourself a break down…what might you break through?
What if “being the light” isn’t about radiating positivity, strength and support for everyone, 24/7?
What if “being the light” really means giving ourselves permission to:
- Be who we are and feel how we feel?
- Be human and vulnerable?
- Feel sad and angry, alongside our hope, strength and resilience?
- Admit that we’re exhausted, so we can take a break (without the guilt)?
What if, by being more real, we shed some of the darkness we’ve been hiding that obscures our light?
Sending you love and light,