Last weekend Miracle Man and I went on a three-night mini-honeymoon to Monterey. We saw all sorts of amazing creatures at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, ate delicious food, went on a walk on the beach at sunset… It was great.
Then the day after we got home, a few things happened that left me utterly deflated about my business.
If you’ve ever worked for yourself you’ve probably had this experience. Things rarely grow in a straight, uphill line. But everyone else’s highlight reel is so shiny and bright, so it’s easy to get caught in the Comparison Trap, mired in the certainty that you’re a massive loser, that everyone else has the Secret to Success, that you somehow missed the memo and as a result will never be able to figure out the puzzle.
I posted a status update to Facebook that it was a deflating day. I cried on Miracle Man’s shoulder. I felt pathetic.
It was hard.
But you know what the really beautiful thing was? Even in the midst of my deflation, in the midst of feeling like I was never going to figure this out, I was still able to see — to really feel — how good my life is.
I could see and feel all the imperfection and all the things I want desperately to change… and at the exact same time I could see and feel how good things are. Sort of like Dickens’ famous first sentence, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” I was able to be in and embrace both at once.
This was really cool.
It didn’t make the pain and deflated feelings go away, but it did help me keep going in spite of them. (God bless all those years of therapy, co-counseling, and inner work that have gotten me to this place!)
Then, while I was trudging ahead with business-y stuff in spite of my deflated feelings, I happened to notice that my insiders’ newsletter mailing list has grown 250% since June.
[Cue sound of dropping jaw and eyes boinging out of their sockets.]
And this after “purging” my list of all subscribers who hadn’t opened an email in six months. (Note: it’s a good idea to clean out your mailing list like this periodically. After all, you only want people on your list who really want to hear from you! This is why I do a happydance when someone unsubscribes — it means less “dead weight” and more true fans.)
In other words, although things weren’t where I really wanted them to be yet, they had, in fact, improved in ways that I wasn’t paying attention to.
Which made me think about so many other ways I’ve made progress in the past year. The “Great Experiments of 2013” that have dramatically improved my quality of life:
The Great Massage Experiment
I finally bit the bullet. Instead of seeing Cindy, my samurai* massage therapist, only on an “as-needed” basis, when things were already really bad, I committed to coming in for an appointment every three weeks. Even though it’s expensive.
Wow. What a difference. I’m in approximately 80-90% less pain than I used to be, and the places that used to have me moaning in agony (yes, literally) when she’d dig into them, now often don’t even elicit a comment.
I’m continuing with this every-three-weeks thing, for sure!
The Great Outsourcing Experiment
Since 2003 I’ve been printing my ketubah prints in-house on an Epson 7600 wide-format printer. I’d moved away from outsourcing and bought my printer in order to have greater control over the end product. But as my business has evolved, dealing with printing, packaging, and shipping has become more and more onerous. It simply no longer made sense for me to try to save money by doing it all myself!
So I met with a local fine-art printer who’d done some scanning for me in the past, and decided to try out sending him my print jobs.
Wow. Again, what a difference! The time (and emotional energy) I save by having someone else take on the boring, tedious, stressful stuff has been more than worth the cost. I haven’t used my Epson 7600 in almost a year!
I’m putting my Epson 7600 printer up for sale! (If you’re interested in buying, shoot me an email. Local pick-up only!)
The Great Cloud Bookkeeping Experiment
I hate bookkeeping. I never know if I’m doing it right, and besides, data entry makes me want to stab my eyeballs out with fish sticks.
I wasn’t quite ready to pay someone else to do my books for me (that’s on the list for one of my 2014 experiments!), but I was ready to dump the data entry piece. I signed up for Xero.com and hired someone to help me set my books up there. Now all the data from my various accounts gets sucked automatically into my system!
Wow. What a difference! Okay, I still procrastinate on my bookkeeping, but Xero saves me so. Much. Time. Brilliant!
I still hate bookkeeping, and still never know if I’m doing it right. This year I’m going to bite the bullet and try working with a real bookkeeper! And Xero will hopefully make that much easier, since there are no files to download/upload/email/etc.
The Great Walking Desk Experiment
I’d been lamenting for ages what a sedentary person I’d become. I spend 90% of my day in front of my computer. Sitting.
My clothes were getting tighter. My back hurt all the time. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.
When I was rehabbing my knee after surgery back in 2010, Miracle Man set up a borrowed-from-my-parents ancient exercise bike in the dining room, facing the kitchen counter, so I could do stuff on a laptop while I pedalled. It was brilliant.
Alas, the bike is a piece of junk, and very uncomfortable. So when I didn’t need to use it anymore for my knee, I stopped.
I fantasized about a big office with multiple work stations: a (good) stationary bike, a treadmill, and a (really good) office chair. But that (I thought) would require a third bedroom, which we did not have.
Then I heard a radio interview with author Susan Orlean, all about treadmill desks and office walking. And I learned that treadmills don’t have to be the giant monstrosities you see at the gym…
I was on fire. I researched like a madwoman (as I am wont to do), and a few weeks later I had a walking desk, hacked from a cheap $299 treadmill and a $9.99 Ikea side table propped on my regular desk.
(Click the pic at left for a larger view. And yes, I know my desk is a mess. An overhaul of studio organization is on the list for a Great Experiment of its own…)
Wow. What a difference! After a couple of weeks of achey knees and blisters while I got used to it (and found the right shoes), I was a total walking desk convert! I actually have no desire to sit at a desk anymore.
And no, it is not hard to type while walking. No harder than chewing gum while walking. Really.
I’ve logged over one thousand miles since the end of May. My tight clothes are loose now. And my back is so. Much. Better. (Who knew sitting was such a killer???)
I love my treadmill desk!!! The next step is to get an adjustable desk — not because I want to go from sitting in a chair from standing, but because sometimes I do want to get off my feet. So I prop a bar stool on the treadmill, and this puts my keyboard at the wrong height for comfortable typing.
I’d also like to build more cardio exercise into my day, but in the meantime, better is better!
The Great Pre-Wedding Clear-Out
This last one was really a matter of completing a clutterbust I’d initiated months ago. The living room had become a staging area for all the assorted items I intended to offer for sale on Ebay, take to Goodwill, etc.
As our wedding approached, however, I was haunted by the thought that our out-of-town relatives might want to see our place. That spurred me into action! I finally faced the reality that the time and energy it would take to sell a lot of this stuff was worth a lot more than the dollars they might possibly be able to bring in. So I packed the car to the gills and delivered all of it to Goodwill.
I also had the carpets cleaned. Which meant we had to get even more stuff off the floors, which led to even more purging and organizing.
Wow. What a difference! Miracle Man and I were walking around in a daze for a good week after the carpet cleaning, enjoying the newfound spaciousness. Aaaaahhhhhh… (Good thing we didn’t know that nobody was going to come visit our place!)
I love being surrounded by order and spaciousness! I’m committed to creating more of it in 2014.
The wedding kind of interrupted our momentum, but we’re both really motivated to do more clearing out. And all this clearing has given me new ideas for how to revamp the studio, home improvement, and more!
Are things perfect? Not by a long shot. But from my business life to my home life to my physical wellness, I’ve been making progress, even if I don’t always notice it.
This, to me, is the essence of living a big, bold, creative life: noticing where life is good while you also notice where you want to make changes, and take the nanosteps you need to get there.
As an ex-boyfriend of mine used to say, better is better. I think the biggest value of marking the New Year for me is that it helps me to pay attention where I have made things better.
When you’re trudging up the staircase of life, the tendency is to keep your eyes on the step right in front of you. Cyclical events — like the New Year or other holidays, a birthday, Jazz Camp West, my Create & Incubate Retreat over Memorial Day weekend — these all offer a reminder to lift my gaze and notice the span of the staircase ahead of me, as well as how far I’ve climbed from the landing below.
Yeah, if you’re like me you probably have a really long way to go with pretty much everything important in your life. But don’t forget to acknowledge how very far you’ve come.
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