There’s something exhilarating about building a thing, a business, something that takes on its own rhythm and needs and timelines. And has completely usurped other things in my life, like writing, like sitting here in the chair and putting the words in daily. This was such a usual discipline for me, such a daily habit, and then,
boom, gone: replaced by other urgencies, those of other people.
So this is a truth: that it’s seriously hard to build more than one thing at a time. Or I should say, more than one thing well at a time.
In the spring of last year, I was still ruminating, still discovering, launching three things at the same time, really, without even being aware of it. First, this new idea of me as self-employed, as totally independent, as mistress of my own time. I can’t understate how massive this was for me – for the first time after fifty entire years of life, to launch this new way of thinking about myself in my fifty-first year. After being alive for half a fucking century. Huge.
The first period of this was relatively quiet. There were whole days, I remember now, with some longing and incredulity, where I didn’t really have much to do. I might even have watched television and read books IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY, a WEEKDAY no less, also wandered around dumb-struck in the garden for hours, staring, empty and enjoying the de-pressurization of this new state. Then suddenly, the coup de foudre: the new business, the bookkeeping, the writing, in service of others. The first baby steps, those first client appointments, meetings with strangers, driving up steep driveways onto gated properties, listening, biting back my own fear, moving through it, figuring it out, how to present myself, how to sell myself, what to sell of myself. And then on top of that, the third thing, developing the bee-business, the other b-keeping, the website, the display, the retail. All brand-new. All in the space of a few months.
At first it was the beekeeping that was the bigger part of my time and focus, almost seasonal, really, me busy at the same time as the bees themselves, tending their hives, tending my own. And then as the summer wore on, my own flights took me farther afield, away from the garden and deeper into the client-based busy-ness, and that whole thing, growing that whole thing, making a living at it, took over completely.
The last two months of 2014, and the first month of 2015, were packed, busy, to the gills. To the antennae. I thought in January, it would let up. It did not. I thought in February, it would let up. It won’t. That’s all up to me.
For those three months – that is, from November through January – I put certain things on hold. I stopped my daily writing practice. I stepped off my mat for longer and longer. I threw myself body and soul into building the business, something which I felt it needed in order to really get off the ground, in order for me to really figure it out, understand its place, its purpose, its potential.
And now, three months later, I see the strain in my own self. I see how I am not sleeping well. How a particularly tangled financial mess at a new client’s, coupled with the pressure to deliver faster and cheaper, makes me want to put my head down and weep.
Oh wait, I’m in charge of this now.
I’m in charge.
So it’s back in the saddle this morning. It’s back to the chair, back to the desk, back to words. Back to the simple self-discipline of coming back to the laptop, coming back to the mat, coming back to regular bed-time. Because it’s how things get done. It’s how my life gets done my own way.
Honestly, what else are we here for? Otherwise, isn’t it all just a massive waste of time, and space and potential? Especially for me, high priestess of Do Your Thing, of get on your horse and ride, run away with your circus, sing your song, fly your flag. If I’m not bearing the standard, then What. The. Fuck.
Seriously. What the Fuck.
It has served me, I’m not going to disregard that, to put my head down and word like a beast for three months. It has helped me clarify what I want from the business that I’m building, how I want it to serve others and serve me. How it can contribute something of value to people I admire, whose efforts are making the world better, and not just by making it prettier. I get it now.
But that service of others can also be a distraction. It’s a powerful one, hardwired into some of us – that inclination to put the needs of those close to us ahead of our own. And certainly when those others are paying us, well then, yeah, the cobbler’s child has dirty calloused little feet. That drive to serve is a good thing; it has its place, its value. But it can’t come first. At least not all the time.
Most days it needs to come second. After number one.
Which is to sit down, write the words, let them unspool as they will. Make something of yourself without thinking of others, without thinking of yourself even, just letting whatever the impulse is move, making and holding a constant space for it, letting it arrive. Be quiet and listen for it, tap it out without reading back, just go.
Even if I'm just talking to myself, still I need to say the words: Dig in and do the hard solitary work of being you.
Get on your horse and ride.