I’m in the process of shutting down a business that I started five years ago next month.  I was ready to shut it down three years ago, frankly.  Never liked it much.  Stymied my ability to use my greatest skills. Won a top ten multi-million-dollar award from the local association and still struggled to make the business pan out or enjoy it.

I noticed only recently that there’s a four-year gap in my personal journal that exactly coincides with running this business.  Four years.  No entries.

…Where did I go?

Finally, after much back-and-forthing, I decided that I could just…stop.

I began to move on. I chose a new goal and began to allow myself to follow my dreams. And these are dreams that I’ve had since I was tweenager; a dream to be free, and write, and exercise my creativity. To be myself.  To not necessarily care about what other people care about.  To not necessarily care about what other people think about me.

It’s an enormously difficult exercise.  I don’t think most people get totally free of other people’s opinions and society’s mandates during their lifetimes.  I think, in fact, most people don’t even know that they’ve allowed themselves to be bound by those things.

I had drinks with some friends the other night, and one of them shared with me how toxic her work environment had become, but how impossible it was to leave.  I get it.  I’ve been there.

But I do believe every possibility is available.  And it is only our tiny and limited vision that tells us that there is absolutely No. Way. Out.

So I reflected on what I did to allow myself to change gears, to suggest amazingly wild plans to my husband that he signed up for immediately, and which we are implementing right now. (Selling our house and everything in it and going full time RV’ing.)(*big grin*)

I hope these ideas help you to step back, shift gears, and move into the sweet spot of your life.

  1. Give yourself permission to stop.   I didn’t need anybody’s permission—except my own.  Took me three years to give it to myself.  When my dear mom-in-law passed last year, my own mortality kind of slapped me in the face.  “This is the only life you have!” it shouted.  This is the only life that’s mine.  Why was I wasting it? Why was I giving it to other people to squander? Why was I doing this to myself?  I began to reduce my commitments, say “no” way more often and with more force, and to let go of my guilt about it, because I was pulling back all the diffused parts of myself that I had scattered all over the planet. You need time to contemplate your new direction.  And I mean, a LOT of it.  Take it from everybody else and give it back to yourself.
  2. Acknowledge the shittiness that might not be your fault. In my case, I had purchased a franchise from a brand new franchisor, and the model, in my case, was seriously flawed. The model works like crazy in places like Denver, Houston, Miami and New York, but failed like a mother-you-know-what in a town as small as mine.  (One swear word per point, I’m thinking.  You tell me if more is okay.) It took the whole company a while to figure that out.  It was not my fault. I just didn’t know what I didn’t know.
  3. Be kind to yourself. No, seriously.  In this transition period, take good care of yourself.  Sleep late.    Eat right.  Meditate.  Journal. Walk in the park.  Wrap yourself in cozy blankets, or go float in a pool.  Play with your dog/cat.  Go to movies that make you laugh or that remind you of what excites you.  Take classes in things that fascinate you.  Finger paint.  Write poetry.  Lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling for hours. Gather as many colors of fall leaves as you can.  Spend more time goofing off with your family and friends.  Whatever fills up your heart and replenishes your soul. By the way, this is what we live for. This stuff.  Not that other stuff. And let go of the high expectations, brain beatings, and sleepless nights tossing and turning and wondering why you are so fatally flawed.  You’re not.  You’re just not on the right path.  Time to explore strange new worlds, to seek out your new life, to boldly go where you haven’t gone before.  (Soprano voice: “AhhhhAHHHHH…”, etc.))
  4. Explore new creative outlets. Or old, forgotten ones. I am a writer. As I mentioned above, I am taking my writing life on the road. I just finished my first novel. I have published articles, essays and short stories in the past, and now I am gathering my back list and self-publishing it along with new works.  I’ll be using a couple of pseudonyms for different genres.  If you’d like to be a part of my secret writing cabal and discover one of those pseudonyms along the way, you can join here.
  5. STAY WOKE. Your thoughts are not you.  Your feelings are not you.  When you give yourself to them, you’ve already lost.  Notice when your thoughts and feelings are not serving you, and dismiss them.Yes, you can.  Let me give you an example.So, Michael and I are walking through this beautiful campground on a lake.  I’m thinking about yesterday.  The campground keepers had told us to go ahead on in, drop our fifth wheel trailer at any of the recommended campsites we liked, and then DON’T SET UP, but come back and we’ll finish up the business end of the deal.  So, we’re newbies, the site we loved had very tight turns, and it took us a while to get the trailer positioned right.  Once we did, Michael unhitched the truck and went up and took care of business while I went about setting up.  So now, it’s the NEXT DAY, and my brain is thinking on our little walk, “I wonder if they were upset because it took us so long?  Did they yell at Michael? Did they—” As I was about to open my mouth and ACTUALLY ASK, I had the presence of mind to say to myself, “And…exactly what are you going to do with that information?  Are you going to run up to the ranger hut and apologize profusely?  Are you going to…” And the only thing I could think of was that I was going to piss off my husband because it was the last possible thing he wanted to be thinking about while we were walking through those beautiful woods! So I said nothing, and I dismissed the thought from my brain, and I purposefully focused my brain on something else.We can’t do it all the time.  But every time we do we are practicing being better at it.  Practice creates mastery.  Stay woke!

Stop saying “I can’t” or “it won’t” or “I could never.”  There’s a way. Buckle on your sword and go find it.

 

 

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