Part III of the “Self-Annoyed: Solopreneurship Done Write” series, where I openly battle for control over my mindset + wrestle with cultural myths about success.
All at once, the air itself thickens and churns. The landscape loses its footing, creating a marbling panorama of color. Goddammit. I promised myself I wouldn’t do this. Against my will, the tears begin to escape, spilling one by one onto my lap. My knuckles turn pale on the steering wheel as the truck finds its place at the side of the road.
Is this what “leaning in” feels like?
Forward, back, forward, back. Wedged carelessly between a Honda CRV and Nissan Altima, I muster enough common sense to put the car in park before succumbing to full sobs. My forehead balances on the wheel, my face pinches tight as heavy drops form tidy streams down my cheeks.
“Mommy?” A faraway voice accosts my ears, “Mommy? What’s happening to you?” Shit. They don’t need to see me like this. God, I’m a horrible mother. Gathering myself, I turn to face the sound. Still strapped into their car seats, their wide eyes fraught with naked fear/ curiosity/ concern, my kids sit stiff and alert.
They’re kind of nice like this, I reason. So quiet. Sheryl Sandberg was onto something – maybe I oughta break down more often.
“It’s okay, guys, Mom is just… frustrated.” It’s the cleanest “F” word I can muster. “But we’re going to be okay,” I add hastily. I force my way through a rote script familiar to every mother, blindly zipping and unzipping backpack pockets on an exploratory mission to find a bandana or wet wipe for the snot rappelling toward my chin. I hope to convince at least one passenger that my promise is true.
Everything’s going to be okay. I certainly don’t believe it.
In the last 48 hours, I managed to land a new client (hooray!) who entrusted me with the task of scriptwriting – an entirely new and uncharted course for me – and, heartened by the encouragement of both my husband and mother-in-law to rise to the challenge, I subsequently took on a sh*tload of time-sensitive writing work… at which point my husband quickly deteriorated into a clammy mass of stomach flu (well, f*ck).
In business, as in life, it seems that everything happens at once. You struggle for weeks to tease even the smallest amount of income from your contact list, and it isn’t until you’re hovering on the brink of insanity and insolvency that, quite suddenly, 100 people need your immediate help.
When opportunity comes knocking, it barges in with appetizers, dinner, dessert, and drinks, fixating on you with eyebrows raised and arms crossed, as if to say, “Well, you CLAIMED to be hungry!” My best efforts to “lean into” my career and “never stop never stopping” landed me smack dab in the middle of an opportunity beehive, and their wings hammered out a threatening hum in my ear: we’re your responsibility now.
On this particular morning, with my husband at death’s door, a difficult project looming over my head, and two kids needing constant supervision, I feel lost. No, more than that – I feel a bottomless depth of despair and discomfort, which irritates me to no end.
In these moments, my mind involuntarily conjures an image of Miss Perfect Entrepreneur. We all have an idea in our head of the entrepreneur we think we should be, the gal we believe every other entrepreneurial female to be. She is strong, unruffled, thick-skinned. She occupies a place in the “normal” world, where achievements like winning a new client are 100 percent awesome, rather than 15 percent awesome/ 85 percent stressful AF.
In my less-than-idyllic world, achievements are often obscured by life.
I hit a benchmark, reach a goal, shake hands on a new project, and immediately I’m pulled in 500 directions, called upon to find the nearest purveyor of chicken noodle soup and traverse drugstore aisles for cold and flu meds with two kids who suddenly have octopus arms. Situations like these don’t leave much time for celebration or pats on the back. There is no glorious fanfare. There is just hurry, hurry, hurry.
Two years ago, I’d have thrown in the towel. It would have been just one more story of me giving up when things grew difficult, not because I lacked the fortitude or passion, but because of a mental tape that convinced me when things get hard, they aren’t meant to be. The same mental tape that relentlessly compares the flawless image of Miss Perfect Entrepreneur and her smooth, Golden Road to Glory against snot-covered me and my pothole-strewn fumble through thick, thorny brush.
But not today.
Today, I “lean in” to the truth that inevitably, things will get hard. This does not mean they aren’t meant to be. Today, when the responsibilities of life and family threaten to choke my passion for the work, I lock my sights on the silver lining: a new client, a challenging project, the ultimate satisfaction of a job well done. For the briefest moment, I throw a mental parade for myself and focus like hell on the “win.”
I shed some tears to release the anger and frustration of my situation, as well as the fear of completely botching the entire operation. I gather my strength and resolve not only to see the mission through to its end, but to do it with gusto.
Here, in this truck, on a sunny Monday morning outside a quiet coffee house in Summerland, California, there is no Miss Perfect Entrepreneur, leaning in and kicking ass as she catapults to fame with zero hiccups. There is only me and the soft crunching sound of dust and gravel beneath my feet.
Left foot. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot.
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