One step forward, two steps back. After yesterday’s post on my health journey and optimism for the future, I hit something of a wall last night that had me questioning myself and the purpose that had seemed so crystal clear just hours earlier.
I tearfully emailed my energy work practitioner at 11:30 p.m. when, wide-eyed and unable to sleep, I came downstairs and saw we’d left the wi-fi on. Earlier that day, she and I had done a lot of emotional work, and I expected she might write to check in the next day anyway, so I wrote how I was feeling. And, as I tend to do when I’m feeling low, I apologized for burdening her and said it was unfair of me to dump this at her lap, initiating a possible retreat from our relationship.
She has a heart of gold and wrote me such helpful replies intuiting what was going on after our work that day on neurotransmitters (including GABA) and after I attended a seminar on starting a small business that evening.
When I read her replies morning, I was already feeling a little better. I’d woken too late to exercise beyond a few minutes of bouncing on the rebounder. But I did manage to get in at least 15 minutes of yoga before my daughter woke to pee and asked to be read books. I hadn’t read her The Wake-Up Book in a long time, but it was a favorite of her older brother’s. Her face is so sweet and beautiful, especially in the light of early morning and with the gentleness of sleep still smoothing the toddler attitude it might betray later. It was such a joy to have her discover the book anew, to hear her share the all-important observation that two of the animals had eyes that were open while the others’ were closed.
We ate breakfast as a family; it’s still a novelty and a treat that I can pull it off and actually enjoy it! We’ve had some resistance to her new preschool, so it was a relief when I told her to have a good day at school and, smiling from her seat in my husband’s car, she cheerily announced, “I will!”
As I cleaned up the kitchen – from breakfast, from the chicken stock I jarred last night, from the pecans I soaked yesterday and put in the dehydrator last night – I realized I would benefit from writing about why I want to pursue starting a business. Without a clear vision, I think it will be next to impossible for my husband to support me in anything close to the manner I will desire. This will seem like just the latest in a string of projects I undertake without forethought or adequate planning, just another thing to take my attention and energy away from my family. There are many things I tend to, and although I understand the need to prioritize, I want to believe that they do not have to be mutually exclusive.
So here is my attempt to explain what I’m doing and why.
Why I’m not content to just be a mom (who doesn’t work outside the home)
Sometimes I think I should just turn into uber-mom and focus all my passions into volunteer work at my children’s school. There is certainly plenty of room, from gardening to healthy food as well as less topical duties like administrative help.
But that’s not me. Not all of me. That is not the superhero suit that fits, not all the time.
1. I want to contribute to something that is greater than my small domestic sphere, to the larger community. I want to make a difference in people’s lives.
2. I want my children to see their mother engaged in the community beyond the immediate ones where we spend all our time – our school and our neighborhood. Involvement in those close-in communities is very important and deserves cultivation. But I want to matter outside of them, too. I want my children to see their mother – who spends many hours in the kitchen and doing laundry – also mattering to people they don’t even know. Call it feminist or just pro-purposeful person. I want them to have a model of the primary adult in their lives pursuing a passion and making good things happen in the greater world.
3. In order to support my own mental health without medication, I need to pursue purposeful activity that is in alignment with my values and priorities. I also need to pursue beauty and stillness and love and connection, but it does me a world of good to be able to breathe and feel like I have accomplished something that will benefit someone else. The very act of writing and sharing information is the way I make sense of the world and process my experiences. The new site won’t be as personal, but it will share information about things I care about. That is inspiring to me.
4. I spend a lot of money. Not on travel (except to conferences) or fancy clothes (ha!) or much that I later regret, but mostly on health-related appointments and protocols and on high quality food. I need to be able to contribute some income to my family, especially with my daughter’s preschool tuition and our recent exercise equipment purchase so I can get my natural antidepressants and my overall energy going without leaving the house, no matter how cold or dark it is.
Why I don’t want to just get a “regular job”
1. For optimal health, I need to have the ability to feed myself out of my kitchen, pretty much every day. I cannot eat out at restaurants without repercussions, so that has to be a rarity.
Although I can occasionally prepare food ahead of time if I’m going to be out all day, even that is limiting and not ideal. In order to literally digest my food, I need to eat as mindfully as possible, as often as possible. I benefit tremendously from eating lunch alone in my home most days Monday through Friday, and from not snacking on the go.
2. With #1 above in mind, I can’t do the thing I was trained for: teaching. The environment is far too stressful for me, emotionally with all the needs of all the children and physically with the restrictions on time to eat. Plus, the hours would make it a challenge for me to be with my children in the morning, and I would have to be away from them a lot at other times in order to get grading done, to plan, etc. Teaching is a job that is never done. It was hard enough for me to do it well before I had kids!
The most related thing to teaching – but also not a “real job” – has been tutoring, which I’ve done at a local private boarding school for the past six years. It is good money for not a lot of challenging effort, but is sporadic and unpredictable, not good adjectives for someone who needs routine to be grounded. Additionally, most of the hours were 8-10 p.m., which is problematic for my adrenal health. Rather than just setting out into the world of engagement under fluorescent lights at 8:00 p.m., I need to be winding down by 8:00 and in bed by 10:00.
3. If at all possible, I would like to avoid work that means I can’t be with my children at the beginning of the day, at the end of the day, and during summers. I’d rather be home most nights to put my kids to bed and leave rare evenings out to be for things that will feed my soul and spirit, like Holistic Moms meetings or workshops or yoga or creative writing, or, if the stars align, to being with my husband. I’ve put my children in public school to have consistent daytime hours away from them, and I’d like that to be when I do the bulk of my actual work. I did tell the learning specialist at the boarding school that I’d consider working with a student for daytime only this year, but I don’t expect that to pan out, so I think I’m probably done with tutoring.
4. Working as a freelance editor is something I could pursue, but it doesn’t fit the bill of creating or putting new things out in the world (see below). And it takes work to get clients!
Working as a freelance writer would be great, but I didn’t have that background before I became a mother, so I’ve built up my writing portfolio slowly and without much pay so far. Asking for money for my words will come in time. The new resource site might lead to more freelance writing opportunities in local magazines and on other sites, which would be great.
However, the grandest of my writing goals is to publish a novel I started working on a year ago. The resource site won’t magically make a novel get published (or even get written, which has to happen first!), but it will provide something of a platform and perhaps generate interest among a potential reader base. The novel is not some kind of didactic piece about living naturally, but parenting and health journeys are pieces of the three main characters’ storylines. I figure it is better to establish the site while I work on the novel than to complete the novel without a platform.
5. At the risk of sounding like a whiny toddler, there are too many things I want to do on my own for me to be satisfied working for someone else adhering to their priorities! I need to rein in my many desires, of course, but I don’t think I would ever be content with a narrow, compartmentalized job that did not connect to a greater sense of purpose and to the rest of my life. Some people thrive on that for their work and keep their passions separate. I am not one of them. And if I’ve learned anything over the years of trying to heal from thyroid, adrenal, digestive and skin issues, it’s that this body cannot live in disharmony with the soul, or bad things will happen!
Why I want to build a resource website for healthy and green families
1. I have sitting in my head nearly all the knowledge I need to create the content to start this site and also have the desire to gain the knowledge for the site’s future development. In other words, it’s what I already know and what I want to know more about anyway.
2. I also already have many of the connections I need to start this project. Over the years, I have raised thousands of dollars for several school fundraisers and hundreds for one Holistic Moms fundraiser, all without a business plan or anything other than polite requests and several emails and phone calls. The return on investment for those contributing had some potential for good community relations but was limited to reaching the people attending the events. By contrast, any advertising or collaboration businesses do with my site will, I expect, be highly valuable exposure that will translate to an expanded clientele for those businesses.
3. There is a need for this site. Those potential clients referenced above are real parents looking for real solutions to strengthen their family’s health and wellness. I talk to them all the time.
I’m regularly asked questions about what practitioners to consult or modalities to try. For years, I’ve wanted a place to point people toward to answer their questions. These include people new to pursuing a holistic path, new to parenting altogether, or new to facing a particular health issue or area of interest as their children grow.
Another base for the site will be people who are new to the D.C. metropolitan area. It is such a transient place, there will always be newcomers looking for a starting point to get connected. Email lists are great, but they require people to take the time to reply to new inquiries or the newcomer to search through archives that may contain out-of-date information.
There are plenty of wonderful kid-related dynamic websites and print resources for D.C. families, and there are a few alternative health and wellness-related resources, but this new site will bring these interests together so that natural-minded parents can have a place to start well before they get here and can make it to a Holistic Moms meeting in person.
4. Simply put, I want families to be healthy and happy. I don’t want it to be so hard for people to find the information they need to make decisions that they won’t regret later. I would like to help cultivate a world in which food, love and breath are the first lines of defense. I would like for children to grow up with minimal exposure to chemicals through what they take into their bodies under the assumption that those chemicals are innocuous or helpful, and I would like for children to grow up with safe and regular access to nature and mindful living.
Each family faces a different set of needs, and no one size fits all. I won’t presume to know what is best for any one individual. But I have learned a lot in my journey and I hear over and over how other people have benefited from learning about my struggles. So I would like to expand that reach of the potential for what transformation can occur when we share our stories.
In a world where it’s very easy to find – or even difficult to avoid – one set of opinions and assumptions about how to feed and care for children and for ourselves as parents, I would like to make it easier to find alternative opinions and resources.
Update from March 2014: Mindful Healthy Life is in the works and will launch in April 2014!