The other day I talked on the phone with my ex. We were engaged, for a year, and just broke it off a few months ago when all the fighting finally got too much for excuses. When we finally realized this isn’t what love looks like. So we called it quits while we could stay friends.
He runs his own business in the US, and I’ve always played a supportive role. This is tricky now, because it means we have to do things—like talk regularly on the phone—that aren’t normally part of a breakup. It can be excruciatingly uncomfortable—yet growth always comes in the uncomfortable places. I know that.
So a couple days ago, we talked, and even though it was supposed to be about business only, somehow we strayed into personal territory. He made a remark about not processing his feelings around the breakup yet because he has to focus on getting his finances sorted, and I felt so stupid: oh my god, I’m doing nothing but process my feelings around the breakup, I guess this is why I’m not a millionaire, I guess I should stop feeling my feelings and work more. After we hung up, I bawled my eyes out. I couldn’t even say why.
Later I had a walk with my little girl, and two insights came to me.
One, I didn’t come into this world to work 40-hour weeks at a desk job. Part of my work, part of my purpose, is my spiritual and emotional growth. It doesn’t earn me money, per se—but it is no less valuable for me than the work that does. Only by becoming the best version of me can I ever achieve the impact I came to this world to have, or earn a living that gives me any fulfillment. So I give myself permission to spend time with my feelings, turning the insights into useful actions as I recreate my life in the wake of this breakup—this is some of the most important work I could possibly do!
Two, the reason I’m so sensitive to my ex-fiancée’s opinions (real or imagined) is because he stood in—as did all the men I dated before—for my dad, a lovely man who was overworked and unavailable when I was a little girl and just couldn’t show up in the ways I craved. Decades later, I’m still attracting overworked and unavailable men into my life, perpetually recreating a story that I should have outgrown years ago; what was true when I was a little 5-year-old girl isn’t true of the life this 38-year-old woman lives, and I have to stop outsourcing my approval—and, by extension, my confidence—to the man in my life. That, too, is part of my work (yep, the part that doesn’t earn money!). By committing to let that old story go, I am creating a future where I actually choose a partner because we are deeply compatible, not because he gives me the approval my 5-year-old self craves.
So I commit to creating a life that works for me. That means throwing myself with total commitment back into this book I’ve been laboring to bring to birth for the past three years. It means living into my means of service in the world, every day. It means being an overwhelming experience of love in my own life, and in the lives of those around me. Even my ex. Especially my ex.
It means being true to who I am and living the life that works for me. I give myself permission.
Nearly 15 years ago now, I sat in a dim, smoky café in Toronto with my best friend Heidi and a startlingly-blue-eyed boy we’d met earlier that year on a backpacking trip to Europe. We called him Jason Blue-Eyes, and we admired him not just for those arresting eyes, but for the fact that he, like both of us, was a writer—only he, unlike either of us, actually wrote.
Heidi and I bonded at the age of 19 over our shared passion for writing (and, it turned out, our shared passion for a British classmate named John). At 25, we house-sat for six months in the mountains of West Virginia, a sweet gig that was meant to afford us 40-hour weeks of writing—only, we finally admitted, we didn’t want to write for 40 hours a week, and found any excuse to do anything else instead. Eventually Heidi moved on to New York City and I to Cincinnati, where we worked dreadful entry-level jobs and scrawled away at our novels in our down time. We both married. She finished her degree. I divorced and relocated to Africa. We became mothers. 40-hour writing weeks have long since become a distant dream for us—yet we are both about to pitch novels, and not for the first time.
That long-ago day in Toronto, Jason Blue-Eyes wowed us with the simplest of phrases: A writer writes….right?! Still it took Heidi and me years to create our writing schedules, our writing lifestyles. 40 hours a week doesn’t work for us. But this year I wrote the second half of a novel in two months, when I finally hit upon the practice of starting my day with an hour of writing before I eat breakfast or check my emails or anything, seven days a week. Turns out that’s the writing schedule that works for ME.
There’s no such thing as The Right Way, or The Wrong Way, to do anything we’re serious about. There’s only My Way. I’m a “multi-passionate” person who never has, and never will, devote 40 hours a week to any one pastime—I like to have my fingers in multiple pies. I write every morning, I do admin, I plan future projects, I execute current ones. I daydream, I brainstorm, I take naps. And it works: I have finished two books already this year and am outlining my next two! I run a monthly meetup group for female entrepreneurs, I teach workshops, and I volunteer. I am a writer….who writes. I am a businesswoman….who runs a business. I don’t do it 40 hours a week; I take breaks to look at grasshoppers and ants that my toddler is desperate to show me, and to meet friends for coffee, and to read. As Carrie Klassen writes here, I am learning to run a business that is kind to me.
This is my favorite thing about being an entrepreneur: finding the “My Way” that works for ME. And then living it, and enjoying that feeling of synergy every day—of finally being a writer who writes.
Yeah, I don't actually blog anymore....
I used to blog all the time, but it was really TMI, so I finally wised up and took it down. Now I just write about life-and-business stuff, and even that is inconsistent. So lately I decided to cheat and post my newsletters here too. (You can join the newsletter list on the Home page.)