2022 is receding in the rear-view mirror and I am still struggling to come up with a year-end post. I’m not sure why I am attached to the idea of writing one (which at this point is really a year-beginning post, innit?) other than a) I have promised my team I would do it, b) I haven’t shared a proper update in forever, and c) my early attempts to get this post done were unsuccessful which is making me feel stubborn about getting it past the finish line.
The past year is exceedingly hard to summarize as it was absurdly packed with intense events, including the worsening of an awful year-and-a-half long flare-up of my daughter’s autoimmune condition, requiring a white-knuckle cross-country drive to Cincinnati for treatment with her specialists. (Hoo boy that was a wild road trip! Remind me to tell you about it sometime.) She got a series of infusions of a monoclonal antibody treatment that finally resolved her critically low platelet count, and allowed her finally to stop taking prednisone that had been racking her body for more than a year. We were in Cincinnati for about five weeks in April and May, so she missed a good chunk of her junior year of high school.
The great news is that she has basically fully recovered; while we still don’t know what causes these flares, we are so thankful to be on the other side of this one. She’s driving and doing teenager things and has regained her strength and has somehow stayed so calm and content and lovely through it all; it’s an amazing thing. Massive thanks to the team of docs, nurses and other health care providers for all the ways they helped J get back into a healthy place: Dr. Michael Grimley, Dr. Mark Unverzagt, Cherie Short, Molly Leone, Dr. Deborah Wozniak and Erin Hansbrough, I can’t thank you all enough.
Managing my self-employment through recurring family health crises is an unwelcome but persistent theme in my working and writing life. As a business author and consultant, and as someone who recognizes the power of sharing our lived experience, I feel somehow obligated to share my path and lessons learned. But the periodic intensity of caring for my kid and her chronic health issues on top of “regular” family and work life makes it ridiculously hard to find the time and space to write. Plus, grappling with how much personal or family medical stuff to include — especially when I’m not even the patient — definitely slows me down on the writing front. I feel like a broken record; I feel like I’m making excuses; I feel unprofessional.
The uncertainty that comes with all of this also has a big impact on my networking and community-building. When health events are dominating I just have less bandwidth and sometimes I have to cancel meetings, or I might just fail to respond. Sometimes when I am recovering from an especially anxious time, I’ll drop the ball with a work project in a way that’s just embarrassing and it makes me feel terrible. I hate feeling like a flake, and I hate wasting other people’s time. So I find that I reach out and network less, and commit to fewer things. And I’m always working towards a balance where that’s okay.
The reality of self-employed life is that your community is an important source of strength, so the need to self-limit my outreach is tough for me to accept. But I’d rather be connected to fewer people with whom I can mostly actually maintain a relationship, than to be flaky with a wider circle. I mean, it’s not like I don’t make mistakes even on good days. I most definitely do. I think it’s the mistakes made on bad days that just feel even worse, so I’ve developed habits for avoiding that as much as possible.
I’m also super thankful for the circle of work colleagues that I do have, and their understanding and grace with me when I need to not be working, or to shed certain responsibilities and commitments. I don’t take it for granted and it’s a straight-up blessing to have friends and collaborators like this in my life.
One way I’ve dealt with these challenges is to shift towards a business with employees, so that if/when I have to check out, my projects and income don’t come to a screeching halt. This was a big motivator behind starting P-Brain. Now that P-Brain is nearly two years old and starting to take on a momentum of its own, I find myself circling back to my coaching and writing work. Before I got busy with P-Brain, I had been developing some new formats for blog posts with Lisa Barrow’s help, and the breakdown looks something like this:
- Business-focused posts and excerpts from my books that are focused on topics like using technology or bookkeeping or what sustainability means within the world of entrepreneurship. I’m planning to do more of these in 2023.
- Posts about community resources that I ask Lisa Barrow to write. Thanks Lisa!
- Posts about my day-to-day experience being self-employed and dealing with life (including the rollercoaster of dealing with my daughter’s long, diagnosis-defying autoimmune disorder).
It’s this last category that I find the hardest — but I deeply believe in the value of these kinds of posts. It’s so helpful to read about other self-employed folx’ real-life experiences, including all the messy bits. The reality is that doing the sharing is hard, especially when you feel like I have been feeling these last few years: thoroughly tossed about in the waves and not entirely sure which way is up at any given moment. The disorientation makes it hard to put experience into words.
It seems to me the thing to do is keep trying.
Living with uncertainty has become our norm since my kid’s health challenges started in 2012, which prepared us pretty well for COVID life. Still, since March 2020 I’ve evolved from accepting the unexpected, to a feeling of constant disorientation. I don’t exactly feel “lost,” as some kinesthetic mechanism is reassuring me that I’m where I should be, or at least on the right path. Still, the horizon is devoid of landmarks, the sun’s position in the sky doesn’t make sense and I’m not sure what language is spoken here.
I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this feeling. We’re nearing a three-year mark of a massively disrupting world event that is reshaping the world we humans have gotten used to, and we are collectively figuring out what new patterns and shapes our world will take on, in everything from personal relationships to public life and culture, to business and economic matters. It feels like the dining table has been flipped, and humanity is trying to put things back in place but we disagree on where things should go. Plus there’s a giant shadow of something that threatens to flip the table again, adding urgency to the angst — for some of us anyway.
Sure, it’s tempting to minimize the magnitude of COVID’s impacts upon us, both individually and collectively, but I personally can’t do it. This is probably in large part because I have spent so much time in hospitals over the last several years, and simply can’t unsee the reality of sickness, and the sudden, shocking way it can hit you from nowhere. COVID is loudly announcing itself, so it seems the very least we can do is pay attention, take the threat seriously and take precautions.
It makes me unfathomably sad to see that society has chosen not to do this. A companion to this sadness is anger, which I try not to indulge but make a practice to recognize and feel and discharge without snapping and losing my shit.
I’ve had something like a mantra lately along the lines of “keep it mellow” which is a tall order these days. I feel I’m doing a decent job, at least most of the time. It takes work.
A few years ago I developed a visualization of being a cork bobbing happily within churning waters. I like it and it often helps me banish the angsts. I am the cork, I’m being tossed around, and I’m okay. But sometimes I can’t channel that bobby energy. That’s when I lean on another skill I’ve been working on: how to breathe underwater when sucked beneath the surface for lengthy periods of time. How to be a fish. I’m still working on that.
Keep it mellow. Be a cork. Be a fish. More mantras for 2023.
While the family medical stuff dominated my field of vision during 2022, I had plenty of other stuff going on.
- P-Brain Media grew both in clients and team members. (ICYMI, I started P-Brain in 2021 to offer website and technology services to clients, with a focus on serving small, mission-driven ventures.) We had a great year building websites and implementing tech-based solutions for our clients! Besides how satisfying it has been to help the small ventures at the core of our business, working with my team has been an enormous source of happiness for me. Ana Vela, Lisa Barrow and our newest hire Samantha Grooms (welcome aboard, Sam!) make work feel joyful, challenging (in the best ways) and meaningful. I am beyond grateful to work alongside their energy and talents. Ditto for the contractors we have collaborated with: Jordan Tate, Marya Errin Jones, Matt Corson and Mike McGovern. Our systems really gelled in late 2022 and we’re all stoked to do more digital streamlining for our clients in 2023.
- An organization I helped co-found in 2021 — Sustainable Equitable Economic Democracy New Mexico, or SEED NM — grew a couple sizes last year, hosting a symposium on sustainable economic development and advocating within the small business community for public education funding. SEED NM is an affiliate of a national group, the American Sustainable Business Network which is an amazing organization of business owners who want to play a part in shifting the economy towards a regenerative model aimed at sustainability and equity. SEED NM is still young, and sadly I had to check out several times during the year for my family medical stuff, but overall we had a great 2022. Shout outs to Sandra McCardell, Angela Merkert and Eric Griego for showing me the ropes in the world of advocacy! SEED NM is developing new initiatives for business owners to learn about policy areas like climate change, affordable housing and sustainable finance, so if you’re interested in how small businesses and their owners can play a role in pursuing a sustainable economy, please drop me a line, and check us out at seednm.org.
- After several years of looking, my family bought a parcel of raw land about an hour from Albuquerque where we are building a mini-ranch of sorts. The goal is to build just enough of an infrastructure to accommodate sustainable camp-style living, with a couple shade structures and a 1971 Holiday Rambler, water catchment, and eventually off-grid solar power. Having a rural property is something I’ve long dreamed of, and it still doesn’t quite feel real that we made it happen. I have learned a lot about land, wells, gravel and composting toilets, and operated a Bobcat for the first time. It’s pretty fucking awesome. So, another mantra for 2023: Be outside. Massive thanks to Karl Wulffraat for helping me find the right property; Jason Radler and Anthony Radler for designing and building the beautiful structures, and Stue Trory for helping with the endless decisions and tasks to make it all happen.
- On December 30 2021, my husband and I were walking with our dog Mylo to our neighborhood coffee shop when two beautiful dogs appeared out of nowhere and charmed their way home with us. Here’s the nutshell version of what happened next: It took five days to find the owner who as it turned out did not want to keep them, so exactly one year ago today, they became part of our household: Boris the big guy, and Angie the more petite girl. For two months our house was completely dominated by these two gentle beasts; it was a lovely chaos. We were just starting to get a handle on training them (huge thanks to Jennifer Allen for a leg up on that), but sadly our little 15-pound Mylo kept challenging 80-pound Boris and finally Boris snapped. Due to his size, he almost killed Mylo. While Mylo healed, my friends Billy and Alicia were incredibly kind and offered to let Boris stay with them while I put on a frantic search to find him a home. I contacted every single local rescue organization, posted endlessly on Facebook and called all my dog-loving friends, but I came up empty and had to take him to the pound. It was heartbreaking. I still think about beautiful Boris and hope he got adopted and is living his best life. Angie, on the other hand, fit into our pack beautifully and we just celebrated our Angieversary. She and Mylo are a wonderful duo and she even gets along with Fidel, our 18-year-old cat.
- Music has moved off the front burner this year, as I had to back out of the band I was playing in when my girl’s medical situation forced us to leave town for a month. Twas a bummer. I hope and expect I’ll play with my bandmates from The Directory again sometime. I’ve been loosely working on some new songs of my own and playing with a few folks, and want to put some shows together late spring. I’ve also started studying music theory with an amazing player and teacher, Obrie Smith and I’m so stoked about what I’m learning! It’s circle of fifths stuff, modes and scales, the tritone, etc. It’s blowing my mind. We’re starting with piano but a lot of what we’re digging into is helping me a lot with bass as well. I’m playing almost every day and going to try to keep it that way.
I think that covers the main points, both high and low. It has been an overstuffed year, no question. I’m setting a vision for 2023 that’s heavy with music, nature, furry friends, meaningful work and healthy loved ones.
All pics shared with J’s permission. 🙂
Self-employment coach at your service
Thank you for indulging my rambly post. Allow me to add a reminder that I am still doing business coaching and have room for a couple more clients in 2023. When in business coach mode, I am not rambly at all and very good at untangling vexing issues from choosing the best legal structure for your venture to writing job descriptions to clarifying your business model and digital strategy. I can also help guide you through the doubts, fears and swirling feelings that are so common when you’re forging your own path. To kick off the new year I’m offering a 40% discount exclusively for subscribers to my email list. If you’re already an email subscriber, check your email for the code, which is included in the January email. Note that it expires January 31. (If you can’t find it, drop me a line.) If you’re not already subscribed to my email list, sign up here and you’ll get the discount code. ✨