I’ve always been a “muscle through it”, “get ‘er done at all costs” kinda lady. I credit that partially to my nature, but also to many, many years in the events biz, which, generally speaking, condones, celebrates and oftentimes (due to the nature of events), requires that kind of mindset and drive.
I thought I had mostly shed that kind of go-go-go-ness since I’ve had my own business and since I’ve been helping millennial women transition careers and new moms get back into the workforce. But last month, on March 8, I was proven way, way wrong.
For about 3 weeks, I had a very, very severe episode of TMD (an inflammation of my jaw joint) which spread to my ear, jaw, head, neck and shoulders. The pain was intense, sharp, shooting and constant- and it felt like it was everywhere on the upper half of my body. There were moments when I thought it was never going to end and I was going to go nuts.
This, as you might imagine, has put everything on hold for future business expansion and my fun dreams I had storyboarded on my family vacation in Hawaii (retreats! Career development cooking classes and food tours! And more fun wacky stuff!)
My Type-A, Be There for Everyone and Every Commitment self was freaking out. FREAKING OUT. How was I going to keep every promise? Go to every meeting? Record those three podcasts I SO desperately wanted to record for my new podcast? Exercise? Plan Career Development Coaching World Domination (kidding)?
The answer, which took me a few days to realize after fighting relentlessly against it, was simple: I wasn’t. Nope- wasn’t going to do that anytime soon.
And I’ll tell you, although the pain was still the same level of HOLY CRAP, that surrender in that moment, made it a little bit better. Sure, I wouldn’t be making an income (right at tax time- yay!) and sure my big plans for scaling and growing my business would need to be put on hold. And sure, I would end up paying close to $2000 in medical costs for it since insurance covered none of what I actually needed (acupuncture, pilates, TMJ orthopedic massages, a bite block from the dentist). But in that moment, I knew the ONLY thing to focus on was getting better, one lonnnnng seemingly endless second at a time, one step at a time.
And I did get better. And when I did get better, I did something different this time, which is the point of this entire post. I did nothing. I didn’t dive back into scheduling podcasts or running around to a billion meetings. Instead, I slept til I woke up. I went to two museums and I took an inspirational book (Essentialism, by Greg McKeown) and my journal to several coffee shops around the city and just sat with my thoughts about how I wanted to change my routine, my day to day, what I’m doing with my time, how I’m evaluating opportunities that come my way, pursuing less activity but more meaning.
I’m listening to that new podcast everyone is talking about –S Town– and this isn’t giving any spoilers away but one of the people in the podcast estimates that we have about one-quarter of our entire lives for meaningful moments, after you take out sleep and mundane stuff you gotta do and such. I happened to be listening to S Town while recovering, so I doubt Pre-TMJ Jill would even have noticed it, but I stopped in my tracks when I heard it….25% of our time AT MOST? Damn.
So, why am I departing from my usual tips and tools kinds of posts to tell you all of this? Because through all this stepping back and easing back into work, going to museums, journaling, taking the time I needed, I am now much clearer and excited (and a little terrified) about where I’m headed. I wouldn’t have gotten to do that and would just still be on my hamster wheel if I hadn’t. So if you are going through something similar (and most of us do at some point), there could be an INCREDIBLE silver lining there to explore.
And I’m not saying it’s an easy decision to make. Not only do I have my fun human nature rooting against me in this (“Go, get more done Jill!”), but I am very aware of what happens when you’re responsible for your own income and aren’t working and have medical bills and other bills to pay. This isn’t like….the most fun I’ve ever had. I’m not sitting on a pot of gold under my butt at the end of a rainbow. But I gotta say, as I work through creative ways to get through this (Selling my wedding dress, consigning old clothes from my finance days, taking on a couple odd jobs (I sound like a carpenter- I am not)), I think I’ll look back on this and find this process to be one of the most rewarding of my life and I think, as painful as it was, I needed to have this experience to get me off my toosh and get me to stop making excuses for staying comfy where I was.
Because when it comes down to it, I want a heck of a lot more than 25% of my life to be full of meaningful moments and experiences. There is mundaneness in life- for SURE- I’m not saying every moment needs to be magical, but I no longer want to stand in my own damn way of those unicorn exciting moments because I’m too busy racing around to notice it.