In which I change my mind mid-way through

Hug

Hello, darlingface.

Did you miss me?

I missed me.

So I had a looong period (documented over at Mediocre Be Damned, along with one extremely valuable lesson learned withal, should you be so inclined) of non-functionality. I made nothing, I slept a lot, and the only flourishing endeavour I commanded was my iPad’s farm.

(So. Many. Carrots!)

Now finally I am again able, albeit slowly and stumblefootedly, to make things. Began with baking, then sewing projects, then actually talking on social media again. Hitting the publish button on Mediocre Be Damned.

I left Cash and Joy for last, ’cos I needed enough zoomjuice in my brainpan to riddle with.

I need to re-solve the foundational question: what is Cash and Joy committed to bringing more of into the world?

Cool shit!
Ethical marketing strategies
Joy
People who make money by creating things they believe in
Eradication of unnecessary stress
Damning the Man (and saving the Empire)
Transcendence
Anti-beige
Teensy businesses
Full-frontal emotional nudity
Adaptability
Taking it less seriously, sheesh
Momentum
Your brilliance

The crockpot of ingredients hasn’t changed drastically over the years, and it’s awesome. I grinned while writing that.

But there’s a driving need to just fucking pick one, already. Make it easier to be the Subject Matter Expert, the Go-To Gal, the saint in her niche. Or maybe find a higher-level taxonomy, a catchy nickname for the crockpot itself.

Shit, when I started writing this article I had one picked out and everything.

I was gonna announce it right about… here.

But now I’m here I don’t want to.

Huh.

*more long thoughtful pauses, you get the idea*

I… want to leave it a bit messy.

I need to delay auditing my offerings and constructing a neat Pinterest-friendly label for What We Offer Hyah.

Aw dammit, it would be so easy and tempting to smoosh myself into that neat box! Comforting. Marketable.

Sterile? Yes, also sterile.

Outside, it’s getting colder and the few deciduous trees are running clearance sales on their leaves. But inside me it’s spring, and spring has to be messy. Moist, compost-y (aka: full of bullshit?), squishy, warm. Fungible. Riotous and icky between the toes.

Make spring too neat and what will grow?

Oh. I changed my mind.

I shan’t narrow, define, compartmentalise. I’m just gonna grow, and make things, and see where we end up.

Wisdoms Learned Through Sometimes Terrible Experience

Sometimes you need lots of clarity to take action.

Sometimes you get the clarity by taking action.

And dicking around waiting for The Perfect Vision to epiphanise on you is wasted time.

Or in other words:

Sometimes it wants to be neat. Sometimes it needs to be messy.

Frustrating! Harder to message! You have to be super careful to still deliver the right trust-increasing levels of consistency! It would be super easier to just pick a box already and jump in it!

But I’m going to trust myself. I shall listen to the voice of spring and respect my still-healing creator.

Where is Cash and Joy going? Couldn’t tell you.

Wanna hang around while we find out?

A relentlessly pragmatic approach to self-care

Hey, I was asked to be part of this amazing series from Mara and Tamarisk on self-care. I’ve linked to the rest of the series at the bottom, so you can read this first, okay?

There are lots of people who regard self-care as a deep spiritual practice.

Sometimes I am one of them.

But mostly I regard self-care as a pragmatist. And the pragmatic approach to self care says this:

My business requires three pieces of equipment: a computer, an internet connection, and me. If either of the first two break down, I can find alternatives. So really, the only piece of irreplaceable business equipment I own is my brain.

Therefore, adequate maintenance is not optional. And self-care is maintenance of me.

My self-care needs vary depending on the time of year, my workload, whether I’m going through a growth period, the busyness of my personal life, etc. But these are the baseline essentials:

Sleeeeep

Three nights of bad sleep will destroy me. After even one night I feel fuzzy and I’ll struggle the next day. Most of the time, I don’t have to do much to ensure I get enough sleep: if you took me to a party attended by everyone I’ve ever admired and they spent the whole night telling me how amazing I was? I’d still be asleep by 11:30.

I am careful to ensure I have enough time to wake up naturally, which includes staggering my first appointment time depending on the season. In summer, I’m usually up and about by 5, and I sometimes do sessions at 6am. In winter, my first session time is usually 9am, so I have plenty of time to sleep in and still have breakfast before my first call.

Breakfast

Sometimes I try to pretend I don’t need this, and then wonder why I get so vague and crabby at 10am. In winter, I almost always go with porridge with dried apricot. In summer, toast with Vegemite and cheese (not as healthy, but I am yet to find an alternative I like better).

Vitamins

Especially in winter, where a daily dose of D3 is one of my secret weapons against Seasonal Affective Disorder. Also C and B12, and a cod liver oil.

Water

I’ll usually go through a bottle of this during a client call. Back-to-back sessions have increased my talent as the Fastest Pee-r in the West, because I usually have less than a minute to refill my bottle and empty my bladder. Welcome to the classy world of the entrepreneur!

Rest

A new tool in the toolbox is an enforced rest every 90 minutes, which I’m defining as 15 minutes in which I neither create nor consume anything.

A shower counts, as does sitting in the back yard watching the fish in the fish pond. Doing the dishes would count, but I never do those in the morning. And lying down, comfy but not too comfy, is fab too, when I can resist the urge to bring along a book. A walk (without an iPod) also is a favourite, especially in autumn.

More and more, this is starting to feel like an absolute requirement. The science backs me on this, as does studies of successful practitioners, but also my personal experience. I feel less fuzzy, more focused, and less likely to drift off target.

Fallow periods are fab for freeing up short-term memory, and also for incubating new thought. The times when I don’t stop shoving new information and distraction into my brain are the times when I don’t create anything worthwhile.

Bored brains are creative brains. So I carefully feed myself measured doses of Nothing To Do on a regular basis.

Exercise

I’m not perfect.

It’s on the to-do list?

Hugs

I get engaging social contact online, which meets most of my needs. But I still require and receive plenty of hugs from The Dude.

Music

If I go more than a few days without singing along to something, I start to feel lacklustre. I tend to put on music while doing things that don’t require 100% of my concentration – like World of Warcraft – and while cleaning.

Making things

This sounds funny, because I make things all day. But as The Dude put it, “You’re very tactile. You need to make things you can feel.”

So this year I’ve committed to the idea of making something non-business-related every day. Right now, I’m wrapped up in a Super Secret Project, but I’m also dusting off the sewing machine and sewing myself a tunic dress from a custom pattern.

Pocket money

Gods, this was a hard one to learn. When cash flow was tight I would always skip this and declaim, “No! I must live on sackcloth and ashes! It is what I deserve!

But honestly, having a wee bit of money to spend on myself every fortnight is a stunning investment with an excellent ROI.

(I bought a new dress! It is so pretty and so comfortable!)

Coaches

Right now I have a coach, a hypnotherapist, an accountability buddy, and the Provocateurs.

They are 90% of the reasons for this long beautiful list of self-care activities.

Books

I read a book a day, on average. This includes some days where I read nothing, and some where I devour three of them.

Since I now live near an excellent library, and go there once a week for biz planning, I’m reading at least one new fiction and one non-fiction book per week, and it’s usually more like five books.

I’m also enjoying picking one book each week far outside my usual sphere. This week, I’ve chosen a book about a basketball gambling scandal. Should be fascinating.

Bedtime ritual

As previously mentioned, I’m an early-to-bed kinda lass, while The Dude is an insomniac. So he puts me to bed every night, and we spend anywhere from five minutes to an hour snuggling and talking about things. During the time I was staying with my family, we both signed up for phone plans from the same provider so we could continue this every night without running up staggering phone bills.

Learninating

If I’m not learning, I’m stagnant. Sometimes this is from books, but right now I’m also working on improving my extremely rusty French with a module of Rosetta Stone every week.

Once I’m finished French I’m eyeing off Italian. And then maybe Russian. YEAH.

Holy shit, I have a lot of self care!

I never looked at it in a big-ass list before.

But it’s also a recipe for how I want to live my life.

I mean, not everything I want – or want to want, in some cases – is here. My diet is still less than amazing, I don’t exercise, and I don’t go out and have adventures or do major volunteer work like I always planned I would.

But it’s still an interesting and enlivening life. It’s full, and meaningful, and quietly successful.

Which is of course where the pragmatist gives way to the spiritualist.

This relentlessly practical here’s-what-I-need-to-keep-myself-working list is also a pretty comprehensive list of Things Catherine Loves And Would Feel Sad Without.

Because Keeping The Catherine Machine Running as a priority (because the Catherine Machine is a valuable piece of capital equipment) is almost entirely indistinguishable from Loving The Ever-living Hell Out Of Catherine.

For me, I’ve found it easier to justify – ugly word, but there it is – really huge systems of self-care as a business decision. I honestly don’t know if I would have been so goddamn thorough with it just as an expression of self-love. I mean, I’m awesome, but this is a lot of time and energy here!

But does it matter? I’m still getting almost everything I need to thrive and be happy (and productive). Does it matter if this was more of a cold efficiency decision than a warm fuzzy one?

I’m not sure. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

And go check out the other articles in the Perfectly Imperfect Self Care series here! They are neato.

When resilience is overwhelmed

January was an awesome month. I handily met my primary goal of ten paid client sessions per month. (By the 17th!)

But January was also featured a series of unfortunate events.

I want to tell you about them, not to complain or get your sympathy – I’m fine now – but because there’s a fascinating lesson demonstrated here.

The first thing to happen was three days of violent illness. I spent a lot of those three days lying on the couch moaning and cursing my reproductive organs. But I wasn’t sick every minute and I still got work done, including a whole new resource for The Provocateurs. And I bounced back immediately, still getting more than half the work on my weekly plan done. Resilience was high!

Four days later…

a reaction to new medication delivered another two days of couch moaning, and extra days where all I could eat was dry crackers. At the same time the rain, driven by tropical cyclones up north, was a non-stop barrage that soaked you any time you went a metre from the door, and provided continual overcast – something that always makes me feel tired.

The illness and rainstorms combined to sap me quite a bit. I didn’t bounce back to 100%, this time. Instead of jumping back into work, I kinda more plodded back. Resilience was there, but more determined than cheery.

The next day…

my PC got infected with malware. I did my tired-brain best to remove it, but it was too persistent. So I had to format the computer, and reinstall everything from scratch. After this, my bounce-back was even lower – did I mention it was still goddamn raining? – and I was aware of myself teetering on the edge of burnout. But I soldiered womanfully on.

Then, three days later…

the river that runs in a loop around my house broke its banks. We lost power for 24 hours, and spent the entire day moving items to higher ground and hoping the flood didn’t rise as high as two years ago, when it was half-way up the house.

It didn’t! We were soggy but safe.

But I was officially broken.

My resilience was exhausted, like a piece of saggy knicker elastic. There was absolutely no bounce-back whatsoever, just an exhaustion and lack of focus so deep it was completely indistinguishable from an intense depression. (Maybe it was? I dunno.)

I was completely, utterly, pile-the-dishes-in-the-sink, sleep-ten-hours-a-night, everything-weighs-quadruple, three-naps-a-day, eat-because-The-Dude-tells-me-to, out-of-arms-reach-is-too-far, sorry-what-did-you-just-say wiped out.

For a full week.

I was barely able to manage the essentials (client calls, urgent emails, vitamins and the occasional shower) before my energy was completely tapped out. I was too tired to rest well, too exhausted to get anything done, and nothing I did (or didn’t do) seemed to make an improvement.

After the first unfortunate event, all it took was one decent night’s sleep to get me back to 100%. After the sixth one, rest had no noticeable effect. I was at zero, and I stayed there for some time.

It was fascinating to watch my resilience get overwhelmed.Horrible, but fascinating.

It’s been a looong, long time since so many unfortunate things have happened to me at once – thank god – and so I watched how each small problem left me slightly less well equipped to deal with the next one, and on and on down the spiral.

If any of these events had occurred in isolation, I would have been over it by the next day. It was all of them that combined to sink me for an extraordinary length of time.

And this always, always happens when you get to the bottom of the barrel. In this case, I didn’t create any of the events that overwhelmed my resilience, but in the past I’ve been here because of adding too many things to my plate, and it’s exactly the same.

Recovering from even 95% tapped out and recovering from 100% tapped out are so different they bear almost no resemblance to each other.

As long as you aren’t completely tapped out, there’s always a teeny bit of bounce to help you bounce back. Rest and good food and long showers and going for a walk and good company all recharge the batteries, and you can feel it happening. You heal, you mend. It’s wonderful.

But when you get completely tapped out, that actually kinda stops working. Even complete rest doesn’t seem to have much effect. It’s like you need to hang around, exhausted, fuzzy, and miserable, until your resilience machine remembers to start up again. Only after that can you start to recharge and regain your energy.

It sucks hardcore.

So I guess what I’m saying is this:

If you’re already feeling a bit overwhelmed, do absolutely whatever it takes to avoid adding that final straw to the camel’s back. Reschedule, renegotiate deadlines, cancel, get your mum to take the kids for a day, take a social media hiatus, outsource, ask for help, spend your savings, steal a thermonuclear device, whatever you gotta do! This is your most urgentest priority.

Do not, if it is even vaguely possible, keep adding weights until you get to the bottom of the barrel.

And if, despite your best efforts (or due to the vagaries of the weather gods) you do get completely tapped out: understand that it is going to take way, way longer to recover than you anticipate, and react accordingly in regards to email auto-replies, scheduling, and making commitments.

You’ll likely need up to a week to have the brain to start creating anything – even an intelligent email reply – and even after that low-down week you’ll only be starting to rebuild your energy and you’ll need to keep being gentle on yourself for at least another couple of weeks in order to not meet the bottom of the barrel again. Flaggellating yourself about your growing to-do list will really not help. Lower your expectations. Be gentle on yourself.

Do you have any stories to share or tips on how to recover from the bottom of the barrel? Leave a comment below and tell us about it!

The young knight, the wise knight, and the oft-relearned lesson.

The young knight radiated painful levels of keenness.

Christina, yes that Christina, sighed inaudibly and said, ”Very well. I will give you space in my pavilion and we shall ride together in the tourney. What was your name again?”

Her name was Liliane, and she had lived a lifetime in a month: first slaying the Demon of Cotterston, then knighted by the Good Queen Elisandra herself, and now, to be mentored by the Queen’s most puissant knight…

”We shall discuss strategy, and she will show me the best way to hold a lance, then she will compliment me on my broadsword technique!” thought Liliane. ”And perhaps, perhaps I shall best her in the grand melee, and as ransom she will offer me the Helm of Incendrius, and I will refuse to accept it, and we shall become the best, the very best of friends…”

Christina watched the young knight, smiled, shook her head.

“Let us prepare.”

They oiled the straps on their vambraces. They sharpened their swords. They polished their cuirasses, reinforced their shields, rolled their chain mail in barrels with a handful of sand. Then ritually, their squires armed and armoured them.

They were resplendent. They set forth.

Later: bloodied, muddied, sweaty and sodden, the knights retired after the first day of jousts and challenges.

Outside the tent smiled a great many young men, determined to show their appreciation of the valourous knights. Liliane giggled as she sat to remove her greaves. Christina, veteran of a hundred tourneys, winked knowingly back.

Liliane was emboldened to ask, ”What will you, um, wh- what are your plans for the evening?”

Christina replied, ”I’m going to take a nap.”

”But… you won the competition today! There are… groupies outside the tent! and Her Majesty’s feast is this night!”

”Oh, I shall definitely attend the feast and drink a cup to Her Majesty’s health. To do so I shall skip the cooing and froing, which is a pity. But since I want to win the grand mêlée tomorrow, I must rest now. Do you not feel tired?”

Liliane admitted that she felt, you know, a leetle bit tired after nine hours of combat and manoeuvring while wearing half a ton of metal in the hot sun.

”But… this a special occasion. And it’s only two days… I don’t want to miss a second of it! I can skip the nap, I’ll be fine.”

”Do as you wish,” said Christina. ”I will not say I told you so.”

Liliane polished her armour, sharpened her broadsword, and left in a cloud of perfume and pomade and pride. Christina settled down on her pallet and thought as she stretched.

She thought, You young fool. So diligent about taking care of your equipment, so lax about taking care of yourself. As if your body was not your most important weapon. As if your mind wasn’t your most important shield.

I could tell you. I could say, ”A magic sword in a weak hand is not just useless. It is dangerous.” I could say, ”The more a sword parries, the more often it must be sharpened.”

But you cannot see past the excitement and you would not listen, young fool. So tomorrow I shall hammer you into the ground in the grand mêlée. Perhaps you will learn then.

Christina rolled dreaming into the blankets, seeing past glories and glories soon to come.

It is five years later and sleep is a pleasant memory.

The wind scythes through the ravine, observing a valiant last stand. The knights of the Good Queen Elisandra are hopelessly outnumbered by the skeletal army of the Dread Necromancer Zod.

The fell and fearsome Christina has stood in the narrowest part of the ravine, holding the pass with sword and blazing eye, for three days and three nights. The bard is at the back, whistling and taking notes.

There is a lull amongst the undead ranks, as the disassembled troops grope to find their skulls and collarbones. Christina plants her sword in the pounded dust and waits for them to come again.

And then she is remorselessly pulled away to sit on a rock, sword replaced with stew, helm replaced with damp cloth. Liliane Traitors-foe, scarred and cynical and already more renowned than any knight before her, looms out of the sun and dust and offers a flagon of wine.

”Fine, sister knight,” growls Christina. ”A quick sup then I will be back to the lines. I thank you.”

The young knight, no longer so young, shakes her head.

”A leisurely meal, a long nap, confession from the archbishop, massage, and THEN you can return to the lines.”

”But… I wield the Sword of Adamant, against which none can stand!”

”True.”

”But… there are none other who can push back the advance!”

”You are correct.”

”But… this army must be defeated, or our land will burn!”

”Yes.”

”Therefore, I cannot rest!”

”We have barricades, and brave milkmaids with pikes to defend them. We have fire archers on the cliff walls. We will not advance, but we will hold while you sleep. Even if we would not, you still must sleep. A wise knight once taught me this.”

Christina rolls her eyes.

”That was tourney and play. This is disaster! We teeter on the edge of destruction. There is no time for… massages.”

”Your arms grow tired. Deny it.”

”I…”

”Your mind grows dull. Deny it.”

”…”

”One more day of this and you will be less useful than the milkmaids. DENY IT.”

”BUT I MUST!” roars Christina. ”The Queen and the land must be defended!”

Liliane held her arm. ”Wise fool, we may need to hold this pass for weeks while the mages find a way to break the Dread Necromancer’s spell. Weeks! No matter how much we would wish to fight without rest, we are mortal flesh. We rest now to fight better tomorrow. We rest now in order to fight at all next week.”

There was nothing she could do in the face of that much sense. Christina found a hay bale and wrapped her cloak around herself.

She drifted off, as ever, seeing past glories and glories yet to come.

Looking for someone to rescue you from yourself? You should join The Provocateurs! All of the wisdom, with less of the contusions.

photo by: pwbaker