I started my day in the bath today. It was really nice. I’m still super tired and in a lot of pain, and today I’m working face painting at the local zoo again, in the cool weather which is hard on me. But I slept well, and actually woke a lot earlier than I needed to, with things bubbling over in my mind. If have liked the extra sleep, but it was nice to wake up feeling so hopeful.
I’ve had some really helpful conversations lately and things are crystallising in my mind. It’s about frameworks and how things are approached… Like baths. I like baths, they’re a place I feel safe, they help with my pain, and I like relaxing in them with candles and a good book. But often I find I don’t want to be in the bath, I feel blocked and frustrated. Sometimes I can figure out why, like I’m not feeling comfortable enough about being naked, or the harsh light in the bathroom is bothering me, but sometimes I just don’t want to… I think it’s my approach. You know how when you’re having a really bad, overwhelming day, someone can offer to make you a cup of tea in a way that feels gentle, respectful, caring, nurturing…. Or someone can offer the same cup of tea in a way that makes you feel patronised, dismissed, like they think you’re pathetic, over dramatic, useless. It’s not the cup of tea. It’s the relationship, and the way you approach it. It’s the implied attitude to you.
When I try to make myself have a bath as if I’m an impatient, frustrated patent with a whiny, irritating kid, it sucks. When I run a bath as a luxury, a treat for working hard, something love for myself, it’s not the same thing at all.
It’s a small thing, but it’s powerful. And it’s playing into my business stuff too. I’m constantly trying to prove myself, prove that I’m a hard worker, that I’m not lazy, that I do my best, a whole bunch of things that no one but me is in doubt of. I think of myself and my skills as resources to be consumed, I fit myself into whatever the client needs me to be. I give myself to my work and I’m burned up by it. I woke up this morning with the idea of my skills as something valuable to be protected. Like a gemstone that’s displayed to its best, put where it can shine, but looked after. I felt this sense that people around me care for me and see as having worth and don’t want me to be consumed by my work. They are trying to protect me.
Maybe it’s the difference between an open cut coal mine, and when the coal is gone, it’s all gone, and tending a herd of goats for milk. Or perhaps, not killing the goose that lays golden eggs…
Maybe it’s about having a sense of worth.
I’ve resolved to take better care of myself and stop selling myself as being really flexible and available, but move towards being more exclusive and working around various limitations. So I’ve been pressured to take work that starts in the mornings when this is really hard for me, my pain levels are always worst in the morning and late at night. But when I turn people down I feel bad, and anxious about my reputation, and that this is poor business practice. Today my resolve was tested when Rose and I had to reschedule a client as she’s still incredibly ill and unable to work. They were so cranky they refused to rebook. It was a rough way to end a morning that had felt so golden, but we do not need every bit of work that comes along, and we cannot do every bit of work that comes along, and no one who is as sick as Rose is should feel bad about not being able to work. We’re going to have to get tough about looking after each other and protecting ourselves from the unrealistic expectations of others.
I’ve been in start up mode for a long time, between the DI, face painting, and other plans. Start up mode is mad, you think about, breathe, dream, live your obsession all the time. There’s a constant drive to grow it, make it work better, fix problems, think of better ways to do things, it’s almost hysteria. Then there’s maintenance, when the framework is there and now you just rock along, doing what you do. Even if I can’t be self sufficient like I hope, I need to shift over to a maintenance mindset. I don’t have what it takes to stay in start up, especially not by myself. That doesn’t mean new things can’t happen, but the focus is different, gentle, less urgent. I get time off. I get help and support. I don’t use myself up. I don’t try and prove things. I find small teams for projects, so I’m not working alone.
I’m writing in the quiet moments of face painting, so I don’t feel that this is as coherent as I’d like, but somewhere in the ramble, there’s a sense of hope, even if joy, that work can be wonderful again, something I like and look forward to instead of something painful and exhausting that claims me and makes me feel like I’ve failed. I feel excited about changes and it’s wonderful to have other people be excited with me, concerned for me, looking out for me. I don’t feel so small and scared and inadequate. Something will work, even if it’s not what I first planned.