Looking Back Looking Forward

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. Before starting this post, I felt compelled to look over my posts form 2018. And one thing I noticed was last year found me struggling with finding better ways to work and better ways to balance life and work. I wrote about taking a 10-day staycation and explored my thoughts about the need for social media as a small business. Which naturally led to taking a social media fast for one month. I also shared with you my conflicted thoughts about where I live and my desire to settle somewhere else in the near future. It was a year full of challenges and growth - growth that could only come out of struggle. When I look back over these posts I know one thing that many of you don’t: most of last year I was working harder than I ever have and dancing with burnout in the process.

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Last year could have only led me to where I am now. All of our choices are always taking us one step at a time to the next place we need to be. And last year was bound to throw something at me to slow me down:

Welcome in back problems like I’ve never had - sciatica pain, a herniated disc, tingling, numbness, pain so bad it takes an elephant’s worth of will power just to get out of bed in the morning.

I think one of the only reasons I can write about this in any way where I’m even remotely grateful for what I’m dealing with is because a few days ago it seems like I may have passed the worst of the pain. As I begin physical therapy I’m trying to reconfigure my life around a slower pace. Around a TRUE acceptance in my head that to be less busy is OKAY, that relaxation does not equal being lazy.

I always like to take some time at the beginning of a new year to write about what I hope to realize and bring into being in the new year AND what I would like to let go of. The things I wrote about this year are less things and more ways of thinking:

  1. To be more accepting of what I am capable of doing in a given span of time (be that an hour, a day, a month, a year, heck, even a lifetime.)

  2. To let go of guilt. Whether that’s guilt for taking time off or guilt because I actually do love my work and sometimes, when it feels right, I WANT to work all day (now, the caveat is, so long as I’m not overworking my body.) To realize that all of the pieces and parts are necessary and not anything to feel guilty about.

  3. To run with the things that spark my excitement and imagination and let go of many of the things that drag me down.

  4. To better embrace the “middle” and transitional times in life. Whether that’s when I’m in the middle of a work-related goal and don’t know when the dream will be realized, or just in the middle of a big closet clean out. I tend to be bad with “middle” energy. I’m all excited when I’m getting a project started and feel very proud once I’ve realized the goal/dream/clean closet, but overall I just end up trying to rush through the middle. The middle is where a lot of the good stuff is, and I know that when I’m rushing through it I’m missing a lot of life.

And so, I move forward, one foot in front of the other, seeing quite clearly that slowing down is the only REAL way to enact REAL change in my life.

This year is off to a bit of a muddled start. I had a tradeshow very early in the month, that I had to be prepared for. And so I put on my big girl pants and I got it done, even while dealing with an immense amount of pain. I will report: the show went well. And I can happily say there are some new stores that will be receiving Tangleweeds goods for their shop in the weeks to come. But as soon as that show was over I slowed the train down. I’ve mostly taken the last week off and it’s felt great. I even took some time to really clean up my workshop and it now feels like a space I am excited to (carefully) get back to work in. Maybe I’ll even offer up some more mini-tutorials on Instagram like I did last year.

Overall though, Tangleweeds isn’t going anywhere. There are some significant changes ahead, but given that I’m not quite sure how quickly things will happen around here for now, I’m not going to offer up any timelines.

What you can expect to see from Tangleweeds this year:

  1. A remodel and pairing down of the online shop. Many designs will be discontinued and overall the shop will have a new, more shopper friendly look. (I will of course announce the re-model and design discontinuation with plenty of notice in case there’s something you’d like to get while you still can.)

  2. A new series of limited edition pieces. These will be released on Instagram on a schedule that I have yet to set. I will announce all of this on IG as I refine this way of releasing designs.

  3. A PODCAST!!!! I’m beyond excited about this idea. It’s my way of continuing to further the building of the handmade/maker/artisan community, especially as I consider moving out of the bay area this year.

  4. More workshops. Definitely my Metalwork Made Easy class, along with some other ideas in the works.

  5. A more paired down craft fair schedule. I most likely won’t do any events at all until April or May of this year. This is both to give my back time to heal and to focus on other areas of Tangleweeds.

  6. A different focus on my newsletter - I want to grow the arm of Tangleweeds that is about finding the beauty in the everyday. And I want to share it with all of you!

That about wraps up my thoughts for 2019. I could write an equally long post reflecting on 2018, but I’ll just leave it at this: I realized a lot of my goals. Now the challenge: continuing that journey towards new goals while incorporating more mindfulness, more self-care, and heaps more “living in the moment” types of energy!!!

Tell me about your new year goals. Or conversely, how do you feel about the way 2018 went? I love the practice of looking back/looking forward.

On the Importance of Self Care

This past weekend I vended at the Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival (HMB). It was a wonderful event, but even wonderful things can be exhausting! The couple of weeks leading up to it were pretty packed too, with lots of prep for the event itself, but also with just the usual melange of stuff that life throws at us. Several times leading up to HMB I found myself wishing I could take some time off. 

I've worked for myself long enough now to know that when I start wishing for a few days off, it usually means I need to take a few days off. To be clear, every time I fancy a vacation or a couple of slow days I don't automatically schedule in time off from work. Rather, I'm talking about when I find myself coming back over and over again in my head to the simple thought "I need some time off," I know I need to take heed of this. Often, to not listen to these wishes of my mind and body, means getting sick or just getting so run down that the work I do produce is done inefficiently or poorly. 

When I talk about these small breaks with some of my fellow handmade small biz owners, they often look at me incredulously and say something like "I wish I could take days off." I'm here to say "Yes you can!" I know there are probably a thousand and one reasons ringing through your head about why it's just not possible, but I encourage you to find a way to make it possible.

In mulling over the thought threads for this blog post I thought about creating a bullet-point list of things to do to prepare you for a few days off, but then I decided I'd just write about what I do, and how I go about making the days off possible. For each and every person it's going to be different. We all have different personalities and styles along with businesses that require very different levels of involvement and dedication. 

Here's what I do to make time off a reality. . . 
To start, I often don't plan this kind of time off ahead of time, or at least not much. It is usually in response to that internal voice I mentioned above that insists I need some rest. Usually I take at least three days off, but not more than 4 or 5. I want the time off to feel more refreshing than just a weekend, but not so much that I fall too much behind on work. 

I usually set an intention to keep up on one aspect of the business, and usually this is the aspect that causes the most stress if I fall behind on and that's EMAIL. Now, to clarify, this means I am only staying on top of the email coming in to my inbox. I am not generating any new email by reaching out to wholesale customers, applying to new events, or anything that would take my initiative to make happen. I am simply staying on top of what can quickly become an avalanche if not dealt with daily. 

The second thing I do is keep a running list of the things that pop into my head regarding work and my everlong to-do lists, while I'm taking a a few days off. Doing this is my way of mentally setting aside work to make room for the time off. 

Thirdly, I make sure that the days off are not planed when I have a bunch of deadlines on things due. I've accidentally done this in the past and basically ended up having to "cancel vacation" to rush back to my studio on the second day when I realized that three orders had to go out that day. For example, I REALLY wanted to take these days off last week. But I knew if I did that I'd be ill-prepared for HMB. So I promised myself the days off this week, and in that way also rewarded myself for all of the hard work put into HMB.

And, lastly, I don't plan a whole heck of a lot for this time. I might start a new weaving project, or fix something broken at home that's been long neglected, or cook some real meals. I also don't plan many trips. For me I find that the time is most rejuvenating when I'm able to slow down and simply go with the flow for a few days. Sometimes that flow isn't very productive, and sometimes that flow is lots of little projects at home. It's usually a good dose of solitude though, something I often crave when my life gets a little too busy. For me, I flourish in the lack of plans because my life is, for the most part, pretty planned out on the daily in large part to keep Tangleweeds thriving. (You might be the kind of person who wants a lot of plans during a few days off, cause it may keep you from worrying about work.)

I think the last thing I want to say is something I should have led with at the beginning: you NEED to take time off now and then as an entrepreneur. It will never feel like the "right time" and you will always have too much to do for the time allotted. My taking time off does not mean that I completely cleared my schedule and am blissfully without obligations regarding Tangleweeds this week. No, it simply means I prioritized the importance of some time off to rest and recover. . . and to possibly spend the whole day in my PJs =)

Thanks for reading this week! I'll be back next week with my next Tangleweeds Giveaway. . . 

Wise Words

Just a little bot of motivation for all of you, especially you friends out there who feel like things are just never gonna come together. . . Just give it some time =)

(I'll be back next week to announce the winner of my most recent giveaway contest. This week's been a big administrative week for me, and I've had to let a few things go while I catch up on other areas. But I have more blog goodness coming soon again!)