You may have noticed that I’ve been especially quiet for a while. I thought I’d check in and let you know some of what’s been going on.
At the end of August, Angela and I were rear-ended while we were sitting at a stop light. While it didn’t damage our vehicle that much, it did considerable damage to our bodies. We’re both seeing a lot of medical practitioners, to the tune of four appointments or so a week. We’ve retained a lawyer who’s advised us to keep quiet about it on social media until we’ve reached a settlement, so I haven’t said much about it publicly since. (We still haven’t settled, so I’m not heeding his counsel here.)
Being in constant pain and being distracted by all the appointments have put an obvious damper on my capacity. My pain levels tend to be in the 4-6 range, depending on what I’m doing and how much I try to do, so it hasn’t been enough to have me crying from the bed in despair, but it’s enough that it’s like having a chatty friend with you everywhere you go. You can do what you’d normally do, but you just have to work around the noise the chatty friend is going to add to anything you do.
What’s been particularly frustrating is that it’s been harder to get into a creative zone after the accident, both because of the latent pain and because I can’t sit down for more than 30 or so minutes without my chatty friend getting especially loud. Finding Flow has been a search unlike anything I’ve had in the past – I’m used to being frustrated by the lack of available time for me to do my thing, but being limited by energy and attention rather than time is a much more novel thing for me.
While being unable to create as much as normal would be disappointing and frustrating at any period for me, the accident came at a really inopportune time when it comes to me writing the book. I was getting momentum going after ditching the old book concept for the one that people actually want to read and I’m ready to write. There were enough creative projects internal to the business that I was geared up to do, as well. I originally struggled and flailed against my temporary limitations, but after a certain period, I just accepted that I’d be going through a fallow creative period while I was recovering, since I really didn’t have my normal choice of recovering or plowing through; the plow was left in the barn because the ox couldn’t pull it.
Were my business purely predicated on what I create now, we’d be in much worse trouble. Though I’ve had a hard time writing, I’ve had no problems coaching. It’s easy for me to get into the zone and I’m mostly booked with great clients, many of which I’m working with intensively, so we get in a groove and stay in the groove. Granted, I haven’t been able to do as many per week as normal, but that’s okay because I was already downscaling how much I was coaching so I could make room for the book.
In full transparency, this period would’ve been easier to manage had I done the true, hard work on our product funnel in 2012 so that the products were either selling themselves or that they could be sold with a little push that I could do within my energetic limits. There are two, near-completed products that were two weeks from being done when the accident happened. Our current line of products sell well, but they don’t provide enough relevant revenue to replace everything else that we do; the downside of developing multiple revenue streams is that if you don’t build them fast enough or make them robust enough, no single stream can cover your break-even. To be clear, this is only a problem during the build-up phase of such a business or when you don’t prioritize flushing out your streams.
Little External Movement But Lots of Internal Movement
Creative people never truly go fallow; something is always growing under the surface.
I’ve been intentionally quiet throughout the past few months to press some limits. I’ve been less present on Social Media to see what effect it has on me, the business, and our network. I’ve let go of things I’ve always done to see if they actually needed to be done. I haven’t written a newsletter since October or November. I’ve delegated things I never would’ve let go of before to see if they’re something I actually need to do.
Over the holiday break, I did the unfathomable thing of shutting email, social media, and business activities down completely. I didn’t check email for 17 days and disappeared almost completely from Social Media. I said “Oh well” to scheduled internal deadlines like getting the free planners out on schedule. I didn’t write anything save for some journaling. I let active clients know I’d be unavailable and I honored that boundary, as hard as it was. (I love working with our clients!)
The theme of the first few days of my staycation was “conscious not-doing” – I had to actively not-do a lot of things. I had to be less conscious about it toward the middle, but near the end of the break I had to be more conscious about it than at the beginning. The trick was to not enter the field of work, so I simply didn’t open my laptop during that period. (I may write more about this later.)
Needless to say, the last four months’ exploration has yielded a lot of gems, insights, and lessons-learned that I’ll share in one way or the other in the ensuing months. I’m not sure how or when they’ll come out because I don’t have a timeline on my recovery.
As an aside, this has been the third “hard” 4th quarter in a row. Last year about this time, we shared the Reset series about Angela’s mental breakdown, reset, and reintegration. I’m hoping – and planning for – an easier, less-intense 4th quarter this year AND who knows what fortune lies underneath misfortune and what misfortune lies underneath fortune?
No Promises or Outcomes
Historically, when I’ve gone quiet, it’s been because I’ve been developing something, so (some) people have come to anticipate me coming back up with something awesome. I’m still consciously not-doing a lot of things, two of which are doing more talking than walking and making unrealistic plans, goals, and promises. It’s not that I’m not working on things – if I’m breathing, something is in the works, despite my intentions – but that I don’t how or when it’ll all manifest. I’m (mostly) okay with that.
If you happen to see more reflective, evaluative, or narrative pieces here and elsewhere, you now know the backstory. If you don’t see anything, you now know the back story. If you see me trying different things, you now know the backstory. If I’m not “on top of things” in ways that I have been in the past, you now know why.
I’ve been (externally) fallow, not forlorn. The light is always on, even if you don’t see it.
Andy Hayes says
Oh wow, I had no idea. I’m so sorry. Was hoping to catch up with you soon but had just assumed – as you mentioned – that you were heads down in creative mode.
Shout if you need anything, anything at all. Here’s to a better 2013. *hugs*
Thank you for the update, Charlie. I’m very sorry to hear about the accident. I was in a similar situation in August, except that my car was totaled and my bodily injuries were probably not as severe as yours. Your post is an excellent reminder that planning is important, but that Life happens regardless of the plans we have made. Thriving is about being able to handle change and unexpected events in life with grace as much as it is about being able to manage one’s energy and time and goals when things are going the way we want. I admire your willingness to do less and try a different way of interacting with the world when your circumstances changed. You are, as always, an inspiration. Best wishes for a full and speedy recovery to you both!
Briana Pierce says
Wishing a speedy recovery and positive resolution to the situation! Your approach to the whole affair is refreshing and inspiring, indeed. Hang in there; this is going to be a fantastic year for you. 🙂
Sarah J. Bray says
Oh Charlie and Angela, I hope the recovery is swift and complete. That’s a complete bummer, but I love how you’ve interpreted it as a fallow season. We all need that. Maybe even more than once every seven years. 🙂
Yesterday, during yoga class, the instructor had us do a breathing exercise. Inhale to a count of 5, hold for a count of five, exhale for a count of 5 and pause before the next inhale for a count of five. She encouraged us to notice what happens in the pause… (it’s so automatic to take that next deep drag, ya know?!)
As she spoke, I thought about my life, my journey/recovery these last eight months and how anxious I had been feeling about it all; that my life had become one big fat pause. “This should be interesting…”
Immediately after the exercise, she checked in and reminded us that many things happen in the pause… it’s a place for miracles to unfold. My eyes blinked several times very hard & the tears came forward. Her reminder brought relief & grace. I took a huge in-breathe… and exhaling slowly found I was able to let go more fully into the this sacred pause of my life.
Thank you for sharing yours Charlie. It’s a good reminder that being and doing are distinctly different. I’m seeing more & more people in my life moving away from so much doing and into the “No Promises or Outcomes” being, which is comforting.
Here’s to holding great company this year, while we all watch many, many miracles unfold.
Jackie Wilson says
I am so sorry to hear about accident. Best wishes for your recovery. After reading the other responses, I realized that I am really to your program and do not know you very well. But that makes no difference. If there is anything I can do to help with your situation, please feel free to ask.
And may 2013 be better for all of us – Happy New Year!
So sorry to learn of this accident, Charlie, and understand the lapse of being on social media and email. I can relate to this because I suffered a back injury at the beginning of September (after illness in August) that took nearly the month to put back into place. I was finally feeling better when I thought to go out and actually DO something! Moving limestone blocks without cutting them down to a more reasonable weight to finish garden beds was probably not the best idea. October was dealing with lingering back pain and beginning exercise, November was continuing a bit of exercise and reworking my diet, while getting Ã©lanterra framework in place and working to complete 2 coaching classes. I had to let a lot of things go. Practicing being mindful has been high on my list, just as you have found is valuable to you. Although working through the flu now, I know that when this is done I will have made slow, steady and GOOD progress even through I, too, have not felt in flow. But I know you will have something better come out of this experience than what you may even now realize. Being unplugged certainly has its benefits! Sending you and Angela hugs and love for speedy healing!
Claudia Hall Christian says
My heart and prayers are with you on your journey.
Carol Ross says
So sorry to hear about the accident, Charlie. I experienced a fallow period of several months in 2011, after burning out. I can relate to the shutting down and walking away experience. I appreciate how you’ve talked about using this time to experiment with what ifs–as in, what happens when you don’t do something that you normally would do. What would you learn?
Your last point about things happening, even when it’s not externally visible, is one that I need to remember. It’s still too easy to measure myself by what “gets done”, concretely.
Congrats on giving yourself permission to make this time whatever you need and want it to be. Hoping a smooth recovery for both you and Angela.