Photo by the unbelievably awesome woman that is Cara Solomon.
One lovely late morning recently, I am at home making bread with several children running around the house playing a game they have created called ‘Terrorists and Fairies’ (the modern day version of Cowboys and Indians p’haps?) My friend is here, having stayed the night with her kids, and she has done a natural hair treatment for me. My locks are luxuriating in rosemary oil and we had just finished a bountiful breakfast of organic porridge and raw honey (can you see where this is going? If this was a film you’d know that this gorgeously, hippy idyl was moments away from shattering). Life is just lovely.
And then… I check my phone and I see an email from a client postponing a big job by several months. One that was going to bring in all of our income for March. Big picture says it’s fine because the work will come eventually…..but fuck, fuck, fuck I say to myself, how can we replace that cash? I need quick solutions. I need to act now. But here I am, being an organic mother at home. Not in the office where I can do something about this totally crap situation.
The cacophony of children’s noises that a few minutes ago sounded wonderfully fun and free spirited, suddenly starts to sound like a chainsaw slowly making its way towards my brain. I look at the homemade bread, lusciously plump as it lays on a board rising and want to devour it all, uncooked. The hair oil suddenly seems greasy and I start scratching at it manically. I spot the front door, and wonder if I could just make a run for it, and would anyone notice I was still wearing my nightie? This is the final straw in a selection of iron-rich straws falling on me over the past few months.
And so I say – I need a year out. I need to get totally obsessed by this business and build it up so that it has a stronger foundation and things like the odd job being postponed won’t kill us. For several weeks I feel insanely sick. I have love homeschooling for the past three years, I love this life we have created. I love that we have a great business that, though small, is putting food on the table. But I have also this nagging, itchy feeling that I want it to grow. We need it to grow, because right now it’s just not reliable enough for us. And once that begins to take root in my mind, I start to get excited. Really excited.
I feel incredibly blessed that I’ve had such a long time to spend with my kids, and really learnt how they learn, get involved in interesting projects with them. We will now enter a new phase; life is all about change isn’t it, and it seems like beginning a new rhythm of family life feels right at the moment. Homeschooling can return, a year from now or not at all. What’s important now is our family is happy, together and united.
Our business has done some great things, some stupid things and some incredible things. But it’s done everything in a very slow way. I should start a new genre of business building – it’s not just food that can be slow, I’ve invented slow business. Or I shouldn’t because this is NOT the way to start a business – working on it a few days per week with the constant children-needs interrupting – if you want it to get anywhere fast.
Business building requires tremendous obsession. It’s a little like pushing a large rock up a mountain, and we are only mid-way (or maybe even lower than that, but I don’t want to be too realistic on how much work lies ahead, it may just put me off). It requires that you start ignoring your friends’ requests to go out to the pub so that you can get up early and squeeze a few extra hours of work before the kids get up, to wake in the middle of the night with an amazing solution to a problem that has arisen and to make giant courageous leaps to capture new clients.
“The entrepreneurial journey starts with jumping off a cliff and assembling an airplane on the way down.” Reid Hoffman
And for the last three years most of my attention has lain with my kids, not my business. Unless I want this business to stay very small, I need to check out of being homeschool ‘immersive’ mum for a while (I am giving myself a year).
There are now too many opportunities that we are not taking advantage of, too many things we aren’t growing that I desperately, passionately want to grow. But I am also TERRIFIED. Because you know when you say things like – if I only had more time to do X,Y, Z it would be amazing and we could see all of these extra results. Or if only I was given this opportunity then…. Well, that opportunity has arisen. I have to bloody well step up to the plate. Shit.
One thing I don’t like about blogging is how it feels like you are presenting yourself and packaging your life up in this way that feels untruthful. Either you are making your life look much better than it is (most blogs), or worse (my favourite blogger, Penelope Trunk, who is so honest and raw I think she makes her life sound way more harsh than it actually is), when really our lives are just a messy jumble of everything.
There are some insanely beautiful things about my life that fill me with such searing joy I can’t believe I’m allowed to live this way.
It’s organising the start of our next project on Istanbul at dawn, and feeling that swelling of pride in my husband, knowing that his photos will be incredible and inspiring. That I am helping to bring something beautiful to this world in my own small way.
It’s coming into the living room yesterday to see my son laying on the floor drawing and listening to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue that he put on himself because he thought the music matched the feeling of the rainy day. He’s nine.
It’s the amazing community of families we’ve met whilst homeschooling who make me feel like I am not a crazy weirdo in my approach to family life. It’s the little hands that grab my head in the morning and the whispers of: ‘I love you mummy, you’re so beautiful’.
But it’s also messy, and hard and complicated. It’s me crying in the bath because I’m so frightened by the courage I need to summon for this next phase of my life; the feeling of being stabbed in the heart when I see my son’s flickering, emotional eyes getting worried on his first day back at school; it’s my being so overwhelmed by everything I am out until 2am drinking wine and feeling like I just want to run away; it’s me wondering how I can possibly have a planning meeting with my husband now when I just want to smash plates over his headstrong ridiculous head.
It’s what Buddhists call the ‘10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows of life’.
Yesterday, in a fog of my hangover I listened to a beautiful talk on compassion by Jack Kornfield (something about the sonorous American accent makes Buddhist and spiritual ideas so much more appealing to me.) He asked the question: what beauty will you bring to this world? And I loved that.
My life will continue to be messy and intense. That’s just me, that’s the type of life I create. But I am committing always to do as much good work as I can, to bring as much beauty in to the world as I can, through my business and through my friends, and still, most importantly, my family. And so again, a new adventure begins. Similar to the last adventure, just a little different in its weighing of priorities. A little shift in focus. But it throws everything up in the air again, and I will be remembering that it will take a little time to come back down again.