Jessica and I met years ago. How? I don't remember the exact time, but I always take note on how she lets her presence rest amongst others and listens in. Her laughter is quick and her insight is deep.
She asked me to go through her responses and shorten it... but honestly, I can't bring myself to make her honest and real words any shorter. They are hers and so beautifully shared and outpoured.
I am honoured to listen in to her heart, her journey and her growth.
How would you describe yourself?
As a newly discovered introvert. As someone that is from a large family and has lived a fairly social, fairly demanding life, discovering that I was an introvert was surprising. My first reaction to the realization was relief. I had been struggling with burn out related anxiety and difficulty sleeping and I thought I was really starting to go off the deep end. My thoughts were “yay! I’m not losing it! I just need to re-strategize how I am fuelling myself!”. My second thought “Oh crap, how the heck am I going to get any time alone… ever?"
A little background on myself. On the home front : I have a very large family, with lots of siblings and their spouses and a beautiful little niece, and two rascals of my own. Charlotte is 2 ½ and Finn is 10 months. On the professional side : My husband owns a real-estate development and construction company and I own a salon and wellness centre, and I am a hairstylist as well.
Both my husband and I budget every millisecond of the day. Not particularly healthy even for an extrovert! I have lived hovering on the edge of burnout for the last few years (as most moms / entrepreneurs / women in general can relate to) but 2017 kicked me down that last notch.
My son was born in January, suffering from a bad case of colic, so no sleep for 3 months straight. In the early spring my family experienced the tragic loss of my older brother, 32 years old, with a wife and 1 yr old daughter. This was the biggest blow of my 30 yr old life, and I had no idea how to cope with it. Shortly after losing my brother, we moved from our apartment into a house. In July I executed on a relocation plan for my salon that had been in motion since the previous December, closing out our Bedford location and opening up a newly branded salon and wellness centre in down town Dartmouth. My husband had just bought a big commercial building on lake Banook that he was/is still renovating, and the opportunity to be in our own building and get away from the high rent in Bedford was too good to pass up. The move date was July first and it was an absolute tornado of chaos! But it went well and we managed to get set it up in the nick of time.
We had been set up in our new salon only about a week or two when we discovered that an illness my baby brother (19 yrs old) had been dealing with for some time had taken an extreme turn for the worse, and that it had entered the ‘possibly fatal’ territory. Still reeling from the loss of my big brother, I did the only thing I could do. I packed up my husband and kids and I moved back in with my parents and little brother. A month later, we lost him. I stayed with my Mom and Dad for a few weeks, but every inch of their house spoke to me of my lost brothers, and I had to get out. Back to our house in Dartmouth.
It has been a little over three months now, and after the initial few weeks of numb disbelief wore off, I plunged into the above mentioned total emotional, physical burn out. Difficulty concentrating, headaches, day sweats, night sweats, insomnia, the shakes, you name it! I felt like I was cracked glass, and any minute, pieces of me were going to start falling off and smashing on the floor. I had been avoiding alone time like the plague since losing my older brother (because that’s when the grief would corner me and make me feel it ) But now, fear it though I may, I started to feel as though if I didn’t turn to face it, I would be in a padded room by Christmas! So, in an act of desperation, I reached out to my family, admitting for the first time all year that ‘I wasn’t doing so well’. And like the wonderful family they are, they descended on me with lots of help and hen pecking. For a week, my sisters took turns taking the kids over night, I went to see my doctor about the insomnia, and for the first time in a loooong time….I got some sleep. I had been building all these fantasies in my head of all the things I would do if I only had some time to myself. Books I would read, writing I wanted to do, sketching etc… but in those few precious days of alone time, I just wanted to sleep and do nothing. I hadn’t been alone with myself in so long that my tank was empty. I wanted creativity to pour from an empty vessel, and had to grudgingly accept that it just doesn’t work that way.
For the first time in my life, I had admitted to myself that I needed alone time, and (thanks to my family) actually made it happen. For that week anyway.. The weeks that have followed my ‘hitting rock bottom’ moment have been full of up’s and downs.
I had this image of myself that had meant a lot to me. I was strong, I was a leader, I was eternally positive, I was wonder woman, I could and would do it all and be everything to everyone! Yeah, that’s not been the case.
But I am learning that when everything that you think you know about yourself gets stripped away, you have two choices. Blame life and blame the world and slip into bitterness. OR, take a breath, open your eyes and see yourself for who you really are… not made of stone, not super human, and love yourself anyway. And if you can manage that, you will rise with a dignity and an empathy that you have never been capable of before.
In getting to know myself as I truly am, seeing my weaknesses and not making excuses for them, I have found a sense of compassion for myself. I had felt plenty of compassion for other people in my life, but never for myself. It has been an out of body experience, like I am looking at myself with the heart of a mother, and wanting myself to heal and grow and blossom, living up to my potential as a mother and a sister and a daughter, a friend and a business woman, and of course, a creative. It make me sad that I had to get knocked so low before I finally learned what it really meant to love yourself and take care of yourself.
What role does creativity play in your life?
Since a young age, creativity has been all I think about. It has been my constant friend, and my constant distraction. I read an outline of ‘being introverted’ recently and one of the lines read ‘introverts find solace in doing quiet activities in which they can create new worlds using their minds.’ And this is what I would do with all forms of creativity. Both taking in, creating art and reading literature whenever possible! Being homeschooled was perfect for me. I would skim over my lesson, do the bare minimum, and then read and draw with the rest of the school day! This made for a very happy and confident child, capable of lots of socialization and extroverted behaviour (as I was always so fuelled up on creativity and alone time.)
When I chose my career as a hair stylist, everyone thought it would be perfect. Creative and social! But, it was a struggle, I found myself very tired all the time, and feeling unmotivated, and not knowing why. Thus began the struggle with lethargy that coloured my 20’s. Learning that I needed to express my creativity in other, more personal ways was something I learned quickly, but knowing isn’t the same as doing, and soon life started to get in the way. I know I benefited from it, but I hadn’t yet admitted to myself that I NEEDED it! I thought I should be able to satisfy myself with work being my outlet. But the social aspect took away its ability to be fuel for me, not to mention the lack of freedom in what I was creating! Being a hair stylist is all about actualizing on other people’s ideas and visions. To feel like I am receiving true creative therapy, freedom is an important ingredient!
What are you currently working on?
As much as I am dying to work on some creative projects that I can share with others around me, I am focusing on very personal expression right now. I confided some of my personal and creative struggles with a good friend and client of mine, and then the next day I found a set of beautiful writing / illustrating pens on my work station. I actually welled up (which I DON’T do in public as a general rule). And so I have been doing my best to make time for a little bit or journaling and doodling. Not much, I know, but coming out of a creative desert, even doodling feels like a lush green oasis of healing, and a manageable way to get the juices flowing again!
What was the last book/movie/podcast etc. that left an impression on you?
One of my favourite little creative guilty pleasures is a magazine subscription that my mother bought for me as a gift called Faerie Magazine. Its full of art, poems, interviews with artisans and writers, most importantly lots of whimsy and beauty. Nothing big and bold and earthshaking, but all the mothers / business owners out there can relate with me when I say, sometimes the only creative injection you have time for is something bitesized!
What advice would you give to other creatively driven people?
I opened my first salon when I was 25, and expanded it into a spa and wellness centre when I was 26. It was during the expansion that I met my husband, and a wedding at 27 and my daughter and age 28 made for a long busy stretch of ‘not having time’ for personal creative expression. Let me tell you what I learned during these years:
Having a need to create that is not being exercised is like having a hyper dog that is not being exercised. Picture your mind being like a small apartment that that dog is being cooped up in. Ya, prepare for your creativity to wreak havoc on your sanity if you don’t MAKE time to let it out!!