Things got a bit crazy there, folks. I took on a boatload of design projects in the winter/spring. And what I didn't plan to take on was having to uproot our lives in a panic and take on a ginormous insurance battle. Do you smell a story time? *sniff sniff* 'Cuz I sure do!
Back in February I was working on several big client projects. These had me out of our house day and night. When I was back home, I thought I kept smelling gas. No, not too-many-burritos-and-nachos gas. The other kind. Jason told me I was cray cray (he tells me that daily anyway, but regarding this in particular). I am normally freezing cold in the winter and if you all can recall, Charlottesville was an arctic tundra still at end of February/early March of this past year. So our heat was cranking but I couldn't shake this weird smell so I popped our windows open and was hardly home other than to catch a few zzzz's.
Little did I know, the casual window pops probably saved my life. On March 6th Jason was finally home for a few days- he travels a TON for work from October-March every year- and we came home from running errands and we hadn't even gotten to the front door when I stopped and screamed, "THAT! THAT IS THE SMELL HOW DO YOU NOT NOTICE THAT?!" He said, "Okay, now that I smell." Hey look, y’all! I ain’t cray cray!
We immediately called Charlottesville gas company, as we thought it was a gas leak. Within a few minutes someone showed up. Fun fact: When you call your local gas company with a suspected leak, they apparently sprint like they are being chased by a group of rapid Vampires right over to your house. The gentleman turned on his little gas detector and said nope! No gas. And then he got his carbon monoxide detector out and that's when it all hit- we had unsafe levels of carbon monoxide in the house. He had us turn the heat back on so that he could see what was going on and there were flames literally shooting out the side of our furnace in our basement, coming within a few inches of some white upholstered chairs that were being stored there. Oh and the other craptons of furnishings and beds there, too.
WHAT IN THE ACTUAL F*CK!
Not only was our house probably a day away from burning to the ground but we also could have died from carbon monoxide poisoning. BA-NA-NAS. We had a red sticker slapped on the furnace instructing that it was not to be turned back on and the gas was shut off by the utility company. Oh and the “smell” that I was referring to was actually the combination of the soot in the unit and the paint and stickers burning off of the side of the furnace. Also I basically have a nose similar to an FBI K9 unit German Shepherd, so if anyone could smell scentless carbon monoxide, it’d be me. Score 1 for my super sniffer.
We were renting this house so immediately got on the phone with our landlord. We packed up our bags to stay in one of my local and luckily vacant Airbnb properties for the night and the next day a company came to clean the furnace out.
To make what is a very long part of the story short, this company who came to ‘fix’ it proceeded to distribute black soot all over our entire house in this process. Thus began the insurance battle of our lives. We were not able to live in our house and lost about 80% of our furniture and belongings. I didn't have time to go through a traumatic, unplanned move or go through all of our earthly possessions to find things that we wanted to salvage. I was busy. Client projects. Contracts. Busy peak season with AirBnB. No one has time for even the best planned moves let alone quick. traumatic ones. I cried, Nancy Kerrigan during lead pipe incident style-
Welp, it is now almost October and we are just finally wrapping up the process with insurance. So that’s just be an f’ing blast. But I digress. After finishing up my spring client projects and dealing with the chaos of losing most of our things and an unplanned temporary move, and with the help of my saint of a therapist, I just decided to be…
I haven’t had a smidge of balance in my life for a while now. Self-care? WTF is that even. Is that where you shave your legs? Okay, well I do that. But if is is taking a day off, breathing, or not living in a constant state of panic, then no- I do not practice self-care. And I had arrived at a place where I became very bitter and resentful of those who had the ‘luxury’ of it.
But this wasn't just about uprooting our lives, losing our things, and some hectic client projects and the crazy town banana pants that is small biz ownership in general. This was about years of trauma after trauma after trauma. Shit that I won’t divulge here that would make your head spin. It was about 7 months of chemo, countless painful surgeries, and surviving Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2013. This was about living in my own personal medical hell for years. It was the culmination of what not walking for 10 months between 2016-2017 will do to you after tearing everything in your ankle. It was about having to fully rebuild my life and my business when my original business ‘partner’ decided to walk away from it all. My beloved dog died traumatically in front of my face. But it could be worse, right? It always could be worse. Oh and then that group of neo-Nazis rented my AirBnB property for the Charlottesville rallies and well that was a specific low point where I was like okay but seriously could this ACTUALLY GET WORSE? NEO-NAZIS PEOPLE. YA GOTTA BE KIDDING ME. I can’t share too many deets about this whole scenario because I’m not interesting in further complicating my life and worrying about my personal safety til the end of forever, but it was a rather traumatic situation on a lot of levels. But these are just a few high points/low points and it was all just sustained crap for a long, long time with no break. That’s not a healthy place to live. It’s called…
The details of my life from about 2010-present don't even seem real. And it was all so far out of my control. The traumas just kept coming in waves with no break; like I could never seem to get my head above water long enough before the next one hit. But I was resilient. The waves would come and I rode them out. The biggest, the baddest. The Tsunamis. I became almost proud of how much shit I could withstand all without blinking or even considering tapping out. But after a while of this wave-riding I realized that the whole gasping-for-air thing takes a toll on you. You become exhausted, emotionally/physically/mentally.
These are the truths that I don't like to put out there or harp on too much because I never want my friends, fam or a client to think, "Oh! She has a lot going on. I don't want to bother her..." But in order to tell you why I ducked out for a bit, I am sharing Becky’s self-care story, 101…
Learning How to Not Be A Big Ball of Panic 24/7, But Still Maintaining Your ‘Edge’
My business is my passion. Creating, planning, strategic thinking, innovation- these get me out of bed in the morning. Well, that and my guaranteed 4 cups of coffee. But the truth is, I got so deep into survival mode that I just wasn't functioning like a normal human being anymore. I had to find
the reset button.
Interestingly enough, we don't actually come with one attached to our bodies (BULLSHIT! Time for someone super science-y to get on that) so it took some work to get there.
With the help of my therapist holding me accountable (she’s underpaid, me thinks), I decided this summer would be free of any major client projects. WKNDR Design was going to sit in the back seat of the car for a while and I didn't want to hear a peep out of her all summer! Even my business social media, too. I decided to just pause it all. Probably not the typical recommendation for a fairly young business but I was financially able to swing it and it just felt necessary. But could I ACTUALLY shut it all down for a whole summer?!
Well, folks, I am proud to say that for the first time ever I stuck to my guns with a self-care plan! Was I still working? Of course. If you know me well, you know I can't just shut that off completely. I re-did my entire website, launched E-Design, started writing blog posts so that I have some content to deploy on busier weeks, am working on launching a new business, ran my 2 AirBnB properties (Read: coordinate a million bachelorette parties) and helped my boo thang get a new 501(c)3 up and running for his business. We also had to now furnish and decorate a brand new beach cottage in Rockport, MA that had to quickly become our primary residence. So I guess I did have one design project in there, but with yours truly as the client.
The work was mainly accomplished as I sat my ass on this screened in porch across the street from the ocean in Rockport, watching the boats come in and out of the harbor. Some days I drank coffee until it was time for Rose, and every day I enjoyed the complete calm that is seaside New England in the summertime.
I ate too many orders of Arancini and drank Dirty Italian Martinis at Tonno, indulged in bottles of bubbles at The Beauport, got hopped up on cold brew at Bean & Leaf, gobbled lobster at Roy Moore, and ate far too much sushi at Studio.
I went shopping- something that I LOVE but never do unless it is for my house or client-related. I had my phone therapy sesh for an hour weekly, usually while taking a walk in our quaint seaside town or while sitting on the beach. I practiced self-care Every. Single. Day. I indulged in it, really, so that it could become a habit.
For the first time in years, I found some balance. Life was equal parts adventuring, working and relaxing.
I don't know why, but taking this 'pause' and sticking to it actually felt like one of the biggest challenges and goals that I have ever had. I honestly didn't think that I would be able to finish it out. I figured- eh, maybe for a few weeks in July but definitely not August and certainly not into September. I had really wanted to relaunch my website/Instagram/Blog in August after I purchased my new camera and could finally have some great shots and content of my own. But something told me to just drag out the pause a little longer.
To those of you that inquired about interior design projects and I said "no"... This is why.
Your hard "no" on your project was a hard "yes" to myself.
Yes, Becky. You do deserve to take a moment off. You have the ability to do so and you will.
And I did it.
So I guess this is me saying that's where I was and now I am back. Don't worry, I am still my vibrant, crazy self and I have not lost my hustle. I didn't reach some ultimate zen-like Yogi state. C’mon now. It was 2 months not 4 years. I’m still bat-shit cray (but in a good way). I have finally found a necessary balance.
And it is okay to not be okay. Life isn’t always rainbows and sunshine, after all.
But it’s not okay to abuse the heck out of yourself and not take an opportunity to stop and pause when you finally are able to.
So if you made it to the end of this, congratulations. You’ve aced the reading test. You’ve now pre-qualified for Mensa, you’re an honorary Rhodes Scholar and you’re officially Knighted in England. But if you made it this far because you yourself can relate and you need a kick in your a$$ to make some changes and GTFO of your own “Survival Mode” then here is your encouragement. And remember, kids:
Thank you all for bearing with me while I took my ‘pause’ and for sticking around to follow me down the winding road of small business ownership. I always welcome your comments and your feedback and I appreciate all of the love and support.