Pushing past my comfort zone

The past three weeks, I’ve been working like crazy on Marie Forleo’s B-School program, trying like hell to figure out what in the world I’m supposed to be doing with my life — at least, my professional life. The rest of my life is up for grabs, too. (I’ll write about that in a post soon.) For the moment, I’m focusing on my professional self.

So basically, if I’m not at work or running an errand (or maybe — maybe — at the gym), I’m glued to my Mac and going through a series of really intense exercises that have to do with starting and nurturing my own business.

Did I say intense? I meant to say I N T E N S E.

This course is pushing me past my comfort zone, in a good way. Luckily, the comments by other people in B-School show me I’m not alone in that. I see people saying they’re alternately feeling inspired and overwhelmed: recognizing that where they are right now isn’t where they want to be and seeing, in fact, that they can forge a path to get there.

I made a huge discovery two weeks into the program: I don’t want to start a business as a professional copywriter. Nope. Will do it for my 9-to-5 while I’m building my own business, but not outside of that.

I do want to keep writing fiction and nonfiction books as an author. I’ll never stop doing that; I love it too much.

What I really want to do for my own business is help “solopreneurs” set up their WordPress websites. I have quite a bit of skill in this area and am realizing more and more that people need a “non-techie” person to walk them through it. They want someone who speaks their language to help them. I love this business idea because it uses all of my skills, including setting up and running online courses (love that), writing (also love that), teaching (so much fun for me) and working with graphic design elements (I lose hours to photography and playing in Photoshop).

During this past week, I’ve done a lot to get this business started and plan to open the doors in mid-May. I still have a lot to do, but it doesn’t feel like work to me. I get to create tutorial videos and lessons, and then I get to engage in marketing the business to people who really need help.

What’s not to like about that?

I have to admit something, though. With every step forward that I take, I still feel a twang of bittersweet grief, wishing that I were 20 years younger with more time to be who I really am, now that I know I can really live my life and not just exist within it.

OK, enough of that. It’s back to B-School. I think I need a cup of hot chocolate first …


Disturbed by the UN’s lack of initiative

This recent editorial in the NY Times points out that the UN is not taking action to prevent violence against women around the world. Pressured by countries whose religions and social values allow violence against women, the UN will not make a statement condemning it.

To quote the editorial, in part (emphasis mine):

“Some horrific events over the past few months, including the shooting of a Pakistani schoolgirl and the rape and murder of a young Indian physiotherapy student, should have been an alert for the world to unite in preventing violence against women.

But if a conference now under way at the United Nations is any guide, that message has not resounded with the necessary urgency. Halfway into their two-week annual meeting, delegates to the Commission on the Status of Women fear they will not be able to agree on a final communiqué, just like last year.

Who is to blame? Delegates and activists are pointing fingers at the Vatican, Iran and Russia for trying to eliminate language in a draft communiqué asserting that the familiar excuses — religion, custom, tradition — cannot be used by governments to duck their obligation to eliminate violence. The United Nations Human Rights Council endorsed similar language just six months ago.

Conservative hard-liners seem determined to fight it out again. They have also objected to references to abortion rights, as well as language suggesting that rape also includes forcible behavior by a woman’s husband or partner. 

Gender-based violence is an epidemic. A World Bank report estimated that more women between the ages of 15 and 44 were at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria combined. According to the United Nations and other sources, more than 600 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime and more than 3 million girls are facing female genital mutilation.”

It’s Lucy again: We have a long way to go, as people of the world, when this is the state of being for more than half of our population. I believe it is the patriarchal rule that still governs the world that has kept us in this place and will continue to do so.

Another woman dies

I’m in an amazing online support group of women who have survived domestic violence. A couple of the women are still in their abusive relationships and are trying to plan their eventual escape. Other survivors in the group have had close female friends murdered in their attempts to leave their abusive partners.

One of the women in the group reported that in her town today, a woman was killed by her husband “even though she had a court order against him,” according to the news reporter.

A piece of paper. Is that really supposed to protect us? Really?

In reading just the few sentences that this woman posted about another woman dying at the hands of her abusive husband, I was jettisoned back to the day I fled my home. I’m choking back tears as I write this, because the horror of that day will never, ever leave me.

I knew, I absolutely knew, that I might die that day. And that my daughter (then just 2 years old) might die that day.

There I was, literally throwing things into my car after he left for work, sweating and praying and sobbing, knowing that if he returned home for any reason — like he forgot a tool he needed to do his job, which happened sometimes — I would probably die.

I imagined him taking out his machete — he was a landscaper — and chopping my head off. Or taking a shovel and bashing me across the face with it. Or rushing toward me and pinning me against the car, with his hands around my throat and our toddler daughter screaming in the back seat.

All of those visions and a hundred more raced through my mind as I tore around the house, gathering the things I knew I needed, leaving most of my beloved personal effects behind. In the end, I knew the most important things to get out of that house were my daughter, and me. If we could drive away without him seeing us, we might — might — escape with our lives.

It’s been 22-1/2 years since I left. My daughter is now 24.

I’m shaking right now. The tears are streaming down my face. I feel like I’m going to be sick.

Trauma never leaves you.



A sigh of recognition

If you have read my latest posts here, you’ll know that I’m enrolled in B-School, an entrepreneurship program by Marie Forleo. We’re just finishing up the first week. Believe it or not, each week of the 8-week program Marie hosts 4 “live” office hours, where people can talk to her and ask their questions.

Yesterday, I attended all four hours. Although I didn’t ask a question, I learned a lot by listening to everyone else’s. And I might add, Marie has amazing stamina. She did two hours of solid questions, took a one-hour break, and then did two more hours. I was impressed.

One young woman’s question really hit home for me. She said, “As I was working on the exercises where we write down all the things we like to do, I realized that I don’t know myself very well. I don’t really know what I like to do. This has me worried, because I feel like I can’t start a business if I don’t know myself. It scares me, actually. What do I do?”

As soon as she asked that question, I literally heard myself let out a big sigh. All the years I spent locked inside the after-effects of trauma prevented me from learning what I really like to do.

I know what my skills are, basically. And I know that I have some hobbies, like photography and knitting. But I had the same problem when I did that exercise: What do I really like to do for my work?

I ended up answering it in the best way I could, which is that I mostly like teaching. I know I’m a good writer, especially when it comes to marketing copywriting. Do I like doing it? Yes, but only for clients who really value and appreciate what I can do for them.

Where does this leave me? During the past 3 weeks, I have spent 100+ hours working through the B-School materials and trying to come up with the best entrepreneurial endeavor for myself that I possibly can. As Marie said on the phone yesterday to someone else, “At some point, you just have to choose.” That’s where I’m finding myself right now.

What she said to that young caller was really good, too. She explained to her that this whole B-School venture is a process of self-discovery, and that the more uncomfortable you feel, the more likely you are to grow and learn something about yourself. And what you choose now may not be what you end up doing forever, so as you grow and change, your business can grow and change with you.

At my age, 51, I don’t have the luxury of time to try things that won’t work. I suppose that’s why I feel so much pressure to make the right choices, and it’s why I’m in this program instead of floundering around on my own any longer. All I can do is try, try, try to listen to that inner voice that still, too often, seems so far away.

There’s that sigh again.