This year has cracked me open and I’m ready to let go.
For a while now, I’ve been in a state of deep questioning, about my purpose, what I really want, and who am I meant to be, if not an interior designer. This started well before the pandemic, but of course, 2020 has magnified everything.
Growing up I was surrounded by fabrics, wallpaper, and the fabulousness that was my designer grandmother, Judy- a savvy, independent woman from The Bronx with a penchant for red toile, pine antiques, and Pall Mall cigarettes. My aunt is also an interior designer, my father a talented woodworker, my mother, a painter and jewelry maker. Design is in my blood.
In 2002, I got a job as a design assistant and from that point on, the world of interior decoration has kept me challenged and engaged, helping me grow as a woman and an artist. I worked for several talented designers and learned all the intricacies of the business. In 2013, bolstered by an agency partnership that would handle my marketing and billing, I started my own business, librastudio. It was the perfect situation, allowing me to focus on what I did best- design. They took a percentage, but it was well worth the portfolio building and the growing of my brand. Once I began to generate my own leads, the agency reliably filled in any gaps.
But then last year, the agency folded, my momentum dipped, and I turned 45, in that order. A mid-life transformation was upon me. All the trends and the catchphrases and the cookie cutter-ness of the design world had started to bug me, the frivolity of it all. I knew the value- the absolute importance!- of having a beautiful, functional space that welcomed you in and nourished your spirit. I knew this in my bones, yet something in me had shifted.
At first I blamed Instagram, because it seemed like every time I was on it, my stomach hurt. So I kept my distance, but the gnawing feeling wouldn’t leave. With time on my hands, I dove into marketing, business development, reading blogs, doing courses on growth and honing my niche. I even did a holiday gift show, sewing a slew of small eye pillows to sell. All of it felt like a slog. (That’s a lot of ’s’ words.) But I persisted, because I knew that there were times in life when work just felt like work. Being a small business owner doesn’t mean it’s easy. In someways, it’s harder than a regular job, especially when you’re wearing all the hats. But usually, there is a kernel of joy somewhere in there because it’s all for you and you are in charge.
I leaned in to the unknowing, confident that there must be a way to revive my mojo and get me feeling inspired again. That or I’d have to venture into a new field, into unchartered waters. (The latter scared me a lot- the starting over.) At the end of last year, we took a trip to Israel, and I felt hopeful I’d find clarity in The Holy City. Perhaps, I’d find my purpose there.
Well, that didn’t happen. ‘Wherever you go, there you are’ is a circular platitude that happens to also be true. It was a good trip, with an interesting paranormal experience in Jerusalem (another story), but I returned home just as unclear as I’d left.
Then it was January and a lucrative commercial project landed in my lap. While I’d done some small commercial jobs, residential has always been my forte. Yet, was eager to work, hungry to find my spark again. Besides, it would be a good portfolio piece and the client was from Jerusalem (which felt synchronistic). In mid-March the job was 80% complete when the shelter-in-place happened.
As the days and months of 2020 both dragged on and flashed by, I could feel myself getting unmoored. Not having projects or clients to be accountable to, I was finding myself stuck in the rabbit hole too often, and every week seemed to bring a new experience. My routines were held together with mediation and morning pages, zoom meetings with my writing group, daily walks when the air was clear. The quarantine what-day-is-it-syndrome and the fires, and that one day when all of us in the Bay Area woke up to a red sky and we couldn’t tell whether it was day or night- that day, I looked outside and I cried into the windowpane, wondering, ‘Is this the other shoe dropping? Or are there more shoes to come?’
Yet even on the up days, and especially on the down ones, the questions of purpose and calling kept rattling inside, demanding attention. I felt guilty for having so many questions and impatient with no clear answers. What was I meant to BE?? What did I want to be? Did I still love design? If so, was there a way to take the process and make it meaningful? The Copy Cure, a top-level copywriting course that I’d enrolled in and which I knew was amazing and would eventually yield success, had me stalled at my ideal customer. How could I figure out my ideal client if I had no idea what the what the hell I was selling? Or more precisely, if I wanted to keep selling it.
Then a proverbial window opened. I listened to Marie Forelo interview Dr. Edith Eger, a 92 years young holocaust survivor from Budapest. The talk was about Dr. Edie’s new book, The Gift, and was full of powerful stories and lots of “Edie-isms”.
“Love is not what you feel, it’s what you do”
“Love is the ability to let go…what are you holding onto?”.Dr. Edie Eger
Love is action. I like it.
In the hour long chat, Seeing the Gift in Everything, there were more than a few moments of deepness (that’s right, not mere depth- deepness!). I was in the park, waking with Coco and I just had to sit myself down in the grass and cry. It was beautiful, really. I looked up at the blue sky, felt the warm sun, and the fresh, wet grass beneath me.
That day, I took a step forward and reached out to my therapist. It was okay to admit that I could use some help climbing out this time.
Love is action.
“The most damaging prison is in our mind, and the key is in our pocket.” – Dr. Edith Eva Eger
This monumental year has cracked me open and I’m surrendering to it. Yes, I’m a little bit scared, too, but it’s an exciting scared. I prefer when things are tied in a bow, but that’s not what’s on offer right now. Sitting in uncertainty, the one thing that has held me together has been my writing. Showing up consistently to the page, I’ve been graced by the muse and encountered some true moments of flow- where time and space disappear and it’s just me, in the zone.
So yeah, I don’t know exactly what’s next and in what form, but I know for me, it’s about creative expression. I guess for now, I’ll just keep writing.