I bought a simple monthly planner this year to visually plan my business. Keeping my schedule balanced is a high priority for me so that I make sure there is much needed room for work and rest and planning in between so that I have the energy needed to show up as my best self for the women I serve and for my family. I bought encouragement stickers that said things like “risk taker” and “you got this” to help me with my mindset and I was ready to have a big year. January through March included photoshoots, events, meetings and consultations. By mid-March, I started to have cancellations as schools closed, then the state closed as most of the country followed and I haven’t looked at the planner since.

Our Governor just issued a third extension of the stay at home order today through to the end of May, followed by a gradual plan to start opening things back up slowly. Much of this wasn’t news to me. I knew the first order would be extended and that the succeeding extensions were just a metaphorical band-aid being pulled off the skin ever so slowly. I knew early on the possibility of this pandemic lasting well into summer and beyond. I knew schools would close and that they would likely not reopen for the rest of the school year which is essential for me to be able to work. I knew businesses would be closed and it would be a while until they would be allowed to open back up. I warned my kids that we might not be able to go camping this summer and that backyard camping could be a fun substitute.

Going through incredible darkness, pain and hard times have taught me to trust myself, let go of expectations and to embrace the unknown. I’ve learned the hard way that we really don’t have the control over life that we think we do, and that the only thing we can really control is our response to things. Of course I’ve had my ups and downs (and meltdowns too) but in general, I’ve been faring pretty well during this pandemic by focusing on the present. Thus far, I have been in the space of the in-between, putting my business on hold, uncertain of whether I’d be able to keep my studio or when I would be able to do portraits again while focusing on my family and taking it day by day. But looking at my calendar with an empty April and May, I realize that it’s time to let go of the idea of “when things get back to normal” and embrace this messy in-between.

I had so many big plans for my business, which is my purpose, this year. I was presenting at my first large-scale event to a hundred women at WWIN’s conference. I was continuing to grow Raw Storytelling for Women, I had a friend who had agreed to share the new studio a few times a week to help grow her business which would’ve helped with the high cost of my lease, but most importantly, I had a wonderful momentum of valuable photography clients which is what produces the revenue to actually make my young business profitable.

We are all currently in the space of the in-between, the “messy middle,” which I’ve written about before. It’s the space of waiting, of looking to the future towards a destination to get to before we start to live the life we want to live. It’s a place of malaise when we feel restless and helpless and like we have no choices. But this middle is also where life is happening right now and if we hang on to the idea of “when things get back to normal,” we will be missing out on all the days in between. I remember when my younger son, the one who cried relentlessly, joined our family after we completed his adoption. I kept the idea of “when things get back to normal” as a goal, a place to finally get to where I could feel comfortable and finally feel good but a week would pass, then months, then years and nothing went back to normal. It was a brutal few years and in looking back, I can see that it was my clinging to the expected normalcy that made my suffering so much worse than it needed to be. The expectation of a “back to normal” future, one that felt familiar and safe, was the very thing that held me hostage in a place of pain and suffering. That “back to normal” never existed but I clung desperately to it, unable to let go and missed out on the opportunity to create a new future in the moment and to see what was in front of me―a beautiful, sensitive boy grieving so that he could move on from his old life in order to make room for his new one.

I have no idea how long this pandemic and modified life will go on. It might all be over by summer or we may find ourselves in fall with our kids still not back in school. We have no control over these things and that can be incredibly scary. I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep my studio or what my business will look like but as I look at my empty calendar, I realize I don’t want to spend the rest of this time just waiting for life to resume. Life goes on whether or not we’re present for it. I want to be present for it.

This is from a personal journal writing shared in the newsletter and typically not shared on the blog. To read these, subscribe to the “I Matter” newsletter below.