For the past three weeks, I've been enrolled in an online course. In many ways, it was not your average online course. For one, unlike my Coursera courses, in which I enroll and proceed to watch one of the lectures and do none of the activities, I actually did the work for this one--or more work than I usually do in the absence of the gift of physical accountability that comes with taking an in-person course. Secondly, it was a course on self-love. Specifically, "21 Days to Self-Love." That's not the kind of thing you usually find on Udemy or Lynda.
The course was run by a life coach I've worked with for several months, and even though I still work with her, I figured I'd sign up for the course anyway. It couldn't hurt to support a friend while also doubling down on emotional preparation for the February 14 cyclone of wine and chocolate and Hallmark cards.
I've been actively working on the self-love quest for almost a year, and have had some measurable progress over the past nine months. But I wasn't expecting any huge shifts in 21 days. How much could four 75-minute phone discussions on Tuesday night in a group of 15 women really do for me? I knew the tools and had the steps to self-love already. I had vision boards and cards and posters all over the walls of my bedroom and desk. Even in my kitchen. So what were these 21 days going to change? Would I really be any different on the other side of them?
Despite my initial doubts, yes.
The first day of the course, we were told to wake up every morning and follow a routine of drinking a large glass of water, meditating for ten minutes, and then writing a list of 5-10 things we were grateful for (doing the gratitude list was something I was doing already, but at night instead of the morning). I'd say I did this on all but four days, and while I was skeptical of the value of the routine, those four days I didn't go through with it, I definitely felt less at ease when moving throughout my day. I've categorically refused a routine under the belief that my life changes too much and I don't know where I'll be, so I can't stick to a routine. I don't know why I was afraid of letting that belief go--a fear of being "tied down" somehow? Becoming "boring" or "inflexible" on account of having a morning schedule? At any rate, I tried out this 15-minute trio of morning activities for the vast majority of the 21 days, and I plan to stick with them.
But the most important thing that happened in the spirit of self-love was a breakup of sorts. A little over a week ago, I decided to end my contract at the facility where I was doing my baking commercially for my business. Anyone who saw and talked to me about my baking exploits probably noticed a shift in the way I talked about my business between November and mid-February. At the very least, I noticed a difference. Even though partnering with this facility meant breaking into multiple farmers markets and getting some space at a storefront--huge progress for a 6-month-old food business--I was a train wreck. The circumstances of working there me feel more distressed and more hopeless than ever. The more time I spent there there, the more anxious I became, the more I lost perspective, and the more I believed that I had no other choices if I wanted to be successful. The circumstances there were suffocating loving what I do--serving up peace of mind to people with dietary restrictions in the form of the best allergy-friendly baked goods in Boston. And on Valentine's Day, no less, I decided I'd had enough.
The legitimacy of my business depends on having a commercial production space and a gluten-free space, in particular, is an extremely rare find. But I decided to end the agreement anyway--even at the risk of this place trying to encroach on my gluten-free/vegan niche (which I noticed happening today). Of course, I got my call to finalize my wholesale license--the license I'd been pushing hard to get for the past few months--just days after ending the contract. But I have to believe that I'm going to be guided to a better space and will be able to follow through on that license (and somehow continue to operate this business during grad school). More likely than not, all will be resolved in ways I can hardly predict.
This 21-day course and the companion Facebook group helped me to remember that I have a choice in it all. How I start my day. How I run my business. With whom I spend my time. Even in the face of a bad situation, there's still a choice between faith and fear, between a loving voice and a critical one, between moving forward and standing still.
And to the sisters reading this post, I love you and am so grateful to be walking beside you in the weird and wondrous road to self-love. Tonight, in the last class, I'm looking forward to celebrating it all with you.