And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
By the time this is posted, I will be on a road trip to Winona, Minnesota, to teach at a special event in Fountain City, Wisconsin. This is joyful in two different ways: first, a road trip! Second, teaching “live” at a special event! Neither of these things were possible during the COVID year. And now…well, here we go.
AllWriters’ on-site classes returned to “live” several weeks ago, so I’ve already actually been in the same room with some of my students, rather than looking at their Brady Bunch faces on my computer screen. But this is an event, a place I was asked to come and present, and I’ll be meeting people I’ve never met before. I’ll be speaking out loud, hearing my students’ responses, watching their faces, and just…TEACHING. Reaching out. And some of it will be outside! Walking a labyrinth! And I get to stay in a hotel! And a couple of my AllWriters’ students are coming and I haven’t seen them in forever! And…and…and…!!!
Needless to say, I’m excited.
As we all worked our way through the pandemic, many of us were filled with fear. Afraid that our families would fall ill, that we’d lose loved ones, that we would get sick ourselves, that our loved ones would lose us. For small business owners, there was an additional fear. Losing the business.
When I started my own business 16 years ago, I didn’t realize how much of a living, breathing personhood that business would become. For those with small businesses, these are more than walls and products and whatever else comes with it. The business, just like a writer’s characters in a novel, becomes real. The business isn’t a job. It’s family.
Last week, I was interviewed as a writer on the New York Parrot Literary Corner YouTube show. When I was asked about my studio, about AllWriters’ Workplace & Workshop, I heard myself say, “That place is my heart.”
AllWriters’ offers classes, workshops, coaching and editing on-site and online, so the move to putting everything online during the pandemic wasn’t difficult, at least intellectually. Emotionally, it was so hard. My very first on-site workshop that instead appeared on my computer screen in a Zoom format was my Wednesday Afternoon Women Writers’ Workshop. Many of these women have known each other and me for years. We went a couple weeks without meeting while I figured out Zoom and, in turn, taught it to them. But our first day online, in the midst of that early fear and early isolation, I watched everyone’s face as they popped onto my screen. I saw that moment that they realized they could see each other, hear each other, in a different way, of course, but there we were. The joy. The relief. I could have wept, and when the class was over that day, I did.
Throughout the COVID year and into 2021, I worried. I often stood in the middle of my empty and dark classroom and I felt its sadness as well as mine. As more and more businesses staggered and went under, I worried more. There was some help – Wisconsin’s Governor Evers offered small businesses a “We’re All In” grant, which AllWriters’ received. And I applied for and received an SBA Disaster Relief Loan. Those gave me some moments of uplift, but still, I worried.
This place is my heart. And my heart was oh so scared.
One of my coaching clients used to own and run a small business. In writing about this experience, she said, “Small business people often have nothing to rely on except their intuition, their fierce commitment, and their refusal to allow themselves to openly doubt that what they are doing will somehow work out. They stubbornly in the teeth of crises use all their skills to reassure others when they are secretly fearful and wondering if they should just end it all. In the face of possible disaster, we still forge ahead and follow the path we think is best without any concrete factual reason why. A person who hasn’t run a small business could never understand how there are stretches of time – days, weeks, months, years – when all one can do is get from morning to night. When life is marked by mailing invoices, depositing payments, covering payroll and making sure the electricity is still on. Sometimes the way ahead turns into a ditch full of mud and shit where every step is a slog. An inch of progress is counteracted by two of failure. If movement stops, sometimes it’s impossible to start again. In fear and dread, I followed through, and kept on going.”
Amen. I’ve done this for 16 years. And in the COVID year, my steps were the sloggiest ever and I experienced fear and grief like I’d never known.
But you know what?
I’m still here. AllWriters’ is still here.
My gratitude and my joy are an aura around me that I just can’t hold in.
This place is my heart.
The life I chose, as a writer, as a writing instructor, as an advocate for writers, as a business owner, is my heart.
I am so happy to be here.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.