You’ve heard the expressions of having several balls in the air, many irons in the fire or perhaps wearing many hats. There are a million ways to explain that feeling when you simply have a lot going on all at once. For me I refer to various areas of my life as buckets and from Sept – April my buckets were overflowing, disorganized, tipped over and downright dysfunctional. I felt like raccoons had gotten into the garbage late at night and left the contents of my life scattered in extremely odd places.
The buckets that were meant to keep me organized + grounded as I shifted out of van life, away from a summer of helping my mom kick cancer’s ass and towards building my own physical therapy practice + learning how to earn money creatively and effectively were dented + cracked.
I didn’t quite realize it was happening until we pulled out of the driveway of our stationary home in Boulder headed for a 7 week van life trip in California. I’m not even sure that we were out of our neighborhood when I succumbed to a gigantic exhale and likely an audible “oooooohhhh, so that’s what’s going on”.
We knew coming out of the van and back to our house would be hard, but it’s a choice we went in to whole heartedly. Jon had the goal of completing massage school and I had a little business to get off the ground. We came off the road in June 2018 and, for me, that was immediately followed by a summer in New England with my family helping my mom recover from bladder removal surgery and the laundry list of complications and readmissions that went with it. During that time, I got the feeling from Jon that he wasn’t quite sure how to spend his time. He had freelance work but something seemed amiss. I would soon understand.
Then, Sept hit and Jon had his head down in the books through February. That was fine because I had a business to figure out. Oh man – this is where it got messy for me. The preverbal tables had turned and I understood the place Jon had been that summer I was away.
In addition to being a physical therapist, I help Jon with social media for BOCO Gear. He does mostly partnerships + marketing efforts and I have my finger on the pulse of Instagram + Facebook. I LOVE IT! A few people caught on that I can run social media accounts and I was presented with a couple of opportunities to run the social platforms for some other brands. I tried to turn these jobs down, but their owners wouldn’t take no for an answer. So I tried.
I also tried to dabble in a few consistent physical therapy jobs, mostly to help friends who had their own practices. Once I’m performing the treatments, I’m happy and content. However the logistics of getting to some of those appointments was wearing me thin and I didn’t even realize it. At one point I was driving 45 min both ways, for a 45 min therapy session, for $45. I’m not in a position to turn down money, but that simply became more hassle than it was worth. The juice was not worth the squeeze, as we say.
Then, in the middle of driving to a zillion different locations for little gigs that resulted in a bit of cash or a trade for services – the process in and of itself was getting old but I had not realized it – my dear friend, Leo, had a massive stroke.
This is not about “poor me” when it comes to his stroke, but this is about my poor coping mechanisms and what I needed to do in order to be more helpful to him and his family. Once Leo was in the rehab state of his recovery, I committed to seeing him at Craig every Saturday for basically Dec-March. This felt good. I didn’t nor do I now have a magic wand to cure him, but I have a skill set that he can benefit from and I love the guy. I’m going to do what it takes to help him and his family. So, at that time, there was some structure to helping friends as they navigated hell. But I got consumed. With discharge to home at wheelchair level approaching, and Jon and I only living 7 miles away, I lost the structure and found myself offering our services 24/7 and being consumed with helping at home when I wasn’t there. I was simply too close with not enough concrete things to fix or questions to answer. My approach, on top of being downright sad about my friend, was leading to high stress, poor eating and general buckets tipping over and mixing with nearby debris.
Days before we left for our spring taste of van life trip, I quit a bunch of stuff that wasn’t making sense. No more long drives for not a lot of work. No more social media for a brand that, while I love it, proved to be unfulfilling. No more trading services unless time was tracked in a meaningful way so that both parties are benefiting equally. Basically I was starting to find my buckets, clean them out, place them upright and get them ready to be useful.
The van has a tendency to help us see what’s obvious. When we were on our big trip people always asked what was next for us. At times we had no idea but Jon and I always answered by explaining that we are paying attention to themes that keep popping up. For him it was massage school. For me it was not returning to a hospital setting. We had a chance to rent the house out for another year yet decided to move back after 16 months because it’s what kept coming up. These are by no means answers to big questions but they were sound enough realizations to help us take action.
This mini-van trip during the spring was no different. What kept coming up? Get organized. Sink your teeth in. Use your time better. Work smarter not harder. And so I did…or so I am…trying.
I’ve made a conscious decision to be more present at Koa Fit as I build my business + expand my skill set, I attend monthly networking meetings, I still help with BOCO Gear because I love it. I have accepted another social media job that is near + dear to my heart and will benefit my practice and future as well. I have declined tiny little therapy gigs that are more effort than they are worth.
I’ve recommitted some Saturdays to Leo. It’s not as consistent as it was when he was in rehab because summer is so hard, but I’ve done my best to schedule some times with him to go to a local gym and keep him moving. I love our Saturdays and am looking forward to the chill schedule that the fall will bring so we can go with some regularity. I needed Leo to have his own bucket and, more importantly, I openly communicated this to Dani, his wife, and to Leo. I’ve been thru crisis and loss before with my brother. Being available and saturated 24/7 isn’t good for me and, in turn, isn’t good for them. Dani + Leo can’t escape but even they are trying to get balanced…even if they have to fake it sometimes. I needed to remember the watch calendar my dad made for my brother. At a glance we knew what his month would looked like. When therapy was, when friends visited, when family took over to give my folks a break. We all had a job and that felt successful to me. I felt like I was doing my part to help the team, to help my brother, to help my parents. That is my same approach with Leo + Dani. I’m a Type-A planner and I’m not changing now, so I’ll use it to my advantage. Being honest in my approach to myself and to Dani + Leo can only strengthen the team and it’s members. So that’s how I’ve got my Leo bucket organized.
Since we got back in late May I’ve felt more grounded, rested, lighter, committed and satisfied with how I’m spending my time. Fitness has improved, eating has improved, sleep is more restful. In general my attitude is more focused and calm. Oh and I’m trying one new thing each week. Boulder has a ton of fitness related companies and they all offer free trials. So I’m doing one thing outside of my usual regime and, somehow committing to mixing it up once a week has brought with it a feeling of accomplishment that has been tremendously beneficial emotionally + physically. (here’s a little glimpse of something I tried: Mecha Hybrid: HIIT + Core)
So yea buckets: Find them + organize them 🙂