I am mother, to two wildly creative young children. I am wife, to my wildly creative husband. As a family we tend to defy the norm. My husband and I are two lone wolves who have created a pack of our own. Sometimes I wonder what life would have been like for us if we had not found each other.
Like a Rolling Stone
Before I found my husband and “settled down” I was the epitome of the free spirit. Looking back, I now realize that I spent most of my time running from that feeling of un-belonging, that stole my sleep most nights, when I stayed in one place for too long. I was a songwriter. I played guitar and sang sad songs about loneliness and injustice. I rebelled against the rules of my childhood and the expectations of my middle class, suburban upbringing.
I took risks and accomplished the impossible. I fell in love with all the wrong people, made all the wrong friends and found endless inspiration in my very own self-imposed tragic comedy. It was a trip… with many close calls, a dash of trauma, and a rollercoaster of experiences. My love affair with the road, her people and her music was colorful and intense. Needless to say, there are a lot of stories to tell from my time on the road. Over time they may come out here.
I worked hard as a musician, harder than most would. I took my lumps, paid my dues, produced several CDs and eventually experienced enough success to claim myself a full time musician on my taxes. I toured consistently for years with a duo called Duende, and later as a solo artist with various musicians. I built my reputation slowly, with determination and commitment. I was blessed enough to spend time with, learn from, teach with and share a stage with some of the best blues musicians in the United States. I believe it is the mentorship of some of these brave greats that helped me survive all that I have survived, and become the woman I have become. .. the woman I am still becoming.
Lost and Found
2 years before I left the road life, I realized that I was slowly disappearing into the lifestyle of the poor and un-famous. I had lost my taste for loneliness. I had lost my muse. I was tired of being hungry. I found myself wondering if I had been wrong all along. Maybe there was a place for me after all. Maybe there was a belonging to come. How would I ever know if I didn’t stop moving long enough to get to know anyone? That is when my sweet lone wolf came into my life, and I felt kinship for the first time in forever.
We met at a mutual friend’s house party in the “jam room”. There was always a room set aside for a circle of musicians at those parties. I had just bought a mandolin that day. I was taking it out for a spin, though I had never played one before. There in the jam room I saw a guy holding a mandolin and an open chair beside him. He looked like he had just crawled out of a mountain shack, with an unruly beard and holes in his worn out t-shirt. I figured, “this guy MUST know how to play that thing, I’m in luck!” It turned out he had just gotten his mandolin that day as well . We were both flying blind. It was the start of a lifetime together though we didn’t realize it at the time. There was just this, familiarity. This sameness. Like we belonged.
My pendulum quickly swung all the way from revolutionary to housewife, as I tried to convince myself that I was worthy of this kind, hard working Irish-Italian man. I had never been with anyone who had treated me well before. It was foreign and uncomfortable. My self-esteem rose and crashed along with tidal waves of panic as I tried, in vain, to fit inside a box my husband had never asked me to climb into in the first place. I learned to can preserves. I learned to garden, I learned to cook. The one thing I did not learn to do was clean. This is still a sticky topic around our house, and has been the subject of many of our finest arguments.
I went back to school for a degree in music at 32 years old and came away with a degree in music education, and a position in a public middle school before I’d officially graduated. I thought I had made it. But the truth was I didn’t belong. I loved my students. I have always loved music. I even enjoyed teaching. I am simply not made to be an employee. The administration pressured me to do more than I was paid to do. I complied for fear of losing my job. The union ostracized me and treated me with contempt for “endangering the rights of all teachers”. I felt as though I had donned a set of shackles and a bullseye in exchange for dubious financial security and it was making me, and my muse, sick.
Happiness and Sadness
Then, the heavens opened and sent me a dose of LIFE that would change me at the very root of my existence. My second year of teaching brought us our first child. THIS. This was the experience I was born for. This was a belonging like no other. Our son was the greatest joy either of us had ever experienced. The perspective he brought us was astounding. This little life was our to shape and mold. I was in love. I was happy. Then I had to go back to work.
I was miserable leaving my son in daycare. I worked long hours to make extra money and the time away from him was suffocating. I dreamt of having more children, but couldn’t imagine what the daycare situation would be like. My health was deteriorating due to stress and an unhealthy work environment.. I became distant to myself as I started to believe, “this is my life”. I was losing myself again. The loneliness was returning, and I knew we needed to make a change.
Finally, a Plan
It was at that point I was introduced to my solution. A friend was starting a social marketing health & wellness business and I went to her home to celebrate with her and learn about what she was getting into. Both health and wellness were clearly on my mind at the time, though I had no actionable plan to work with. So I was intrigued from the start. I was familiar with the business model and had been a client to several companies over the years. It always made sense to me that skipping the middle men meant a better product for less money. Besides, I would rather support a friend than some major chain store. This particular company’s green commitment and strictly clean ingredients policy impressed me. The idea of making extra money and creating my own schedule sounded great to me. I was also impressed with the pay it forward culture and the positive, happy vibe of the people. This group felt different from anything I had seen before. This group felt right.
I jumped in to starting my own little side business with both feet despite “sales” being way outside my comfort zone. I remember someone saying that it “just wasn’t me”. Was it “me” to leave my son in daycare for 10 hours a day? No way. I worked my new business in the nooks and crannies of my day alongside #momlife and #overtime. I was coachable and willing to learn and work hard. Within 3 months I was laid off from my job. By the time my paycheck stopped, I replaced my teaching income with my “little side business”. At that point I realized the power of leveraging my time. I decided to start treating my “side thing” like the multimillion dollar business it had the potential of being.
Stepping into Leadership & Growth
Anyone with a work ethic and an open mind can create a significant income with a social marketing business, but to step into leadership and empower other people to do it is something else. Leadership requires belief, consistency and resilience, which I had. But it also requires a great deal of patience, vulnerability, self-esteem, self-confidence, inspiration and much more. This host of impressive character traits were on my radar, but not exactly checked off my “to do” list. I am forever grateful to the mentor who introduced me to personal growth and development. I am forever grateful to the company that showed me the parallel between personal growth and business growth. I am deeply grateful to authors like Brené Brown, Louise Hay, Dale Carnegie, Rhonda Byrne and Cornell Thomas for speaking their truth with vulnerability. Their truth helped me to discover and embrace my own vulnerability. My vulnerability opened the door to leadership, and I was blessed with success.
Thanks to Arbonne (my social marketing vehicle of choice), I have been home with my son for since 2011, and my beautiful daughter will never see the inside of a daycare. I have been able to focus on my health in a way I was not equipped to do before, and my quality of life has changed drastically. Time is priceless. Once it is spent it cannot be recovered. The time my business has allowed me to spend with my children (and myself) is miraculous. The fulfillment I feel in my heart teaching others to create the same is awe-inspiring.
Illness & Wellness
Throughout my childhood in suburbia, my rootless existence as a musician, my finding love, creating a family, getting lost and finally finding success, I have battled a silent disease that has popped up conspicuously at the most inopportune times. Symptoms started with migraines and depression at 5 years old and progressed in waves as I grew. Every holiday I collapsed with debilitating headaches. I caught every illness that went around. I maxed out our family medical deductible every year, and lived on antibiotics. Puberty hit me like a freight train, with migraines that lasted for weeks at a time. There were times in my 20’s that my joint pain was so bad I couldn’t turn a doorknob without crying. I went to a series of doctors each time I experienced a flare, but none of them had any answers for me. Some suspected Lyme disease. Some suspected Lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis. But all the tests were always inconclusive. I eventually learned not to talk about it. Diseases without a name have a tendency to be dismissed as “all in your head” or “attention seeking”. I am sure any of you who have battled autoimmune disease know exactly what I mean.
Nearly 40 years later, as I experienced the most intense flare up of my life, I slowly and quietly fell apart. My ambition and sense of responsibility to my family and team blinded me to my own needs. The response of my family doctor, “you are just tired because you are a mom” didn’t help. Fatigue flowed through me like a poison without an antidote. My joints pain increased until I could no longer exercise and I was diagnosed with widespread tendonitis. Brain fog threatened to steal my short term memory more and more often. Though I could name 100 things to be grateful for on demand and knew logically that I was “happy”, a sense of deep sadness that did not belong to me invaded my body and sat in my chest like a cancer. I started missing appointments, birthdays and events. I worked my business or I stayed at home where I was safe. I didn’t have it in me to do anything else. I learned who I could count on and who I couldn’t. You learn fast who your friends are when you are truly at the end of your wits. In November of 2017 I was finally diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease by a wonderful nurse practitioner and my road to healing began.
Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack and destroy the thyroid. Hashi’s causes extreme fatigue, insomnia, depression, joint pain, brain fog, migraines, memory problems and a slew of symptoms I have been dealing with off and on since I was little. I don’t know why it took 40 years to get it diagnosed. As Jim Rohn used to say, “I wouldn’t sign up for that class”. What I do know is that I will never let my circumstances define who I am. It may not be curable, but by following the Autoimmune protocol diet, using the highest quality nutrition products, and surrounding myself with positive, empowering people, I am beating Hashimoto’s every day, one day at a time.
Success and Belonging
Today I can gratefully attest that I am in full remission from Hashimoto’s disease. I am deeply grateful for the the income, education and safe products I have received from my Arbonne business, and the love for healthy living I have developed over time. The time freedom and vitality I have developed with my business has freed me to pursue my business, writing and music with a renewed sense of mission. I am truly called to share my story in hopes that I may inspire even one person to step into their greatness. We were not placed on this earth to survive. We are meant to thrive, and I truly believe that we are meant to do so together, as a community.
Over the past few years I have built a successful business, my children have grown into truly incredible kids, and my husband and I have fallen more in love with one another than ever. I have learned to take care of my body and my mindset in a way I didn’t know I deserved back in the “old days”. That younger me calls this new me a boring nerd and rolls her eyes like a 25 year old teenager. This older me laughs patiently and loves that younger woman as she is, wild and forever tragic.
Thankfully I have learned the truth about both of us. We belong.
So do you. Live well.