Every year I sit down to write this letter and reflect while measuring how much I’ve grown personally and professionally. My hope is that I’m always deepening my relationships with others and especially the one I have with myself. Something, I’ve recognized is an imperative part of getting older in life. I hope by practicing mindfulness I acknowledge my gratitude for my life and work. By sharing with others I'm allowing a peek into my heart and in my journey as an entrepreneur with the very human touch I put into La Bella Figura. There is no need for pretenses on my part. I do not have all the answers and I never want to act like I have a perfect life behind the scenes, preferring to admit my faults and be more open. I write this solely from my own perspective, as I can’t speak for Karen or anyone else on our team. I feel lucky to be able to share another year with you and what a year it’s been.
2019 has challenged me in ways I honestly didn’t think I could handle at times. It’s been heavy for me, full of loss and betrayal, despair and worry. I kept waiting for a better day, week or season to come and I was continually thrown for a loop. I embraced and distanced myself from certain ideas, goals and people. I’ve had to come face to face with my complicated relationship with loss. I don't mean death. In some ways, the loss I'm referring to is worse than that. You see, I have difficulty letting some things go, especially people. Extra "especially" anyone I've loved. This kind of loss happens to us all and we never know how to talk about it or grieve it properly. I could list unfortunate events and the people that have both gone or I’ve had to let go, but for now I’ll file that under lessons I needed to learn in private. Ultimately, my story doesn’t really have much to do with specific moments or people, but rather how I decided to pick myself up and dust off again and again. There were times (and in the realm of truth there still are moments) that I felt like I was watching myself in a movie falling in slow motion down a deep, dark and narrow hole. When will I land, I shouted from the inside? When will things become easier? This is bullshit, unfair, people suck! I’ve said and thought all of those things. I feel as though I’ve been in a sour mood for a long time. I dislike it because I don’t want to be. I’m a matter of fact, kind of person and generally I like to laugh, have fun and enjoy moments. I don’t like stewing in negative emotions towards someone or about things. I get over things quick. I've always been able to surrender to the peace of things being as they are. But then, another kick in the ass would happen and it was all just too much, you know? It’s startling too when you’re working hard, striving to do your best, be creative and suddenly, snap, more crap to pile on top of old crap. It can make a person begin to question one’s instincts and certainly the motivation of others.
We, as complex thinking humans are not designed to be happy every day of our lives. Life brings us to our knees quite often and it’s whether or not we rise to the occasion and deal with those hardships that will transform us. I have learned that I want to be grateful and satisfied more than seeking constant happiness. I dream of living in a state of bliss and I imagine it to be a place of quiet beauty surrounded by those I love and doing what I love, each and every day. But it also feels like a lot of pressure to remain in permanent happiness and certainly it’s unsustainable if you live in the world as a risk taker. This is, in fact who I am and part of my DNA. Having faith that I can overcome hard times is what makes me feel empowered. "I can do this. I can get over this! I'll be okay and stand back up," I would repeat this over and over each time I would fall. I believe I've gotten to a place where I can feel at peace with the hard situations and difficult decisions I’ve had to make. As a result, I have a new perspective on letting go. It’s healthy and one most necessary in order to welcome what needs to be in your life. Sometimes the only way to set yourself in the right direction is to not try to fix what broke and let it go. I read a quote the other day and it went something like this, “when you start again, this time you won’t start from scratch, you’ll start from experience.”
That made me think of what it is I need from my relationships with coworkers, contractors, family, friends and even, a romantic partner. (Just in case, I’m ready for it.) Let me share and see if it resonates with your goals or needs.
For work or play, respect is big for me. I approach every person I meet and every situation with respect. My grandmother told me many years ago, "you are no better or worse than anyone else you will ever meet. Just be stronger and show compassion to the ones that don't know what I just told you." It's stuck with me an entire lifetime. I give respect and expect the same and will not settle for less on this matter. (Also, you shouldn't have to ask for respect. It's a given between people that value one another as humans.)
Someone asked me a while ago what I look for in a romantic partner. Kindness is my first rule of thumb these days. I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter if someone is funny, attractive, has a great career, etc. if the way they approach life or others is self-centered or greedy or by being a regal asshole then please stay clear from me. Unfortunately, kindness in our society is undervalued and many people see it as weakness. I happen to see the opposite. Kindness is your strength turned inside out. Give me a kind, vulnerable person over a witty, inconsistent, closed soul that smiles on the outside, but refuses to battle demons internally. Being a genuinely kind person navigates all the hard things about basic human weirdness and can be the light we all look for once we’ve experienced enough narcissism and uncertainty.
This is an area I am actually good at setting, but have found is difficult for others. As a woman, I find it most interesting and ironic how people label you one of two things when you’re clear with boundaries. One is a bitch. Because only a bitch will not allow you to be manipulated, threatened, bullied, cheated or lied to. Of course I’m being slightly facetious, but those of you that have just begun to get comfortable setting boundaries probably know what I’m talking about. Suddenly, you’re not sweet Victoria anymore, but the BITCH who won’t let cousin Beatrice stay at your 500 sq.ft. apartment for a week with her three high-maintenance dogs and teething toddler during the week of Thanksgiving. Or, when you bring up concerns with someone you hired and suddenly, it’s you that has a problem and not the fact that this person 100% crossed ethical lines and is too ego-fueled to apologize. And instead will attempt to explain to you why you’re wrong while taking offense that you brought up the issues in the first place. On the other hand, when you’re not being labeled a bitch for setting boundaries you’re a “badass.” A person applauded for doing what others wish they could do or speak up on behalf of those that don’t. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground and there needs to be because those of us that have learned how good it feels to make our wishes clear aren’t bitches and when we reinforce our boundaries, we aren’t badasses either. We’re just choosing our own wellness and peace of mind over utter nonsense.
You may be wondering what this has to do with gratitude. Well, everything for me. I believe we all have low points either coming or happening right this very second and when you’re in the midst of it, the hardest thing to do is feel grateful. We tend to wallow in self pity, plunge into darkness, discredit our sense of worthiness and often, we forget what incredible fortune we do have in our lives. I’ve had to take breaks and put the hard shit into perspective. I have a few, but extremely loyal and loving people in my life that I know I can count on when my brain goes dark. They help turn the lights back on. I’m so very grateful for these folks. For loving me on days I couldn't love myself. I'm also grateful for my own curiosity and drive to pursue passions and dreams. It's not easy when it all comes crumbling down to decide to rebuild. But I do it because it's naturally innate to drive my dreams. Perhaps this year was extra tough because what I'm working towards in 2020 needs a solid foundation. Weed out the clowns, manipulators, dreamers that can only ever dream and create steel on top of bricks for long-lasting prosperity. It's a thought I believe merits some consideration.
So hold on there. Catch your breath and do what you need to get through. Take walks in the woods, download that meditation app, text less, read more, paint, exercise, escape, drink tea, make love, push, fall, rise, cry, laugh, block, let go, let go, let go. Let it the fuck go because you shouldn't imprison yourself with the what-ifs. What ifs suck dreams out of you, time and energy wasted that you need for yourself to recharge and get moving. Learn to appreciate when you need to release things, ideas and even people to make space for what needs replacing. It will all make sense next year when you look back and see how far you've come. Till then make it a point to allow yourself to feel grateful and definitely love yourself harder than you ever have. It will be significant when you're picking yourself off the floor.
With love and gratitude,