Episode 27: Entrepreneurship + Chronic Illness
with guest Allison Puryear
L: Welcome to your office!
A: Thank you! I’m so happy to be here.
L: It’s so nice to be sitting here, and it’s a really beautiful place.
A: Thank you, I appreciate it.
L: And I have been excited to have you on the show, because you’ve been a mentor to me. Yeah, thanks for being my mentor.
L: Because you’ve been here, I mean you’ve been a part of my process for having this podcast and deciding to really make it a real thing, so...
A: Yeah, and then I became your podcast’s biggest fan.
L: Yeah, you have been a fan, and I’m really glad too. And I also want to say sorry that now you’re --
L: Now when people get health challenges, I’m like “ Ooh, that’s exciting! You have a health challenge?” but then it’s like, “Sorry about the health challenge...but now you’re part of a club.”
A: Right. Well it’s interesting because when you were conceiving this podcast, I was like “Yeah, that would be so good for those folks who struggle with that!”.
L: Those people!
A: Those folks, yeah.
L: Over there. Yeah.
A: And then all of a sudden I was like “Lauren…guess what.”
L: So, well let’s get started with just a summary of your health journey.
A: Yeah, so...I guess like the big zoomed out view after, like, some time thinking about it is I’ve always been a very, like...I’ve had high frustration tolerance, high pain tolerance, high functioning like...high caliber person, right?
A: And so, I was a high caliber person, uhm, like… and kept stretching that and then I got sick. And I honestly believe it is just because I kept pushing my limits and kept thinking that that was a great thing, of like, pushing my emotional and physical limits. Uhm...and like, almost being addicted to discomfort.
A: Because it’s part of the entrepreneurial journey, or it’s part of how you become a great student, or it’s part of whatever...and then last November, I guess mid-November of 2017, I got diagnosed with Hashimotos. And it was after feeling really, really, really awful for a while and not being able to get myself out of it -
A: I would go through those phases where, you know, like I’d have finals in college and then get sick the week afterwards.
A: And I thought I was just going through something like that.
A: Of like, oh, my body is just allowing me to have that cold now...but I just couldn’t, I mean, it was 10 A.M. and I was, I was ready to go back to bed, which is the opposite of how I’ve always been my whole life.
A: I’ve always so high energy, and… I mean...
L: Balls to the wall.
A: You know, so it was a big shift to feel like I’m not motivated for the first time in my life.
A: That was, that’s still weird for me when I have flare ups, if not… I’ve never felt unmotivated in my life, and getting acquainted with that has been interesting.
A: Of like, do I force it? That’s what got me sick. But stuff still needs to get done, so I’m still negotiating that. So that’s been my health journey. Like, the most nutshell version.
L: It is very nutshell.
A: It’s very nutshell.
L: Let’s acknowledge that.
L: There’s so much more, right?
A: Yeah, there’s a lot more. A lot. But, you know, I don’t want to spend 45 minutes of your time…
A: Just talking about it.
L: For a while I was like, maybe I should do each episode as just two episodes. The first episode is the person telling their whole story -
L: And I was like, we tell our stories so much that I just want this podcast to be a different sort of conversation, so.
L: It’s a good thing.
L: You don’t have to rehearse your story, basically. When you talked about being unmotivated…
L: I thought, it’s so interesting cause right when you said that, I was like “Motivation can be a physical sensation.”
L: And that’s what I connected in my mind. Is that your experience, or…?
A: Oh yeah, absolutely. I have like a hum. Like I’m always humming inside. I mean, unless I’m feeling sick, but usually most of my life I’ve had this hum like a little motor...and it’s been such a constant, it’s really comforting.
A: And so when all of it sudden it like dies on ya.
A: It’s just like… [unintelligible]
A: It’s...having never really experienced a lack of motivation it’s also really interesting to, to see how some other people feel kind of normally. Cause I’ve worked with a lot of people who struggle with motivation.
A: Even when I was going through significant depressions when I was younger, I would still be getting things done in order to like earn my worth. That kind of thing. So, like, my lack of motivation and depression was still a different animal, it was just like the motivation came from somewhere else.
A: It came from the depression.
A: In a way.
L: That’s so wild. Just even...I think we could have a whole conversation. I remember there was one time….so you and I are part of a group that was you and Tiffany Mcclaine hosted.
L: NEXT, which is for “thera-preneurs.”
L: Which is where the idea for this podcast was born, and I remember the day that I created the website for the podcast.
L: And I was in this state all day, of like, divine energetic harmony.
L: And I had so much energy when I created the website, and I posted in our group.
L: “Is it weird that I feel this almost mania creating this website? I feel like I’m gonna bounce off the roof.” And folks responded essentially, “Yeah, that’s…” and I think you even said, “That’s how I get things done.”
A: Uh-huh. Welcome to my life, right?
A: Yeah, yeah, and one of my therapists, or one of the therapists I’ve had in my life who I just went back to, she was like “You really enjoy this, this kind of like hypermania so much so that even when you can relax you find ways to re-engage it.” And I’ve been just stoking that fire my whole life. And uhm, that’s why I’ve been on this - I’m just gonna mix all sorts of metaphors - it’s why I’ve been on this treadmill so hard, you know? Cause it’s… it’s almost… there’s an addictive quality to feeling so productive and feeling so energized.
A: And when I let the fire go out, it’s kind of hard to know what to do or how to do it.
A: Because my usual motivation just isn’t there.
L: And so then that gets into, like, identity.
A: Oh, yeah.
L: Oh yeah!
A: Because I’ve always been this high caliber person. You want me to take on extra work, absolutely. You know if they give it to me it will get done. And now I like, practice saying “No” multiple times a day because I get all sorts of really amazing offers or opportunities and I’ve always just said yes and crammed it in somehow.
A: And now I’m like, saying no more than I’ve ever said no which is a great thing!
A: Ultimately, right?
L: I’m excited when you say that, I’m like alright, cool!
A: Uh-huh! It means I get to be, uhm, I get to have a lot more down time. I’m learning how to do that now, and I’ve never really had hobbies… like anything that was a hobby for me I found some way to create a business around or monetize in some way or create some sort of community that then became work, so to be able to just like, embroider on my screened in porch, or you know, like -
L: I like that!
A: Or do vocal warm-ups.
A: Weird things that honestly have no, like, it’s just to do.
L: Yeah, just for the joy of it.
A: Yeah! It’s all foreign. It’s all very new.
L: I love the idea, this is like a new thing in my life too, is just joy for joy’s sake.
L: Almost.. I almost want to call it purposeless joy.
L: In a sense, just in our society of productivity.
L: Like everything has to be -
A: Yeah, there’s a part of me that’s like “Eh, purposeless?!”
A: But there’s so much pressure on…
A: On purposeful anything.
L: Right, and that’s… that’s when I look at the word purpose… there’s a spiritual definition for that too.
L: So it’s like, well in that way it has an excellent purpose…
L: To embroider on the porch, or to do vocal warm-ups.
L: Which I love, because you’re not doing a performance.
A: Exactly! Just a performance would give me a panic attack, so…
A: You know…
L: That’s not for joy’s sake.
A: Right! But I am probably going to join the chorus here in town, which is like crazy weird never would have happened a year ago.
L: Yeah! Like, if you from a year ago - who’s probably said yes a lot more -
L: Even thought about the idea of being part of a choir.
L: That wouldn’t have, uh…
A: It would...Yeah...no, because I only said yes to work things so.
A: I was really good about prioritizing work.
A: Good with quotation marks. That was, that was the priority. And I kept my hours like normal work hours. I wasn’t working like 80 hour weeks or anything like that, but I was thinking about work constantly.
A: Uhm, it was like this other kid in my house or this mistress in a relationship, you know, so…
L: I love that analogy.
L: But that’s so fascinating because it’s something about taking your attention away…
A: Absolutely. Yeah, and I justified it cause I was like “I’m working normal hours, what are you talking about I work too much? I get home before you do.” That kind of thing, when my husband would voice concern, but it’s because, uhm, most of the conversations I started with him were like “Hey babe, I have this idea for the business.” and like, he’s like “Okay… what about fun?” He’s really good at fun.
A: Thank God I married him. He’s an amazing man who’s really good at fun.
A: But he’s, uhm, you know like I said once, “I want to go to this conference, you know, kinda get away for a week and go to this conference.” and he’s like “When are you gonna get away for a week for fun?”
A: He’s like, “I’m not here to tell you yes or no, like we gotta figure out the talk thing here. But like I am far more supportive of you getting away with some girlfriends than you going to another conference.” And he’s like “You gotta have fun.” and I’m like “But work is fun!” and he’s like, “Allison, you’re like flexing. You’re like the guy at the gym...just like with the one barbell and the left arm.”
L: Yes, that’s a great -
A: And like everything else was like, atrophying so I heard that. Like, that I heard. And I was like “Okay….” and I did a fun vacation and I was like “I’m gonna kind of do some hobbies,” and then I got sick. Uhm, and part of the story, too, is I used to break bones all the time when I was doing too much.
A: Yeah! And like I don’t have osteopenia or osteoporosis or anything, but I would fall down stairs. I did that a few times and broke bones a few times.
L: Oh my God.
A: Uhm, I fell off a pull-up bar once. Like, in a V on the concrete 10 feet down.
A: Like, I would break bones as my body’s way of telling me to like, calm down and slow down. And that’s the only way I would slow down. And so I guess my body was like, you’re getting too old to keep breaking bones so instead you’re gonna have this autoimmune thing.
L: That’s blowing my mind. I’m just kind of processing it as you talk about it. Because it’s true, when we’re sick or when we’re injured we literally, physically, have to slow down.
L: What was it like for you when you did slow down? With those broken bones?
A: Awful. *Laughs* Awful.
L: Yeah, tell us about that.
A: I mean, it’s like all the kind of stuff I was running from was there, and it’s, I don’t… I think maybe in my young adulthood there were some very clear things I was running away from dealing with, but like, this new evolved me, like the me of my mid to late thirties, felt like “Oh, no. I’m just working hard because I enjoy my work...and I’m getting positively reinforced for it in all sorts of ways, but I’m not hiding from anything.” Uhm, which was not the truth, but it’s interesting how that stuff - like, if you’re still for long enough it comes… it comes in. And, for me, it’s grief. I’ve got a lot of like, unresolved miscarriage grief that I keep thinking, “Oh, that’s resolved now.” and then it pops back up.
A: And… I think there’s also this part of me that like… I think about the way people talk about entitlement and like, these kids who’ve never had to struggle with anything and so it’s really hard for them to get a B. I feel like, in some ways I am that way with success. Because I’ve always been successful, I’ve always just worked my tail off until I made it work. Like, I’m great at forcing things.
A: So I could force things to happen, not that that’s something I condone at this point, but, I saw that as working hard for a long time. And I could not force myself into staying pregnant. I couldn’t fix it.
A: And so, I would just work more. And then that would cause another miscarriage.
L: Yeah, grief is the worst.
L: I mean, that is just…
L: Powerful stuff. I just want to take a moment to acknowledge, which I do often in my own life and in these interviews, how important and powerful it is that we don’t have control over our bodies.
L: And a miscarriage is one of the biggest ways to learn that.
L: Experience that.
L: And not having control, I mean illness obviously, injury obviously, we don’t have control over our bodies. But not, not being able to have control can be really painful.
L: And scary.
A: Yeah, yeah. Especially for somebody who’s like, been living under this illusion that’s all, almost everything is controllable.
A: You know, I knew logically, of course, but you know, I was really special.
L: You think you are!
A: Right! You’re really special. I remember in one of your podcasts, I don’t remember if you said it or if your guest said it… but something about how like, health is not that important. You know?
L: Which is like, kind of controversial but yeah.
A: And so controversial!
A: Right? And I was like, I was driving and I was like *sighs heavily*
A: What? Yes, Oh my God! This frees me, you know? Cause literally right before I got diagnosed, my aunts and uncles for Thanksgiving, they passed around the book about where you write in what you have appreciated and I was like, “I’m so grateful for our health.” My uncle had come through cancer, a really scary one, and uhm, just so grateful for our health and the fact that like right now we’re all well...and a few days later I got diagnosed. Which, and this is another piece of the is, I got diagnosed, and then two or three days later I found a lump in my breast. And I was like, wait, what?
A: What? And so I got a mammogram and an ultrasound and it was all okay, but that was so scary that I didn’t deal with the Hashimotos because I was like, oh my gosh, I’m gonna have to make videos for my kids for their weddings before I die. Like, I just went to all the bad dark places.
L: Oh yeah. Totally.
A: Uhm, and then, it was almost like this delayed reaction of being able to be like, okay wait… what’s Hashimoto’s? How do I deal with this? Like, and getting different answers from my two different doctors. My, uhm, my doctor here that I’ve been seeing for a while who’s like “It’s no big deal just take this level of [medication] and you’ll be fine!” Like, do I need to do anything different dietary or environmental or with my life?
A: And she was like “No.” Went to a functional medicine doctor and like she literally sat with me for two hours and sat down right across from me and touched my hand and was like “You cannot keep doing what you’re doing.”
A: “You have to start saying no to things. You have to let some things go.” And I felt like it was very Goodwill Hunting.
L: Yeah, you do that, yeah.
A: I was like, I know. She’s like “No, really.” I was like “I know. I know.” I got this. And she’s like *scoffs* and I’m like “Okay…” And then identity stuff comes up again because I’m an eating disorder therapist and so I’ve been working with eating disorders since 2001. I wholeheartedly believe that all food is good food, and that saying yes to things allows us to have preferences and say no… and I preach this idea of intuitive eating, and there are foods that if I eat them I feel awful. Awful.
A: And they spark me into flare ups, and so I’ve had to change the way that I eat and in a way that looks very restricted to like, the me of a year ago. And so going, like I went to an eating disorder conference and for like the first time in 20 years had anxiety about eating in front of people because of the potential judgment.
A: “Why is she only eating… why doesn’t she have any carbs on her plate?” Because I can’t eat the ones that are available.
A: And so, like, the professional self and what I do truly believe is that like, I think, restriction is not a good thing unless there is a health condition that, you know, precludes you eating that.
L: Mmhmm, right.
A: But I also didn’t want to wear a big sign that said “Hey, I have an autoimmune disorder!”
L: It’s your business.
A: So, it’s super awkward like… like I literally just like packed a bunch of snacks and hid in my car and ate lunch one day.
A: I was like, this is like… if anyone had saw they would’ve been like “Yup, she’s got an eating disorder!”
L: You know what’s going on.
L: Here. And, as you say this, I just feel... because I feel like there are gonna be people who listen to this who are going to be like “Oh my gosh, I’m in that myself.”
L: What I stand for. I actually, I remember when I was first diagnosed, I used to have like a problem with gluten-free, like I thought it was just a fad.
L: And I said to one of my friends, “Now I’m going to have to be gluten-free and I just don’t ideologically agree with that but my body is requiring that.”
A: Mmhmm, yeah!
L: Because there are all these judgements and jokes about like, what does it mean to eat this way and that way, and of course I was joking, I do believe in gluten-free.
A: Right, right.
L: But at the time, I was like, I don’t want to be one of “those people”.
L: But you’re, and what you’re talking about is more serious than that, which is: you’re a public figure.
L: You are saying, “I believe…” I love what you just said about “I believe all food is good food.”
A: Mmhmm. Yeah.
L: Like, let that sink in when you said it just felt good.
L: And now I’m restricting and it’s not for the reasons people might think.
L: And yet it might bring up stuff for people, it might bring up judgement.
L: I’m just gonna remove myself from the situation and eat in my car.
A: Right. Can I tell you something really embarrassing? Like, how I got to my car?
A: I faked a phone call, because I didn’t know how to get out of there without looking like the girl running away from food.
L: Awwww! Yes.
A: Which, I mean, yeah there’s just, there’s just a lot of quick to judgement in the eating disorder community because so many of us are recovered, myself included.
A: And like, you know, you don’t want an impaired professional seeing clients around the issue.
A: And so like, I get it, but uhm… Like not all of us can eat the same thing. So I was talking to one of my dietician friends and she was like “What is more intuitive than listening to what treats your body the best way, Allison. Like, you’re coming to this from the right space.”
A: And I’m like, “Okay...you’re right. You’re right!”
L: That’s such a great barometer, like, it’s not so much what am I doing but where am I coming to it from, like…
L: She said “You’re coming to it from the right space.”
L: And like… my question is, what is that space for you?
A: Right. Well, for me it’s like I wanna be able to feel like what I consider to be my normal self. So there’s some still, like, there’s denial.
A: Uhm, I definitely…
L: Yeah, it gets a bad rap, I’m a big fan.
A: Yeah, I think it’s great!
A: I was like literally in a flare up and was talking to somebody and she was like “You know what I did? I denied it. I just denied it.”
A: And I was like, “Oooh, I’ll try that on.” It helped.
L: Sometimes it gets you through.
A: Yeah. Totally got me through.
L: It’s like a spare tire.
A: Uh-huh, yeah!
L: You want to use it forever.
A: Right, but you can kinda lop along a little with it.
A: Yeah. So for me it’s like, I’ll add things in and see how it goes. Like, oh yeah, I can eat corn again. Sweet, I love popcorn. Or, you know, like I noticed I can eat a little bit of dairy but not like, cheese on everything like I used to.
A: That means I can have cheese on some things. Sometimes a lot of cheese on one thing. That’s awesome!
L: Mmhmm. Cheese on cheese.
A: See how it goes. And, you know, like… I’m looking at it with curiosity and like an experiment, and that’s helping.
L: I love that, so that’s your space.
A: Yeah, yeah.
L: It is paying attention to what makes your body feel different ways.
L: Seeing it as information.
L: And then also having curiosity and, and when I hear experimentation I kind of think of fun in a way.
A: Right, yeah. There’s a little bit of that.
L: It’s almost like art.
A: Yeah, I’ll take it!
L: See what happens.
A: I’m an artist.
L: And, and I think that’s really neat because unfortunately, it’s been difficult… and fortunately, it’s given you the opportunity to re-orient around how you make these decisions.
A: Mmhmm. Yeah, yeah. I mean it shifted the way I did work. I mean, you know I’ve got a very large Facebook group, and in December I closed it for the month. I think there were like ten thousand people at that point and I was worried about like, what will it mean? Will people be disappointed? Like, what if people need help and the group isn’t there to help them? But moderating that thing is a beast!
A: And I’ve got some amazing moderators, but I knew I needed to rest in order to be able to continue.
A: And that was one of the things that had to go on the temporary chopping block. As like somebody who still struggles with people pleasing and the desire to be liked and all that, I just had to like suck it up and set that limit for the month.
L: So what’s been your journey with people pleasing?
A: Oh, that… I think that probably started at birth. Parents were like, “You were such an easy baby!” And I’m like “Yeah, I was trying to please you.”
A: It’s just like, I’ve always for whatever reason, I think temperamentally... temperamentally there’s something there. I’ve also been a highly anxious person my whole life, like both sides of my family are just rebels with anxiety so it’s like even in a really supporting loving home growing up there was still a lot of not-enoughness that I kind of honestly generated myself and looked for evidence for in my peers. You know?
A: Like, show me the reasons you don’t like me. I’m ready. You know, so I’ve just always...I think most people want to be liked but I think there’s definitely a span of time for me where it was just a pathological desire for me to be liked.
A: And like, I lacked a sense of identity and self because I kept looking for who I was supposed to be.
A: I was really good at morphing into that.
L: So then that shows up on your health journey.
L: When you don’t really have the option to show off, well as therapists we call them our survival tools from childhood, which for you is being energetic and producing.
L: And being able to deliver.
L: And so, a health challenge shows up.
L: All of a sudden you’re slowed down.
L: So how do you reconcile that? I mean, I know that this can be a question without a full answer, because you like wonder out loud about it.
A: Uh-huh. Well, it’s interesting you ask that because I am still figuring that out. I was chatting with a friend of mine that I turned onto the podcast that’s also recently diagnosed with something. She was like “You know what, I feel like the people on the podcast… they’re just so much further on their journey than I am. It’s aspirational, and it’s great, but I also just want to hear about how like… they don’t know where the fuck they are.
L: Mmhmm, yes.
A: And I’m like “Oh! I should do that!”
L: And you volunteered yourself.
A: Yeah, here I am. Mmhmm.
L: Thank you, because it’s vulnerable to show up that way.
A: Yeah! Especially because I want to seem like I have it all together but like, this is a space where I’m like frequently like… I don’t know.
A: Cause I leave work at 2:30 every day, except when I’m being interviewed for podcasts, but I leave work at 2:30 every day now which feels crazy.
A: It feels crazy, and then I go home and I try to figure out what to do with myself and I leave my computer here and I don’t have any apps on my phone that are work related, so it’s almost like I’m forced into like randomly doing vocal exercises or doing embroidery on my porch or reading some young-adult fantasy that has nothing to do with anything, but I enjoy. And so I’m learning that pleasure that is uncomfortable. It’s really uncomfortable.
A: Because there’s a part of me that’s like, oh I could be helping more people. You know, if I just had a little bit more energy. Really, I could summon some energy. It’s not that hard, I’ve been doing it my whole life.
L: So kind of [unintelligible] a little bit?
A: Yeah, and I have to talk myself back into relaxing.
L: It’s like a thought pattern almost.
A: It is.
L: That says, this is what we’re used to doing.
L: So, come on.
L: Let’s go.
A: Yeah. Stop your excuses.
L: So that, that phrase “excuses” shows up - for me it shows up…
L: Sometimes I’m questioning if it’s… is it really my illness that’s keeping me from doing a thing or am I taking it too easy on myself? Right?
A: Uh-huh, yeah.
L: Like, let’s say we take it too easy on ourselves. What would happen…
A: Mmhmm, wait
A: What’s the worst that could happen with that, like you’re too much of a soft touch with yourself?
A: And then what?
L: Right. I think for me, it’s learning that for me that’s the stretch - being too easy on myself.
A: Yeah, yeah.
L: Versus if that was my MO, then maybe I’d have a different journey or path or whatever.
L: Uhm, but it sounds like in your case you’re saying that it’s uncomfortable sometimes to be in that new, almost frequency -
L: - of slowing down, singing.
A: Mmhmm. Right, well it’s so funny because I realize my, like, historian inside is like “Uh uh Alison, because you were painting built-ins while you were doing vocal warm ups. Like I still am like, oh I can paint the bedroom. I’ve got time now. I can totally - that’s not work!
L: It’s a different kind.
A: But I’m so used to producing in some way.
A: I have to almost trick myself into more work or different work when I’m supposed to be like sitting there.
A: My therapist was like, “I just want you to sit and be. I just want you to do nothing. Do no thing.” I was like “Okay..” I need to figure out when and how and where.
A: Like, I need to be really clear about all that, and she’s like “No you don’t.” and I was like “No, I do.” I do! And I need to figure out a strategy for when things come up, because I know things will come up; they’ll come up and they’ll be really hard and I want to be able to stick with it and do it right and if I have strategies then I can do that. She was like “Alison, you’re doing that thing where you overcomplicate things and you overthink things, literally all I’m asking you to do is nothing.” And I was like “Oh god, you’re right. Okay!” And so I like, sat there, and I did nothing one afternoon, and like nothing terribly painful came up. I was able to handle everything, and I noticed the leaves moving in the wind, and the breeze on my skin, like I was just totally present. We have all these birds around, we have wild turkeys in my neighborhood, and so hearing all of these “Gobble gobble gobble” you know, and like, just being present it was glorious. I was like, I’ve been missing this. Yeah.
L: I just feel like breathing deeply and hearing that story.
L: Even though there are turkeys in that story which can be stressful.
A: Dude. They’re awesome, I’m like a little obsessed with turkeys now. It’s momma and her three little babies that like waddle through our yard.
A: They hang out in our driveway and these big toms will come and they’ll strut and they’re like, bigger than my two year old.
L: It’s a nature TV.
A: It’s amazing.
L: So the turkeys are not stressful for you?
A: Not stressful.
L: Got it.
A: I’m like “Hey friends.”
L: So cute! I’m also, like, why do I think turkeys are stressful? I think it’s because of the noise.
A: Yeah, don’t go for them because they’ll come at you.
L: They’re not into it.
A: They’re not there to cuddle.
L: I love that image of you doing nothing, and actually the thing that came up with your therapist, which she referred to it as overcomplicating.
L: I always think that’s the hardest part is to not come up with a plan and solutions.
L: And the potential what-ifs.
L: Like that, in some ways, is the hardest part of letting yourself do nothing.
A: Absolutely, yeah. Well, and just like, there’s a certain level of “going with it” that’s just not the way I’ve done things. You know? I’ve always got a plan, and I’ve got like four plans with contingencies.
A: And that’s really worked well for me for the most part, until now, which is really good. Like I feel like it’s stretching me, you know, I’m hitting a different kind of discomfort. It’s not a striving discomfort like I’m used to. It’s a relaxing discomfort, it’s a being with myself discomfort, which ultimately does feel productive so I can justify it a little bit.
A: Whenever my objections come up I’m like, “Alison, what could be more productive than being with yourself? Really?”
L: So that’s a new definition for the word productive.
L: Oooh, I like that. This is a call to action for all of us.
L: Yeah, what does productive mean when productive is actually about fulfilling our wholeness?
A: Yeah, oooh I love that.
L: Like… that’s… does it get any better than that? Does it get any better than checking out the turkeys on your porch?
L: When it comes to being with yourself.
L: That’s pretty cool.
L: Alright, this is one of my favorite questions. If you could go back in time to before you were diagnosed, and have a conversation with that you, what would you want her to know about the journey ahead?
L: I know it’s been a short journey, it’s been only since November.
A: Yeah. You a few months ago, what would you say? Uhm, well it’s interesting because I would say all the things people were already saying to me, and I think that’s the hard part. I’m very stubborn when it comes to learning lessons, hence all the bone breaking and stuff. I have to learn the hard way, and so I would probably acknowledging that I would just say “It’s about to get rough, and it’s okay. Like, you can handle it and you got a lot of support and a lot of people who are willing and able to help you. Let them help you.”
L: There’s something different about it when it comes from you.
A: Oh yeah.
L: It’s kind of sci-fi, so.
A: Right, so if it were future me I would be like “Dude, simplify, calm it down!”
A: You don’t have to work so hard and try so hard.
L: I like that. And also, one of the things you just said was it’s going to get harder and that’s okay.
A: Mmhmm. Yeah.
L: That’s just so beautiful.
L: I think we all need to hear that.
A: Yeah. I think that’s one of the beauties about being a therapist and also helping so many people with business.
A: Because everyone that I talk to they’ve gone through a hard spot, and I see how it gets better.
L: Mmhmm, yeah.
A: You know, like I see thousands of people a year go through a hard spot and it gets better and it’s such a good reminder. Of course, I have lots of those examples myself but it keeps it present, you know?
L: Yeah, totally. So, sort of entrepreneur to entrepreneur, I want to have a little brainstorm with you.
L: Not really sure what’s gonna happen or what my question is, but kind of, think out loud a little bit together about what does it mean to be a successful entrepreneur given what we know about the excitement and joy of creating.
L: And what we know about what our physical conditions are teaching us.
A: Yeah, well I think so many of us start entrepreneurship for the freedom, and then go on this journey of creating things and making money and helping people and building community, and it becomes this big thing. Uhm, and then when we get a little space and we create a way to fill. Then we get a little space and we create another thing, and we don’t end up having that freedom. Because we’re essentially working a 9-5 we’re just not being told what to do by other people, so for me, what I’m doing is I’m not launching or creating anything new for the rest of the year.
A: Which is unheard of for me.
L: For you it is.
L: So we’re only in the middle of our year.
A: I know, I know it’s exciting. So like, to know...there’s almost a permission giving that I didn’t realize would be such a relief. It always would have felt like a frustration in my mind before but now I’m like, no actually it feels good to give myself permission to slow down.
A: I’m totally getting off track here but I’ll come back.
L: Do it. I love that.
A: Uhm, let me just tangential on you.
L: Yes, please.
A: What I realize through some of the work I’ve been doing emotionally around all this is that I had this story that I could only rest if I was sick. So I would have to break a bone, or get the flu, or something beyond a cold to give myself permission to like, sit in bed and watch Netflix. Otherwise it did not, it wouldn’t happen.
A: And so...That sets up a pretty bad dynamic.
L: It does.
A: And now I’m anti-that.
A: And so for me, coming back to your original question, I think that getting what you came for with entrepreneurship, which for me was freedom, it was…
L: That’s a good point.
L: Like, what’s the emotional or life fulfilment goal of being an entrepreneur and how do you make sure you stay focused on that?
L: It’s so easy to get, kind of consumed by the nitty-gritty of the projects and the meetings.
A: Yeah, yeah. And I love the projects and the meetings, that’s the hard part, but I mean it’s like I don’t have to stop doing them I just have to do them less frequently.
A: I’m like, I can fantasize about them a little bit, but I’ve also noticed as I’ve pumped my brakes is I’m less obsessed with my business, which is great.
L: That’s kind of cool.
A: Yeah, yeah.
L: So, not being obsessed with my business can be a sign of success.
A: Yes. I love that, absolutely. It’s going on my internal list.
L: Yeah. Well, I will say, just as somebody who...you know, I had chronic illness before I started my entrepreneurship journey, and I had...something had shifted in me where it was like I want to jump into this but not in the way I thought I was going to. I went to school for business, I knew I wanted to have my own thing. And I remember when we went around at the beginning of the next conference, we went around the table and talked about like success… and all I could think about was I’m happy.
L: Like, I don’t have numbers. I don’t have a project I’ve created.
L: It felt both vulnerable, like this is a silly cop-out answer, and it felt kind of exciting to say “I’ve never been happier.”
L: And I didn’t realize that until it was my turn to talk.
L: I was like, holy crap.
L: Somehow I’m happy. I didn’t even create anything. So whatever I create can be from that place.
L: And to me that’s how I’ve been orientating. I think before we started this interview I was like, for some reason I want to create videos. I’m not sure what will come of that, or if there’s a money thing that will happen because of it but it’s a joy thing because I’m a photographer and I love to create videos and so one thing - I’m just gonna quote you.
L: I just followed my intuition and you said “Yeah, that sort of never goes wrong.”
A: Uh-huh. I never regret following my intuition ever. Yeah.
L: Yeah, and so, I mean there’s so many ways to look at entrepreneurship but what you just said which is “What did I come here to get” to me is a spiritual question.
L: Cause it’s essentially what we’re doing in this world is, in my opinion, figuring out how to fill our souls; how to connect or to dance with our souls, and it’s easy to lose sight of that. So, I’m excited about kind of thinking about entrepreneurship in a different way.
L: Than, certainly than I was taught.
A: Yeah, well I think the deeper you get into it, the more you consume of entrepreneurship it becomes so monetized, monetized….like, scale.
A: It just becomes so divorced from the reasons most of us started.
A: I mean certainly we all want to make a good living, we don’t want to go backwards financially for very long, but we could’ve just climbed a ladder if it was just about the money. You know?
L: Yeah. That’s true.
A: Instead it was the freedom and the creativity and the having a say.
L: So it’s almost like, not just “I’m going to be an entrepreneur to get to the freedom, but I’m gonna use freedom and fulfilment as the fuel I put in my entrepreneurship tank.
A: Yes. Mmhmm.
L: Right? To get where I need to go, which is that.
A: Mmhmm, right.
L: We’ll see what comes next.
L: There’s no end point.
L: That’s life. Deal with it everybody.
L: But, it’s sort of like checking in with myself along the way, it’s not just looking at some goal.
L: But again it’s so easy to look at numbers and goals and all of that.
A: It is!
L: It’s fun.
A: It is fun, it is fun. When they’re going your way.
L: Yep, right, when they’re going your way.
A: Yeah, and I think uhm, but I think it leaves out a big picture. I now have ways to celebrate when I meet goals, and they’re as number based - they’re still number based because I don’t know how to measure other things, but you know, I celebrate now. I do some sort of thing. So like, I just had a launch about a month ago, and I told myself if I reach my mind goal I will buy myself a weighted blanket.
A: And I will get this necklace that you blow through that’s good for like, mindful breathing, it like sits there on your body so you remember to breathe. My girls are obsessed with it; they’re like two and five and they’ll come over - I mean the two year old really just spits in it, but the five year old -
L: I’m kinda into that too, that’s funny.
A: And I bought myself really nice pajamas and I sat back a few minutes later having fulfilled the goal and ordered the things and was like...I think it should tell me something about how I feel about launches that everything I did was just about anxiety reduction and relaxation.
L: Wow, that’s a good point.
A: How do I minimize launches then? Like…
A: Cause I hate them.
L: Oooh. That’s like a new… so, I’m gonna just say it out loud.
L: This is your new frontier.
L: Is the peaceful launch.
L: The relaxed launch.
L: The wholeness. Sitting in your present moment launch.
L: I don’t know how we’re going to get there.
L: I’m very excited about it.
A: I’m really good about I know how to do the nuts-and-bolts things of a launch in a way that’s not stressful, I get that. For me it’s all the anticipatory anxiety. Like, hitting refresh on the sales page.
L: That’s gotta be so fun.
A: It is when it’s going your way! You know?
A: It also feeds that hypo-manic part of me. I took a week off after the launch and I didn’t not work until Friday.
L: Wait, you took...ooooh.
A: So, like, Monday through Thursday I was still on my damn computer.
L: So your usual time off was cancelled out, is that right?
A: Yeah,, I was supposed to take the week free and clear.
L: Mmmhmm. Right.
A: And instead I was like “I’ll just do a little bit.”
A: 6 hours a day.
A: Friday I was like, enough! No. No.
L: I love that you’re wondering out loud with me about this because I think it’s a little vulnerable.
L: I think of you as an incredibly successful businesswoman, right.
A: Thank you.
L: And you are, it’s not just because I consider you to be.
L: And you’re talking in this way about the emotional process of all of it that says we’re all still figuring out what works for us.
L: And what I heard from you was “I created a new goal from like a weighted blanket and a cool breathing necklace. Which, by the way, I love that goal. I think that’s awesome. Then you took it further and said wait a second, why am I… Hmmm… maybe there’s another [unintelligible] in here.
A: Yeah, yeah.
L: To keep tweaking the process of a launch.
A: Mmmhm. Yeah, I think so. And I think it’s also interesting that like, that launch also was kind of trudging along and then it really started to pick up when I kind of like, let go of expectations. I was like, this is gonna go how it’s gonna go.
A: Me hitting refresh every 14 seconds is not doing a damn thing for sales.
L: Oh my gosh.
A: Like it’s just ramping me up.
L: That’s a quote that’s gonna go on Instagram. “Me hitting refresh every 14 seconds is not gonna do anything for a launch.” I’m not sure if it’s going to make sense out of context, but I’m into it.
L: I like that.
L: What does it mean to you to have a fulfilling life and has that definition changed as a result of your health challenges?
A: Yeah, it’s changed really dramatically, because before it was wrapped up in feeling productive enough. So now, it means there’s nothing left to prove.
A: Yeah, it still feels strange just saying it.
L: Living a fulfilling life means there’s nothing left to prove. I’m just trying to try on that concept -
L: Of living your life forward in that place.
A: Yeah. You know, yeah. The freedom there. Cause so much of my life before was proving to initially everyone else who wasn’t even keeping count, or keeping score, and then trying to prove to myself that I was enough. Now I’m like, there’s nothing left to prove.
L: Alright, the interview’s over.
L: I have these little moments where I’m like, that was so cool. There’s nothing else that can be said. How did you get to that place?
A: I mean, it’s touch and go.
L: And that’s important because I want to acknowledge that when I say “that place” it’s not like you’re there forever…
A: Right, right.
L: It’s more...you have the insight.
A: Yeah, yeah. I think, I mean I was listening to one of your podcasts and I don’t remember which one, and just you had asked somebody that question and that’s just what came to mind.
A: It was just this internal response.
L: You had your knowing.
A: That’s when I pulled over to the side to write it down in my phone.
A: I think, uhm, I think I’m tired. I think I’m just really tired of trying to prove things to myself. It’s gotten to a place where it’s not anybody else anymore, it’s just me, which is great progress.
L: Huge progress.
L: For most people to get to that.
L: And now you’re saying and..
A: and like..
L: Me is okay with me.
L: I’m giving myself permission.
L: I’m there. It’s been proven.
A: Uh-huh. Yeah, or maybe there was nothing there to begin with.
L: Nothing that can unprove...yeah, right!
A: Yeah, like we were all just living these lives next to one another.
L: Just being.
A: And joining with one another, but I never had to prove anything to anyone much less myself.
L: Yeah. You’re hella worthy.
A: Right? There ya go.
L: That’s the bottom line. Thank you.
L: Do you have any funny moments that you’d like to share?
A: All of my funny moments have to happen with brain fog… which has been another identity thing, because I’ve always been sharp.
A: So, to be like “Mehhhhhh” in my head sometimes…
A: it’s been interesting. So, I’ve started -because of your podcast, I’ve started like writing them down in my phone. So, I remember one morning I was just really tired and brain foggy and I put two socks on one foot…
A: I stepped onto the carpet after sitting on the bed and was like “What?”
L: It feels different.
A: A few days ago I forgot one of my best friends’ last names for like 45 minutes.
L: Oh my god.
A: I was like trying to find it in my head and I could’ve just looked in my phone but I was trying not to. I was like, come on brain, you can do this.
L: Just trying to figure it out.
A: Yeah. I put the car e-brake on instead of moving the shifter from reverse to drive.
L: Oh my gosh!
A: Ya know… oh, I left the car running and went into the grocery store and didn’t even notice that I had like… left my car running.
L: It was just chilling.
A: In the parking spot.
L: Out in the…
A: Grocery shopped, then came back and couldn’t find my keys anywhere and was standing by my car and I was like… oh that sucker’s on!
L: Oh my gosh.
A: Good news, the keys are not lost.
A: And I didn’t lock the doors, so…. it didn’t get stolen. AND….
L: Oh my god.
A: Which would not have happened in San Francisco.
L: Yeah that’s true. That would have been a very different ending.
A: Yeah. Yeah. So, just little things like that that I’ve just decided to laugh about.
A: Instead of beat myself up about.
L: It’s hilarious. It’s free comedy.
A: Yeah, totally. I’m like what… what sane choices am I making in my life right now?
A: Unconsciously. It’s okay, I was buying good food.
L: Yeah. Yes. And I found so far brain fog hasn’t stopped me from feeling joy, in fact often it will help disorient my stuck thinking.
A: Yeah, I like that perspective. There we go.
L: Yes, so I mean I’m not… It’s a nice… I’m not saying I enjoy, I’m looking forward to it.
L: Maybe I will look forward to it actually. I’m not sitting around waiting on brain fog to happen in order to have fun or trying to tell anyone that they should enjoy it.
L: But there is a way… that most things can have joy in them.
L: Including, or especially, brain fog.
L: It’s so cool. And then the last question is, what do you have now that you might not have had without your health challenges?
A: I have more time with my family. A lot more time, like present time. And I also have, like, less anxiety around business. Because like I’ve been doing business for a long time, I don’t need to be wringing my hands.
A: And thinking about it constantly. It’s fine, I can put it to bed when I leave in the afternoon and pick it back up in the morning. It’s going to be just fine.
A: I end up spending… I was doing a lot of multitasking like trying to handle something on my phone real quick while attempting to parent and I find that I was getting very, very frustrated with my kids and thinking it was their fault because of their behavior. I then realized, like, they want my attention. Of course they want my attention, like, we’re people and we want attention. This is not work time, this is home time. I’m not giving them the attention I basically said I was gonna give them when I said let’s go play. This isn’t rocket science Alison. Even through brain fog you should be able to get this one.
L: To be able to look at yourself through that lense of consciousness.
L: It’s huge.
L: That’s what it sounds like you’re saying.
A: Absolutely. And they’re my priority. You know, like, my family… my husband, my parents, my kids, they’re the people who really love me. They’re the people I really know and love. I appreciate my audience but they don’t know me like my real love people know me.
A: And I don’t know them that way. I was treating them like they’re love mattered more. I had to let go of that.
L: I feel like what you’re saying is so needed for so many of us. Thank you for saying it.
L: Finish this sentence - and take your time, too, if you want to reflect on it. This is not what I ordered….
A: This is not what I ordered, but I’m really lucky I got it.
L: Hmmm. Chills.
L: I can’t get through an interview without chills. And “I’m lucky I got it” means to you…? What does that mean?
A: I never would have slowed down without illness. I just, I had been trying for years. I mean, maybe I shouldn’t say never but it would have been further down the line.
L: Much further.
A: Yeah, much further and I would have missed so much of my kids, you know? And my husband.
A: Really being present with them, you can’t get that back.
L: This has been such a joy to just sit with you.
A: It’s been amazing to just talk to you about this, really. I’ve been a big fan of the podcast and having the privilege of watching you build this. You know? It’s awesome.
L: Yeah, thank you. Thanks for helping me build it.
L: Alright, this is so beautiful, thank you so much for doing this.