Riding a Dragon named Purpose

by Chloe Jeffreys · 63 comments

in Women in Midlife

Jade by Deligaris

Jade by Deligaris

Have you ever noticed that every once in awhile your entire life goes to shit?

Okay, maybe it’s just me.

But I don’t think so.

I suspect there are others out there just like me.

There we are–living our seemingly happy little lives–when suddenly out of nowhere Zinga! we find ourselves writhing in agony from the depths of our very own personal hell.

Sometimes these life-derailments are through no fault of our own, and sometimes it really is our own damned fault, but either way it sucks, doesn’t it?

When Life Hands You Lemons It’s Time to Suck it (Up)

Last October I found myself in exactly the aforementioned position. Everything I’d been working towards blew up in my face. Unfortunately—because they lack a sense of humor, and don’t really understand the point of blogging–my attorneys have advised me to keep my opinions about the situation to myself. (Hint: Follow the money which I promise you never saw the light of day in any of my bank accounts.)  

So I’m going to have to content myself by allowing others who know nothing of the facts, or only a skewed version that’s been spoon-fed to them, spout off about what happened and why and whose fault it all is.

In the meantime, life must go on. Because short of killing ourselves when life doesn’t go our way what options do we really have when it all goes to shit? We have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and go on. And so I have.

Blogging for (No) Dollars

After giving it nearly two years of concerted effort, I’ve come to the sincerely happy conclusion that blogging for a living is just not for me. This does NOT mean I won’t work with brands I love. What it does mean is that I’ve given up the silly notion that I can actually make a living doing it.

Why?

For one thing, my definition of “making a living” does not include having to turn around and spend every single penny I earn going to blog conferences so that I can try to win the chance to make more money so I can turn around and attend more blog conferences. (Amway, anyone?)

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been to some great blog conferences where I’ve met some phenomenal people, and I’m sure I’ll attend some of them again. But I’ve also been to conferences where my social anxiety was so bad that I spent the entire conference hiding in my hotel room drinking pots of room service hot tea and watching Wheel of Fortune.

Imagine spending a thousand bucks–between conference tickets, airfare, hotel, and meals–to sit alone in a hotel room not getting laid.

Imagine coming home and explaining to your husband–who is working very hard supporting your supposed dream while also not getting laid—that you didn’t attend one single conference session because your heart was pounding out of your chest and you couldn’t bear to leave your room.

Why do I have these panic attacks?

Pressure.

The pressure to sell yourself while winning friends and influencing people just isn’t fun for me. Frankly I’d rather die from a thousand paper cuts to the eyeball than ever have to hand out my business card again and explain my blargh to anyone. Blech!

Show Me The Money

But my social anxiety and gut-wrenching aversion to blog self-promotion is not the real problem. There are meds for that. The real problem is that I just don’t think very many people are really making a living blogging. In other words, I think the Blogging Emperor has No Clothes.

I know.  There are some people claiming they are making a living with their blog, but 1) most of the time they have blogs I wouldn’t put my name on if someone put a gun to my head, and 2) I think my definition of “making a living” means making a lot more money than it must mean for them.

Because when I say I need to make money I mean real money. Not hand lotion, canvas tote bags with logos, and a little mad money check here and there money. And I most certainly don’t mean a free trip to a blog conference sponsored by YabbaDoo® Nipple Tweezers where I have to wear a YabbaDoo® Nipple Tweezer t-shirt in the back corner and hope I don’t get thrown out of the conference for outboarding.  (If you don’t know what outboarding is check out this article by CecilyK.)

Don’t get me wrong. Hand lotion, canvas tote bags, and even YabbaDoo® Nipple Tweezers (if they existed) are great, but that doesn’t even come close to paying my bills.

Baby needs shoes, and baby likes expensive ones.

I need money to live, but even more importantly, at 52, I need to make money to retire. How much money? I took this little quiz to see what my life expectancy is so I could start budgeting.

Holy Shit!

Life Expectancy

With an estimated life expectancy of 106(!), I’m going to need a lot of money if I want to retire and not be a financial burden to my children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. I’m certainly need to make more than hand lotion, canvas tote bags, and free trips to blogging conferences!

And while I can’t deny that it is great fun having a popular blog, speaking at blog conferences, and having people retweet you and like your Facebook status updates, the cold, hard fact is:

You Can’t Retire on Popularity

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

When I was a little girl all I wanted to be when I grew up was a Playboy Bunny. When that dream fell through, I turned to academics. (Because if you can’t make it as a stripper there’s always college.)

I considered becoming a doctor or a teacher, but the truth is what I really wanted to be was a mommy. And when the babies came, a mommy I was. I poured myself into professional mommying with abandon (which, according to my sister-in-law, is apparently the only way I do anything).

I went so deep into it that I decided that even the public (or private) school system wasn’t good enough for my special snowflakes. In for a penny, in for a pound, I say. And so I decided that I’d skool ‘em myself! And a homeschool mom I became.

Fortunately for my future–that I never once considered during all of those mommying/homeschooling years—I also managed to slide in a nursing degree for myself somehow. The beauty of nursing is that it allowed me to work part-time taking some of the financial load off of my husband while still allowing me to be the sort of hands-on, hyper-present mom I wanted to be.

Fast-forward twenty-five years to my now empty nest–that I’d better darn well figure out how to feather lest I find myself standing by a freeway exit in the cold wind holding a cardboard sign and a tin can–and you’ll understand why I’m suddenly in a dither about money.

Time is running out!

Blogging, while a fun side-business, is a far cry from making the sort of living I want or need. And I don’t have time to recover from a catastrophic mistake like not knowing the difference between a high-risk, ego-driven speculation and a real financial investment that will pay dividends I can live and retire on.

The Dragon in my Dreams

During this time of upheaval and confusion, and right before leaving for Haiti, I had a dream about a dragon. This dream stayed with me for days.

Feeling lost and confused by both my situation and the significance of this dragon in my dreams, I sought out Rebecka Eggers to help me work this shit out.

Very quickly Rebecka was able to help me see that my external circumstances, which seemed very real and overwhelming at the time, were really nothing more than an annoying distraction preventing me from focusing on what was important: my trip to Haiti.

Rebecka led me through a stirring visualization exercise that helped me come face to face with my dream dragon who had much to say to me about where my life had been and where it needed to be going.

During this exercise it became clear that the call upon my life is now–and has always been–caring for mothers and babies

A happy coincidence is that this doesn’t include handing out my business card or trying to get people to like me, and it also just so happens to pay pretty well.

Where does blogging fit in?

Blogging is my form of self-expression—the means by which I communicate with others about the life I’m living and the unique way I see the world. Once blogging became an imperative instead of a choice I lost all joy for it. And once the blogging industry became an obsession that was consuming the rest of my life to the exclusion of everything else I became miserable.

And the fact that I was miserable while selling the notion that midlife is fabulous was making me feel like a liar and a charlatan, which I cannot abide.

This dragon in my dreams had come to set my feet back on their rightful path of meaningful purpose and give me the strength I needed to move forward.

During this exercise it became very clear that while I was sad about certain aspects of what had happened, it was actually the betrayal of myself and my purpose that was making me the most unhappy. 

If I came to peace with myself, then I could truly be at peace with others.

And I’m working on it.

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