Special Episode: Side Hustle Hangover

Special Episode: Side Hustle Hangover

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Special: Side Hustle Hangover

It’s a cycle you may have found yourself in: you make a lofty New Year’s resolution or two, become discouraged by a lack of progress and ultimately abandon the whole thing by mid-January, feeling defeated. If so, you’re not alone. In this special episode, Lorilee shares why she let go of yearly resolutions altogether and learned to take sustainable, simple steps toward her own self-care through rituals like breathing, mediation, and writing. The things we tend to each day will grow and flourish, so which seeds will you choose to cultivate?

“Side Hustle Hangover” is an excerpt from Cultivator and Creator: An autoethnographic study understanding the addicted artist, which you can read in full here on her website page all about her thesis.

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Show Transcript:

[Intro] Lorilee Rager:

Hey there. I am Lorilee Rager and this is Ground and Gratitude. It’s a podcast about designing the life you want, one that not only grows but also gives.

This is a solo episode. That’s just me, talking to you. I found in years past that every time I make a new year’s resolution, by mid jan I feel… Maybe you’ve experienced this too… I wanted to share this short piece from my thesis where I reflect on a similar feeling. Hopefully you can take something from this in case you were feeling shitty, hungover or overall blah from any new years resolutions you’ve already broken?


Over the course of this work, I’ve come to the realization that side projects fail faster. We all have tried to help a friend on the side for their kid’s birthday party invite or our grandma for a cookbook cover design, and we never can seem to get to it or we rush through it. Not giving a task we care about the proper time it deserves. That’s the kind of ‘being too busy’ feeling trap I used to get stuck in that kept guilt and shame in my gut.  A new practice in meditation, writing, and a mindfulness focused approach to my daily habits, values, and boundaries helped fill up my inner gratitude cup of ambition and along the way helped my design practice, too. I’m still grateful for family, friends, and all those clients, but now I am unapologetically grateful for who I am. What’s the bushels per acre or the ROI in this? One life saved – my own.

The key is remembering you have a choice. Always. You can pause, breathe, and stop for a piece of buttered toast.

So the other night I was texting with a friend, confessing that I’d eaten buttered toast for breakfast. I felt the need to confess because I’ve been pretty devout recently to be extra healthy in all the ways. It’s been a strict lifestyle of no alcohol, no Xanax, and clean eating. I’d been good at staying up on this wagon until that day.

You see, that wagon is really big, heavy, and piled up with lots of things. Where I come from, a good wagon can carry a whole field of tobacco. It works well for a yard sale. And makes the perfect impromptu stage up at the town square for singing the national anthem for the Fall Festival.

Well, my metaphorical wagon has some pretty massive weight to carry and pull along some days. It’s packed full of a lot of work, a demanding family, a little grad school, healthy living, sober living, but don’t get me wrong, it’s full of joy, too! There’s a little space for gratitude and the ever-needed knee-slapping humor as well. However, staying on that wagon is not nearly as easy as it feels like it ought to be.

Daily we’re all busy. Contrary to popular opinion, busy isn’t something to be proud of, and it’s not a specialty to be listed on your resume. It is, however, a commonly used word by many who don’t really have it all together. So I focus each day on controlling the busy, planning the chaos, and being extra efficient and productive. Each day it’s a conscious effort to get all the things done, right, well, and on time. Hour by hour is planned, budgets are set, all while meeting your step count, stand up goals, water ounce intake, and helping the kids make more healthy choices, spending less money, feeding the dog, and repeating it all over again the next day. 

So mid-morning of my extra efficient day when the buttered toast skipped across my path, I slipped off my wagon. After my 5 a.m. workout, morning pages, and a big proposal meeting at the local Chamber of Commerce, I got a message that my grandma was in town. She was just down the street at Moss’s Country Kitchen having a late breakfast after a doctor’s appointment. I didn’t realize it, as we so often don’t, but I was inching toward the edge of my wagon. I hadn’t had any breakfast but had had my two large cups of coffee, and after my charmful proposal presentation performance I was feeling drained. I knew some quality time with my grandmother would be just the right thing even though it was not on the day’s schedule.

I called her back to say I was headed to the diner. She said she would order for me so I wouldn’t have to wait, as she knew I was busy. Right as I sat down, so did a platter of scrambled eggs, hash browns, bacon, and two pieces of white bread toasted with delicious butter, dripping and shining in the reflection of the pick up window heat lamps. I took a deep breath and scooted the hashbrowns off the plate and on to my grandma’s.

You’re a little thing and need to eat more, I told her as I winked at the hovering waitress. Next a handful of jelly tub packets were set between us. Grandma needed help getting them open. I have to agree,those small little rectangle tubs are “hard boogers to get that shiny corner ahold of to peel back Why do they make them things so dern hard?” Grandma asked, trying not to feel embarrassed about her old hands not working as well as they used to.

From there I ate my eggs and inhaled another cup of coffee. Next up was the extra greasy bacon with another cup of joe topped off by the sweet and efficient waitress. She was on us like a preacher with a collection plate. “Ready for a warm up?” she asked after every sip we took out of the classic white diner mugs.

I hadn’t seen my grandma in quite a few weeks, as she was quick to remind me. She mentioned I’d been too busy jet setting all over the country. She was referring to my trip to Vermont for grad school and then to Florida for beach time for the boys’ Fall Break. Just before that, I hadn’t been able to make it by her house when they were putting up pear preserves. So she needed an update on me and a good reason why I couldn’t be there for the canning and conversation. She said they had a large time with Aunt Lonetta and Aunt Mildred and she had three jars for me in her kitchen I needed to come get.

As we got caught up on life, talk turned to the weather. She said the upcoming Farmer’s Almanac predicted a wet but mild winter, and so did the woolly worms. It came time to open up more jelly, and my toast was still just sitting there beside me. My scrambled eggs and bacon hadn’t really filled me up, and Grandma was certainly not done talking. The waitress was also eager to keep us in coffee.

So, as I jellied her toast some more, I mindlessly jellied myself some and took a bite. I think my brain was in shock. As the warm melted butter and light crunch of the toast and squish of jelly entered my mouth I was instantly happier. My forehead did tingle from the sugar rush, but Grandma never missed a beat talking about the hams she needs to get for Thanksgiving prep as she reminded me, to be sure to get myself one next week when they’re on sale at Walmark’s.”

We wrapped up our chit chat and finally asked the waitress to take the coffee cups away and bring us the check. The conversation was the best I’d had in weeks, I told her as I helped her up and out the door, and I was delighted to know her new hearing aids were helping her. The diner had a handwritten sign on the door that they were hiring for two chefs and a waitress. I told her we should apply and she laughed loudly, saying “Oh gosh, ain’t no way I could babe. I got too much to do cooking for the church and the senior citizens center.” Nevermind you, she’ll be 89 in a few weeks, has neuropathy, and can no longer stand more than just a few moments without help. However, yes, I agreed with her that she surely is too busy to come cook at the diner.

As I sat in bed that night about to turn out the lights, I didn’t log the toast in my weight loss app. I wasn’t thinking about how it had been another ‘busy’ day. I just thought about what  my friend had texted back: “Everyone needs the occasional buttered toast.” I no longer needed to feel bad or guilty about the confession of calories or the time I took with Grandma away from all the busy. Never be too busy to enjoy some occasional buttered toast. 

It’s in these little pauses, fleeting moments of toast and talk with your grandma, is where you find your steady. Mindfulness helps to ground you so you can begin to feel that slightest shift, that your sense of place is within you. Right where you are is right where you can grow. It’s not in a bigger client, or next year’s goals, or holding on to past grief, blame, shame, and fears. It’s a daily practice of rituals you design and build in the soil you’re in today. It is within you and forever giving, just like the farm always gave me. What I needed was already there when I approached it with willingness, surrendering to my inner voice that knew all along what I needed to hear.

Before this work I would likely not have paused for the time with my grandma or mindfully enjoyed the buttered toast. Yet I have learned slowly, through daily meditation and writing, how much I needed to change my habits and daily rituals to include what really mattered to me. Not letting the busy and and the bullshit run my day. By connecting with simple small meditations, writing has helped to draw my awareness inward. Instead of the artificial outward distractions of our loud world running my anxious mind, my own thoughts began to speak up, and I listened.

The rewards I’ve discovered in this work are in the daily exploration, imagination, creating, and making as a designer. In these small moments, being willing to wonder and be curious is when I reach understanding and then enlightenment. Then naturally the discovery and joy leads to gratitude. This openness is my happiness, and how I still get lost in the work of making logos and websites from needs, ideas, hopes, and dreams. Thinking I get paid for this as a living is an incredible gift of gratitude. And it doesn’t hurt that this career doesn’t have me worrying about the weather.

The key is the same today as when you were a child drawing and coloring: Enjoy the messy and have fun in the making. Don’t worry about or focus on the failures. Experiment and live into your truth as a designer daily, and love the seasons that come and go and cycle, and notice how each one helped you grow. Track the soil, weather patterns, and what you already had deep in your roots already within you. Be the steward of your own life and appreciate how the land looks today.

My father often said in business, “Look out for number one because nobody else is going to.” As selfish as I thought that sounded back then I took this to heart in this work as well as life, and now I know I had to show up and learn about my sense of place. Examine my history, where I came from, my truths and beliefs. Because only I could.

You can’t skip forward to the sweet corn at Thanksgiving without the sowing, growing, and harvesting. When you start in the field making that first pass with the plow, you have to circle back and make sure you’ve covered your ground. That’s where the gratitude design life begins to bloom. Only you can plant your purpose. Tend to what matters, thankfully, bit by bit, day by day, and the rewards will come. It requires faith and devotion to the work, and in yourself. Trusting that the sun will shine and the small daily work in you will grow.

It is still a work in progress, but because of this work and recovery from addiction, I have begun to understand I have a choice in life. I have a choice in the everyday; small, simple choices each day. I have begun to understand how operating under stress, anxiety, and addiction messes with your mind. Yes, I’m talking about the noggin, the brain, specifically the prefrontal cortex. Like Bessel Van Der Kolk says in The Body Keeps The Score, part of my research has helped me understand the brain in more detail and how it adapts to the pressures of occupying a burnout addicted, people pleasing designer:

Basically our stress hormones are meant to help us move, or fight back, and get out of the situation. If they keep being secreted, they keep you in a state of hyperarousal or put you in a state of helpless collapse… You have difficulty filtering irrelevant information. Gradually, you start feeling threatened everywhere. Instead of being focused on what is going on right now, your mind stays on the alert for threat, while you basically feel helpless to do anything about it… Things that other people see as simply unpleasant or irritating, are perceived as a threat to your very existence… You get trapped in your reactions without having much control over them.” Source link

Finally, I have given my brain the rest it deserves. I have given myself permission to feel my feelings and make decisions based on my needs. From there, my imagination and curiosity began to grow again. I found authentic joy in writing and making art in my new home studio. As I began to feel less pain, heart ache, and anxiety because of these new practices, I craved more. I learned in this work to be reliant on myself to fill my spirit, energy, and wellness, no longer seeking it from others or the next big design project. From this new daily pause and inward look, I found in myself true acceptance, love, and success.

This work gave me a natural inner peace that I created on my own. The reward has helped my stress and anxiety levels all but disappear. I feel my overall nervous system, immune system, and sleep system all have a balance. Yes there’s still peaks and valleys, highs and lows, but they are not as dramatic and quick fused. My breaths are deeper, my hand steadier, making my body’s inner bobber steady, like a fishing pole in the pond. 

Overcoming panic attacks without medicines and alcohol is a huge win. Having the ability to meditate for five minutes and visualize that I am ok, right now, right here, and visualize myself in my safe spaces is nothing short of a miracle. In his TedxMarin talk, Dr. Rick Hanson said, “Settling into this basic sense of okayness is a powerful way to build well-being and resources in your brain and being, and it’s a way of taking a stand for the truth.” Me and my brain are taking our stand in sober soothing.

World renowned spiritual teacher and New York Times bestselling author, Eckhart Tolle,  discussed in a Super Soul Sunday interview with Oprah how COVID-19 reminds us of the two polarities of life: order versus disorder. Eckhart explained how the current global pandemic, which is a time of chaos and disruption, is an invitation to accept the present moment for what it is. Eckhart shared how he believes we can suffer less during the pandemic, how this time might lead us all to a new spiritual awakening. The importance of stillness, the way in which our consciousness extends beyond physicality, and why love is to recognize another as yourself.

In my recovery practice and self care, I also learned the importance of seeing yourself. Telling yourself, “I got you.” Really looking at yourself in the mirror each day and seeing, feeling, and facing your own truth. In the tiny moments, brushing your teeth, to be in that moment. Not multitasking on your phone or watch or podcast. Looking yourself in the eye. This daily small act will begin to fill your buckets with your inner truth. From there, thoughts will arise: What do you think, how do you feel? Sit with those feelings and feel them. If it’s pain, ask: If my pain could speak, what would it lovingly say? Doing this will be part of a new ritual. This begins the small shift in self awareness.

Morning Pages Entry From August 15, 2020:

I felt the water on my toes this morning in the shower. As I mindfully stood there, it felt like a mini-massage. Like acupuncture, humming, little easy vibrations over the tops of my feet. I paused, took a deep breath. It made me smile.

Recognizing, feeling, and listening feels delightful. The fact that I’m not rushing out the door, overtired, hungover, often angry, at what I had no idea – feels like such a surrendering relief. I don’t know if I have ever noticed the feeling and calm of the water on my toes. If you have not, I highly recommend it. 

The warm tingle of life is good right now. Very good. There goes that optimism and happiness oozing out automatically. I spent the last month wondering what’s underneath that? Looking at the underneath, the hidden feelings, where are they? What are they? I’m looking.

I am happy simply drying my toes. I am feeling peace in my chest as I pat dry the calm. I’m feeling love in the fluffy towel as I dry the drops at the end of my longer than ever wet hair. Noticing that I am not feeling worried, anxious, or stressed. I would describe this feeling as ease.

Ease is not to be mistaken for any lack of projects, problems, and grad school packets due on my calendar. My head wants me to hurry up, move on to the next seasons of thinking, nail down action items. “Pick up the sloth’s pace,” my inner voice says. That voice sounding very much like Cinderella’s stepsisters terrorized me a few days this month, asking: What are you even doing? What are you going to do next? Where do you even fit in? Where does someone like you even belong in the academic world?

Using my new tools in grad school research and recovery, I pause. A new rule of no negative self talk and super powers of optimism quickly helps me to flip this Negative Nelly noise in my head. I stare into the mirror saying, “I got you,” and talk as kindly to myself as I would a best friend. Thinking about, what is one of your passions? What is something you could talk about forever? What if there were no rules in the whole wide world, what then would you make? 

The kind words begin to fill the buckets. Familiar words like gratitude, joy, optimism. Admiring my charisma, while admitting to myself on the other side of the shelf there’s trauma, recovery, healing, and mindfulness. Closing my eyes, hand to my chest, I take a big deep breath in and hold for 4, 3, 2, 1, and out through the mouth. There now, don’t we all feel better?

I see my hardiness, resilience, kindness, toughness, courage, boundaries, fear, anger, conflict, self compassion, curiosity, and imagination. I got you. Toweling off I tell myself to keep going, one day at a time, one piece at a time, just give it 1% today, just try, it took 3 big tries to get sober, maybe third times the charm. Bless your heart. Remember Dolly and find out who you are and do it on purpose. xo

That’s it for that entry of morning pages Those pages are just one example of how I now examine myself without judgement or denial. The shouting sounds of fear in my head became just a whisper, and I now find great joy as I look at the hard places inside of me. I was addicted to approval, from others and the false high of client approvals. Now I understand and feel an authentic reward in self love, acceptance, abundance and the simple rituals like breathing, mediation, and writing. 

Part of dealing with the hardiness in the land and in life is to practice gratitude for all you have at your feet. Then you think about what’s my plan today to make this vast land that I own, that I’m responsible for, grow better. In this almost meditative state you’ll find the richests places to plant, and then to sow, water, repair, and reap the beliefs that will carry you forward. The seasons come and go, the cycle of the seed dies and plants grow, the sun rises and sets, there’s always that look onto the horizon. You use your experience from years past, the weather and land conditions right now, and the future of the unknown storms and droughts that might appear, and press forward today. It’s simple, but not easy, to design a life you want to plow through every day, rain or shine. 

You cannot control what yield life produces, but you can make the choice to care for yourself and the earth a little every day. You can build your safe space and gather your buckets, harvesting all the goodness your heart can hold and leaving the rest behind. It’s not just one logo or one seed. It’s a thousand tiny seeds you care for a little at a time that add up to the bushel baskets full of joy, hope, and happiness you seek.

The End

[Outro] Lorilee Rager:

Happy new year, and thank you so much for tuning in to Ground and Gratitude. You can read this piece and you can also find some more information about the show and listen to past episodes at GroundAndGratitude.com. Be sure and join me next time for more honest conversations exploring what it means to truly live a life grounded in gratitude.

Producers of Ground and Gratitude, Kelly Drake and Anna McClain.