Push Through? Or Pause? You Decide

Officially, Thanksgiving is over. The dishes have been done. The house cleaned up. And if you are someone who runs your own business making and selling a service or products, you have been gearing up for one of the busiest times of your year.

Just when the light is less bright, and the evenings are chilly and cold, just when squirrels and birds are going to bed at 5pm and some of the much bigger animals further north are settling in for their long winter’s nap, you are perhaps putting in longer than even usual hours, maintaining your online shop, working on your marketing plan, rewriting copy, creating work and photographing that work. You might also be working art fairs and craft shows, and getting the word out about your work in person.

Any way you look at it, you are busy.

I had my Thanksgiving schedule all figured out a week or so ago. I had blocks of time marked out on my calendar and I was ready with what I felt was a good balance of work, family, friends, and creating. {If this were a movie, I’d be cueing up some music in a minor key, and having the camera look down long mysterious hallways, alerting you all to what might be coming, but hopefully not giving it all away.}

So, Wednesday night I noticed that the water wasn’t as hot as it usually is. I thought: it’s on a timer, and it’s late, and it’s cold out. Thursday morning my husband went to play in the annual Turkey Bowl with high school friends, and I went in to my studio to paint. Lovely Thanksgiving morn. On schedule. Relaxed.

Three or four hours later the husband is back. Dirty. Sweaty. Muddy. Ready for a shower. And {cue the music} the water is barely luke warm. Pilot light blown out we think, but no time to deal with it, as we are due to meet his family for Thanksgiving dinner. Still on schedule, though the sureness I felt in my weekend schedule has skipped a few beats.

Dinner is had, we return home, and I am making tea, and realise, that the water is no longer luke warm. It is freezing. OK. We’ll deal with that in the morning. Morning arrives, we try to get the pilot light re-lit, and nothing. We call some people to ask advice. Still nothing. We call our plumber. Well, he’s on holiday, and a recorded message tells us that he will return on Monday. So my weekend schedule has officially crashed and burned.

I call PG&E to see if someone can come out. Yeah, no. It’s the Friday after Thanksgiving, and most of their crews are home with their families. So they will only send someone out if it’s our heat that’s gone out or there’s an emergency, like a power line has come down. So we call some more plumbers, and actually find someone who is working. He comes out to look at the water heater. It’s now 3pm.

This whole time, pretty much the whole day Friday, I have had this conversation running non-stop in my head: You have to finish those little paintings and get them out in the mail today. You should be working on stuff for the art fair next weekend. You need to finish that project for a client before Monday. You need to re-list the stuff that’s sold in the shop. To which I reply {all in my head of course}, I know! So shut up already.

Friday, now later afternoon. It’s starting to get dark. I haven’t finished the paintings that need to go out in the mail. The plumber has determined that both water heaters are dead. In fact one of them has probably been dead for quite some time. He points out some scorch marks on the lower edge of the pilot compartment and says that it’s probably a good thing it died, since it was burning outside the heater. I try not to think about that too much. And he is on the phone to his “guy” trying to track down a new water heater on the Friday after Thanksgiving at 4:47 pm.

Yeah. We do have a lucky star hanging above us most of the time, but apparently not when it comes to water heaters. And definitely not when we’re combining two dead water heaters, a long holiday weekend, and a huge long list of things that capital MUST be done.

I will confess. I fretted. The plumber left, he said he’d be back Saturday morning, and he’d get it all sorted out, and I went back to my studio to assess what I hadn’t done, and I fretted some more.

OK, I’ll just point out that here’s where I made it all make sense for me.

I stopped.

In years past I might not have made this move. I might have kept pushing through. I might have created a lot of busy activity to make myself feel like something was getting done. But this time, I had the good sense {after an hour or so of fretting and countless hours of listening to the task-mistress voice inside my head} to let it all go.

So the paintings might be a day late getting to the gallery. So I might not have as much stuff for the art fair as I originally wanted. So I might have to call my client and let her know that my comps would be a few days late. But seriously, the main thing was I hadn’t had a shower on this chilly, damp gray day after Thanksgiving, and I really needed one.

Fretting can work up a sweat.

So I stopped and called a friend who lives nearby and asked if we could come over and shower. It turned out to be the best thing I could have done for my head space, and for my fretting. My husband and I took showers {oh, hot water, how I love thee} and hung out with our friend whose wife was away back east for the holiday. He told us that this was the most perfect thing that could have happened. He was just starting to feel a little holiday lonely and then there we were on his door step. We drank some wine. We danced in his living room. We laughed till my stomach hurt. And my inner task-mistress just shut the hell up.

Sometimes working on our businesses means pushing through the long hours and solving endless problems and working till it’s time for sleep and then getting up and doing it all again the next day.

And then there are other times when you have to look at why you are pushing though a difficult situation.

Is it so that you can get to the other side of something that you’ve been trying to crack for a while? Or is it because you’ve become so accustomed to pushing through that you just do it without thinking about your ultimate destination or the outcome? And the other important angle to look at is the reality assessment: Will pushing through this situation get me anywhere other than tired and irritated? Is it solvable right now, right here?

We got home at 11-ish Friday night from our friend’s house. And I painted for a couple of hours, and got the pieces finished and ready to mail. A day late, but they were ready to go for Saturday. And I felt better. I was showered. I was smiling. I went to bed with no fretful thoughts running through my head that would turn into weird dreams in the middle of the night.

I paused in my heavily scheduled weekend due to circumstances that I had absolutely no control over, and it all turned out okay. Were there things in my etsy shop that would have sold if I had re-listed them more quickly? Perhaps. Am I a little late on all the details and deadlines? A little bit, yes. Am I fretting and crabby and tired? No.

Oh, and the hot water. We still don’t have any. The plumber couldn’t get the hot water heater we wanted, so rather than settle for the less desirable one, we’re waiting till Monday, which is tomorrow as I finish writing this, and everything is truly okay. People have been very generous with their hot water, and when I finish editing this piece, I’ll be heading to another friend’s for a shower. Oh happy day.

11 thoughts on “Push Through? Or Pause? You Decide

  1. “Push through” has been my motto for the past several weeks. I keep saying it to myself when I feel like stopping — just “push through” and finish a few more bags. Then I keep thinking, “After the show I’ll have a break,” but the on-line orders are pouring in. I also keep telling myself that it’s just for a few more weeks, but do I really want to spend the holidays “pushing through” or do I want to enjoy them? The best advice I got the other day was that nobody knows what you don’t have. So if I have fabric that doesn’t get turned into gift bags and listed on Etsy or put out at a show, will anyone but me know that it’s not there? Is anyone going to say, “Hey, where’s those cute Santa bags that don’t exist yet?” No. So push through, then take a break!

  2. Different circumstances, same story over here. We planned to have Thanksgiving with my family in MA a six hour drive from Philly. Leave Wednesday, stay Thursday, home Friday. Just three days.

    On Tuesday afternoon it became clear a few things were not getting done as scheduled. I pondered cancelling for five seconds, and bringing work with for maybe an hour, and then I let it go.

    How much would I really have accomplished trying to work while I wanted to be visiting? It just wasn’t worth it. As Isabelle pointed out no one but I knows in the end. Unless of course I write about :-)

  3. Thank you for this post! I can really relate to it right now and it helps to hear there are others pushing through (or not pushing through) too! I love the daily email too!

  4. Holiday weekend, 4 whole days to get lots accomplished my task mistress was oh so happy! But, I too decided to pause instead. It was also 4 whole days of my boys being home from school. Time for us to relax in our pj’s all day, enjoy leftover dinner with some friends, take an art walk, have the kids friends over for play dates, watch football and decorate the whole house for the holidays before my parents arrive to visit this weekend. Oh my task mistress was MAD at me come Sunday night. But, you know what. I am so happy I paused and enjoyed the weekend. I can push through another time. I know I’m good for it. I hope your hot water is back Liz. I bet if you hadn’t gone to your friends on Friday and let loose not having hot water on what is now Tues would have been much harder to handle. By letting yourself pause you also let the time frame of the hot water getting fixed be “okay” without as much fretting. Am I right?

  5. Oh, how I adored this post. Not only did I love hearing about your [not so] perfect weekend (and even wished I lived a little closer so I could have been the one upon whose doorstep you stood holding bath towels), but I loved the reminder to keep it all balanced. For me, the inner task mistress is often about playdates/laundry/noses/readalouds, telling me that painting is not the most productive place to spend a day — even though paint is as productive in fulfilling all the roles as sparkling toilets are… Does this make sense? Oh, I know you get it.

    Wish you hot showers, an uber-productive week, and plenty of wine and dancing in the living room, too. xx

  6. I think getting older (and wiser!) has forced me to take this same approach when life throws these types of punches. REALLY, there is nothing you can do about a broken water heater on a holiday weekend! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Whoa, nelly, did I just breathe in your calmness…. yes. I have been “pushing through” for 3 years, it seems. Lately, I have decided that the plan of pushing through is counteracting what is intended to happen for works. This article knocked me back a few and my extremities plus my brain thanks you so much for your candid view into the world of small business. Thank you.

  8. I’m still new to this whole business thing, and I’m still learning my rhythms. There’s nothing like working for yourself to bring out those nasty self-ignoring tendencies, is there? After nearly having a nervous breakdown in August, though, I’m much more attentive to when I start feeling panicky and harassed. Not that I’m very good at pausing/stopping/putting things off yet, but it’s coming. In fact, that’s one of the things I’m weighing right now. After launching two products in a month, I’ve got one more I want to get out. But do I have the willpower or sanity to do it? I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

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