I can't believe we're mid-way through August. Five months ago, we closed our brick and mortar doors and watched the news with fingernails chewed down to the quick, wondering like everyone else what the rest of the year would bring.
We've all been through so much in this time. We've worked together to flatten the curve quite successfully here in Ontario, and we've survived a difficult almost-half-year together, separately. We've grieved the loss of our world the way it was and we've learned to live with a (very unhealthy?) dose of fear and uncertainty. We've grieved the loss of those who did not survive or are still suffering with symptoms.
March 15th, 2020, we closed our doors to protect the public and our team, and to help flatten the curve. I spent days in there, scrubbing, sanitising and panicking internally.
"What if someone had contracted Covid-19 here?"
"How long will we be like this?"
"What will this do to our small business?"
"Will we survive this?"
"How can I support my students through this?"
"What if we don't survive this?"
On March 31st, 2020, I knew that this was going to be a long haul and as a small business owner it became clear to me that carrying Toronto overhead was an impossible idea. Without support from our landlord or the government, I made the difficult choice to eat the last month's rent and pack everything up and move it into storage, knowing that it might not come out again but for donation.
A decade of my blood, sweat, and tears, packed into boxes and shuffled away on a truck. It was heart-wrenching and many tears were shed. I felt as though I had failed my students and my team.
For a few months, I woke up every morning thinking about the school the way we think about those we've lost. As if the ghost is still there but you can't touch it. Every time I think about the school, I imagine it's still there, waiting for families and dogs to pile in through the door, buzzing with excitement. Sometimes I still wake up and imagine it but it's much less frequently now.
Why am I spilling my emotional guts here? Because I want you to know where I've come from, how I got here, why I'm still here, and where I'm going.
Every day, I receive emails from people who are wondering if we're teaching group classes or when we're reopening. The response is always the same, even at this stage.
"Our brick and mortar location in Toronto is currently closed as a result of Covid-19. I am not comfortable putting people at risk in a classroom setting until we have more data about treatment or a vaccine."
I am met with grateful responses who understand completely and support my decision. I am thanked for choosing to keep people safe. I am so appreciative of these responses. I know it's the right decision even though it's the one that hurts the most...
This past two weeks, I noticed myself feeling something odd; as though someone had unplugged me from my power source. My muscles are weak. I am sleeping ten hours a night. I am a zombie all day. Walking is a chore. I am short on patience with myself. I cry at the drop of a hat when talking clients through extraordinarily difficult conversations. I can't stop thinking about my team and how much I miss them. I wonder how all my (client) dogs are doing.
I imagine it's just a tiring week or the heat getting to me. Perhaps I've cut back on caffeine too quickly and need to up my tea intake. Maybe I'm low on iron or B12. Maybe it's my thyroid.
My imagination runs wild. "What if I'm sick? What if something is wrong with me? I don't want to go into a clinic or hospital! I need a hazmat suit. Does Amazon deliver those?"
I realise through conversation with my friend Jessica (who is conveniently a Compassion Fatigue Educator for Pet Professionals) that this is a full-blown shutdown, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
We say our goodbyes over Skype and I look back in my calendar. It hits me; I have spent the last five months working upwards of 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, trying to wrap my head around a small business implosion during a worldwide pandemic with no end in sight. Trying to pivot and create a full online academy while losing my staff, my brick and mortar, and the majority of my income.
I've had a max of seven days off in these five months. By "off" I mean not working; not answering questions in the forum, client calls, live group coaching, Q&As, content creation, course creation, marketing, planning, writing, recording, researching, you name it.
Seven days off in five months.
Most of those were in July.
I preach quality of life for your dog, and for you. I preach the importance of sleep, good nutrition, observing body language and behaviour and responding with compassion. And here I am...burning out faster than a dollar store tea light.
Raising a dog is a 24/7 job just like parenting any species. I recognise that and I take it very seriously. I strive to be there every step of the way for you so that you feel and are supported the way you deserve to be.
Have you ever heard me say "you cannot pour from an empty cup"? I say it a lot. I guess I just wasn't listening! (Ouch. That was harsh.)
I've made some big decisions this weekend as I've lain in bed with a migraine, full-blown exhaustion, and aches that only a well-worn baseball can imagine.
I don't want to pour from an empty cup. I want to give my students 100% of me 100% of our time together. The only way I can do that is to set some boundaries with myself and respect them.
(Members can read all about these changes in the recent email newsletter that went out (Mon Aug 17, 2020) )
I hate that it has taken a worldwide pandemic to teach us all the value of family, friends, health, kindness, compassion, and self-care, but I will forever be grateful for the lessons I have learned.