By Vita Vygovska
Have you had your breakdown yet?
I have. It came on April 7, about three weeks into the coronavirus-related shutdown (at least in Pennsylvania, where I live). Everything was OK. Well, nothing really was OK around the world, but I was handling it.
And then I wasn’t.
It just all came crashing down. The gravity of the disease. Home-schooling the children. Staying at home. Stopping the business.
I was overcome by a feeling of exhaustion and exasperation. I felt as if I were a running hamster, but my wheel was stuck. I was trying to run as fast as I could and I was getting nowhere.
I felt the pressure to do something: reinvent myself, find other ways of doing business. At least, that’s what every webinar out there touted. But I didn’t know how to reinvent myself. “What will this new reality mean to you when it’s done?” they said. I didn’t know. “How will your business look on the other side. It will sure be different. Are you ready?” No, I’m not ready! I have no idea how it will look on the other end. I kept feeling that I had to have the answers, but I didn’t know what they were. I kept going on walks, hoping that something brilliant would strike me, only to find myself back with no breakthrough thoughts.
People have been saying we are all in this together. The truth, in my head, was different. My husband worked virtually 95 percent of the time before. Now, he is virtual 100 percent of the time. All our friends with corporate jobs have transitioned to virtual work. This shutdown has not affected them financially and mentally one bit (from the standpoint of security and the feeling of success). In my circle of personal friends, I was the only one who had lost her income and whose world turned upside down from a work perspective. I was the only one who had no idea what the future held for her. So, no, I didn’t feel that we were all in this together.
I saw designers doing virtual work and felt like I was missing something. How can I do all my projects virtually? It’s as if there was a speeding train passing me by. What opportunity was I not seeing? Where did I belong in this new reality? I didn’t want to be that person/company who didn’t have the foresight to adapt to the new circumstances. But I wasn’t seeing a way to get on the train.
To top it all off, I was acutely aware that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reflect and enjoy. To recharge and get organically inspired for the next move. I was feeling this dichotomy of wanting to keep moving but, at the same time, being so afraid to miss this precious chance the universe gave us.
So, I had my breakdown. Yes, tears poured. My body was shaking. It was not pretty.
(Here’s a tip. The garage is a great place to have a breakdown. The kids can’t hear you.)
Then I stopped crying. I had to. Somebody asked for a snack for the 578th time that morning.
I had to, because I’m a doer and I had to do something about my sad state of being. I realized that I couldn’t deal with it alone. I couldn’t keep being in my head. So, I looked outward and sought help.
Help from My Coaches
LuAnn Nigara has been my business coach for several years. She has been the support and inspiration that every businessperson needs. And for the 578th time in the last several years, she was there for me.
LuAnn reassured me that it was OK to not know what to do. Nobody knows. The only thing to know is what’s inside me, and what’s inside me is enough to do what it takes. Trust myself. Focus on the inner-goddess voice. I am strong. I am smart. I am capable. I am a survivor. Better yet, I don’t just survive—I thrive.
She also said, “Pay attention to the lesson that you’re learning because of this. Slow down. The universe puts things in your path so you can learn a lesson from them. When we slow down to listen to the lesson, the pain of the present situation dissipates a little bit. The heaviness lifts.” My lesson was clearly to stop controlling and to let it go.
Amber De La Garza is my amazing productivity business coach. She really gets who I am at my core. To be understood is an amazing feeling. I asked her how I was supposed to stop controlling the situation and learn to let go. I’m good at doing: showing up, getting it done, doing what needs to be done, regardless of how I feel and what fears I experience. So, with letting go, my natural question was, “How do I do that?” (You see what I just did there? I wanted to control the letting go process. I’m hopeless.)
Amber taught me that I actually could do something about it. In order to change my feelings, I had to first change my thoughts. When a thought popped into my head that didn’t serve a useful purpose, I had to reframe it. I could use different words or different mantras. Those would eventually lead to different feelings. And that’s something I could wrap my action-driven mind around.
Help from Business Besties, Friends and Family
Instead of looking at friends whose lives barely changed, I turned to other business owners whose lives changed just like mine. I am so lucky to be part of an amazing group of entrepreneurs who support each other in all things, big or small. When I shared my troubles with them, they kicked into mega support mode.
Keep showing up, they said. One day at a time. We are not supposed to have it all figured out. Trying to figure out the future will drive you crazy. Trust that things will get better. Even if you liked your old normal, something better may come around. Trust that things will be better than before.
Tell yourself it’s an opportunity and you will feel better, they said. You may be going through something you deem horrible, but it might bring the brightest future and best possibilities. It’s OK to feel this way. We are feeling it too. You’ve got this, Vita.
This is a group of strong, inspiring women showing their vulnerabilities and cheering each other on. We are stronger together. There was no weakness in coming to the group and asking for help. This is exactly what we should be doing. The collective uplifting of each other’s spirits was a remarkable experience.
One of my best friends simply said, “You will be OK. I just know it.”
My husband, my best friend and biggest cheerleader, sprang into action. He immediately started devising a plan of action on how I could have a “me” day where he would take care of the children so I could have some time to relax and rethink my business. Gotta love the man.
After the Breakdown: Moving On
My circumstances haven’t changed much in the past few weeks. My state is still shut down. We are all staying in our homes. Children are being home-schooled.
But my outlook is different now. I am getting used to the new reality and am actually embracing it. While our business will continue to be high touch, gone will be the days of only interacting with customers in person. I’m imagining the opportunities presented by virtual video appointments. I’m excited about the enhanced customer service possibilities. And I’m equally glad about the savings in time and energy.
Now, instead of devastated, I feel grateful. After a cold winter comes a warm spring. I’m learning what faith really is. I know that after the toughest breakdowns comes the most amazing breakthroughs. When enough people tell you, and truly mean it, that you will be OK, you have no choice but to believe them. Just believe.
Here I go crying again. Happy tears.
Vitalia Vygovska (Vita for short), CWFP, MBA, is an award-winning window treatment specialist, author, speaker, mom, wife and ballroom dance enthusiast. Her company, Vitalia, Inc., has provided all-encompassing fabrication, measurement, installation and project management services for interior designers for more than a decade. Visit Vita’s website to connect with her and download a free copy of “37-1/2 Window Treatment Design Ideas for Interior Designers.”