I lost a big client. A client I’d worked with – and loved working with – for my entire existence as a freelancer. A client who paid me every month. Which, as most freelancers know, can mean the difference between paying your mortgage and begging for spare change on the corner.
They weren’t the first client I lost. They won’t be the last. But this one was different. This one meant a lot to me. They had loved me and I them. They gave me the confidence during those first rough months of building a client base to continue on and march toward my dreams.
Their business has grown significantly, so it wasn't about me. It was about change. I was bummed but had felt it coming.
Being a Sunshine-Lollipops-&-Rainbows kind of girl, I instantly dug deep and found a ray of positivity that said, This Means Something Better is Coming Along. I repeated this, to every person that I came across, believing that the more times I said it the faster it would come.
And it worked. Until it didn’t.
When I returned to my car after hearing the news, I got a little teary-eyed. But I promptly stuffed those tears with a swig of an extra-sweet caramel latte and a slice of gluten free pumpkin bread.
I focused on positive mantras. Onward and upward, I said! Cheers to new beginnings, I thought! I’m open to whatever you want to bring me, dear universe!
But then. Nothing. I had some work but had a hard time focusing. Requests from other clients got harder. Every new ping of my email became the potential Next Big Thing. My heart would soar with the possibility, then plummet with reality.
I had to pay bills. And talk with my husband about what this loss of income really means, the very thought of which made me throw up in my mouth. So I ignored it until the last minute, frightened that my loss of monthly income meant I should start fashioning my Anything Helps cardboard sign. Or worse: Get a corporate job.
So I repeated my mantras. And I stuffed that shame under the layers of fat I could literally feel growing around my belly as I binge-read the comments section of every political Facebook post. (How’s that for self-hatred?)
I stopped walking my dog. I was grumpy with my spouse. I growled at my daughter. I ignored messages from friends. I scanned job lists. I put out a few panicky feelers.
Then I got sick. (Coincidence? Hmm.) My doctor said if there’s a vitamin and mineral deficiency to be had, I was experiencing it. I’m only now starting to come out of the fog.
My first month without my oldest and dearest client has passed. I haven’t fully replaced the income. I continue with my mantras. But I learned something: That I need space to grieve. I deserve space to kick and scream and yell and cry and feel – really feel – those craptastic feelings of not being good enough. Of failing. Of starting over. I deserve to feel angry and hurt and scared. Because while this change does open up space for something new and wonderful to come along (ahem, Universe), pain is meant to be felt.
I wonder if I had just let myself cry that day in the car, really let myself feel all those uncomfortable, terrible, I-suck-at-life feelings ... maybe called a friend and cried my balls off...well, maybe I might be able to button my jeans and have the Facebook app installed on my phone.
These are turbulent times. Pain motivates us to act and it’s not a necessarily a bad thing. Now is the time to act. But my guess is that we could all benefit from making some space for the pain we feel and recognize when those around us are acting from a place of pain. It's good thing for the world when we can take a step back and allow others space to process pain. To believe them when they say they are in pain.
But like all progress, it’s got to start from within.
Carie Sherman chose freelancing for two reasons: more time at home with her daughter and a passion for stretchy pants. As a copywriter in health care and beyond, Carie helps nonprofits and businesses find their voice and reach their readers. Learn more at www.cariesherman.com.
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