Rise to the challenge

Thursday, 21st January 2021

In life and in business we all have our unique quirks, we need to pay attention to, plan for, to rise above the circumstances or yield and regain our equilibrium. So here I rise to the challenge to live out loud.

This is a personal blog post that I am nervous about sharing, but it’s time to own my personal challenges and I want to share them because it’s been holding me back from getting myself out there.

You may want to get comfy if you’re dedicated to reading this, it reveals why I’ve worked the way I did in the past and how 2020 really pushed me to change this year and do the actual stuffs I’ve been wanting to do for years!! YEARS I tell you. So now I am.

Ready? Good.

In the past decade of being self-employed, I’ve lived and worked hoping that people would recognise my talents and that those talents would speak aloud for me. It sort of worked. But. Whenever I had a happy client I usually felt a rush of ‘yay I did it’ and then the horror of ‘can I do it again?’ for the next one.

I never truly broadcast my achievements (its a British thing), never really shared when I’d done something great with my web design business (the photography business was a little easier as I had lots of photos that my clients wanted for their publicity) but then I never shared them very much on my own platforms.

Why?

Because I have personal challenges with a disability, health and sometimes (but rarely in self-employed business) being judged for sexuality. I am deaf (hard of hearing), dyslexic, and without pain treatments, I get a lot of migraines, plus I’m an out lesbian. I always felt, why would anyone want to work with me if they knew the truth of my struggles .. well, now I’m turning it around and saying why wouldn’t you want to work with someone who understands the challenges of life and knows strategies and tech to deal with it?

My world is one of constant and shifting sands of uncertainty. Will I be able to hear this phone call? Will I have enough good days in a row to do the work? Will my ‘team’ of people I can call in for outsourcing work be there? Will I have good energy levels? Please don’t catch a cold (or Covid19) because it’ll massively impact the very finely balanced equilibrium I do my best to maintain. If I lose my glasses (and I have on rare occasions) are my backup spares where I left them? It takes a lot to deal with the internal narrative and say to myself, I’ll deal with each thing as it comes. I always have, and I always can.

Kintsugi inspired portrait, rising to the challenge of disability, health and sexuality.

The above image is a personal project image, testing the idea of doing Kintsugi inspired portraits. Kintsugi is the art of repairing breaks with gold-dusted glue, where broken pieces are mended together with gold. To cherish items we love, even if a little cracked.

An article on Medium explains this well.

“An art form born from mottainai — the feeling of regret when something is wasted — and “mushin,” the need to accept change: the cracks are seamed with lacquer resin and powdered gold, silver, or platinum, and often reference natural forms like waterfalls, rivers, or landscapes. This method transforms the artifact into something new, making it more rare, beautiful, and storied than the original.”

Andrea Mantovani

It is the ‘need to accept change’ and ‘making it more rare and beautiful’ parts that resonate with me about kintsugi. In my fine art portrait concept, the glue ‘fractures’ are by my ears (I’m deaf) and on my forehead to symbolise chronic illness and neurodiversity. Subtle and sledgehammer feeling hidden challenges that I face.

I’m deaf / hard of hearing.

I’ve been deaf all my life and finally hearing aid technology has grown up to the point my moderate / severe hearing loss can have tiny hearing aids and teeny tiny insert for the ears. Hallelujah. So in the photo I’ve done repaired cracks by my ears because they used to bleed and crack from hearing aid molds until I got my new ones.

It’s one of the hidden problems quite a number of deaf users of hearing aids encounter, ear infections and skin allergies causing cracked skin. Psoriasis in my ears is not fun when I also need to wear hearing aids and sometimes I couldn’t wear them because of infection or cracked skin. Joy .. but I’ve new hearing aids and most of those issues have been fixed.

More often than not, you’d meet me in the street and would not realise that I am deaf, my superpower is lipreading (damn you, yet, thank you covid masks) and my one tip is that you maybe want to hide your answers behind your hand at a pub quiz. I’m not above watching for the answers from competing teams! Don’t worry I rarely do quizzes, I find them stressful as I rarely hear the questions in big noisy groups in order to answer them. Go figure, hence I’m constantly scanning people to figure out what the heck conversation is happening around me!

I’m dyslexic.

A good many deaf people are, as well as many artists and creatives. It’s a blessing in disguise because I don’t think ‘in the box’, I can spot patterns and tie-down really random inspirations to a cohesive whole. Yes I find writing difficult and boy do I struggle with an active voice at times but Grammarly is amazing and helps me figure it out. I write the same way I speak, imperfect, with spoonerisms (though Grammarly fixes those) and I sometimes totally cannot remember a totally reasonable everyday word to describe something. I see it as my superpower to a differently wired brain. If you want different solutions, work with a creative. I’m also backed by an eminently logical brain and two degrees in information management and the world of online systems and tech. So creative, neurodiverse yet gets logic and employs it wisely with strategic thinking and planning.

Do I really need to say I’m a lesbian?

It seems totally obvious to me, I talk about me and my partner (and sometimes about my step-daughter but rarely as its her life to live and share as she wishes). I talk about the cat more often because she is killer cute. Literally, a killer but very cute.

In terms of my self employed business work, I don’t feel it’s held me back at all much. For one simple reason: people self-select who they work with. If they don’t like me being a lesbian, they don’t get in touch .. makes my life much simpler. It’s why I talk about being deaf and how to work with me in a different blog post, why I’m openly a lesbian and more recently (ie. now!) I talk about having a chronic illness which sometimes affects my working hours. I share these openly so that if you don’t like these aspects, do like all our mamas advised ‘if you don’t have something nice to say, then say nothing at all’. You don’t have to work with me, but I hope that a few will recognise that I’ve lived and live to rise above my challenges and totally cool bonus points, I can help you do so as well.

I have a chronic illness.

I’ve experienced migraines since my early twenties and well .. it’s taken me a long, long time to find out my best balance and that was to give up chocolate and now I’m giving up sugar. I tell you, I’m super easy to buy for at Christmas (yeah right) because I don’t drink alcohol or eat chocolate, rarely eat biscuits .. so what to get a gall like me at Christmas? I like amazon gift vouchers! Let me choose my gift, please.

So migraines are a normal part of my life, at their absolute worst without treatments I am lucky I have 1 – 10 days a month without a headache and/or migraine. With treatment (medical botox over my forehead, head and neck), my migraine and headache levels are a lot lower, about 75% lower on average. Hence why in my kintsugi inspired portrait I’ve put crackles of fractures over my forehead, as a symbolic sign of migraines. It’s a great treatment when I get it.

The clue is: when I can receive it. During Covid lockdown last year, I just squeaked in my treatment the day before lockdown, then 3 months later. Boom. No treatments, nearly all hospitals in the UK classed botox as an elective pain management treatment. Er .. what? No. This is not a nice to have elective, this is an essential quality of life treatment. No treatment, no life. So I had to close my business fully for 2 months and my lovely clients waited patiently and used the time to follow my guidance on creating content for their website. I then struggled to get back onto my feet and it was only by my second treatment post lockdown that I felt back to my usual levels.

So last year I went really really quiet online for a while, then I came back and knocked out three websites for the end of the year, launched one earlier this year and have one in the pipeline that I’m super excited to show you when we launch that wonderful ladies website, brand and marketing materials. The whole shebang.

Why am I sharing this vulnerability?

Because you may be a fellow person that can’t work in an office, or is struggling to find work but you have a brain, a passion and ability to work and live life on your terms. You set your working hours, you choose your clients, you run the business that supports you and your life.

Everybody has challenges in their life with their family needs, health, disability, energy levels and all sorts of things that anybody outside of you may not have a clue about. But its stuff you’re balancing, juggling and dealing with. For around 5 years in this last decade, I managed two grandparents end of life care while also working for myself and managing my own health needs. Brutal at times, challenging, exhausting but with moments of joy with family, joy with clients and joy in getting through it all.

I can help you, because when I’ve got the system of my website, my planning, and ‘the doing’ fully running, I use tech to manage a lot of what I do. Last year I blogged 3 days a week, I was insane for thinking and attempting to keep that up. I have so much I want to talk about, teach and share and I couldn’t keep going at that pace .. not once my client workload started back up again (my other reason for going quieter), after the initial covid lockdown shock and my clients needing to hold onto their money to deal with uncertainties.

Well, now I’m making the changes to my business I’ve always wanted to do. I’m starting to teach what I do in my power hour ‘ask your question’ service .. I can teach more people to achieve and edit their websites than I can do on my own. I want people to know strategies for working smarter, ie. think first and then do. For folks to know their tech and how it can help automate certain processes .. for example. I write a blog post and my website will share it automatically out to Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, and Twitter for me.

For some of us, life requires a lot of planning, thinking and adjusting. So from me, a person who is very used to challenges, and the adventures in life that inspires both bad and a lot of good too, I know that I can help you stand out online, and use tech to be great online with your website and more.

This is where I’m going to confront my fear of public failure, claim my challenges for the growth opportunities they are to work smarter. Life and business is not a race, we do not have to constantly be the hare .. we can be mostly the tortoise slow and steady with focus and purpose. Then moments of definitive action where we have speedy energy for achieving a lot.

Here’s where I rise to my challenge, to live out loud. I plan to do better, to put myself out there the best way I can and encourage you to do the same.

Let me help you build and design your website, branding and photography for your business .. or attend my new training course where I’ll show you how to launch your own website and brand in 10 weeks. Something you’ll then know and be able to do for yourself again and again.

What’s your challenge or challenges
& how are you rising to the occasion?

If you like what you’ve read, please share this blog post .. cheers!

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1 Comment

  1. Sarah Cooper

    Wow! Thank you for this incredibly thought-provoking post Cathie. I love your honesty and find all the things you’ve said have vastly improved your ‘know, like, trust’ factor but in a very heart-warming (excuse the pun) kind of way! It feels like you’ve taken a black and white (2D) photo and brought it to life!

    It shows how strong you are, despite the challenges you’ve faced/are facing currently. I can also totally empathise with your migraines and feel your frustration re the suspension of treatment as I know how important that is and when it works how much of a difference it can make!

    Keep up the good work, I really appreciate what you do.

    Reply

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