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12 years…

I can already feel it, this is going to be a long one. Please get yourself something to drink before you sit down – you might need it. 

Over the past few months, I have been very uncertain about what news this blog would ultimately share. I have been considering closing Create Art 4 Good. 

Navigating a small business is no easy task. You find essential tasks you never imagined would be essential to your success. You put in very long hours. As a solopreneur, you do it all. It can be so incredible, and also so disheartening. August 9th is my twelfth anniversary for Create Art 4 Good… The last two years have made the path forward very difficult. Particularly for small businesses. This coupled with some sort of balance with a personal life (along with all the challenges that living the big life entails) has caused me to take a step back and carefully evaluate my next step. 

I appreciate you allowing me to share…

I began Create Art 4 Good as sort of a traveling art show. (Think Tupperware parties for art) Many invited me into their homes and businesses to share my work. It was wonderful! Eventually, I found space in the Hungerford building and really opened up the BIG HUGE dream. At the Hungerford, I represented hundreds of artists, I held countless events, art workshops, business, social, and socially conscious events. I paid it forward with a portion of every single sale.  In early 2020 I decided a change was in the wind and I needed to move. I then closed the gallery at the Hungerford and moved to a small studio in the Piano Works Mall. I decided it was time to do for myself what I had been doing for other artists. My focus was to be more on my work, and my greeting card company.

Then the global pandemic hit literally two weeks after I moved.  

Throughout the pandemic, I did a lot of treading water. I pivoted a whole big bunch in early 2020. I painted signs for birthdays and other celebrations (often installing them fully masked at midnight to surprise the recipient without detection), I created subscription offerings for my card company, I held virtual art workshops and more. Throughout 2020 and into 2021 I sort of ignored the challenges of the pandemic and pushed harder to survive and even thrive. In this process, I put a great deal of pressure on myself to not just survive but increase the income I had previously made from my art. (Isn’t that the mark of success?)

By 2022 I admit burnout was so full on that I felt like I was in ashes. For the first time, I thought about closing Create Art 4 Good. (I cannot tell you what a painful thought that was)  From a financial standpoint, it seemed to make sense. My husband has suggested frequently that if I could just be “seen” I would be successful.  I felt like I was the needle in the haystack, no one could find me and every time I thought a big break would come, it vanished.  

Over the last few months, I have thought a great deal about this decision, I meditated about this,  sought advice and wisdom from trusted friends and colleagues, and sat with it. I knew making a careful decision was essential. In the past, I have had other businesses. I have never had a business last for twelve solid years. During this time I had to define what my current objectives were. I have evolved. My needs are clearer after twelve years of experience.  

Society encourages us to measure our success with the numbers in our bank accounts. I admit I got caught up in that too. I have said several times, I work too hard for what my bank account reflects. However, success should be measured in more ways than financial. No, I am not dripping in money, but I DO have enough. Isn’t that what we all need? As I further evaluate the last twelve years, I am grateful to say I believe my business met the goals in my original business plan. I can pay my bills, I can even buy a fancy paintbrush when I want.  I have been able to encourage other artists, establish a working gallery, paid it forward with my work in the arts, and more. I have learned, I have grown.  In my big picture, this is a success. 

That said, I am still darn tired. I spend more time doing the businessy things I don’t like rather than the stuff I love.  So is it time to let go of the business? This has been a constant question to which I believe I finally have an answer. 

Personally, the last week of my life has been pretty incredible. I have been in a pretty difficult place. Closing a business is such a loss. I was deeply grieving even the possibility. Deciding the future with all the components has incredible weight. I also do not deal well with limbo.  However, this was too impactful a decision to rush through. 

Then last Sunday, I woke up feeling unwell. (I promise I will give you the news soon)

The day before had been a very busy day. It was incredibly hot, I had so many errands to run, and we hosted family at our home to celebrate my husband’s birthday. The day was full, but not horrible, yet I felt like I was much more tired than I should be, but ignored it and pushed through. Sunday was different. I was sofa bound. I felt completely off. I had a huge to-do list that was going to sit there completely undisturbed. (this is where it gets stupid)

Being completely transparent, I am not great with seeking medical attention. However, even I was thinking that might be the right course of action. I did not share how I was feeling with anyone. I just said I wasn’t feeling great. However, fun fact, my apple watch (gift from the aforementioned husband) has an O2 monitor on it as well as a heart rate monitor. One of the issues I was having felt like Tachycardia that wouldn’t quit. (I have occasional tachycardia) Sure enough, my apple watch confirmed this about eight different times. I continued being a couch potato evaluating my next step. 

I vigorously debated if I should bother people on a Sunday to go to the doctor. I knew they would send me to the hospital and that was the last thing on earth I wanted. I talked myself in and out of this for way too many hours. In the end, I lived the day and eventually went to bed.  The next morning, I got up with resolve, took a shower, and prepared for what I knew was coming. I called my doctor and set up an appointment.  Long story short, after several EKGs  I was sent to the hospital. (the very last place I wanted to be)

I was in the hospital for two days. There were countless meds, blood tests, EKGs, heart monitors, and more. Because of Covid restrictions, I was alone for most of this. I spent hours wondering what was going to happen next.  I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation with rapid ventricular response. (it sounds fancy, it just means my heart was misfiring, beating too fast, and just plain not working.) Essentially I had a broken heart.  If you know anything about my work, you know that I paint a LOT of hearts. I laughed to myself several times, a human with a heart that is broken is passionate about painting hearts. Irony?  It sure feels like it. 

I am happy to say that my doctors found a solution that seems to be working for me. I also will share that the next time, if there is a next time, I will be going to the doctors or hospital promptly and not wait for thirty or so hours before seeking treatment… but I digress. 

So where am I going with all this?

If I look at my original goals for Create Art 4 Good, it was to make art and to pay it forward using that art. If you boil it all down I have attained that goal. So, should I continue?

Yes, I should.

Let me tell you why. This business has been a joy, a whole lot of work, and yes sometimes heartache. But, it is also my heart. I can continue to share love through the art I create. I can share love through the messages in my cards. I can share love with the support I give to charities in various ways.  This business is a way for me to be who I really am. A simple human, that loves color, a plethora of mediums, and messy hands doing her best to share the love every single way. This business amplifies my voice. This business strengthens my courage. This business is my heart. 

I know that another change is likely in the wind. That is okay. I know that I need to find a balance. That is good. I am not suggesting my heart issue is a result of working hard. It is just a thing. But if you put all the ingredients in the blender, you come out with 1. Don’t give up your big dream 2. Keep making art, keep exploring, and keep putting love in the universe.  3. make sure you have time for self-care, reading a book, and walking in the park (Not necessarily in that order)

So, continue we must. With love, more balance, and a whole lot more paint…

Help me celebrate twelve years… the best is yet to be. 

sending you so much love… 

Susan

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