I get a lot of questions about running Dogwood Tavern and what the business is like and I often have a difficult time finding the words to express it and share. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine, I’ll tell you that much, and I don’t want to come off as negative or ungrateful but I do want to share my story in a way that allows you to also gain something from reading it that may help you out in your life. In a sort of accidentally backwards way, I think I’ve managed to do that here, in a post that began as a personal rant may have ended in an AH-HA moment, as writing often does for me, and hopefully gives you a bit of a moment as well. And if nothing else, may it be at least a little interesting or insightful 🙂
I seem to struggle with and have been struggling with consistency lately. AGAIN… And in fact, it’s been longer than lately, it’s been since 2016-2017 I’d say. And I know I’ve talked about it here a million times and I know it’s probably boring to read about, to say the least, but it’s a struggle that I cannot quite understand (until now maybe) because prior to late 2016, I didn’t have it, or shall I say, consistency, of all things was never a struggle.
And when you don’t have something and then you do, or vice versa, you tend to question Why? because somehow you think an answer will solve everything and when there is no answer, oftentimes, you just give it up altogether, assuming you’re just not that interested in it any longer and it’s time to move on. And sometimes, that is the case. But sometimes, it’s not.
I’ve questioned this a million times over the last few years, and I always come back with the realization that I do not want to give it up because I still love what I do.
However, the next question arises; if I still love what I do then why has it become a struggle?
It would seem obvious based on the amount of changes my life has undergone since 2016 when my now ex-husband and I split up. Everything, and I mean everything in my current life-line-time-line dates back to that one catastrophic event. Divorce leaves an unexpected mark and takes far longer than you give yourself time to heal from. You not only have to heal from what feels like a failed marriage and past life, but you also have to give yourself time to heal from the divorce process as well and all the doubt and judgment your mind wrestles with along the way. And these things you don’t really realize until you’re in the thick of it or even in the aftermath. No one tells you this because no one really can. It’s probably different for everyone, but the scars are the same. And even if I tried to explain it to you, it wouldn’t affect your choice, as it wouldn’t have affected mine because in those dire moments, our goal is happiness from a perspective of unhappiness and our only hope at that point is to choose a new life for ourselves, become better versions of ourselves, and live in a way we are longing for that we don’t have in that moment and don’t foresee happening unless we make a major change. And even if we think we are safe mentally, physically, and even financially, all of that seems to also change dramatically the instant we make the choice and take the road less traveled to get to the place where our dreams may have a chance to realize and ultimately end, or shall I say begin our happiness.
That very same year, as you know, I embarked on such a journey and entered a new one, spending the next year and a half renovating an old building that would become Dogwood Tavern. I learned so much, worked my ass off, created new friendships, accidentally but unregrettably fell in love, and as you know, we opened in April 2018 and will be celebrating our 2 year anniversary this year in 2020.
During the renovation our stress levels were HIGH. We were trying to meet deadlines on a super-tight budget, running out of money, not getting reimbursed as we were supposed to, using our own money to fund the project, doing 90% of the work ourselves in our free time, after working other jobs and running other businesses. It was built on our blood, sweat and tears and tensions were high as our opening date continued to get pushed back further and further. I didn’t think the stress could get any higher that is, until we opened, and then the real stress actually set in and we longed for the renovation days which paled in comparison.
Owning a business is challenging. You are presented with new challenges almost every day that sometimes have answers and sometimes don’t. And stress results when we know something needs to be fixed or a problem needs solving and we have no concrete solutions and then progress is stunted.
Running my personal business (here) was tough, but it was also fun and I was in my comfort zone and it was just me. Aside from my skills I bring to running Dogwood’s business, the two businesses are at opposite ends of the spectrum as any could be.
I often wonder if I had known just how difficult this business would be, would I have done it? And I’ve asked myself the same question about my divorce. And at the time the opportunity presented itself, probably yes, I would have done it again, even knowing all the challenges because just like divorce, and any other drastic change you make in your life, you don’t quite understand the risk, even when you think you do, until you’re swimming in the chaos of it. And even still, the hope of a new kind of life and future happiness surely outweighs any foreseen risks or challenges in those moments. And so of course 100% I would have done it again. It is only now where I try to balance the risk to reward ratio where I see that the work far outweighs the return that I wonder, if I could go back in time would I do it again? And as angry and frustrated as I get in those moments where I question it all, yet again, the answer is probably yes, I would do it all over again.
And maybe the fault is mine, and a foolish thought at that, to think that I could have the capacity to run two businesses full-time or both as part-time in perfect balance without one needing more attention than the other.
And the problem is that sometimes I can do both very well simultaneously in near perfect balance, but I burn out quickly and cannot sustain it and then I judge myself for being inconsistent when really, I have very little choice in the matter.
My therapist refers to Dogwood as The Screaming Baby and it is the most accurate description of anything I’ve heard of maybe ever.
This, of course, is not to diminish babies, because they’re amazing and beautiful, and sometimes Dogwood is too, but mostly, it’s a lot of hard work, hard labor, physically and mentally challenging and at any given time of any day, whether sleeping hours or daylight, working on something else entirely or spending time with family and friends, I (or we) could get a call that is in some way an emergency and I/we have no choice but to stop whatever it is that we are doing and attend to it. Its needs are of the highest priority all the time, whether we are physically there or not, and as soon as it feels like everything is under control, it screams out at us just to remind us that it is not, and it may never be.
I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to realize this (and sometimes it takes the help of a professional to point it out), but I’m sure it’s because I’m of a mindset that I can do all the things – all of the time, asking for very little help, and in perfect balance… and judge myself when I cannot, wondering what on earth is wrong with me… but I fear that Dogwood is the culprit for all of my inconsistency and imbalance in all other areas of my life and I wonder if it will ever get better or if the next 8-10 years of my life will be lived in this manner. When I think like that, I want to run as far away as I can and never come back. As soon as I have hope it can be better, it falls to pieces again.
What’s great about having partners is that we all bring different skills to the table but honestly, the brunt of the business and most aspects of it fall on only two of us, which admittedly also makes our relationship difficult to manage and balance sometimes as well, as you can imagine… when there is a constant screaming baby, everyone is on edge, emotions run high, prioritizing is a fine balance and resentment sets in when we feel others aren’t pulling their weight.
So as soon as I get creative or start working on something that is going to need my focus, I get pulled away, time and time again, and sometimes it’s hard to regain that enthusiasm and stamina to work on other things when the screaming baby drains so much physical and mental energy on a daily basis.
One week I’m completely energetic and enthusiastic about my work again (here with loveMaegan) and feel like I’ve got it all figured out and get creative and do all the things and then the next week I can’t even be bothered to share an Instagram story or even scroll through my feed. One week it’s easy and the next it’s entirely overwhelming and it’s come to mind that maybe I just can’t do all the things and maybe if I want to keep this business and the creativety here, it just cannot be, will not be consistent in any way, shape or form and I have to be okay with that.
Sometimes It feels as if I’ve gone back in time where loveMaegan is the secondary business, the one I do in my free time, and sometimes I have very little free time and sometimes I’m so burnt out in my free time, I can only manage to lay on the couch and binge-watch a series (most currently, it’s Outlander), and I think because I didn’t anticipate it becoming a secondary career again, disappointment from the unmet expectation also results in judgement of myself, lack of consistency, and wondering why I just can’t keep up like I used to… when it was all I had, I mean, obviously, right?.
What I love about this space is that it’s all mine, I don’t share it with anyone and other than my photographers (my mom and my fiancé, lol), I have no help. It still allows me to be creative, write, and use it as another form of therapy in a way, have a community with all of you, and think in creative ways I don’t get to outside of this space. It also gives a sense of accomplishment when I post or hit goals or am happy with the way something turns out or the way something makes me feel, or when I inspire someone to create something or help them in some other way… that all equates to meaning and purpose. Dogwood, on the other hand, doesn’t always offer those small wins and emotional rewards. While I do handle all the social media (web design, PR and marketing, etc.) which is creative and fun, much of the other work I handle for the business (financials, bills, correspondence, taxes, insurance, administrative, etc. etc. etc.) is less than creative and far from fun. I wear a lot of hats, so to speak. Being there physically bartending (if I must) or hosting Karaoke is also fun, but it’s tiring (more like exhausting) and physically and emotionally draining. I love that in a way we’ve given back to the community, have wonderful customers (who have now become friends) and knowing that people are having a good time when they’re there, which creates a bit of good feeling, meaning and purpose, but being a bit of an empath, my energy is drained on another level that I have to give myself time to recover from. This of course does not include the back pain and ankle pain and overall body pain from standing on your feet for 5-8 hours (which anyone in the service industry understands).
So while at the end of the day working on loveMaegan I am full or filled up (for lack of better word), at the end of the day working at Dogwood, I am empty. While I do a good amount of work from home each day for Dogwood as well, that isn’t draining because it’s routine now, there is still very very little feeling of accomplishment or fulfillment except for the good feeling that it is done (check!). I don’t hate the work I do for Dogwood (though I do hate the stress of the screaming baby) and there is some feeling of creating a self-sustaining, profitable business, I still enjoy the work I do here for loveMaegan far more… so when I don’t get to or don’t prioritize it, I feel a pull towards it like nothing else… I feel like it’s what I “should” be doing and what I also “want” to be doing and then I also feel guilty and resentful when I don’t get to.
loveMaegan gives back to me.
Dogwood mostly takes from me.
Working on loveMaegan makes me feel good, give me purpose and gives my day meaning, making me feel like it’s time well spent and that progress has been made in more ways than one. And maybe I thought Dogwood would do the same and maybe those expectations are not being met and it makes me resentful of it all. But I have to hope that someday Dogwood will pay off in those ways and that eventually it will also give back to me, but maybe it never will… and in that way it feels more like a job than a business that I love getting up and working on every day.
I think in this way I’ve come to understand the motto I’ve lived by from the very early days of loveMaegan; that if you Live What You Love, you never have to work a day in your life.
I know it sounds so cliche now to hear those inspirational quotes, but it’s also so true and this is a perfect example of it.
If you have meaning in your work, you enjoy doing it. If it gives back to you and fulfills you emotionally and creatively and spiritually, then you never feel like you’re working. You get up excited for what the day will bring, what might inspire you to create more and what you can give back to others as well…
I can only hope that knowing all this now will help me to figure out how to create more meaning with Dogwood in a way that I can feel more fulfilled in my life and work and also not condemn myself for my lack of consistency everywhere else in my life. Maybe I can actually create balance and consistency and maybe finally figuring out “WHY” I’ve been so inconsistent will give me the motivation I need to find more meaning in my work with Dogwood so that it too can feel purposeful, give more than it takes and create a fulfilling life I love.
Happy Hump Day Lovecats!
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