The last few days I wrote about my first 2 magical trips to Paris. I wouldn’t return until 6 years after the Ethical Fashion Show. Life changed dramatically during those years. In one year (2008), nearly all of our retailers went out of business, and those that stayed in business, couldn’t pay us. Or didn’t bother to. We had a license deal to create a lower end eco-friendly line to be distributed by another company, and it was looking like the perfect solution. Until they crumbled, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy and the deal was off. I finally took a full time “day job” in 2008, but that company was struggling too and I got laid off. It was not a good year.
Despite all that, we didn’t want to shut down because we still had customers and still had designs we wanted to bring to life. But we were really, really beaten down. For years before Charmone I used to get frustrated because I knew I had a burning desire to express some creativity, but I never knew how. When our business was flourishing, I felt like I had the ultimate answer, and I was so excited and also relieved to have finally found “it”. But when times got tough, I started to question everything. I found myself so disappointed that I wondered whether having driving passion even mattered. I felt a little betrayed- like, hey, I put everything I had into this, every bit of myself, every bit of my money, every bit of my passion… and it didn’t make me successful. Wasn’t it all supposed to work out? Don’t people say that if you do what you love the money will follow? WTF? I was completely fed up and pretty much shut down my senses to focus all of my attention on my career in high tech. I was really into it, but I was all analytical and didn’t bring much of my creativity to the job because I thought that would be “safe” that way- it would be difficult to disappoint me. But this career required passion and creativity too, and I was digging from a dry well.
Paris saved me once again. As luck would have it, I had to go to London for work, and decided to extend my stay for a yoga retreat by Kimberly Wilson that included 2 days in Paris on each end, plus 5 days at a small village in the hills above Nice. It could not have come at a better time. Although the first few days in Paris were lovely, I was a little sad and I didn’t feel completely like myself. I was so keyed up from working so much that I really didn’t know how to relax. When I headed south to the art and yoga retreat, I was really nervous about the art portion of the retreat. I always felt like I couldn’t possibly be an artist and surely didn’t want to put that on display. I really just wanted to do yoga and zone out.
But it wasn’t the yoga that changed me, it was the art. I’ll never forget 2 exercises that the retreat leader asked us to do. The first was to create a visual representation of all of the areas of your life- work, creativity, health, relationships, family, friends, etc. and map out how much time you are spending on each. Mine was HEAVILY weighted towards work with almost no room for anything else. It was both sad and embarrassing to see it so plainly laid out like that.
The next exercise really drove it home- she asked us to journal about what we would be remembered for if we died tomorrow. That question pissed me off. I’m not sure if I was pissed off to have to consider it or pissed off that I didn’t know the answer. At the time I didn’t have anything to say except for a rant about how I couldn’t answer the question. But after spending a few more days in Paris at the end of the trip, I wrote this:
I want to be remembered for living passionately, for loving with all my heart, for giving a shit, for putting it out there, for taking risks and for feeling it, saying it, and doing it. I want to spend every last ounce of my energy before I die. I don’t want to have anything left when I leave.
I’m not sure I started living that passion as immediately or completely as I wanted to, but I did start to make changes after that. I believe if I’d gone to a yoga retreat in the US, I would have definitely felt relaxed and mellow afterwards, but I would not have felt passionate. Being in a place where quality matters, where life is slower, art is appreciated and meals are sacred really helped re-awaken my senses once again and got me back on track.