As everybody knows, work-life balance is important. We tend to say we’ll make more time to find that balance later, but sometimes later is too late. Even though you know you can’t be on all the time, knowing when to shut it down isn’t always clear..
I am not always the best at that. I enjoy doing what I do, and I have big goals that I’m determined to hit. But because of that, sometimes I forget to put family, experiences, and travel above work when I should. Part of my choice to work for myself involved being able to have more freedom, but what good is that freedom if you don’t take advantage of it? Is the risk of entrepreneurship worth it if you don’t?
I lost my grandmother, my Mimi, last week.
She had not been in the greatest of health for the last seven years or so, but she was still getting around for a while. But taking care of herself was never a priority for her, and her health continued to decline pretty rapidly. A few weeks ago, it took a sudden nose dive. I found out that she’d been taken to the hospital and that it didn’t look good.
I have an odd and stained relationship with much of my family. Because of this, the last time I’d seen my Mimi was at my sister’s wedding several years ago and, for more reasons than I’m going to get into here, it was kind of awkward.
I wanted to see her, but I didn’t know if I should. The last thing I wanted to do was cause more stress. I reached out to my mom and let her know that I would be there if I was wanted, but I didn’t want to make anything worse. She said Mimi really wanted to see me and asked me to come up there.
I didn’t really know what to expect when I got there, but as always, my grandmother was still able to surprise me.
Mimi was a force of nature. She was in print sales in the 1980’s and 1990’s. When I try to think about what it would have been like to be a salesperson during that time, I struggle with the weight of it. No technology, no marketing automation, and no one cared about culture. As bad as it can be in some companies now, I can’t begin to imagine what it was like back then.
On top of that, she was a woman in a male-dominated industry. If you don’t believe that the standards for women and men are different even now, you are deluding yourself. So imagine the things that she had to put up with.
But without even realizing it, a lot of my love for sales comes from her.
I never heard her complain about a client, or a lost deal, or any of the things that I hear from so many other salespeople I talk with. I would know, I lived with her for most of my middle and high school years.
My parents split up when I was about 12 years old and my mom went to the one person she knew that she could go to, my Mimi. She welcomed us with open arms. My mother, brother, sister, and I moved in with my uncle and cousin who were already living with her.
A few months later we moved into a larger home that would be able to accomodate us better. At the highest point, we had nine people living in that house with Mimi as the main provider. My mom was going back to college to get out of the waiting tables grind. Being a kid, I never really thought about the weight that Mimi carried on her.
We didn’t have everything we wanted, but we never went hungry.
After retiring from sales, she had more time to focus on her art. Her work was always breathtaking. She could work in a number of mediums and could paint or sketch almost anything. She loved capturing nature most of all. Her sketched animals look incredibly realistic, and her painted flowers are beautiful. For extra money and because it was her passion, she began working with hobby stores to teach children about art.
With her grandkids, she would always make sure that we had plenty of art supplies and a never ending supply of books.
After painting, reading was her passion. She would take us to bookstores and let us go crazy.
She would tell me that I had a 5 book limit, but each time when I would come back with 6 or 7 she would always say “go ahead.” She just couldn’t resist. After our trips, she would joke about this “vulture look” I had when I wanted something because of how much taller than her I was.
As hard as things were at different points in my childhood, she was always there for us.
A few years ago, I had a falling out with my mom. Since Mimi still lived with her, that meant she was involved too. As much as I wanted to see her, I didn’t want to deal with the other stuff. So I stayed away. Every time I spoke with Mimi on the phone, she was always trying to mend the relationship. But I was stubborn and upset.
When I walked into the hospital room that day, she smiled and was so excited to see me. We sat and chatted in a way that we hadn’t been able to in years. Everything in the past went out the window. It was just me and my Mimi. She asked me about my businesses and I told her about all of them. She asked what I was reading and we talked about that. As some other family and friends were coming in, I made my way out and went home.
She was released the next day with hospice care coming to her home. There was nothing more the hospital could do. If you don’t know, hospice means that time is short and their job is to make someone comfortable in their last days. I promised to come visit with Melissa and Alice very soon.
I wanted to give them a day or two to settle in and get all the caretaking stuff figured out. Hospice had to bring a special bed, and there were medications and care instructions for my mom and her partner to get figured out. Mom was keeping in contact with me and giving me updates, but I had a lot going on that week. I was stressed out with a business that was incredibly hard to manage, (more on that in an upcoming post), and I also needed to record new episodes for the podcast.
The hospital visit was on Monday. By the time we were able to go see her on Sunday, she was mostly gone. She woke up briefly and recognized me. She gave me that big, room-brightening smile I had known for as long as I could remember. I don’t know much else she was aware of, but at least in that moment, she knew I was there.
She passed the next morning in her sleep.
I wish I had carved out more time earlier in the week when she was more coherent. That leads me to my earlier question, what good is the freedom of working for yourself if you don’t make use of it when it is needed?
I wish that I hadn’t let the falling out with my mom get as big as it did. I wish that it hadn’t kept me from spending time with her these past few years. My daughter doesn’t have much in the way of memories with Mimi, and that is the biggest regret that I have.
We all have regrets, and like everybody else, I’ll learn to live with them. But this will definitely be a hard-learned lesson for me for the future.
Business comes and goes, and money is not that hard to make as long as you are diligent. The people in your life are more important than money, and you have to carve out time for the important things.
Go call a family member and make a plan to spend time with them, especially one you’ve been missing or haven’t seen as much as you’d like. You will get more value from that than you will tweaking your pricing, calling another prospect, or launching your new idea.
In memory of SAB, Mimi to her family: 7/23/1939 – 1/20/2020