Sunday, March 1, 2009

30-Day Economic Stability Challenge: The power of serenity

I'm not a calm person by nature. I like to keep myself in a state of cat-like readiness so I can deal with problems as they come up. There usually aren't enough problems to keep my mind busy, which I think is part of why I enjoy freelancing--at least my fears tend to be real.

That natural nervousness is why I need this challenge. But my serenity practice is what helps me deal with any financial situation, particularly the one I experienced last month when a check from a longtime and cherished client bounced.

My serenity practice usually consists of:
  • Eating healthy food;
  • Trying to sleep eight hours a night (though I don't always make it);
  • Daily 10-20 minutes of mindfulness meditation;
  • Daily housecleaning of the mental kind--writing out all my fears and praying to let go of them;
  • Regular exercise, including cardio at the gym and yoga; and
  • Regular meetings/phone calls with a wide network of other freelancers.
It's a lot of work, but it also pays amazing dividends. I learned this last month, when that check, most of my money for the month, disappeared from my account, leaving me with a negative balance. For one weekend, I had $13.

But I got through it without making it worse. I maintained a positive relationship with my client, I continued to do my work, and I didn't borrow money or use a credit card to get over it. In future posts, I'll explain why that's important for me.

Today, I'll explain how I did it:
I called lots and lots of self-employed colleagues.
There's a place for rage and fear and confusion and hopelessness, but it's not with your clients. I called friends who were Realtors, writers and career coaches. When I had to send a pointed email to my client, I ran it past several more veteran freelancers to make sure it was based in reason, not emotion. I spewed my spleen with my friends and loved ones. I broke down more than once and called friends and colleagues hysterical. But because of my daily serenity work with writing, meditating and yoga, those moments of hysteria were shorter than they've ever been in my life.

I did loving kindness meditation for my client.
I've written about this before, and I know it's the last thing you want to do when you've been wronged despite doing everything right. But the fact is that I just wanted the problem to be solved, and I don't like how I feel when I'm enraged and full of self-pity and self-righteousness. Those aren't feelings I can afford to nurture, so instead I prayed that my client would have everything I wanted for myself. That goes for my bank, too.

I did the paperwork.
When I got the email from my bank saying I had a negative balance, I thought it was a phishing scam. When I realized it was real, I knew just what to do:
  • Email my client and ask what happened and for a new check;
  • Call the people to whom I'd written checks to see if they had deposited them and if they could hold them. They could. I even called a magazine to whom I'd sent a check and asked them if they could hold it. They couldn't but I tried;
  • I called my bank; and
  • I transferred funds from other savings accounts to cover myself in the meantime.
I could do all of this because I both knew the checks I had sent and knew where to find their information. Being organized is a godsend in this situation.

I was persistent.
Persistence doesn't just pay off in querying. In a situation like this, willingness to keep showing up for the next piece of bureaucratic monitoring--calling the bank, checking to see when the reissued check would arrive, calling the bank again, visiting the bank--meant the issue got resolved. I did what I could. Then I used my serenity practices to try to let go of the rest.

I exercised.
Even though I was emotionally wrought and just wanted to sleep, I forced myself to keep up my writing, meditating and exercise regimens because I knew they'd help me recover faster. And they did. The writing and exercise helped me express my feelings in constructive ways. The meditating soothed my very frayed nerves. I even added one more meditation practice onto my week for extra care.

I prayed.
I know it sounds hokey (again), but I know in these times to be a self-employed person takes faith. My faith has been shaken by this situation, but I tried to bolster it by practicing gratitude. In my morning writing, after writing about my anger, I focused on the good things I had instead of the things I lacked, and thanked god for them.


The result is that my account is flush again, thanks to quick action by my client and my own advocacy with my bank. I also stayed on track with my other clients, kept querying for more work, completed the last blog challenge and continued to meet with friends. I didn't do any of this perfectly, of course, and I definitely felt the need for more sleep. My nerves are still a little shot and I need a day off. But it could have been worse, and I could be feeling much worse now--still resentful, self-righteous and completely distracted from what my clients need from me.

And the best part is that I could see how much support I really have, how strong I've become and learned how much i really know about managing my business.

How do you cope with economic crises?

Photo by zieak.

1 comment:

Lisa Bakewell said...

I don't think that praying sounds "hokey" at all. I do it on a daily basis. Truthfully, if I didn't pray and believe I was being heard, I'd probably feel hopeless.