The OMHG Community & I Need Your Help

Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, Oh My Handmade

 Jean Vanier, Community & Growth 

Lovely friends, I almost wish I was just announcing a new theme with my same exuberance for a fresh month of adventuring with you-at the same time I’m anxiously excited to share some changes for OMHG and I. Today I was supposed to be teaching about community at the Artful Business Conference but had to withdraw because of some major turbulence in my life. I am thankful to so many people but especially to the incredible Lela Barker of Lucky Break Consulting who took my place at ABC when I couldn’t pull it together. Instead of teaching about connection I am asking for your help getting creative with our community so that we can keep going strong and I can get my strength back too…

I’ve been away from the computer a lot this summer after a really hard time over the Spring/Summer. My mother has been mentally ill on and off for much of my life but the last year has been inexpressibly difficult for all of us as she headed into an ever darker place. To cope I retreated into myself and let so many of the balls I’ve been juggling fall while I tried to keep things together internally. Mental illness and suicide are painful to talk about but September is not only Suicide Prevention Month it also marks 19 years since my dearest aunt took her own life. Her choice started a chain reaction that has been ricocheting through my family ever since, leading to my Nana also taking her own life when I was 16. So when my mother began threatening to do the same it left me completely shattered and I’m still piecing things together.

I’ve struggled with how much is healthy to share publicly with OMHG but have been talking openly in the forums about how difficult things have been. Not being honest feels like shaming myself into keeping quiet yet it is so scary to talk publicly about our deepest pain. Our little family had hoped that August would provide a break and calm patch to catch our breath, get back to myself and toss all my business balls in the air again for September. Though the postcards from camp have been lovely our August has been a whirlwind and I am still breathless. Chris’s dad had a heart attack, Ila got lice at her day camp TWICE, Sela broke the tip of her little finger at school…you know, life. At this point I jump anxiously every time the phone rings! I’m still muddling through how things can go from best-they’ve-ever-been + feeling like everything is unfolding brilliantly to struggling just to get through the day and parent with grace…but that is where I am and trying to pretend otherwise just feels wrong. One thing this time has taught me is that our businesses are directly tied to our confidence and internal stability, the moment I started doubting myself and value OMHG started to stutter-which only reinforces feeling not-awesome.

Mental illness is something many of us struggle to understand and navigate, I know I am not alone in this and pretending the pain doesn’t exist isn’t the answer. I truly believe community is what can help us heal by creating a welcoming place to share stories and solutions, but most importantly by letting us work together so no one person needs to carry everything alone. Being part of a community should mean we don’t have to withdraw into ourselves and maintain some professional front while we are hurting or changing.  Over this summer I have spent more time then ever talking one on one with friends I have made here-every conversation brings home to me that it truly takes a loving village to run a healthy business. Our community has brought so much goodness to my life and connected so many other people, I want it to be stable regardless of how I am doing. Instead of continuing to feel like I am failing it because I am less “myself” I’m trying to chart my way forward by asking you all to help me find equilibrium again and make our community even stronger at the same time. The biggest problem with entrepreneurship is that everything comes grinding to a halt if we are sick or in crisis-but I hope we can prove together it doesn’t have to be this way!

I can’t continue to be a functional parent/person + run & participate in this amazing community + do client projects all by myself. I want to be that person again soooo bad but I’m not there. I need to take time for myself & our family + make sure the community I love is sustainable. Since life went topsy-turvy, everything has slowed down while I focused my limited resources on staying afloat and put my little bit of work time into our member forums and client work to pay our mortgage. The forums are vibrant and full of support, ideas and collaboration- because of this many recent submissions have come from our readers and members. My first step is to streamline OMHG and ask for help by moving our operations into the forums, writing new clear guidelines, charting our themes for a year and opening contributing to OMHG up to everyone who wants to participate.

From now on I will be publishing our themes for one year in advance in the member forums and publicly on our submission page with monthly deadlines and post ideas. If you submit four posts a year to OMHG that are chosen for publication you will receive access to our member and contributor forums, a contributor profile, and the ability to submit your posts from the contributor dashboard. We will use our forums to plan themes, brainstorm, and collaborate on posts together to make OMHG more collaborative then ever!

I am also opening up submissions for pitches of 4-12 article series on topics important to our community or that teach techniques + skills. My goal is to have OMHG operate more like a community driven magazine with monthly content planned out and submitted well in advance. I hope to see us continue to use the beautiful website Aeolidia created the way we do our #OMHG chats and forums-as a gathering place to make new friends and business connections, talk out our questions, share ideas, and teach each other as we go. To make our forums accessible to all and gauge the value our members attach to the space our community forums are now a pay-what-you can structure with $7, $10, $15 or $20 monthly memberships.

To make time in my life for these changes I have pulled out of any extra projects, speaking, or travel plans for a year. Oh but that hurt! It is such an honour and privilege to be asked to speak anywhere and I’m still totally amazed at the fact that these opportunities keep arriving but right now I am in no place to be teaching or travelling.  Next year when Sela goes off to school and my days are mine for the first time in 10 years I will re-evaluate. Now I need to focus on building a stable happy home life for myself and family + a solid structure for OMHG before I do any traipsing. My new passport is going to have to wait for stamps though I so very much want to meet and visit more OMHG friends. People you just have to start visiting me in storybook village land! Consider this a standing invitation to my little pink Canadian house 🙂

For all of you who have experienced or are struggling with mental illness-either your own or someone you love, know that you don’t have to deal with your pain alone. If you don’t have close family, reach out to peers, professionals, and even perfect strangers for help. Tell your story until you find someone who you feel hears and supports you. Keep looking for a community that welcomes you until you find it.  Don’t give in to the darkness or sadness or bury your truth under pretending to be okay-you have worth, you are valued, you are loved for who you are. I want to thank every friend who has reminded me of that truth this summer, your words have been an anchor for me when I felt totally adrift. I hope to be back to my cheerful Ms. Handmade Goodness self soon but I am so grateful for the chance to build a community and a business that calls for honesty but never demands perfection.

If you want to be a part of helping OMHG and I get on our feet while building a community that steps up for each other when we need it most, contribute to a theme, pitch a series, and/or become a member of our community. For September our theme is Creative Communities and I invite you all to join in by writing and submitting a post to OMHG that takes us on a tour of a creative space or place in your neighbourhood. Get details and post ideas +  all the upcoming themes until August 2014 right here!  During this transition things might be slower around here or we might have more posts that ask questions that we chat about in the comments. I also might not be as accessible online but you’ll find me in the forums, puttering in my house and in my heart, and visiting every Thursday at #OMHG.

Please share your stories, truths, insight, thoughts or suggestions in the comments-I might not be able to reply to them right away but I promise that this is a safe place to share and that I’ll read every one!