Of Toilet Brushes and Keys

 

As an entrepreneur in between, I have had to get creative to find ways to earn a living and to support myself and my 13 year old daughter.

Among the abundant options available for earning, in addition to applying for a multitude of job-jobs, I decided to attempt to rejuvenate my former voiceover career.

I got some coaching, built a little studio in a closet and began landing gigs doing TV and radio commercials and narrations for videos. There was even a series of audiobooks – thrillers, set in San Francisco, Paris and Las Vegas (coming soon).

With my now new type (i.e. gray haired 50-something versus the young mom/attorney/doctor I used to portray) I began booking print and on-camera jobs. My first big job was for AARP!!!  Then there were the "hip grandma" roles - both humbling and fun experiences. I happily got paid to stand-up-paddleboard, hike and bike in Sonoma County for days. There are certainly worse gigs.

As someone who had built a successful design and manufacturing business, people began to hire me to consult start-up fashion entrepreneurs. I built a consulting website, gathered momentum with clients, received more referrals and assisted a number of designers in launching their businesses or in getting over hurdles that previously had them stymied.

When a well-established interior designer/stager walked into my rented home to prepare it for sale, he was so impressed with what I had created that he offered me a contract job working for his own company. He handed me a project with a complete tear-down/renovation of a kitchen and bath and the subsequent staging of the entire home that needed to be completed in six weeks. I had never, ever, worked on this level. It was an extremely steep learning curve, but I pulled it off.

That led to the renovation of two other spaces including staging. Although the budgets were modest, they ended up as lovely finished products.

I began managing the property where I now live. This turned into an Airbnb management job for two separate apartments on an ongoing basis. (here and here - in case you'd like to stay!)

More and more interior design gigs were followed by a job hand-painting acoustic panels for a custom recording studio.

I took a retail job at a furniture store.

I designed and built websites for a pet business owner, a psychotherapist, and a 30-year-old manufacturing business.

Unfortunately, all of this was not sustainable in terms of generating enough income to support myself and my daughter. Paying rent became challenging and I fell behind – way behind. Buying groceries, at times, required returning items to the shelves because I didn't have enough money to pay for everything. I had many lunches with friends where I ordered a tea or a mocha because I couldn't afford a meal where we were eating.

I sold my favorite Rag and Bone boots on consignment for a very sad amount to buy necessities. My ex-wife bought a lamp and a computer monitor so that I could generate money for gas and food for a weekend getaway to a friend’s house in Big Sur.

Because of my commitment to never use credit cards, fortunately, I never incurred credit card debt. But I did have an IRS debt from previous years – a five figure IRS debt.

Life was varied and exciting, but also unbelievably stressful and sad because I simply could not survive on what I was earning. Forget about thriving.

Some things bring you to your knees – and this was one of them.

I finally became willing - and humble enough - to go to any lengths to support myself and my daughter. I got willing to do what felt - to me - like the ultimate humiliation: cleaning other people’s homes. I feel embarrassed by my judgment and lack of humility today, but this was my truth.

Hell, I wasn't even willing to clean my own home. I did it so infrequently and with such resentment that it would take three days to clean my modest 900 square-foot space.

But I needed this – on several levels. I needed to become truly humble.

I needed to go to any lengths to be willing to pay my bills and I needed the vision and appreciation that comes from working with and for other human beings.

In doing this work, I was given an invitation to enter peoples lives on a very intimate level. It required me to handle the things that they hold dear with care and attention. It was an invitation to honor their human-ness, like my own; their vulnerability, like my own. This was intimacy that could only come from an exposure to all of the inner workings of someone's life as expressed by the things that they surround themselves with, where they live.

I am truly humbled. And not humiliated – as I imagined I would have been.

Subsequent to all of this, I recognized that I had been punishing myself, depriving myself of my own basic needs in an effort to somehow prove to myself how bad I was, how unworthy I was – unworthy of love and care. Forget about manifesting abundance! I couldn't go to the doctor or dentist, buy new sheets or get my shoes repaired.

And it was from this place – on my knees – both in prayer, and in scrubbing other people's toilets, that things begin to shift.

Money was a version of love in my home growing up. Buying things was a way of providing comfort and of quelling anxiety. Money was withheld as a means of showing disapproval and punishment.

When I recognized that I had been withholding this love and depriving myself as punishment, I finally held the key in my hand. This was the key to the door of possibility; the door that allowed Grace and abundance to flow - to me and through me.

I had been unconsciously refusing to allow myself to receive because I had believed myself unworthy.

And so with forgiveness, and with this newfound key and one hand, and a toilet brush in the other, I walked through the door, the gate, to a place that feels entirely new.



It was on a five hour hike to the top of the Chilnualna Falls in Yosemite, that I surrendered the bat that I was beating myself over the head with. I meditated and wrote and cried. I knew that I was finished punishing myself and I let it go, into the powerful, rushing stream that fell below me.

Life feels very different today. I'm immensely grateful for this journey. "Wouldn't take nothing for [it] now" as Maya says. And through it, I have been given the very best of all gifts - Grace and humility. May I never lose them.

 

Sharon Eisenhauer