2020: A Rear View Perspective

Greetings everyone,

Goodness, well we all made it, and here we are at Christmas 2020. 

This newsletter will be a greeting to you all of the thanks, of my reflections and positive vibes for moving forward. 

One of my absolute favourite Christmas stories is The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. This line, by the conductor, speaks to me now:

“Seeing is believing, but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we can’t see.” 

As this tumultuous year comes to an end, and the most popular news events have been nothing short of gloom and doom or absolute political chaos, I would like to look forward and put into perspective the “things we cannot see” that have taught and brought so much.

I feel there’s benefit in doing both – some celebratory notes and some candid self talk. In my opinion, it helps us honor what we accomplished, what we are capable of, what we learned and where we can move towards down the way.

Firstly, I would like to express my sincere, heartfelt thank you to all of you who have been loyal constants in my life, some of you have checked in on me regularly and I cannot express the gratitude I feel for that. Others who work with me, well let’s just say that we missed our in person appointments and found ways to get together, in person, safely. These coffee dates, outside, even in very cold weather or chats in driveways, were like a breath of fresh spring, sea air for me. I am truly and forever thankful for those times and for those women. Something I would not have envisioned.

To my clients, who in March, said YES to trying my ‘pivot’ to online wardrobe, shopping and editing services, you are my inspiration, my accountability partners and for whom I am most grateful. Your trust in me is what I have aspired to accomplish in my business, it is priceless really, and the reward was your YES. And the icing on the cake was the wonderful feedback, including those more tech savvy than I who offered slick tips to make the appointments even smoother. You taught me so much. Thank YOU.

I didn’t, never, would have seen this coming. I wasn’t prepared. I was nervous.  I couldn’t possibly duplicate the services online I had come to perfect, surely I would fail.  I was certain my retirement was imminent. When I suggested to my husband that this was perhaps a natural end to my career as an image consultant, he suggested I call ten of my longest, treasured clients. I only had to call three before I was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. 

“Seeing is believing but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we cannot see.”

With providing my services in a remote way came my being able to fulfill my clients wardrobe needs from a far. This scared me more than the tech stuff because the beauty and ease of ‘in person’ is the ability to touch, see and make adjustments to garments as they are tried on. The real work began. Phone calls, hunting people down, asking the right questions, ordering from new brands to test the waters for myself first, creating solutions that would work for my trusting clients took time and real, candid conversations. Most were on board, a couple didn’t see my business as meaningful I guess and that was fine. Not everyone is for everyone.My pivot to smaller out of town Canadian shops, designers was the most revealing and biggest gift of all. How were there so many small, organic, environmentally friendly, fashion forward boutique businesses that I had never heard of? I was too busy. Comfort had become my norm. Doing what I did well. But this was Invigorating. Meaningful. Exciting. And I’m never going back to comfortable.

“Seeing is believing but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we cannot see.”

Since moving south to the lake walking has become part of my everyday ritual, except the two times where slight injuries prevented that, it has been my sanctuary, my journaling if you will, my meditation. Thank goodness that had been established before the pandemic hit.I have a bench that I love to reflect from. It was falling apart. Weathered. Well used. Comfortable. Safe. We seemed to understand each other. Physical perfection wasn’t necessary. For either of us. Weathered had a homey feel. The real thing. We matched somedays. And it is perfect. 

Before these walks and stops had become a life line for me, I had never run my fingers over the boards before. Never noticed that all of the bolts were mismatched. I had never really ’seen’ the bench. It was just there. Serving me.I love that bench. And asked my husband to fix it. Someone beat us to it. The bench, you see, is important. I will never not see it again.

I have a rock, on the beach that has provided a reassuring spot, so many times, offering so much calm during the storm that the pandemic had washed up.

The rock had always been there but I hurriedly would walk by hardly giving it a notice, rushing to get to where I was going to rush back to what ever I was doing. I wasn’t paying attention.

“Seeing is believing but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we cannot see.”

For me, when shops closed and the services I had become accustomed to were unavailable, at first I shuddered, what would I do? How can I do online work and have unpainted nails? I mean I can do one hand but ambidextrous I am not. Other aesthetic services like hair and eyebrow maintenance that were a regular almost robotic habit – gone. Unavailable.

Embrace it I told myself. Until I started not liking the grey that framed my face, then covered my crown. My eyebrows that put me right along side of Eugene Levy. And my best shades of lipstick – out of stock when reordering. UGH.

What happened? Those service providers & my friend went on the hunt for me finding the right products that would help me maintain my image and ultimately my confidence. Because we all know how that lags when you don’t feel good about how you look, regardless of what others tell you.

Thanks Maria, Lindsey, Allison.

In the end, these easy fixes became my new normal. I felt so much better. These three women more endeared to me than ever before. They went beyond, as so many others have and I am sure this applies to you in your life. 

In my daily outing of going to pick up a cortado, I see the strain on the faces of those working, I see the worry, the diligent way they are working to keep everyone safe. I am grateful I wasn’t too busy to notice. Because I just may have been before now. 

I wear my hair up. (There was really no choice) What happened? Many people told me I looked younger, they loved the perkiness of it. I should do this more often. Wear earrings.

“Seeing is believing but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we cannot see.”

Something else that became very clear to me was that although having a manicure and pedicure started out being a luxury, something I did to relax, that too had become part of my crazy, rushed life fitting it in between appointments sourcing for clients or doing errands while in the city. They had stopped being enjoyable and had been part of my false sense of what I had to do. Does it bother me to not have pretty colored perfect nails? Sometimes. Is it something I will resume doing when the time feels right for me? No. Special occasions yes. But I had taken advantage of this experience by taking it for granted.  I wasn’t appreciative.

And I love the feeling of less pressure albeit self imposed. I feel liberated. In the end the impact on what I do and how I do it has not changed. Now I see that. 

I am filling my time with meaningful things. Conversations, projects, hobbies that would never have happened because I didn’t have time. I did, you see. I just didn’t take the time.

“Seeing is believing but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we cannot see.”

Those of you who are on Facebook and YouTube know I produce a weekly Tip Video. These too were becoming very challenging for me. I started to doubt that there was anything I could share that would matter during these uncertain times. Time for another self tune up. 

I reached out. Asked others for input. The result? More fantastic topics. More views. The need for a Virtual Assistant to help me through. Godsend. The creation of a YouTube channel!  All because I asked for input. And I listened.

I have always believed in asking for help, never viewed it as a sign of weakness. But in this case, it served as a reminder and example for others. A true coming together, a sign of having and valuing community. People I hardly knew offered suggestions, again reminding me that people always want to help. We need to remember that once life speeds along in the future.

“Seeing is believing but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we cannot see.”

Getting away was always something I thought I shouldn’t do. Getting away to somewhere new that is. Somehow my sense of adventure had evaporated. I was busy. I was working. There were clients to see. Programs to come up with. Many reasons, most of them unfounded. Rutted. Why go somewhere new when where we’d always gone was just fine?

And then, in early fall, as tension built and moods plummeted  I knew we needed a change of scene. Limited in where we could travel to, my daughter found the perfect spot- a quaint place about 2 hours away. The replenishing benefits of those 3 days away is hard to describe. The weather, pouring rain and howling winds didn’t take away the joy that it would have pre-pandemic.

We toured outside in the wet, gale winds, laughing like little kids, tucked into corners of abandoned patios eating yummy food that biz owners were only to happy to provide, finding places to explore and just being, doing absolutely nothing but doing everything we needed. 

Best getaway ever. No turning back now. Time will tell but I am committed to saying YES more, a lot more. When we can do so safely. The most basic of things work for me. Always have. Simple is better. How had I forgotten?

“Seeing is believing but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we cannot see.”

So what am I celebrating?

Wearing a skirt, often, because I love to.

The fact that I can do whatever it is I need to do – not always alone, in fact better when not.  

New friendships that are mutually equally fulfilling, not one sided.

The creation of open virtual coffee chats that could have been for not but that ended up being a life line for some.

New programs that brought women together and that it mattered that I forged on when I wasn’t sure.

Collaborating with new connections.

The intense beauty and minute details of nature that are replenishing and that need our attention to survive: they need a voice.

A renewed sense of adventure and resolve to just do it.

New ways of doing things almost everything and realizing none of it is a big deal.

Pristine care for my mom who is all alone  & far away.

Being able to be part of new communities near and far.

The fragility of family and how important it is to make healthy choices in practices, diet and well being.

The gift of my clients who trust me and have stayed true along this journey.

New businesses to support and help survive so they can thrive.

What will I leave behind?

Everything that lacks excited anticipation regardless how small or grand.

Those who don’t share my values. 

Not being attentive. In every area of my life, not just work life. Everywhere. Everyone. I will do better.

This time has been difficult, eye opening, a welcomed halt to busy, scary, challenging, joyful, insightful, telling, lonely, rebirth.

And it’s not over.

However the lessons are here for us every day. Some hard to swallow, others confimring what we already suspected. But that now are crystal clear like a trickiling baby stream, high on the mountain top. Seeing right to the bottom and more, our reflection staring back.

Is it smiling? Is it a frown? We have the choice.

Our family, like many of you, has suffered many losses through these past 10 months. Some still waiting to be put to rest. Being sequestered from family, especially small ones, is trying, sometimes I get frustrated, tempted to just break the rules, brought to tears from longing to hug my mom & imagining the worst… but then I give myself a tune up. Another one. There are so many terrible situations far worse than my own, I am not alone in losing or missing someone. Reminding myself that this is far bigger than myself is important. This is where friends come in. Some unlikely, born out of sameness and here for the long haul. We talk it through. Feel better.

Brenda Kinsel
Treasured Friend

And we marvel at how the pandemic has brought us beautiful gifts like new and treasured friends, strength we didn’t know we had, challenges overcome that we never imagined. And a new, deeper respect for first responders, health care providers and those who care for the elderly. 

“Seeing is believing but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we cannot see.”

My holiday wish for you is that you STOP what you’re doing, reading this even, and take ONE minute to think about something you are proud of, anything,  (not including your children).

My wish for you is that you look for the value you offer the world. I know it’s in there. Write it down, go ahead, do it. Say it out loud.

My wish for you is that you think hard about the things that you’ve learned about yourself these past months-and larn from it.

My wish for you is that you reach out. Take an online art class, call a friend, ask for help.

My wish for you is to think about what you need to move away from  in order to find some or more happy. Maybe you’ve already done that.

My wish for you is to start believing you are worth it. Take some you time. Baby steps.

My wish for you is to honor yourself by dressing up, making an effort for NO reason. Use your clothes to showcase you. Go on, it’s fun! What are you waiting for?

My wish for you is that you see that when you take a teeny tiny bit of anything for yourself (not cake) you will feel better, more visible, more refreshed, more alive. You will start to see your potential. That’s only the beginning!

I always choked up when reading The Polar Express aloud to students from ages 4 to 14.  Then to my own daughters as time went on. Oddly enough, no one ever giggled. They paid attention when I shared the boy’s words:

“At one time most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah (my sister) found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”

This year especially as I put this bell, from my youth in the late ’50s, on our tree, I could not hold back the tears. And I didn’t worry about the why.

Maybe believing is what causes us to be vulnerable, get hurt, feel disappointment. 

But believing keeps us alive.

And this too shall pass.

And we will. mostly, be better for the time away from it all.

‘Seeing is believing but sometimes the most real things in the world are the things we cannot see.”


Merry Christmas!

3 Responses

  1. Such an awesome sharing so honest and from the heart….I valued the time to reflect and take in your wise words, instead of rushing to finish up one more thing that had been on the backburner this fall. Thank you so much for being YOU!! I know why your clients love you so, as do I!! Catherine

  2. Hi! This was the first time I read your blog Sue, it was very deep and moving I enjoyed it so very much! Great job, so brutally true and honest for many of us, well done. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Hoping for a better 2021! Cheers ❤️