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How a Pandemic and Chronic Pain Changed a Year in My Life

Isn't it easy to get stuck in a rut or a routine? Life is swirling and moving around us, and we remain stagnant in our days. Life is dynamic, but it is so easy to become static. Sometimes we get stuck, and it takes a major change that we didn't foresee happening to get us to change our routine.

Several major changes have happened to me this year. I want to share my story with you. I hope there are some nuggets of wisdom you can glean from part of a year in my life. Some changes I made this year were changes I made, but others were unforeseen.

Here's my list of life changes this year:

  1. I injured my lower back at the gym in February 2021, and I have been walking around with constant pain ever since.

  2. I launched a new business in May 2021 called The Rare Plant Haus.

  3. I left my corporate job in August 2021.

  4. I launched my coaching business in September 2021.

  5. I started Gig working on platforms like Instacart and DoorDash.

My life has been a roller coaster, starting with the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The pandemic, for me, has extended into 2021, and has waxed and waned.

My life looks so different now than it did a year ago. A year ago, I was afraid to leave my house because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I had become a plant parent to orchids, but nothing like the collection of plants I have now for my business. I was working at a corporate job that required an intense amount of focus and attention to detail, and focusing for long periods of time caused me a lot of anxiety. I only had one job. I barely left my house, and when I did it was only to go to the gym to work out for long periods of time to help ease my anxiety. I used the Instacart app to order my groceries because I was afraid to go to the grocery store.

I felt comfortable going back to the gym in September 2020. I injured myself at the gym in February 2021. from working out way too much and way too hard, which, in the past, has been my go to way to deal with any kind of anxiety I felt. I would still be at the gym doing the same thing to myself had I not injured myself. Here was my process: I'd go to the gym and work out my frustrations and anxiety of whatever was going in my life on my body. I would spend 2-3 hours at the gym doing heavy weights, some cardio and a lot of stretching after the workout so I wouldn't be stiff and sore the next day. I find lifting weights to be very calming and meditative because I'm doing the same action over and over again, and I've found it really helps me focus in the moment of the lift and the moments in between sets. The pattern of working out for hours on end is something I've struggled with since my freshman year at college. I had severe separation anxiety from learning to live on my own and being away from my former life. I was taking lots of dance classes, walking around campus more than I ever had, and I would go to the gym and work out in addition to all of the other activity I had going on. I lost a lot of weight-I lost way more than the freshman 15. From college to present, eating disorders (exercise bulimia, in my case) has been my way of coping with severe anxiety, such as the anxiety I felt during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic or the anxiety I felt living in a brand new world in college. The only difference between the start of college in 1999 and the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic is that my body rejected (finally) broke down on me. I injured my lower back in February 2021 from doing too much heavy lifting and wound up with pain every time I sat down or sat for long periods of time and shooting pain down my right leg when I tried to stand up or pick up anything heavy. This was truly a life changing moment for me.

I like to be active, and I've been active since my youth between ballet and ballroom dancing, so my body was able to take the constant pounding, until it finally broke. I'd never struggled with an injury like this before - an injury that I couldn't foam roll away or stretch out the kinks. I've dealt with "mental pain" from severe anxiety and major depression, but chronic physical pain was a whole new world for me.

In a sense, I consider myself an addict. I know I have a very addictive personality. I can be really focused and intense and get completely absorbed in whatever activity I'm doing. I want to learn as much information as I can about whatever it is I'm passionate about at the time. It's who I am and how I roll. I know the general definition of an "addict" is someone addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. I'm not addicted to either of those things, and yet I still consider myself an addict - a very passionate, dedicated addict. Perfectionist is another word I'd use to describe myself. Sometimes my passion and addiction serves me well, and other times it leaves me hurting.

Dealing with the chronic pain has been terrible. It is just as crippling as any mental pain I've dealt with. I wound up stopping my trips to the gym altogether. I was afraid to go back because I associated the gym with what caused my pain even though I know that I caused myself my own pain, and the gym, itself, had nothing to do with my injury.

So, I needed something new to focus on to take my mind off of the constant, nagging pain. I put my focus and energy into my plants. I'd been taking care of a nice medium-sized orchid collection. I started to notice that spending time with my plants each week became something I enjoyed because I could stand and do it, and it helped me take my mind off of my back pain for a few hours each weekend. I started collecting Orchids during the pandemic because I enjoyed having these gorgeous plants in my home. I loved watching them grow (slowly) over time, develop flower spikes and eventually flower. The houseplant world has really grown, especially during the pandemic. I started learning about additional types of tropical plants in addition to Orchids, such as Aroids and Hoyas. If you apply my addition to exercise to the rest of my life, you might be able to guess that when I go for something I go all in, and tropical plants has been no exception. Between February 2021 and May 2021, I stared bringing in Aroids and Hoyas into my collection. These plants, unlike most orchids, are very easy to propagate to make more of, and, of course, I was and am obsessed with plant propagation. I decided to share my blessings with the rest of the world, and I applied and was granted my nursery license and grower's license through the State of Indiana, and I launched my online plant store in May 2021. About a month after I started my business, I received my first sale. I do online advertising for my shop, and in July and August, the store did very well for me for the short time it'd been open.

Pain has been running in the background the whole time, but the plants and setting up and running the store gave me something new and different to show up for everyday after work and on the weekends. There is always something to do for the store whether it is ordering more stock, keeping up with current plant trends, propagating, repotting, watering, fertilizing, maintaining the website, taking product photos, shipping plants, answering customer inquiries, and the list goes on and on. And, I love it! I love having my own business, and I love working with plants. I wouldn't have gotten into this hobby had there not been a pandemic. I probably wouldn't have launched a business had I not been dealing with back pain. I'd found something I loved in my life that I was passionate about, and that helped keep my inner fire fueled to keep pushing forward.

Remember I mentioned I had a full time corporate job? Running my own plant business turned out to be a larger time commitment than I could've ever imagined. The shop was doing well. I was very frustrated at work, and I was starting to feel exhausted from running my store and working full time for someone else. In August 2021, I chose to resign from my corporate job and figured I could run my own business full time. I figured I could always find another "job" if the need arose. I had a plan and savings in order to leave my job. (Please note--I am not advising you to quit your job, and I do not consider myself to be a part of what is known now as the Great Resignation).

In September 2021, I received a steroid shot in my lower back per a recommendation from my physical therapist. The pain had gotten better, but the therapist felt we had plated because the pain wasn't gone. I'm grateful I received the shot. It's helped me get back to some semblance of an enjoyable life where the pain isn't constantly nagging.

When I left my corporate job in August 2021, I thought I was going to throw all of my focus and new found free time into my business. And can you guess what happened? I went from lots of plant sales to one plant sale in September. There was a miscommunication with my Google Ads manager which resulted in me taking down some pages in my store of products that were sold out, and ads were pointing to those pages. This one miscommunication has cost me a lot in sales. Store traffic tanked because advertising was the primary driver of how I got people to my online store to purchase plants. This wasn't how things were supposed to go, but it's what happened, and I'm dealing with the fallout if my mistake. Since then I've had very valuable help with restructuring my website layout with professional web manager (a/k/a my husband). I'm pumped and I am getting ready for the Christmas shopping season.

So, I've been active with my store, but I have a lot more spare time on my hands while I wait for the Google Ads to kick in. I've been propagating plants and creating new inventory for myself, and I've been ordering new-to-me plants that I want to try and grow. But, I have spare time on my hands.

In my spare time, I started watching YouTube content while I was researching how to better run my own plant business. One day a very successful life coach, of whom I'd never heard of before, popped up in my YouTube feed. Life coaching wasn't something that was on my radar at all. I've been a coach and consultant in the past, and I loved working one-on-one with people, but I'd gotten away when I stopped teaching dance 10 years ago, and when I re-entered the corporate world.

To this day, I don't know why the YouTube algorithm put a life coaching video into my feed, but I'm really grateful that the video showed up and that I clicked on it. I realized that what I'd been doing ten years ago, leading ballroom dance teams and coaching people in groups and one-on-one, was a skill I had that I was very passionate about and that I'd gotten out of touch with. I kept listening to the coaches' content for one week, and I thought to myself, "You should do this. You should start your own coaching business." And that's exactly what I did. I've been very introverted, isolated and alone in the last decade. I realized how much I missed connecting with people and leading them towards their goals. Service and leadership are two powerful things I bring to the table as a coach.

Remember I mentioned being a Gig worker? Yes. I originally signed up to bring in some additional income and also for something to do while I wasn't working full time. I signed up for Instacart and DoorDash. They were easy to Gigs (gigs?) to get into, and they didn't require a full time commitment if I wasn't ready for that. I wanted to keep my schedule flexible, and that was one benefit these platforms offer. After I delivered my first Instacart grocery order, I received a message from the app congratulating me on serving my first customer. That was the basis on which I founded my coaching business--serving clients powerfully and deeply. Even if I'm delivering groceries to someone, I am serving them. I can see now that if I sell someone a plant, and they love it and get joy from it, then I've served them. If I can coach someone deeply, passionately and powerfully, then I've served them in the only way I know how.

So, as of this posting, I am continuing to run my plant business, The Rare Plant Haus. I'm working on building a clientele for my second business, Sara Dalton Coaching, serving high performing clients in business and in life. (BTW, if you would like to work with me, please schedule a call. I'd love to connect with you, dig a little deeper and work though a year in your life.) When I have free time, I love doing Instacart because it keeps me active, and it's fun and easy, and I honestly really enjoy it for the same reason I love running my two businesses - because no single day is ever predictable or the same. I'm grateful for all of these changes in my life because my life is so much more meaningful than it was before, stuck in a rut, stuck in a daily routine.

I'm grateful for you reading this post right now. Again, I would love to meet and connect with you. Feel free to schedule a call so we can get to know each other.

Peace and love,


Sara Dalton Coaching

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