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How A Night For Green Beauty was almost ruined…by me.

August 17, 2015

Setting up with Z.

Setting up with Z.

Since returning to Montreal from A Night For Green Beauty in Chicago, 2 weeks ago now, my head has been a literal swarm of ideas and excitement. To say the event inspired and energized me is an understatement (I’m revealing today, via newsletter, what my first new project is..it’s really exciting!!). To say that I fell even more in love with this industry, my craft, my customers and followers, and my friends & colleagues (what other industries would call “the competition”) is an understatement as well.
I came away from the event feeling like I understand my place in the world a bit better, that I have a gift to share with others, and that I have so much more to learn and to teach. I feel more confident and I feel extra proud of what I’ve built so far. It’s a fantastic feeling. Its a feeling I desperately needed.

But before I got to hit this juicy stride I had to fall a few times. Because, life.

After writing the content for 21 Days and launching it, and preparing for ANFGB as well as launching EV, this summer had me feeling burnt out. Recall that at this moment, I’m doing Stark solo. I don’t even have a production assistant anymore, so it’s been a little overwhelming. (Also, my son is only in daycare 2 days a week which means I can’t work part time…so when I do work? It’s all productive work, all the time.) I haven’t even gone back home to visit my parents since April, and I kept running into “Upper Limit Problems” (Familiar with the term? No? Read this book.) which to me translates into catching colds and hurting my back….three times each this summer.

My self-sabotage game was strong for the past couple of weeks, leading up to the event that I was both terrifically excited about and terribly afraid of. It was all comically in full effect just days before A Night For Green Beauty, which had me bouncing up and down with excitement, and sobbing into my hands in defeat. Stuff was going wrong, people. There was something in me that was trying to ruin the event for me…make it so that I couldn’t show up, or that I would make a total ass of myself. Go ahead, psychoanalyze this all you like. Some part of me didn’t want this to go well.

But let’s back up for a second. Now that the event has passed and was absolutely wonderful, I can talk about the inner torment I went through prior to it (and, most importantly, how I actually got through it).

For months, I obsessed over really odd details about the event. Stuff that REALLY didn’t matter, and although I knew it was one of my classic forms of distraction, I let it take over my mind anyhow. Not that I had time to be distracted, considering the projects I was trying to undertake, but that seemed to be a moot point to the side of me that is anxious and obsessed with obscenely minute details. I obsessed literally for months about how I’d wear my hair and whether I’d do a good job with my eyebrows and what to wear. (All of which I decided exactly one hour before actually arriving at the venue…and I didn’t even end up finishing my hair style!) I’m normally such a simple and casual person that I don’t get so worked up about these things, (as long as my skin looks good, then I’m good to go!) but for months before the event, I thought about the last-minute-finishing-touch details that would make ZERO difference in the end. I focused on these things because anything else made me want to cry with overwhelm. I couldn’t even do a run-through of what my set-up would look like because that would feel too real. It didn’t make much sense, and it didn’t make me feel very professional. What business person can’t handle what will surely be just a really fun party with a bunch of awesome, like-minded people?

But I was nervous about the event. Really nervous. Excited, too, but that excitement infused with the nervous and became the too-familar alchemy in my body that just feels like anxiety. A feeling that, as I get a little older, I am all too familiar with.

I love my work and so proud of what I have built, but I was so uncertain about what  this event would feel like to me. What would it be like to meet, in person, both the brands that I have looked up to since day 1, as well as the brands that I have befriended online? What if the former scared the bejesus out of me and the latter didn’t actually like me? What if I said something really stupid, or forgot words, or cracked really bad jokes? What if all the bloggers, both new and old friends, ignored me? What if nobody wanted to be my friend? What if I wasn’t pretty enough? Thin enough? Successful enough? Smart enough?

Had I reverted back to being an incredibly insecure 13 year old? Indeed, I had. My feelings were embarrassing, as a 33 year old mother and business owner, but they were real. Shockingly, sickeningly so.

The start of my trip to Chicago had me on a tiny aircraft, clutching my head in pain as tears rolled down my face. I have always had a fairly sensitive Eustachian tube (my ears pop going up elevators in pretty regular sky-scrapers, diving just a few feet down or even during summer thunderstorms) so I normally am one of those weirdos trying to yawn and swallow constantly during takeoff and landing, but this was ridiculous. I was crying in pain while trying to delicately blow my nose and not have my head explode all over the fuselage. I actually asked my husband, too loudly as I was sure I was going deaf, to let me know when and if blood shot out of my ears (I mean, I’m a kind Canadian and didn’t want to inconvenience anybody by having my brain all over their business suit.) I was just starting to catch a cold because I hadn’t been sleeping well or taking care of my early symptoms over the few days before leaving Montreal. I knew I couldn’t afford a cold during the event, but basically let it happen anyhow.

We finally landed in Toronto, ears intact, my toddler and husband happy, we were about to meet my best friend at the airport and there were free almonds and decaf lattes in the lounge, so I was feeling a bit better. I mean, free almonds! Mara! What a great start to the week!

But during our short layover, a call to my broker confirmed my worst of fears: my Fedex Express box, which contained everything I needed to sell/showcase in Chicago, wasn’t going to make it on time. The FDA had flagged it for inspection! (Thanks FDA, for picking on the little guy, once again.) My broker, who I had never heard swear before, said to me “Jess, the situation with this package just went from ‘Oh shit’ to ‘oh fuck’.” Oh fuck, indeed.

I drank a full glass of wine on the hour and a half trip from Toronto to Chicago, which is pretty much as wild as I get these days. (Younger me is rolling her eyes at this very tame, older version of myself.) My son was the screaming kid on the plane. I just closed my eyes and pretended we weren’t related because I just couldn’t deal with anything in that moment. No box. Bleeding ears. Losing my voice. Everybody hates me. I can’t remember what any ingredient does, in any skincare product, ever. What’s my name? Spinach probably stuck in my teeth. Exploding head. Can’t show up if I’ve got no head!

{Hold on, things will get really annoyingly negative before I reveal once again the exquisite jewel that hid amongst all this.}

On the thoughts went…but my husband and best friend were really good at keeping me together. Letting me feel my feelings, but also reminding me that maybe, just maybe, it will all be ok.

Then, we landed and arrived at our Air BnB apartment. It was awful…and not wanting to soak in the musty basement air or spend 10 minutes more in the scary freaking neighborhood we were in, we grabbed an Uber and went downtown. We went for a delightful (but unaffordable due to weak Canadian dollar) dinner at some chichi and delicious Mexican comfort food place, my son got soaking wet in a fountain and was pantless and having a tantrum in downtown Chicago (!!!!) and I (somehow!) promptly lost my phone, never to be seen again. All the while, this hot, rumbling cough was settling deep into my chest. I felt like molten lava was filling my lungs, and my ears had still not cleared from the plane. And all my wares were still stuck in customs. Everything, to me, added up to being sure that I was not meant to show up at this event. That I wasn’t meant to be there. That I wasn’t even wanted.

There was 1 full day until the event.

Before going to bed, I cried in my husband’s arms. I felt like garbage and I didn’t know if I would have ANYTHING to put on my table for the event. All I had with me was one each full-sized product of my line, but nothing to sell and no samples to hand out. This wouldn’t go well, I felt. And I lost my phone! Such a dummy! My husband reminded me that I could just use his phone and link up all my social media accounts at least, that we could always ship product to people’s homes from our iPad, and that if I really didn’t want to go to ANFGB, I didn’t have to. Nobody would make me. I stopped my bawling. Not go?! There was NO QUESTION that I would show up! I HAD to be there, I’m STARK dammit!! I knew that not showing up would really disappoint some people, and it would be something I’d truly regret. The thought that I really did have the choice, to go or not to go, pulled me together and we went to bed. I choose to do this. Fuck my fear and insecurities. Fuck this cough and plugged ears. I’ll go if I lose my voice and become half deaf overnight, if I need to! I’ll go in my PJs if I have to! I remembered the Cognitive Behavioural gem that I love, the acronym for FEAR for people who suffer anxiety: Face Everything and Recover.

I didn’t sleep well that night, but woke up with a bizarre sense of calm. Maybe it was exhaustion, but I felt good knowing the wait was almost over. This was it. The day before, and not much I could do to change a thing at this point. I was determined to take care of this cough that was making my friend and family look at me with equal parts pity and disgust (it really did sound absolutely disgusting). I had, overnight, become a fountain of phlegm and needed to get it all out in 24 hours. (TMI, I know, but hey! This is my story!) I checked my email and it still wasn’t looking so good for The Box. Still MIA with the FDA.

We showered and dressed and decided to explore Chicago by foot. We hopped the L train and rode a few stops to the West Loop, where Venue One is located. We decided to check out the neighbourhood and to devise a plan. The what-if-we-have-no-box-by-tomorrow plan. We found a Wholefoods and surprisingly that was all I needed at that moment to just want to move on. If we had no box, then I would have a table of flowers and edible ingredients. Done. I couldn’t think any more about it…plus, maybe The Box would arrive.

I wanted to load up on vitamins, get some cough syrup and find a Starbucks or something for some kind of sugary iced tea concoction. I needed to take my head out of my negative, exhausted, anxious (not to mention phlegmy) spiral and enjoy Chicago. Until the afternoon, we just strolled around, my beautiful entourage and I, played in Millenium Park, Mara and I laughed maniacally at the faux copywriting we were devising together (as we’re both copywriters, it’s a fun game for us, the absolutely ridiculous shit we come up with.) We were happy, enjoying a new-to-us city, together and actually having fun!

Finally, around 4 or so we got the email: our box had cleared and was ready for pickup! HALLELUJAH!

Because my worst-case-scenario was no longer the case, all I had was this: a scenario. A manageable, bite-sized scenario. I’m going to this thing I’m anxious about. That’s all it is. No crisis. Hey, I bet I’m not the only one feeling a little more than butterflies. Posting about my box situation on Instagram even made me realize that I wasn’t the only one with that particular shipping issue! This was a real forehead-smacking moment (do people still say face-palm?). Umm, yeah Jess. You’re not the only one who the shipping gods sometimes unfavour.  You’re not the only one who feels under the weather, nervous, excited, uncertain, shy and all the rest of the feelings. This made me realize that I really am getting out of touch with The Peoples. It’s a hazard of running an online business…you can get really out of touch with what it’s like to interact 1/1 with humanoids. So, the big night rolled around. I was fairly well rested, and feeling a little healthier than the day before. A Night for Green Beauty happened! It was real! And it wasn’t a disaster…AT ALL. In fact, it was nothing but absolutely wonderful. Of course, everyone was really nice. Helped that the very first person I met there was Sarita from Edible Facial, and we greeted one another with a giant hug.

Then, one by one I began to meet colleagues and bloggers alike. Women (mostly) that I’ve known for years via email and other means of long-distance communication (Instagram, Twitter,phone, morse code, the like.) And would you know it? I had a great time. And yeah, I lost my voice a few times. I had a coughing fit or two. And I stumbled on words or forgot what a particular ingredient did specifically for skin just as I was trying to explain something. Wasn’t really a big deal, actually. Because there I was. And there you were. And for one night, together, we celebrated what was important to us, and that’s Green Beauty and the absolutely incomparable community that we’ve built together.


A photo posted by Jessica Lafleur (@starkskincare) on