Martha Stewart, Fireflies, and The Soul of Business: An Epiphany

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There’s a feeling I get, that I have always gotten throughout my life. It is the feeling of warm summer nights, running carefree and barefoot as a child. It is the feeling of dinners outside at a long table, of convivial conversations and laughter, of sneaking scraps to the dog, of fireflies and candles and twinkling lights strung up around the garden. It is the feel of hot jasmine tea on a misty day, of a huge soft towel after emerging from a hot tub. It is the feeling of solitude and quiet, the feeling of sand between my toes as the sea rolls and crashes nearby.

I have always called this feeling the “Martha Stewart” feeling. The feeling that life is good. That there is enough. There is enough money. Enough security. Enough love. Enough kindness. It is the feeling that the world is a friendly place, a safe place to relax and laugh and create, a place to share good meals with friends and family. In this feeling, there is room for a big table in the kitchen. Or a beautiful garden with matching dishes and beautiful place settings. It is the feeling of plenitude, the “Good Life”.

This feeling represents “home” to me. And yet, it has been elusive for much of my life. For a long time, I associated this feeling with family. Since I was estranged from my family for many years, I have spent much of my life with a sense that I am outside of this feeling. That the “Martha Stewart” quality is simply not available to me.

Around the time I began making gentle inroads toward healing with my parents, I owned a home. This home had a dining room, and I hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners there. For the few years we owned this home, I felt like the matriarch, able to provide the “Martha Stewart” feeling for my family. We had a big table that fit 10 people. We had matching dishes. We had convivial conversations. But I wasn’t able to keep the house, and in losing the house, I lost something far more dear to me than 4 walls. I lost the sense of pride I had in being able to provide a gathering place for friends and family. I lost my ability to provide the Martha Stewart feeling.

I associate the Martha Stewart feeling with families that were not broken. With having enough money to create the sort of life that you see in Sunset magazine. I had neither of these things, so I tried to forget about it. I tried to be grateful for what I did have, and make do with that.

I went through my life, creating a world for myself within “alternative” communities. “Chosen” family. I strove to create life on my own terms, building a career as an independent musician, and doing reasonably okay with that, though the money won’t be getting me a house with a garden here in the San Francisco Bay Area any time soon.

At some point, as part of this “Building a business-crafting life on my own terms” thing, I decided I needed a manifesto. All the cool kids had one. The entrepreneurs who inspired me, who were doing what I wanted to do, and whom I was modeling my own career path on – the Chris Guillebeaus and Leonie Dawsons and Danielle LaPortes – they all had manifestos.

I decided that Neofolk Romantique needed a manifesto. So I wrote one and put it up on my website, and not much came of it.

I would still dream of the Martha Stewart feeling. I have Pinterest boards of beautiful homes by the sea – the modern day equivalent of Sunset magazine – and I find it relaxing to look at them, in the same way it is relaxing to imagine winning the lottery. You don’t really think it will happen, but you still enjoy the feeling the fantasy gives you. Since currently my life is very nomadic and I don’t have much of a sense of home, I suppose the boards fill a gap. I can flesh out with imagination what feels lacking in my “real” world. It is a way I can bring the Martha Stewart feeling into my life even though I may never have it in my reality.

Usually, I go about my life being thankful for what I have and working like a dog to grow it. I try not to covet what others have, and I try not to dwell overly much on the Martha Stewart feeling. For that is not my life. That life is for somebody else, I reasoned.

Then, the other day, I came across a collection of writings by a woman named Hiro Boga. A teacher’s teacher, Hiro Boga is the mentor of women whose businesses I admire, women like Danielle LaPorte and Leonie Dawson. The mentor of my mentors! I needed to check her out. I quickly realized working with her is beyond the scope of my financial ability, but I could afford one of her books.

So I bought an eBook, called Soul Business.

In Soul Business, Ms. Boga talks about our businesses as having their own souls. Our businesses are entities that we can communicate with, make pledges with, form relationships with. We can agree to take care of each other. Such a lovely, refreshing idea! I think of my business as something I forge from the fire of determination; the lone hustle, hard and relentless. I approach my business more like Mad Eye Moody approaches the Death Eaters; requiring “constant vigilance”. As much as I love the idea of the “soul” of my business, I act as though I don’t trust her. I treat my business as a house of cards that must constantly be fussed with to ensure it doesn’t fall over. I haven’t really thought of her having a soul of her own. I’ve thought of her as having a “vibe”, of representing who I am at my core. I have a strong sense of my “brand”. But I had not taken that extra step of seeing my business as having a soul. Of being a presence that can stand up on her own and let me know what she wants.

This notion felt completely natural (of course the vibe of my business, my brand, would have a soul) and completely eye-opening at the same time. My goodness, I treat my business as this fragile thing that will crumble the second I relax, instead of a friend who’s got my back! I immediately felt so much less alone.

And as this epiphany washed over me, the Martha Stewart feeling came rushing back to me.

It is the feeling of fireflies and secrets and whiskey-warmed belly laughs.

Words from my Neofolk Romantique manifesto! I realized that I had thought about this manifesto all wrong. Like a commodity. Like a business transaction, a thing I had to do to compete with the hip entrepreneurs of my day. A thing to get done and cross off my to-do list. Like a notch in my belt.

I had short-changed my manifesto, and missed the entire point of writing it. That manifesto is nothing short of the soul of my business, the quality that I have always longed for and felt was so elusive.

And then I realized what must surely be obvious to you already:

That Martha Stewart feeling, the Neofolk Romantique feeling, is not something to be attained outside of myself, touched only through glossy magazines and dreams of other people’s lives. It is not dependent on money or my parents approval. That feeling lives inside of me, and it always has.

This seems so obvious now, and in some ways I always knew this. But I also held it outside myself, only mine as some sort of material reward for being “good” or “successful”. And I now realize I don’t have to hold it outside myself as some sort of reward. I can allow it to blossom inside me and live in my heart forever, starting right now. I can make friends with it as the soul of my business, as the soul of Neofolk Romantique, which guides everything I hope to offer the world. Every song, show, workshop, piece of art, is merely a vehicle to share this feeling with others, to begin the convivial conversation. It’s as though I have been pushing it away because I believed it could only come when I had the means to have a big table in the garden. But I can create this anywhere and everywhere. And indeed this is my great gift to the world. This is what I am truly offering, this secret window inside my soul. My “offerings” are only the means of delivery.

I need never be separate from this feeling again. And I needn’t be lonely with longing. I simply need to own that this feeling lives within me, and it always has.

It as been a long time since I’ve read something that has sparked such insight, and I really needed it! Sometimes the “Aha!” moments we need most are the ones sitting right under our noses.

I am very thankful for this book, and I urge my fellow entrepreneurs to read it. I’d be curious to hear what sort of changes you experience, considering your business as a Being with it’s own soul.

6 thoughts on “Martha Stewart, Fireflies, and The Soul of Business: An Epiphany

  1. Everytime you step onto a stage or into someone’s living room, you are setting that long table. The guests are seated and eager to consume to sumptuous meal you set before them as is pours from your vocal chords, instruments, heart and soul. What you’ve been longing for is what you already do. And we are grateful to sit at your table of music and magic.

  2. I loved reading this. You are one of the people I most admire, Sharon, and you’ve been lighting the way for me for years. May that Martha Stewart feeling sustain you always!

  3. Hi Lasara! That would be lovely! Yeah, in a sea of self help books, she really hit the mark. It felt very authentic and fresh, and really takes me there. I am about halfway through and finding it really useful. I say my business comes from the core of my being, and yet I don’t’ trust it half the time! Hmm…

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