January 27, 2011

Pancake Session: Guilt

Someone once said to me that guilt is the most useless of human emotions. And I believe them to be right.


Rationally, I believe they were right when they argued that guilt is really just feeling bad about something (usually in the past), but not really doing anything about it. And therefore not moving forward.

And rationally, I can agree that that’s a pretty useless way to spend our time.

But as any of us who are business owners know (and from what I’m told, all you mom’s out there also know a thing or two about this) our form of guilt tends to look a lot more like this: feeling guilty for not doing more right now, right this very second, for our business, for our clients, for our kids, and being driven into a frenzied panic to do something, Lord help us anything, to stop feeling that way. Until we guiltily force ourselves into working all the time and ruining whatever little “us” time we do have.


And the thing is, I also believe that’s a pretty useless way to spend our time. Rationally. But irrationally, emotionally, humanly…..I still allow myself to feel that guilt all the time.

See when we first start our businesses, the first stage we go through (after that “holy crap, how am I gonna do this?” stage) is the quiet stage. The phone’s not ringing stage. The how will I ever get my name out there, let alone book a client who’s not already my first cousin and I’m doing it for free stage. And…it’s scary. So when stage two-the I’m super, super busy all the time and there aren’t enough hours in the day stage- rolls around, we can’t help but feeling really happy about it. No I’m talking fist pump in the air, jersey-style happy about it. And that’s only natural when you’ve just lived through, and some how come out the other side of how scary the quiet stage is.

But the problem is, because we associate being really busy with “this is actually working,” we start to worry that taking any time off whatsoever from the action of DOING will slide us right back in to stage one. Scary, quiet, lonely stage one. So busy for small business owners starts to equate to happy. It’s a win. It’s a rush. It’s maybe the world’s best legal high. And taking time off from that high, by comparison, in a very real way starts to resemble withdrawal.

You feel the twitch in your arm until you can’t restrain yourself from hitting “get mail.” Your mind races with all the things you could be, scratch that should be, doing. You beat yourself up for how much farther you have to go, and all you can think about is how good it feels when you’re making progress, any kind of progress, toward that goal. So you sneak a little. Cause just a little won’t hurt. But….it’s a slippery slope. And soon a little turns into a lot. And you’re right back to working yourself til you can hardly recognize the face you see in the mirror. Because working is better than the guilt.

Rationally, I know this is not good. :) Somewhere in the rational part of my brain, I know that we need rest. I know that when we take that rest we come back stronger, more productive than before. That rest is what’s needed to sharpen the saw. And I know that every time we force ourselves to work toward balance, to take time off, we come back and our business grows by leaps and bounds above what it was doing before. So why do we all continue to feel this way?

For me, I think it boils down to permission. In this life, we’ve always had someone else tell us when it was time to rest. Nap time in Kindergarten, winter breaks in college, a boss who made our schedule at work. But now, we are the boss. And it just doesn’t feel right giving ourselves time off. Like it’s wrong in some way…. that we’re cheating. Like it’s something that we shouldn’t be allowed to do.

And that brings us back to guilt. Useless, irrational, sword-dulling guilt.

Well this last week, I had a revelation.

Because this past week spent in Hawaii with Justin & my dad was the first time (maybe in the past four and a half years since we started this business) that I was able to go away, take entire days off at a time and not feel the slightest tinge of guilt about it. On the contrary, I was defiant. I almost dared anybody to question it.

And of course, I think the reason it was like that is because we were doing this for someone else. Which came with it’s own natural high. And also, I knew without a doubt there was nothing at work more important than this.

So like I said, I had a revelation. I realized two things: 1) it is possible to take time off without guilt when we truly believe that time off is important (this was a revelation in and of itself!) and 2) we need to start thinking of that time we take off for ourselves (not just the time we take for others) as falling well under that important category.

I know this post has gone way too long as it is, but let me just end by saying this. Stage three (the stage we’re just now entering in our business) is the stage when you finally start to realize that what took four and a half years to build cannot be undone by taking one day off. Or even one week. And that constant action does not breed success. Intentional action with a clear vision does. And finally, rest and balance are absolutely necessary if we want to be able to stick around long enough to ever figure out what stage four and five look like.

So, if you’re out there and you’re feeling guilty for the rest & play you so badly need….take it. Don’t wait another second. And if anybody dares to question you about it, just tell em Mary Marantz told you you could! :)

I give you permission.

And since this is a Pancake Session after all, here is an Instagram picture from my pineapple stuffed french toast from Lulu’s in Waikiki. And I didn’t feel a bit guilty about those either. :)

**If you’re new to the blog, Pancake Sessions are a series of business & life FAQ’s we do on an ongoing basis. If you click “Categories” at the top of the page and then “Pancake Sessions” you can see all of them we’ve ever done!

  1. Nancy

    You are so right! I am off to a long afternoon break, just because. ;)

  2. Michelle

    I could not agree more! I often feel guilty for needing time away or for not working the business, but sometimes, it is what we need to refresh. It felt GREAT to have that one week in Italy to get away from EVERYTHING and not touch emails, watch TV or feel like I needed to be doing something. I came back (against my will heehee) and was refreshed. I am glad you enjoyed Hawaii and I have to remember Lulu’s the next time I go out there because that looks D-E-L-C-I-O-U-S!!!!!

  3. Julia

    Thank you for this!! I’m totally bookmarking this post!! And instead of just talking about going away together, this year, maybe Mike and I will actually take the time and do it!! Without an ounce of guilt! :)

  4. MM

    @Julia: yes you should! And I want a postcard when you do! :)

  5. Gwendolyn Tundermann

    I’m starting to wonder if there’s a hidden camera in my office, because you’re right on the money with this one! My #1 goal this year was to find some balance in my life, but making sure that I have time for fun is sometimes more of a burden in itself. It really shouldn’t be that way. I know that some things have to change because I can’t keep up with them the way they are going. Almost ready to take the leap. At least now I have permission. Even though it’s all on me, you saying "I give you permission" actually does mean something. It’s almost like I needed to hear someone say that it’s okay.

  6. Gwendolyn Tundermann

    P.S. Welcome back! : )

  7. Ravyn

    Such an encouraging post! Thanks for that little boost of inspiration for the day.

  8. erin proud

    so wise… and so pretty, too.

  9. Alex

    I feel this way *allllll* the time. I feel guilty for 5 minutes spent outside with my dog and not in front of the computer. It’s horrible, I know. Thank you for giving us all permission – we like hearing it from you! :)

  10. ashley barnett

    Two things. One, I’m trying VERY HARD to not eat bad things before WPPI. This photo does not help. Isn’t there a way we can look at food and feel full yet? Two, thank you for this post. I’m working full time while trying to build my photography business and it is beyond overwhelming. Especially when there’s pressure from bosses who don’t understand that while I’m working for their paycheck, I’m trying to build and live MY dream. WPPI will be my first "vacation" of any kind in over two years and I can’t wait.

  11. Niki Flynn

    So exactly what I needed to hear today, and exactly what I have been talking to others about recently too. Thanks Mary! This is a fantastic post! xox

  12. Spring

    I am so relieved reading this- I’m going to take your permission and take some me time. Thank you, yet again, for your amazing advice and warm words!

  13. Lori Calhoun

    Well said Mrs. Marantz! My "word" this year is balance/boundaries. Okay, so technically that’s two, but, I’m sticking to it. Kind of being a stickler, if you will. I have found lots of peace in my new boundaries, and the balance has been so rewarding. So glad you had fun in Hawaii…the happiest place on earth, no?

  14. MM

    @Lori: Well….second happiest. The first is home with Justin & Cooper. But it’s a close second!

  15. Debbie

    LOVE. THIS. POST. <- That is all :-)

  16. maggieb

    Thank you for the permission! Now! I am sending this to my husband!…and… I’m planning big to make up for lost time!

  17. Kristen McClurken

    You can’t take care of anybody if you don’t take care of yourself first.

  18. Alicia Candelora

    So when I quickly glanced at the title of this post I thought it said "Pancake session: Quilt", and I was all…whoaaaaa, Mary’s getting all domesticated on us now! I hope that makes you laugh as much as I did when I realized this post was not, in fact, about quilting. ;) Maybe that can be a pancake session for the future. And maybe instead of going to Hawaii, quilting will be your retreat activity. On second thought….

  19. Alicia Candelora

    Ps- Julie did a GREAT job with the blog while you were gone. I think you should reward her with a gym membership which she OBVIOUSLY would appreciate so much….just sayin’ . ;)

  20. Jen

    Welcome Back! We all missed you but were so happy that you were taking your much deserved time off!

  21. Alison

    your timing couldn’t be more perfect. I don’t take sick time from my regular job, I just push through unless the kids need me. When I am home, I am working on photography stuff. I am home today because the doctor said so and honestly it is killing me. Lets not even discuss vacation time! I need to give myself permission to rest, heal, and take a breath and actually do it!

  22. Kristin Guynn

    Oh gosh! I know this post was about the busy stage and everything, but honestly I’m just glad to see this quiet stage will end! That all the hard work I’m doing now will finally pay off!

  23. MM

    @Kristin: :) I figured there would be a few folks out there that might want to hear that part too! It will end, and when it does it will do it with a bang!

  24. Candace Prokopets

    Wow, that was weird! It was like you were inside my heading listening to all my thoughts and just wrote them down. Great post! Very encouraging!

  25. Emma Sharkey

    Darling Mary THANK YOU SO MUCH for yet another insightful "Bhudda-esque" post LOL. Just what I needed to read ATM.
    Much love

  26. Lacy Dagerath

    And in case you ever need permission… I give YOU permission!! :) I’m sure we all do! :) That time is so sweet…and necessary! And the time with your dad can NEVER be replaced… My dad is 75 (I’m 29) and that is something I remind myself of daily! You are a BLESSING! *Heart* you!! (And here is a link to my Haleakala sunrise pictures in case you’d like to see! http://www.morethananimage.com/blog/?p=1347

  27. ajira

    uh, no ‘mam. That was not too long a post. Thanks for the reminder.

  28. Carissa

    Thanks for this. So much. Because I’m still in the quiet stage, and it’s nice to know that everyone’s been there, that I’m not alone. I hope you had an amazingly wonderful time in Hawaii :)

  29. NikW

    "Constant action does not equal success." That will be my quote of the year. Thanks!

  30. Rachel Boe

    It’s funny – some photographer friends & I JUST had a conversation about being busy and how to balance everything in our life, in our weekly skype meeting. This was perfect. We were trying so hard to figure out how to do this, and you said it… Just take a break! :) Great post. :)

  31. Josh Behan

    Incredibly insightful. Stage three is a wild and crazy place.

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