Posted on Feb 6, 2020

If you walked into our latest panel presentation at Las Vegas Market, “Be the Light” hosted by Currey & Co, you may have been a little confused as to why we weren’t talking about lighting. We had bigger designer fish to fry. So often we are talking about trends, new products or business ideas, but when do we talk about the real life stuff?

When my design friend, Wendy Glaister, asked me to join my designer pals, Laura Muller and Gail Doby to share my story of triumphing over adversity, I hesitated. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to tell the world of the health issues I had that had affected my design world over the past 10-years. I have an intimate group of friends who know that I have had two strokes, lost partial vision in one eye and changed my personal life practices to ensure I would never have another stroke, but I didn’t know if I wanted to publicly speak about it. After much contemplation, I came to the conclusion that maybe it’s time.

Ultimately the panel allowed us to discuss how three designers have found peace, fulfillment and success as we have worked through traumatic events in our personal and professional lives. While my story is very different from Wendy and Laura’s, we all found a way to take our life back through strength, health and wellness, and a great support group of friends and family.

Here is what I shared and I invite you to reach out to Wendy and Laura to hear their stories, too.

In 2010 and 2015, at 38 and 43 years of age, I had two small strokes—larger than a TIA and smaller than a full blown stroke. I was at the height of my interior design career, so as soon as I could bust out of those hospital doors, I was back to work, not missing a beat as if nothing had happened. I had permanently lost vision in the peripheral area of my right eye and I didn’t want a soul to know as I believed they would question my design abilities moving forward. I was exhausted, dehydrated, a crazed workaholic flying around the country on airplanes while my mom was suffering from a losing cancer battle. I was striving to be the perfect boss of 12 employees, launching product lines and juggling way too many clients with way too many needs. I was also trying to spend as much time with my mom as possible, being a caregiver and a chauffeur for chemotherapy and infusion appointments. Unfortunately, trying to be perfect isn’t trying to be human, and surely isn’t healthy or sustainable. In early 2018, a turning point and what I call my “pivot” occurred. When I was asked if I was going to renew my 5-year lease for my design studio, I took a stand and said “no”.

This kicked #OperationTakeMyLifeBack into motion—a wonderful year long journey of peeling off all that was stressful, exhausting and so unnecessary. By removing overhead, employees and clients who were not ideal, my fear of missing out on fancy events and designer show houses diminished. I stopped eating out, stopped drinking during the week, kicked up the yoga and got a Peloton bike. I began meditation, listened to inspiring podcasts (thanks, Super Soul Sunday!), made sleep a priority, saw a naturopath and an acupuncturist. I scheduled regular health care appointments, navigated appropriate supplements and cooked real food at home. I also edited all areas of my home for maximum simplicity. It isn’t easy to chip away and unravel 25-years of behavior and some decisions won’t be popular, but that is part of the process to find true wellness and happiness. Eliminate the toxic to unleash the purpose and direction that is true to you. It won’t feel complicated or suffocating, it will ultimately feel like you are in flow, doing what you are meant to do just for you.

Stress sucks and yet somehow it’s become part of our daily lives. It’s not just unpleasant, but it can actually be damaging to our health. As it’s impossible to live without it, but it is essential to learn about how you can cope with it in your own unique way. Our modern lives, though full of opportunity, have us anxious, stressed and exhausted, and it’s almost at the point where if you’re not constantly stressed about work, finances or relationships, you might just stress about not being stressed enough. Can you remember the last time you went to bed without a care in your mind and woke up the next morning energized and excited for the day?  I couldn’t, until I stopped.

Being constantly stressed is not healthy and it’s making us sick and I am here to prove it. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, stress is the health epidemic of the 21st Century. Here are the steps I took and I hope they inspire you—and the good news is, most of them can be done for free!

ACUPUNCTURE: In order to bring my frequency down, I tried acupuncture for a few months. While I believed it helped, I got to a point where I didn’t feel it was necessary on a regular basis for my wellness. I do check-in with my doctor periodically when I feel it is needed and continue to take the supplements that resulted in our work together.

MEAL PREP: I love to cook and find it incredibly relaxing. When I am cooking Sunday Night Supper, I am only thinking about who I am serving and hoping they will love eating what I have made with them in mind. When I am putting together meals for the week, I am thinking about (and smiling about) how I am taking care of my “future self”. There is no question of what is for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I have planned it, keeping my wellness and sanity at the center. The food even tastes that much better knowing that I made it just for me and my husband.

RENT THE RUNWAY: Speaking of “future self” one of my most favorite parts of the #OperationTakeMyLifeBack journey has been editing my wardrobe to support what I do on a daily basis. I found I was purchasing high dollar items to present fresh and new at board meetings, events and client presentations and soon after taking the goods to my local consignment shop. I knew it was not only a waste of time, but money, too. By incorporating Rent the Runway into my day-to-day dressing, I not only saved time in a major way, it allowed me to save money, have more looks and be efficient when it came to travel. Today, I have four revolving outfits each month for $150 that carry me through meetings, vacations and my daily grind. I can favorite items, anticipating upcoming events, and then have them sent out before they are needed. Often I am able to bring outfits with me in my suitcase and then send them back or drop them at a local RTR location so when I arrive home my suitcase is empty and my next outfits are on their way to me. The best part is to see how much money is saved on an annual basis—“if you purchased all the outfits you rented this year, you would have spent $74,345”! This allows my staples to be total quality and my rentals to remain with my key brands like Ralph Lauren, Veronica Beard, Halston, Jason Wu and Tory Burch.

EXERCISE: We may call it cardio, but heart-pumping exercise also keeps the brain fit. I aim for 150-minutes of Peloton biking with other spurts of stretching and walking via the app. I am always striving for 10,000 a day and walking to appointments that are nearby versus driving. Sometimes I even pretend I am in France, walking to the grocery store or post office.

MEDITATION: Daily breathing and meditation using the Peloton app allows my brain and heart to achieve a relaxation response, which feel restorative for my whole body. Often, I do it right after my Peloton ride as a “reward” for the exercise. I also use it to get me the proper mindset for a big meeting or phone call. Now that I have done it for about a year, I notice that I go back to my breathe to recover quickly from a stressful situation. I also have noticed I am less reactionary when dealing with all the things that can happen in a day.

YOGA: While boxing used to be my favorite way to relax, after my stroke, I could no longer go into the ring without a dramatic reaction to the blood pumping space. The white walls, bright lights and loud music caused my eyes to water uncontrollably and my ears to ring. The reaction caused me to switch to yoga. We had a yogi come to our home for three years and it was life changing. We continue to use all we learned in our day-to-day life.

SUPPLEMENTS: I went to a naturopath to understand what may be out of balance related to mind, body and spirit—sounds a little woo-woo, right? Through that process, I found that I had low iron levels and began taking a natural supplement to improve that. Beyond that, I choose to maintain my monthly massage routine and yoga practice at the advice of the naturopath doctor.

SLEEP: My personality loves structure. Knowing I am in bed by 9pm with lights out by 10pm, ensure I will get 8 hours of sleep. Waking up between 530a and 6a provides the ideal rhythm for me, allowing time for yoga, biking and meditation, reading and breakfast with my husband giving a sense of pleasure, ease and serenity to the day.

YOUR TRIBE: Remember that intimate group of friends who have known of my vision challenge after the stroke? They have “blocked” for me for ten years. They know where to seat people at a large gathering so I can see people; they give me the heads up when I am not aware something in my blind spot while driving; read articles and mail to me when the words are just too much; and carry on a conversation for me when sitting a certain way has zapped my energy. Having these angels around me has been vital to “being normal” in my day to day activities.

FORWARD MOTION: Through this process, even when I didn’t feel good, I would think “forward motion”. Some days that meant just working out, other days that would mean just start by taking a shower. If I could do either of those things, my can-do personality would take over and allow the domino effect of work to get done. Another help included blocking off items in my calendar to ensure they would get done—even the food prep, thank you note writing and meditation gets blocked off. Our inside joke is, “if it isn’t in Outlook, it doesn’t exist”!

YOUR LANE: My final word of advice when trying to make a positive, healthy change in your life, is to stay in your lane. Stop the comparison, stop the FOMO (fear of missing out). Embrace your version of the ideal life, your talents and what you have to offer so you can experience the JOMO (joy of missing out, as in, “I am so glad I am home cooking in the kitchen with family instead of schlepping to a another  that doesn’t bring me happiness, profitability or opportunity.”) Life is too short to be doing it all for someone else.

So much of our wellness is easily controlled by making better choices for ourselves. We can say “no” to things that don’t align with our joy—if it isn’t a “hell ya!”, it’s a “hell no!” and that’s okay. And if you look at the list above and say to yourself, “Who has time for that?”, the answer is, “You do.” The alternative isn’t pretty and if you block out sections of time in your calendar to meditate, exercise or meal plan, it can happen. So instead of pizza, you make the choice for spinach salad; instead of a Netflix binge, you take a walk; and while you are at it, do it with a friend or loved one. It is always better to do it together.

Our panel was followed by a beautiful luncheon and fundraiser in the newly expanded Currey & Co showroom. Donations were made to Wendy’s Foundation, Genesis 5020 Foundation, that focuses on providing therapy to women who have survived domestic violence. Has stroke affected you or your family? Visit the American Stroke Association for assistance with life after stroke. And from the sound of the presentation response, you just may find this group presenting in a Curry & Co showroom near you, so stay tuned!