Sometimes we have to let go of the things we love, in order to make space for what's coming next. Or - why I closed AHNESTI Haircare.
(7 Minute Read)
My company is closed and here’s why.
I’ve wanted to help people live a more sustainable life since as far back as I can remember. Whenever I’d learn something new and wonderful about gardening, preparing and cooking foods, living in a healthier way—I wanted to scream it from the top of my roof and share it with the world. As you can imagine, this was quite difficult back in the days before the internet. No blogs, no way to get the word out. Shouting from the rooftops I’m pretty sure was illegal and probably still is. At best it would have annoyed my neighbors.
My gramps was an immigrant from Italy and was a prolific gardener. I was told that he used to plant his seeds at the waxing of the moon because that’s when the groundwater level was high and the seeds could get the best start possible. As I grew older and started my own gardens, I would understand this to be an element of Biodynamic gardening and started observing the practices myself. My stepmom Nancy had also added to this experience by teaching me how to nurture a successful garden without the use of Miracle Grow and pesticides and so I started to pay more attention to the natural way of doing things.
When I first learned about chemicals in cosmetics and the importance of paying attention to what we are putting ON our bodies, my husband Klink was well into his second year of chemotherapy for his second cancer experience—Non Hodgkin lymphoma—and I was a veteran salon owner. I took a good, hard look around my shop and didn’t like what I was seeing.
Or breathing in. Or selling.
Besides the obvious inhalation of chemicals from colors and perms, I had shelves lined with hair care products where each formula was, in and of itself, a chemical soup. Names I couldn’t pronounce and ingredients I could find on a bottle of car antifreeze. As stylists, we would use these products multiple times a day increasing our exposure to toxins tenfold in comparison with the general population. Non Hodgkin lymphoma is considered an “environmental cancer”—meaning it’s a result from toxins in our environment—and I was surrounded by them.
This frightened me and I felt a moral obligation to change things.
In 2009, and inspired by my husbands illness, I started a private label, toxin-free hair care line called Greenbody Greenplanet (this was at the infancy of the green movement) and several years later, in 2014, AHNESTI (pronounced honesty) Haircare was born. I had closed my salon to bring a healthier, toxin-free solution to consumers and felt it was my way of shouting health and wellbeing from the rooftops.
With the diagnosis of Klink’s third cancer in 2015, my passion for health and wellness had increased and became all-consuming. I didn’t just talk the talk, I had walked it and lived it daily for many years. I brewed Kombucha, drank green juice, only ate organic produce and ethically sourced protein. I created a spiritual practice of yoga and meditation, had an organic garden in the summertime, cleaned our home chemically free, eliminated toxins from my beauty routine, and cultivated positive and healthy thoughts based on the principles of the law of attraction.
And I still had AHNESTI.
But when Klink died on Thanksgiving day 2016, I wanted to walk away from it all. My life, my home, my friends, my company—everything. I wanted not one more conversation of cancer, of illness, of death. I wanted no attachments and no accountability. 10 years of caregiving and watching him slowly suffer and leave this world had me wanting to shirk every single responsibility and fly to the farthest side of the earth, never to be seen again. I wanted to run away from every memory and every thought of the last several years, liquidate every asset, grab my toothbrush and buy a one-way ticket to Europe for I didn’t know or care how long—live in hostels, and walk my way to whatever came next. No plan, no agenda, pure freedom. I’d figure it out when I arrived. This was my plan. I was done. I was 49 and I was a widow.
I just had to get through the funeral first.
“Don’t make any big decisions for a year”, a voice whispered in my ear the day of the service. Damn him! These eight affecting and uncomplicated words sunk into my heart like a brick sinks into cement—amalgamating into a solid structure that would end up changing the trajectory of my life.
I guess Europe’s out.
My company was deeply connected to Klink which made any business decision I made a profoundly personal one. Because Klink was the inspiration behind the company, the topic of almost every conversation I had about the AHNESTI story inevitably ended up with the question, “And how is your husband doing now?” It got to the point where I couldn’t make it through a conversation, email, or phone call without crying and that wore on me. I knew that in order to heal, I not only had to start telling a new story, I had to start living one.
I had thought about closing/selling the company back in March but remembered the advice I received the day of the funeral. I didn’t want my decision to be an emotional response to his death or a knee-jerk reaction to all that was happening. Those eight words of advice seemed to offer me the gift of time and reflection which I needed. It forced me to clarify what I wanted for my life and to be intentional with my choices. It also gave me the time to remember my life with Klink—when we first fell in love and before his illness—instead of the last few years of his pain and struggle. I had also started school in January at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and was on my way to becoming a certified Holistic Health Coach. This was something I had dreamed about for years.
I had a do-over.
Along with my re-dedication to the company came an influx of business, connections and opportunities, and the Universe seemed to be handing me everything I had been asking for. Simultaneously though, I was still living on an edge that never seemed to let up and I was quite literally making myself sick. I was sending mixed messages to the Universe and I was getting back exactly what I was asking for. Ambiguity. I’m a pretty good manager of stress (thank you meditation!) and knew that after Klink was gone my level would decrease significantly, but nine months after his death I was not even close to the space I thought I would be. In fact, nothing had changed in that department. This made me sit up and take notice of one very important thing. When (what I had thought was) the main stressor in my life was no longer present (caregiving), and I was still having a high level of stress, then it had to be something else that I wasn’t paying attention to. There was only one other important thing in my life that could be having a negative impact on my body and the signs pointed right at my company.
As I had settled in to my “new normal” through this past year, it was becoming more clear to me that there were so many other things I wanted to do with my life—such as write a book, and teach others about holistic living—but I could never see it happening while I owned my company. I was being called forward but I kept the door closed in front of me with multiple excuses as to why I couldn’t go and that is what was making me stressed. I wasn’t allowing myself to be. I was working 80 hours a week and even though I enjoyed what I was doing, I started to question why I was doing it. And the even bigger question I asked myself was how will I ever accomplish my dreams if I can’t spend any time focusing on them?
Then, in October, two back-to-back defective manufacturing runs were quite literally the bang on the head I needed from the Universe to snap me out of the obstinate state I was in. I sat in my warehouse and stared at the pallets of damaged, leaky, gooey, unsellable shampoo and went completely numb. It was the sign I needed and it was loud and clear. One week later I started my exit strategy.
The Universe always knows what we want and always guides us to it—and thankfully our path is always unfolding underneath our feet—but sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we think is our true purpose, we don’t notice the signs that say our path is this way because our feet keep wanting to go that way. This is partially because of habits we’ve unconsciously formed, old beliefs and stories we tell ourselves, and mostly because we are not being deliberate in our thinking. But the Universe knows what we want and is always delivering it to us. We often make our own detours—and sometimes we create more difficulty than needs to be—but there are also times when the Universe guides us in a different direction in order for us to have an experience that we needed to have before we can fulfill our dreams. That’s the whole journey vs destination thing. This was something I was aware of in every other aspect of my life but I couldn’t see it with the relationship to my company. I kept trying to hang on to the connection of Klink and the comfort of knowing he was always there within the story of the company, but the truth was, it was also keeping me stagnant and, dare I say, trapped. My energy with my company was negatively affecting me and now as I look back, I see it had been for quite awhile. But it wasn’t the company energy, it was me! The Universe was calling me towards all the things that I wanted but I kept ignoring the signs, I kept pushing through because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. No wonder it always felt like I was pushing a boulder up a hill.
I was ignoring my True Self.
I knew that if I stayed within the world of AHNESTI I would be staying within my comfort zone that, quite frankly, wasn’t even comfortable anymore. I knew I couldn’t grow and expand and follow the dreams and visions I had for myself. I wanted to run so much towards all the things I was discovering and all the things that I loved that somehow the vision of my company had shrunk into a smaller and much less interesting place. It was time to give myself permission to let it go because it no longer served me. There was no more space in my life for it and I was relieved to finally understand this. I felt if I stayed one more minute I would burst into a tiny million pieces of dust and my life would simply blow away without a trace of my existence.
What I’ve discovered is that there’s a big difference between running towards something you love or running away from something you don’t. Just sit with that for a minute and notice how it feels. Those eight important words at the funeral gave me time to process, to explore, to cry and kick and scream, to remember, to laugh, to enjoy, to look in the mirror everyday and ask myself, what is it that you want from your life Lorri?
I didn’t want to run away from AHNESTI, I wanted to run towards becoming an author, a health coach, and a motivational speaker. Those eight words—and this past year—gave me the opportunity to start filling my life with all the things that I love and it only made sense that in time, the things I no longer aligned with would slowly fade away. Like AHNESTI. Had I only been more aware of what I was really focusing on, it would have been a much less bumpy transition.
Clarity about what I wanted, not what I didn’t want, ended up moving me forward.
I had this belief that my company and it’s message was going help people live more sustainable lives but what I’ve come to realize is that it was me, not my product, that had the message. It was always me. Now I have an opportunity—in a simpler and more uncomplicated way—to deliver it.
I look back at the last 4 years as a sort of tutelage from the Universe and I am in sheer appreciation for my lessons. The resources, relationships, hardships, and knowledge I acquired has brought me to right here, right now and I wouldn’t be standing in such a full and satisfied place had I not experienced them.
In conclusion, we all have do-overs. Every day is a do-over and an opportunity to change something that isn’t working in our lives, but, we can only change what we are aware of. How do we know what’s not working? We pay attention to how we feel and it will start revealing itself to us. The secret is to have clarity about what we want and to not focus on what we don’t want. Sometimes there’s so much momentum going around a subject that it can be tricky to understand the difference.
But not to worry. Eventually you’ll get a bang in the head from the Universe to help you see things more clearly.
Breathe Deep and Live Well,