I felt excited on the day of Skip & Sully Indoor Playground’s Grand Opening on July 13, 2019. It was months of sacrifice, hard work, and late nights finally coming to fruition before my eyes. I built that space and concept from the bottom up. Bare cement floors and bright red walls, all the way to a beautiful, safe space for new families needing connection and support. Many nights I would put my son, Sullivan, to bed in the pack n’ play up in my office and work into the wee hours of the night – sleeping on my couch for a bit until getting up with my one-year-old in the morning to start all over again.
As a new mother myself, I tried to think of every detail that would help another parent relax – safety, security, luxury, and more. From the beautiful décor to handcrafted organic beverages, and even down to the specific scents emanating from the diffuser in the ladies’ room…I wanted it to be perfect for my families.
I felt hopeful that I would bring joy to my community, helping others build relationships and support networks with each other. Skip & Sully was to be that light in the darkness for those who felt like their hope was dwindling.
After experiencing a sudden tragedy in my life with the loss of my husband, I truly wanted to turn that unimaginable pain into something good. I wanted to show that trauma can be a springboard for joy and show that it is possible to have a beautiful life after seeing and experiencing such horrors.
I never thought we would fail
But then…how could one predict a global pandemic only six months after starting a brand new business.
I lived in denial for many months, revitalizing myself periodically only by the rhetoric in my head.
“It can’t be much longer. Just stay relevant. Provide laughter and joy through social media. It will all be over soon. God didn’t start you down this path just to have you fail.”
The word “hopeless” began to define my sense of being.
And for months there I sat, in a deep, dark pit of hopelessness. I felt in the depth of my soul and in every fiber of my being – there was no point to anything, anymore. It didn’t matter how late I worked, how innovative I was, how cleverly I pivoted or spun my business offerings, how many hours of sleep I lost, or how much money I poured into advertising – when your business is built around new moms and babies coming together for an in-person social experience – it is hopeless to fight against a global pandemic.
Hopelessness can bring you to a breaking point. Hopelessness while battling PTSD is a recipe for disaster, and it started showing up for me – big time.
Hopelessness showed up…
It showed up in my inability to keep food down. Vomiting in the morning after buckling my son into his car seat became a regular occurrence.
It showed up in my inability to sleep. My brain was literally being hijacked in the quiet of the night, as I lived in fight or flight mode for months on end. I couldn’t stop thinking about the business and what other things I could try next that MIGHT save it.
It showed up in my inability to stay calm and rational. I would catastrophize everything and I would either completely shut down or completely spin up over tiny little things.
It showed up in my inability to maintain personal relationships. I had nothing left to give to anyone and I felt deep guilt because of it. My ability to provide for my family was being stripped away from me (again) and my unwillingness to give up caused my stress level to climb to toxic levels. I felt there was nowhere to turn to, no way out and no way through.
Hope is a powerful thing, and when it is gone, so is the will to keep trying.
It was time to cry “uncle” when I felt in my soul, that my son would be better off with a different mother. I had taken on pounds of guilt, shame, self-loathing, fear of failure, and more onto my shoulders. I had internalized that and allowed it to define the person that was looking back at me in the mirror…AND IT WAS WRONG. My logic and rational brain knew this…but my emotions didn’t feel it in any way.
I sat at the bottom of the shower, tears pouring down my face, crying out to God and asking him why me again…rocking back and forth with arms wrapped around my body… until I finally realized that this had nothing to do with the business.
Things happen in life; really bad things. I watched my husband die five feet away from our sleeping newborn son while I tried everything I could to save him. There was absolutely nothing I could have done differently, but yet I failed to save him. It was beyond my control, but I still failed.
So here I am three years later, trying not to fail my son like I did my husband…but now I’m basically killing myself slowly in the process. It was time to cry “uncle.”
On December 31st, 2020 Skip & Sully Indoor Playground closed its doors for the final time. As I am writing this a week later, I can tell you without a doubt that this is one of the best decisions I have ever made for myself and for my son. I only wish I had had the strength to make the decision sooner.
Though the brick and mortar may be closed now due to coronavirus, I know that the “heart mission” of Skip & Sully will continue on in everything I choose to pursue in the future because that mission is mine. It wasn’t the building or the concept, it was my heart that I placed inside a building to help others – but that heart can move. Every time I write, I weep; but I feel my hope growing back the more I have the opportunity to share, working once more on my “heart mission” little by little. This is not the end of Skip & Sully’s story, merely the close of a chapter in a long beautiful novel full of tragedy, joy, and encouragement.
As I learned in the United States Merchant Marines – there are many paths to accomplishing the mission, just make sure to get there safely. I hadn’t been doing it safely, so it was time to make a change.
Change is just the first step in the journey. I am working with my therapist to redefine my personal meaning of failure because, like many of us, I do have trauma tied to it that impacts me daily. If you’re feeling hopeless, please know you’re not alone, but you can not stay there. Reach out to those that love you, or if you have toxic independence like me go to your insurance website and look for therapists. They are literally available via Zoom or Facetime and you can have a session while your baby is nursing (yes, I have done that.) If not for you, do it for your littles. Life is not meant to be lived in a high-stress, hopeless state. It is meant to be appreciated with laughter, love and pure joy so let’s make 2021 the year that we work towards that – choose joy.