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Open Your Circle

Author: Karii Rürup-Coleman

We have all been going through waves of anxiety, self-doubt, epiphanies, and possibly a few revelations or two since the Pandemic impacted our personal lives, communities, and careers.

I watched these endless months pass before my eyes, as I viewed amazing entrepreneurs transfigure social media platforms into their stages, performing spellbinding hip hop dances, singing self-written country songs, and making beautiful loaves of sourdough bread. For some reason, though, I wasn’t necessarily tapping into what brilliant thing I was supposed to do.

I have been running my own private Pilates boutique business, Studio rü in San Francisco, while building my artist career (

I am happily married with my husband of 11 years, and I have two awesome daughters, Zylah and Vievon, ages 11 and 9.

I have always been somewhat of a late bloomer and a free spirit, but as I have been treading the Pandemic waters; the fires; my daughters’ distant learning curves; the zooming; the fearing for my black husband’s life; celebrating the dreaded 50th birthday, and currently experiencing the dramatic physical changes inspired by peri-menopause, I am now beginning to see the light INSIDE the tunnel.

I am finally embracing what I’ve known deep down all along, and what my dearest best friend, Otto, preached to me from his hospital bed back in the early 90’s, as he was dying of AIDS at the age of 27. He used his last breath to say, “Don’t give into image. It will kill you.”

There’s no time to put things off anymore. It’s right there in the middle of the room, staring me right smack in the face. It’s now or now. And you need to remember who YOU are. What you do, doesn’t have to be shiny and golden, with lots of bling. It’s how you do it.

You can tell me until your face begins to blend in with all the other Instagram artists and groundbreakers, how you can translate your struggle into a piece of art, your invention, your manifesto, inspiring the world with your voice—but, I am tired. I’m experiencing ADD on the grandest scale, and I am just flying by the seat of my pants, like the Joan Didion novel, “Playing it as it lays.” This is when you just have to listen to what it is you need to do, be in the moment, and embrace the struggle.

On Facebook and Instagram I could be perceived as the queen of all moms, wives, business women, and artists, volunteering and marching through the streets in an attempt to save restaurants, shut-in elderly, single mothers, but it is merely a canvas that I paint for myself, to paint the way I want to see myself in this own inspiration I guess. It’s that silly “image” thing that Otto was talking about. Ugh.

We mostly see peoples’ end products, polished revisions, and final drafts, but they neglect to capture the marital arguments, the meltdowns on the cold tile floor next to the bathroom scale after devouring an entire pizza, or the heated political confrontation they had over the phone with their Republican mother. I am guilty of a few of these.

We need to be more honest about the struggle towards the milestone, surfacing others who can connect and relate to not only to their process, but to yours.

I think the moment, during this difficult time, you recognize that you’re struggling, that you aren’t a trailblazer, a warrior of peace, or a world justice leader, and you just settle into your own skin, I know it will be easier for you in the present time and in the long run. You may be a vigilante in your own right, in your own household, your own neighborhood, with what you do best and with what you can offer right here right now. You ARE important.

It took me a while to learn that family and friendships are key, to shed your ego and to break down the infamous protective shield. To think that you don’t have time for other people, and other people’s trials and tribulations, I feel is the door leading to failure. It’s also not so good to shut others out. It’s a part of the human condition, to have a tribe, a village, and to have empathy for others.

In the very beginning of the quarantine, my family and myself went to visit our dear friend in Calistoga. She’s a savvy restauranteur, with two very successful restaurants, ZAZIE in San Francisco and LOVINA in downtown Calistoga.

I haven’t worked in a restaurant since I moved to New York City in my 20’s after college, but when her restaurants were beginning to down throttle towards take out, delivery, then outdoor dining, I blindly stepped in.

Jen has always been a pioneer for women-owned restaurants, establishing health insurance for her staff, 401Ks, tip-less bills, and then selling 75% of ZAZIE to her manager, waitstaff, and kitchen staff. She has even had Michelle Obama, over breakfast, hold her hand, look her in her eyes, and ask, “How do you do it?”

I never dreamed, that I (a woman who has always gone paycheck to paycheck), could offer any kind of help or inspiration to a woman of this stature. She’s wealthy and she’s a single woman who emerged out from under living on food stamps in Nashville. But, still to this day, she is so thankful for what I was able to bring to her tables. It was okay for her to show me, she had fears of losing her livelihood also. We now are the best of friends. We got each other through a crisis. We have loads of inside jokes.

I bagged to-go dinners, drew art and wrote thoughtful messages on paper bags, and jumped out of the car when she would pull up to every porch or doorstep, to safely deliver thoughtful menu items to dedicated patrons.

I even painted her a mural inside the main dining room in LOVINA, to encourage her and her staff that there will be a new beginning, there will be a future of inside dining.

This is when you can’t assume that everyone is doing better than you are, that they know how to handle it all or that they’re stronger, wiser, or that their feathers don’t get ruffled.

We can all lean on each other.

Once I started opening and widening my circle, being honest with who I am, and that I too have fears, insecurities, and negative thoughts, and that I do have skills to offer, the more strangers, casual acquaintances, clients, and friends have transformed magically into even better friends, colleagues, and my extended family.

I was asked to write this blog by my long-time friend, Jojo who has always, in my eyes, seen the silver lining and works diligently helping to connect people and offering them new avenues and directions with their trades and workplaces. He wanted me to write this, in an attempt to help others find their way through their quarantine dilemmas, by way of my experience, as they pursue new careers or rebuild old ones. And of course, for that brief insecure moment, I did I have that self-doubt thought, “I’m not super successful, what could I offer?” Ugh, you just can’t go there. And I suggest you don’t either. Self-sabotage is only a downward slippery slope.

At the beginning of the Pandemic, I was having to reconfigure my way of working.

I went from training clients in a beautiful Pilates studio, to Zooming with them on my living room floor. At first, it seemed exhausting, impersonal, and difficult without the proper equipment and props. This was my job that supported my art, paid my bills, and got me to the grocery cash register without having a hot flash. What I forgot, and what others have overlooked, is whatever job or career we have had or we now have, we have always had to put a great deal of time and practice into it, even if it was dropped into our laps by our favorite rich aunt. We have had to polish our skills and to build a network of clients, connections and colleagues. We now have to apply even more energy, to our new learning “work” curves during a freaking Pandemic, during sheltering in place. We had to learn fast.

I was now having to become somewhat of a sound engineer to have my teaching voice and my music have a better quality and to be more professional on Zoom. I had to watch You Tube videos to figure out what cables connect to what. I had to order the right headset, audio mixer and speaker.

And bam, I was now exposed to amazing musicians and sound specialists that I would never have been connected to, if it wasn’t for the Pandemic. I was opening my circle, as well as opening my new Guitar Center credit card account.

The beauty of this new virtual direction, my clients were having to go through the exact same thing with their jobs, offices and careers. They were actually relieved and comforted by the fact that I was fudging and stumbling through the Zoom learning process as well. It actually drew us closer, where they offered some of their technical skills, their networking experience or sharing an obstacle they were able to overcome with their computers.

We were creating a REAL relationship. We were becoming connected. We were making this learning curve, normal. A village was forming. A circle was widening. Egos were tossed into the dust.

Six months later, I have built my business teaching online. Clients referred friends, and they referred family and more friends. One client invited her Sales Force creative team to join in, and so on and so on. This client is a newly single mother living alone, so she was thrilled to be online with her friends and community, while I orchestrated. She was able to sit back, relax, and offer herself and others a time to connect and endure a healthy active activity.

Another client was able to have fun exercising with her daughter, who hadn’t been able to visit since she was working endless hours as an ICU nurse at San Francisco General.

To bring this full circle, I will tie things up with this. Through my frustrations and loss of my known normalcy, I have gained a great deal more. I am actually helping people. I now enjoy “going to work” more than I have ever before. Yes, there are still obstacles, like having to clear my whole family out of our living room from 10am to 6pm, or that I can’t adjust my PT clients with my own hands, but you learn how to make do. You would be surprised how grateful people can be. You would be surprised at how much you discover different ways and paths to get your ideas and skills across more efficiently and effectively.

You learn to create props out of soup cans, kids balls, pillows, and scarves. You also learn how to be more human and to remember what’s truly important. Connectivity.

Often, I end up giving my clients a mental therapy session instead of physical therapy and that’s okay. And sometimes, you just have to let the 24 hour cancellation policy fall to the way side, because that Karma will always bounce back. People are people, (and the song by Depeche Mode begins to play in my head, “PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE SO WHY SHOULD IT BE...”) we are all struggling. Sometimes, you just can’t commit to your Pilates session, your deadline or your business meeting. Empathy heals you even while you empathize.

So, my key is, my offering, is for you to just make the best out of what you do. No matter what it is. To never think that it isn’t important if it’s not be covered on Oprah’s Instagram Live. Be honest with who you are, show your layers. Open your circle and dive into someone else’s even if the waters are unfamiliar or a bit chilly.

The rest will fall into place, I promise. Karii is a Master Pilates Trainer, fine artist and “Connector” living in the Outer Sunset in San Francisco. She has a BA Degree in Creative Writing and Art from SFSU and a Masters in Dance from LABAN CONSERVATOIRE OF DANCE & MUSIC in London.

She has worked in Film production in NYC; Theatre, and has blazed through an all male camera crew, to be their 1st and 2nd Assistant Camera operator on studio lots throughout Los Angeles. She has traveled and performed throughout Europe and Latin America. She loves Mezcal and Hook Fish tacos and is enjoying the extra quality time she has with her family. Instagram @kariirurup

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