I have been a solo consultant for 20 years, helping businesses to better understand their customers and then adjusting a company’s  “message” to be on point. Like any small business, solo consulting only works if you can enjoy the bumpy ride. I mostly do.

That is until COVID. The projects I had diligently lined up soon evaporated. Clients were holding their dollars tight as they managed organizational and emotional tumult. My projects were put on hold for good reasons, and a watched pot never boils, so… what was I to do?

First, I got philosophical. This is where you say things like, “There are forces bigger than you at play.” Or: “You were overdue for a rest anyway.” Or: “Whatever you do, don’t drive your family crazy. They’re also hanging on by a thread.”

This self-talk lasted for a week, and then I started brainstorming “Plan B.”

I began by conducting an unfunded market study to learn how businesses were viewing their COVID reset.

What questions were they asking? What changes would be long lasting? How did their customers want to engage? These interviews enabled me to pen 4 articles. I received a strong reader response and kept my finger on the pulse. Yay me.

Then came July. What next? Back to brainstorming …

Here is where I landed:

Challah 101:

My daughter came for a visit. For months, she had been sending me pictures of her homemade challah. With her in town, I could be her sous-chef and learn to bake my own. I make challah now every week.

An unexpected gift in 2020.

Humor 101:

I’d been writing pieces for news outlets for the last 2 years with moderate pickup. The topics ranged from family to business to random interests like book clubs and dogs (well, they’re actually family).

Now I wanted to dip into humor. I knew I’d be hampered by not being inherently funny, but that mattered less to me than that I try. With persistence, reading funny writers, and the help of a few friends who coached me, I found my humor voice. I actually have a style that I can put words to.

An unexpected gift in 2020.

Painting our bedroom

I have wanted to repaint our room for the last 5 years. I’ve lived in cheerful blue long enough and was ready for a warm and nondescript gray. I won’t analyze why.

With COVID-time on our hands, my husband and I undertook the challenge. We figured we’d save some money and reduce our Britbox watching a tad while we bonded over this new challenge.

One trip to our neighborhood hardware store, and I knew we were late to the COVID DIY party. There stood three people in line in front of me, embarking on a similar project.

While in line, I picked up some critical tips because these people actually had experience.  I can now say, “Invest in Frog tape” with the best of them. I heard, I learned, I know.

In truth, we did not “jointly” paint the room. I brought cheer and encouragement, and my husband brought skill.  A few squabbles and a lot of frog tape later, we had a newly painted warm gray room.

Another unexpected gift in 2020.

British Police Procedurals

Our interest in sports had diminished substantially, and we still had significant couch time after we walked the dogs. What could squelch our potential boredom?

I can’t possibly do justice to ALL the British police procedurals we have watched, but if you haven’t experienced Helen Mirren in her seven seasons of Prime Suspect, then you haven’t lived.

That is a strong statement, but true. There are other exceptional crime series on Britbox. With thousands of hours accumulated, I’ve considered giving up my consulting gig to become a Britbox advisor for new subscribers.

Besides having new interests and skills, Plan B allowed me not to bug my clients about their reset and, ahem, me. I believe I will look back at this period of my unplanned, unwanted sabbatical and say that it came with some unexpected gifts.

Two roads in a forest — indulge in new things or go crazy — and I chose indulgence.  With (very) few painting skills, and (a few more) humor pieces, and my weekly homemade challah, I have changed in ways that I like.

I didn’t want or plan for this overly long sabbatical, but some gifts ensued, nonetheless.