At the age of 45 I was feeling very restless and unfulfilled. At the time I wasn’t sure of what was causing this feeling to well up within me, as it had off and on over the last few years. I was “successful” in the world’s eyes, great job, nice income, easy lifestyle without any real cares or concerns.
I was seeing a therapist off and on and I remember her stating that I never seemed to complain or have concerns about my job. I replied “That’s true, I don’t have any worries or concerns about my work.” But I still felt a bit flat and uninspired.
At this time I was also attending Unity in Chicago, a Christian based church with interfaith services, offering classes and workshops to help people evolve. My partner Michael Frontier and I enrolled in a class called “The Artist’s Way” based on the international best-seller by Julia Cameron. I thought to myself that this should be fun, I like to paint and haven’t done it in awhile, maybe that’ll help me get out of this restless feeling. I quickly realized this 12 week class was about much more than creating literal art; it’s about living a creative life. Each week I would excavate old thoughts and patterns that were either repeating in my life or causing me to feel blocked; such as old childhood memories that had more meaning to them than I realized. As I pulled these and many other memories and thought patterns out of the past and looked at them in a safe, confidential and nurturing environment I was able to find the lesson and purpose of what these memories held. Essentially and metaphysically I was bringing them out of the darkness and into the light.
The experience was exhilarating, challenging, difficult, enlightening and at times very emotional. I started painting, but I soon realized that was not the “it” I was looking for. I still wasn’t sure of my “what’s next” but I felt a deep urging from within to keep moving forward with the exercises, tasks, tools and weekly meetings and discussions. Each day I dedicated myself to the “morning pages”, 3 pages of stream of consciousness writing in my private notebook; no editing, no rereading, just get it out – whatever “it” was. I poured out my heart and my monkey-mind on these pages, day after day. I cried, laughed and also, at times, was very stubborn about the process writing things like “I don’t know what to write, I have nothing to say, this is stupid, I’m not getting anything out of this…”, for 3 pages. Each week’s exercises, tasks and assignments led me further into a sense of something moving from my center. My false core beliefs were cracking and although this wasn’t group therapy, it did feel safe and yes scary at times, and above all it felt important.
At the end of 12 weeks, right around Thanksgiving, I knew the answer for my next “what’s next”.
When I was 10 years old my parents divorced. We lived in Berkeley Heights, N.J. at the time. With 6 children in tow, my mom schlepped us back to the small farming town where she was born and raised in mid-Michigan. My dad went south to just outside Atlanta to a beautiful house surrounded by acres of pine trees and a clean crisp lake across the street, we were all supposed to move to that summer. He eventually ending up in Florida. We ended up in an old, dilapidated farm house on a hill with one bathroom, no shower and 7 people. My mom went to work for the first time in her life. Her job was in the backroom of the local newspaper putting together the pages to send to print, lots of cut and paste. I used to go visit her after school and help her cut the black strips of edging that would be placed on gummy paper to separate each article and ad. It was long hours for her and she’d come home exhausted and depleted every night. Memories of that time are seared into my consciousness. To this day I don’t know how she got through that period of her life.
My father passed away at the early age of 47, just 4 years after their divorce. My mom was dating, trying to have some kind of social life and outlet from the daily responsibility of raising 6 children and hard, monotonous work. She was a beautiful, vibrant, fun woman with an infectious laugh and I’m sure that many guys found her very attractive. In 1972 she remarried. I was 15 years old at the time, he was 45. Fast-forward to 30 years later, my step-dad and mom have divorced. She is now living in Florida and he is 75 years old and on his deathbed, quite literally. I’m now 45. It’s Thanksgiving day. I called him with warm Thanksgiving wishes and shared my news about The Artist’s Way and how the class had affected me on a deep and soulful level. I told him my next step was to leave my job, that I wanted to do more creative things with my life. I didn’t share with him the significance of the age markers I was identifying with; I was 15 when they married, he was 45, I’m now 45, he’s 75; 30 years goes by rather fast. I knew that if the next 30 years were going to move as quickly as the last, I had to make a change. I didn’t want to be on my deathbed, at whatever age, and look back and not have done some of the things I wanted to do in my life.
His response was “That all sounds great, but whatever you do, don’t leave your job.” I recently realized that to him, that statement was about his perspective on security, but at the time I felt like he didn’t understand me completely. He passed away a few weeks later and in February of the next year I resigned from my job.
I didn’t have a job waiting for me, except to take the time to do the things I wanted to do. I started painting and took creative writing classes; including joining a writing group. Each day slowed down to a relaxed and timeless pace. I stayed true to my tools from The Artist’s Way, particularly my morning pages. Summer felt like the days of my youth, drinking in the warm sunny days, biking, sitting by Lake Michigan and writing in my journal. Slowly Autumn came. I continued to express myself in my morning pages and found a deep connection to Self occurring. It began to feel like dialogue between me, Terry, and my higher Self or elevated consciousness. I would ask questions and answers would appear as my hand almost independently scribbled across the pages. Something was moving within and I wasn’t sure exactly what it was.
The early days of winter came in November that year. Michael’s father passed away close to the 1st anniversary of my step-dad’s passing. We were visiting his mom one night and in the lively discussion about family and purpose of life, I shared that my morning pages kept telling me to make my grandmother McCall’s english toffee. I thought that was nuts because I wasn’t a huge toffee fan and didn’t know what to do with that directive. I argued it, tried to ignore it, but it kept reappearing in my morning journaling. I made the toffee every holiday season for years because it was damn good stuff. So they were all familiar with it and were nothing but encouraging. We laughed and talked some more as the conversation drifted on to other topics. The next morning Michael and I went to the Sunday morning service at Unity in Chicago. We’d missed the past few Sunday services due to his dad’s passing. From the platform it was announced that today was the last day to sign up for the Holiday Craft Fair. I turned to him and said “I’m signing up for a table!” He supportively replied, “Great, what are you going to sell?” “Grandma’s toffee!”
After the service we approached the line for the sign-up table; “I’d like to sign up for the Craft Fair” I stated with a big smile. The woman’s reply was “I’m sorry, we’re full.” In that moment time and space stood still. I turned in what felt like slow-motion and then heard a man’s voice say “Hey sunshine, what do you want to sell?” “My grandma’s toffee”, I responded. With great enthusiasm he said “There’s always room for grandma’s toffee!” and so my “what’s next” began. I raced home and for the next 7 days I felt like I was plugged in to a 220 outlet. Everything was effortless. I came up with a name, found packaging at a nearby food supplies store, designed a logo and labels. I even made a banner to hang from our kitchen exhaust hood “Terence McCall’s English Toffee” and as we made batch after batch of toffee that banner inspired me to continue.
The following Sunday we brought tasting samples and 80 1/2 lb bags of “Terence McCall’s English Toffee” to the Unity Holiday Craft Fair. People went nuts. We sold out halfway through the posted hours and walked out the door with people asking for our number, they wanted more for themselves and gifts. I was on cloud 9.
From that miraculous day forward, my journey became a myriad of life lessons and extraordinary experiences that I could never have planned. I rebranded the business name to “Terry’s Toffee”. Early on the Treasurer of the Board at Unity approached me after a Sunday service and asked how the toffee business was going. I said “You know, it’s going well, but I feel like people don’t take me seriously. Because it’s toffee.” She said, “What you’re doing may not be serious, but it is important.”
When I sold my business in 2015, I realized her statement was a far reaching net that cast in 13 years of personal and professional growth that I am still processing and using in my life. Whether it’s starting a small business, a change in career or prospective, or perhaps a change in relationship with Self, your “What’s Next”, whether large or small, may not be serious, but it is important.
I am forever grateful for the journey of Terry’s Toffee. I am dedicated to doing my morning pages. Shortly after selling the business I asked my morning pages “What’s next?”. The reply came rapidly and out of the ethers. ‘“What’s next” is not a question™, it’s a directive telling the Universe you are ready, bring it on, let’s go!’
Michael and I were married in January of 2017. I am writing a book filled with stories and lessons of founding, operating, growing and selling my business, alongside powerfully impactful stories of my life. We are teaching classes and workshops that interrelate and help you to discover and remove the blocks that stand in your way and keep you from moving forward into your “What’s Next!”. We are also Intuitive Life Coaches and offer Reiki healing sessions. We recently launched our podcast, “Jumping the Fence” and share life stories and insight as we converse with our co-hosts Jen Stanley, Mary Pat Bohan and our producer John Magallanez.
Who knew self-improvement could be both hilarious and inspiring!
“We the people” can make positive changes in our world as we discover who we are at the center of our Being.