44: Choosing Joy When It All Falls Apart

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Building a business requires dedication, focus, and a willingness to push forward even in times of uncertainty. But what happens when your identity is so wrapped up in your business that you start defining your life by it? Megan Pollard shares her story of unimaginable tragedy and navigating life when you lose the titles that have shaped who you are.

On this episode, Megan shares:

  • The experience of unexpectedly losing a spouse in her 30s,

  • Why she was steadfast in focusing on joy and not loss,

  • Upholding expectations others have of us,

  • Falling in love after heartbreak, and

  • Building a business that doesn’t compromise living.

MEET MEGAN POLLARD

For over 10 years Megan Pollard has created events, companies, and experiences focused on creating moments of joy. After facing a shocking tragedy in 2015, she’s spent the last four years working to uncover the fundamentals needed to realize a place of personal and professional fulfillment. Megan now shares those tools with individuals, teams, and organizations toward the awareness and mindset shifts needed to create their own culture of joy.

In 2014, Megan was running a successful wedding planning business, putting in long hours with great intensity. Her business was her baby and with the attention she wasn’t paying to it, she was launching a second business. And though busy, Megan became more energized the more responsibilities she took on.

But with that focus came a price. Her marriage was fraying.

As an ambitious person—and admittedly one who doesn’t like hearing ‘no’—Megan knew she had to find a better way to incorporate all of the responsibilities she had as a business partner, wedding planner, mom, and wife.

Megan and her husband, Jayson, began blocking off dates in their calendar for pure fun. That was a signal to her that she couldn’t book gigs during those times. Though uncomfortable to just enjoy life without any need for productivity, these focused moments reignited her marriage—a true gift in light of what would happen just a few short months later.

FACING THE UNIMAGINABLE

In August 2015, Jayson was training for the Marine Corps Marathon. He work up for an early morning run, gave Megan a kiss goodbye, and headed out to the trail.

Later that morning Megan received a call from the Sheriff’s office. “Your husband has collapsed.”

Megan left her girls with a friend and raced to the local hospital. She prepared herself for what she would see--a red puffy face from dehydration, an IV bag. Admittedly, she wasn’t that concerned.

But with each step she took toward the building, her fear mounted. She started hearing words like “seizure” and “collapse” and “CPR.” The story in her mind significantly shifted in those moments.

Shortly after arriving Megan learned that Jayson had gone into cardiac arrest. The doctor delivered the news: “Your husband isn’t going to survive but you can join him if you’d like to.”

Megan remembers thinking that everything she was at that moment was wrapped up in her husband. He was the foundation for teaching her for how to love and teaching her how to trust. He made her a mom. He encouraged her to start a business. And while he always told her to stop living in fear because the sky wasn’t going to fall, the sky was most certainly falling.

“HOW ARE YOU GOING TO TAKE CARE OF US?”

The most difficult thing she’s ever had to do was tell her young girls that her father had passed. Her oldest daughter looked at her and said, “Mommy, how are you going to take care of us?”

She didn’t have a response at that time, but it was clear what she had to figure out.

And yet, life went on. She had clients who needed their wedding planner. In no shape to be able to work, Megan’s team took on all of her 2015 and 2016 clients. Like a passenger in her own life, Megan watched as her community stepped in and wrapped her and her family in love and support.

Something that hit Megan the hardest in this time was that all of the identities she had identified as before were no longer accurate. She wasn’t someone’s wife. She wasn’t someone’s wedding planner. But her role of mom was still there.

RECOGNIZING JOY IN THE EVERY DAY

One thing Megan knew for sure is that she wanted positivity to surround her and her girls. When you experience loss as devastating as they did, people know it. You don’t have to talk about it to feel it. When you walk into a room, everyone’s head turns a little to the side and they give you that knowing look. You’re cloaked in sadness.

Megan wanted to labeled as joyful rather than tragic.

While she knew she wasn’t going to focus on how unfair life seemed, she knew the ugly wasn’t going anywhere. She didn’t have to pretend it wasn’t there. But she could choose to do something fun, to feel joy again.

This sentiment stuck with the girls. When they saw something that made them happy, the girls would say, “Look mom, joy!”

Then other people started seeing the word joy in their own lives and associating it with Megan and her family. At that time, Megan realized they didn't have to be tragic.

A NEW CHAPTER

Megan moved houses to be closer to her family and start fresh. She became an employee, which helped her meet her basic needs like insurance and a steady paycheck. And she started working with a leadership coach who helped her figure out what her identity as “new Megan” would look like.

And in those four years since the unimaginable, Megan found love again.

Today she’s focused on helping others find joy without having to experience heartbreak first. She sees a lot of sinking between business and personal life—especially for entrepreneurs—and rather than making her clients separate the two, she helps them purposefully approach the duality.

Through her new business, We Choose Joy, she uses her story and the tools she picked up along the way to help individuals and teams tune in to their center and calibrate their actions with their most important work.

A true inspiration to those of us who are struggling to prioritize our many responsibilities and goals, Megan is a powerhouse: a mom, a wife, a friend, a business owner, and a storyteller.