All my life, I’ve had to “keep the faith” that things would work out. And now, at 75 years young, I see how almost ‘blind faith’ has seen me through a lot of ups and downs. And I’m sure ‘keeping the faith’ can help you; faith in yourself, faith and hope that the future will work out, no matter what. So, let me share some thoughts, what I would like to call, “Thoughts From The Hot Tub.”
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
– Maya Angelou
Like so many young people, I thought I knew it all. I thought I knew how the world really worked, because I thought I knew who I really was. And, of course, being older and more experienced in life now, I definitely didn’t know…anything.
It seems so obvious to me now – if I had known then what I know now, things would have been different. How many of us say that when we actually sit down and analyze our past and our choices?
When I was a young business woman, I developed an advertising agency, worked very long hours, and tried my best as a single parent to spend quality time with my two children. In hindsight, I didn’t spend enough time with them. But at the time, I felt I needed to provide a home, food and a safe environment for them.
I have always thought of myself as a survivor – one who has overcome, conquered my challenges, risen from failures, and been able to contribute to the world around me. And yet, as I reflect, I am proud of my family and my career and my spiritual path. I kept the faith. But it was VERY hard. And I really made mistakes on the way.
How did I overcome those mistakes I’ve made? Intelligence? Passion? Commitment? Risk-Taking? Social Skills? Coping Skills? What is the list of my core traits that carried me through? And how did my two children ever survive those times? Today, they are doing very well, but do they carry scars from those mistakes? I hope not. I need to have faith that they don’t.
Sometimes you need to invent your own way and fight the battles as they arise. All I knew then was I couldn’t sell my integrity and I couldn’t settle for what I didn’t want. And I always seemed to want a lot. And I definitely had trouble settling for less than what I wanted and felt I deserved. That is probably why I was married and divorced three times. I felt that I should be able to have unconditional love, and just didn’t seem to be able to find it. At least in men. My children both loved me unconditionally. That love gave me hope, and the faith to keep going. Before I had my children, there was only my own faith in myself, and my caring grandmother tried her best to be supportive, but she was ‘in over her head’ with me. This sometimes made it doubly hard to keep going. But I did.
I grew up keeping so much inside but smiling on the outside. I was a people-watcher as a young child, shy and quiet, trying to figure out who I was and where I fit in the world. As I grew into adulthood, I always smiled and ‘put on a good show’ on the outside while not smiling on the inside. Darn, I was just so serious and so focused. I couldn’t live my life ‘by the book’, because there was really NO book that made any sense to me. I was stumbling along, realizing how fragile and changeable life can be – and how the ‘butterfly effect’ of just one little change can affect it.
Yes, I was trying to learn as I went along, with no help, no guidance. There wasn’t anyone around that I trusted to ask for help. Even my loving grandmother, who was the only one at that time that gave me unconditional love. But I think sometimes my complicated questions and concerns were too much for a smart but fairly basic woman. But she was deeply religious, and perhaps some of that rubbed off on me.
Hope and faith. Sometimes that’s all we have to hold onto. In times like these (Pandemic Covid-19 2020 times), we need to pursue our passions and live our best lives. Yes today, I am living my best life, but it wasn’t always so.
If you have been reading my blogs/stories from the beginning, you have witnessed how challenging my childhood was, feeling the small amount of love my mother gave me, my working from the age of 12, dying when I was both 3-4 years old and then when my son was born, facing the challenges of divorce, single parenting, and working practically nonstop until I was 72. Whew! Yes, it was long and hard.
But, we all have difficult stories to tell. And now, with the lack of surety of our futures facing this very tough virus that has sickened and killed so many people, it can be hard to face life. It can be scary. In the world-wide pandemic, there are a million and more difficult stories to tell and hear.
But, grief and resilience live together and there are many survivor stories too. People who had faith in themselves, and spiritual faith that things would be ok for them.
How do you find that faith? Before we can have faith in ourselves, we need to find a faith in something outside ourselves, something bigger than us. At least, that has been my experience, and many others’ too.
Did I grow up feeling deep faith? Not really. My family attended our local small town Episcopal Church, usually without my father as he was Methodist. We went through Sunday school and confirmation classes, church services, but these activities were mechanical for me and I found them boring. Although I willingly attended all of these activities, they seemed to have little impact on my feelings and my life. They were just something ‘we did’.
So, growing up, God seemed to be to me then a “Sunday thing”, and I don’t remember discussing spirituality or religion in our home nor in my relatives’ homes. Except for my grandmother, who wanted to share thoughts about her faith, but no one wanted to listen.
We did have a family Christian model in our lives back then, being supportive and loving towards our relatives and friends, volunteering in community activities, being compassionate for those who were less fortunate, and our easy willingness to give to others even if it hard for us (we didn’t have much money or possessions then, just the basics of life). For instance, one day in 4th grade, I brought a little girl home after school as a new friend (and new to town), because she didn’t know anyone and was shy. She fell in love with my favorite doll, and when she later left for home, I swallowed , and she left with that doll, a gift from me. I was living the ‘Christian life’, putting the feelings and needs of others before my own.
Although this was a good thing to do in life, it later proved to be detrimental in my business. Sometimes I gave ‘too much’ away for free to clients and undercharged them. Not good for business. Where does living the ‘Christian life’, being good to people, and being a business person stop and the other begin?
After losing my business (see previous story in Chapter 19), and failing in three marriages…each time I had to rediscover myself.
One thing kept carrying through. I needed to be creative while helping people. That meant that I would focus too much on my work many times, feeling more comfortable there than outside of work. I felt comfortable with my children, but otherwise, my thoughts would drift to my work. Maybe that made it hard to be married to me. My first husband didn’t want me to work outside the home, my second wanted me to and then took off with all my funds, and my third also wanted my full time focus on him, not work. So, you can see how none of these would work for me. I helped make my marriages very uncomfortable.
After each negative in my life, I would look both inward and outward. Outward to driving to a beautiful nature spot by myself and having a talk with God, asking him what I had done wrong, and what I needed to change. Then, I would talk with myself, but when I would be trying to be logical, I would get emotional. It took time building my faith back up, in both myself and God. Asking the question “Where did I go wrong?” almost became my mantra during those years. When I would feel that I knew the answer, I would be able to feel that confidence growing again, and my ‘faith’ was back. With each storm, my resolve would grow…to become stronger myself, keep our family together, and survive well.
Towards the end of her life, my mother told me that I was ‘born old’, knowing so much more than I should know. A few weeks later, my older brother told me that he always thought I would end up as the President. I reminded him that I had built a company and been its President. Then he clarified his meaning, “I meant the President of the U.S.” So, why did they wait so late to tell me those things?
I remember having so many doubts in my life and wondering if I had ‘what it takes’ to realize my dreams of being a success as a wife and mother, and in business, that I could have used those bolstering words growing up. Instead of later in life, after I had made so many mistakes, mainly due to my own inadequacies, or so I thought.
Dr. Phil McGraw in his book “Life Code” talks about letting the wrong people take up your time and influence you. He suggested capturing the essence of both bad influencers and good influencers, and do an ‘autopsy’ on those relationships, looking for same/similar traits, characteristics and tactics. What a novel idea, as we usually look for differences in people rather than similarities.
How could I have worked and lived for so long and not figured that out? Why did it seem so many times like I was floundering instead of succeeding? Or was I concentrating on the wrong things?
Maybe I was. But looking back on all of this, I had the intelligence, personality, value system, work ethic, commitment, motivation and skills to succeed. I just kept pushing ahead, sometimes blindly, but still pushing. Keeping the faith in myself, learning as I went along, and reaching out for faith outside myself sometimes.
They say everything happens for a reason. Perhaps all of the lows and the highs too were what made me who I am now. Someone who can’t stop the creative juices from flowing, writing books like mad, and living with and enjoying my family…three generations deep.
So, as you can see, ‘keeping the faith’ has helped me survive. It has helped me push ahead through tough times, see me through better times, and kept me passionate about what I do.
Thanks for staying with me and hearing my “thoughts from the hot tub”. A hot tub is a great way to contemplate life. And warm those aches away.
I hope you have enjoyed my six years of blogging, and I hope you have enjoyed reading my book. This is my last blog/last chapter. I have pretty much shared everything with you. My stories. My life. How about you? I’m sure you can share a lot of interesting tales you have learned over the years. Write about them. Do a blog or a book. Why not? From what my thousands of readers have shared with me, I have helped them figure out things in their lives and helped them in other ways too. Maybe that’s why I have floundered on and off through the years and lived to ‘tell about it’.
Thank you for reading another true story from my life. For more information, see my About Me Page.