After three years spent growing out the bangs my ex-husband loved, I made the grave error of arriving at my appointment in a “do whatever you want” mood.
Alan wanted bangs.
Craving some immediate and measurable improvement in my appearance, I threw caution to the wind (despite a nagging no on the inside) and said, “Go for it!”
At the first snip, I knew they were too short.
I groaned internally. This was not my first bang rodeo.
Six-months of hair angst would ensue before I could return to my former bang-less glory.
The only comfort? Looking over my shoulder at previous bang travesties and knowing that, eventually, they always grow back.
Which is a great metaphor for any setback in life.
Think of something that pained you in the past. Do you now think of it differently?
Being laid off from QVC? Now I say THANK GOD I didn’t spend my career selling gold chains (though I am happy for those that do.)
The one that got away? I’ve seen his Facebook photos, and he didn’t age well.
Then, there are the more deeply stinging setbacks. Like the 17 years spent in a church that turned out to be a cult.
Sure, I could waste my energy bemoaning the “lost” years, but were they really lost?
The harshest, most painful setbacks in life (and there were plenty at that place) give us crystal clear clarity on what we don’t want and what we do want.
Never shall I allow my voice to be silenced in the face of injustice again. I will not allow others to assign my worth, nor will I be controlled by someone else’s “vision” for my life.
Just as the scriptures say, I had to lose my life to find it.
The experience set me back to set me up for who I am today.
The loss of my father at age ten still befuddles me. But that setback birthed in me a keen understanding that life is precious…and fleeting. That you should end conversations with a heartfelt “I love you” because you don’t know when or if you’ll get another chance to do so in this life.
A recent post talked about how time offers perspective unavailable when in the midst of turmoil. The 56 -year-old version of me now feels my father’s presence at key moments and I have an unshakable knowing that he is ever-present, offering emotional support.
A very present help in time of trouble.
The immortality of his beautiful soul offered small comfort to a little girl who just wanted a big hand to hold. Forty-six years later, I understand his transition to non-physical as a new way to know him.
Our word these past two weeks has been celebration.
My interpretation has been to embrace celebration as appreciation, yes, even for the setbacks in life.
They unfailingly become setups for good if we’ll choose to see them that way.
The passage of time offers clarity of perspective unimaginable when in the thick of distress.
This past week, I enjoyed a full circle experience and could savor with glee what once had been completely unsavory. More like gut-wrenching and heartbreaking.
In fact, if you looked at my life as if it were a stock market chart, the particular juncture I revisited would have equaled my greatest crash.
Ah…but the passage of time offers the gift of perspective.
It’s not the time itself that heals all wounds, but what you DO with the time.
In a whirlwind of excitement, I’d beat out thousands to win a slot as one of QVC’s original show hosts. I moved from New Jersey to West Chester, PA, signed a lease for a new apartment, and settled in to be the star I knew I was born to be. Heady stuff for a twentysomething who’d been making $75 a week as a reporter for a local cable TV news show.
Then, out of nowhere (and after three months of being put on a diet, having my hair shorn so tight it looked like a boy cut, and my wardrobe dissected) I was unceremoniously laid off.
A moment that so sucker punched me, I burst into tears and begged them to at least give me a position in the control room. I had bills to pay!
Determined to not go home with my tail between my legs, I did the only thing I knew how to do to survive.
I waited tables.
It was the breakfast/lunch shift at the Penn’s Table Diner in West Chester. Bleary eyed and dejected, each morning I arrived at 5 AM to fresh-squeeze the orange juice and try to remain sunny-side up when my life was so scrambled.
At the end of each shift, covered in syrup stains, I converted my dollar tips and change into larger bills to ensure I could keep my apartment for one more month.
My ego had taken a huge hit. My perspective at that point in time? Brenda, you’re a failure. One week I hosted a show reaching ten million viewers. The next, burning my hands on hot plates and only noticed when late providing coffee refills.
Still, it served as a testament to my resilience; to my desire to survive independently. Those nearly eight months sustained me until, finally, a position in communications was once again secured.
And, after 30 years, life brought me full circle.
This week, in town for a work conference in…you guessed it, West Chester, PA, I revisited the Penn’s Table Diner. As I sat at the counter with 30 years of life experience since my last visit. I savored my new perspective, sipping a steaming cup of coffee and waiting for my omelet to arrive. Tears of appreciation welled up in my eyes.
Can you think back to a time in your life when you thought, “I wish I knew THEN what I know NOW?” Or, “What was I THINKING when I did THAT?”
The person who invents a working crystal ball would make a killing on Shark Tank. (Mr. Wonderful would never call it poo-poo on a stick.)
But would we really want to know everything before it plays out?
I did what I did (and you did what you did) working with what I knew at the time.
As my favorite Maya Angelou quote goes, “When you know better, you DO better.”
Oh how I wish I understood that my time in high school would have been better spent studying or participating in activities rather than hiding from cliques and crushing on boys who never gave me the time of day.
If I understood that my time in college would rush by, hoisting me into the working world for the REST OF MY LIFE, would I not have savored it more? Instead, I finished in 3.5 years so I could get out there and start making a living. (Which was $75 a WEEK at the local cable TV station.)
Would I have taken the QVC job had I known I’d be laid off less than half a year later?
Or would I have joined that church if I had known it would be a destructive cult?
Would I have married my ex if I knew fourteen years later the marriage would end?
Well, in a way I’m glad I didn’t have a crystal ball. Because there’s no more captivating entry on my resume than that QVC experience. I made the best friends of my life – to this DAY – in that church. And my ex and our journey together got me to where I am now, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.
Time offers clarity of perspective sans the pain of the experience.
No, we wouldn’t have chosen some of the pain, but it sure was used for GOOD, ultimately.
What I do understand is that all things work together for good, aka, “Everything’s always working out for me.”
I bemoaned to a counselor once, “What about all the wasted years??? Is it too late for me???”
Her reply: “What was wasted if you learned from it? And while you have breath, is it ever too late?”
Some of you may be going through stuff you simply can’t understand right now. Give it time. Clarity, and with it, understanding, will come.
And in the meantime, look back over your shoulder and consider the mountains you’ve climbed; the dark tunnels that eventually flooded with light – and know that this, too, shall pass.
I should have anticipated that, upon picking the word Celebrate that the next two weeks would provide opportunities to grumble, complain, moan and groan.
It’s always that way with the WOW; it challenges me (and some of you, too) to embrace a positive in the midst of the speedbumps of life.
Enter edition 5.0 of Adventures in Airports.
Each quarter, I fly to Philly and participate in work meetings. Whenever possible, I try to fly out of Sarasota, because the local airport is literally five minutes from my home. There are never direct flights (yet, I’m praying that will change) to PHL from SRQ, but the hour drive time to and from Tampa usually makes up the difference.
So SRQ it was, and a mid-afternoon flight stopping in Atlanta. Let me begin by telling you everything that went wrong.
Once settled at the gate, the thunderbolts came, and with them, the first of 3 delays.
At the first announced delay, some fellow passengers began grumbling. One woman started to freak out a bit. A seasoned traveler, I thought to myself, “Chill lady. You’ll get there…eventually.”
You know that scripture, “Judge not, lest you be judged?” By the third announced delay I WAS that hyperventilating woman, and it was clear that no Sarasota flight would get me to Philly by the next morning.
A quick search revealed a Tampa flight leaving in two hours. Scurrying to retrieve my bag (carry-on size, but holding a huge hairspray, therefore checked), I hailed a cab and said, “Get me to Tampa ASAP.”
There would be just enough time to arrive, check in, get through security and make the flight.
Except after 20 minutes of smooth sailing, traffic halted to a standstill.
As the minutes ticked off, I began Googling OTHER flights. My only other options were revealed to be connections to Newark rather than Philly, and an earliest arrival time of around 11 AM. Two and a half hours AFTER the start of the meeting.
Yes, it occurred to me during this tense standstill that CELEBRATE was the just-revealed Word of the Weeks. Which I found utterly annoying.
Then my phone battery died. I had no USB charger, only one that would fit an electrical outlet. And my taxi driver’s phone was a Samsung, not an Apple.
Did I mention that the thunderstorms followed me during the entire route?
When, just a little over a half an hour before the flight was to board, I arrived at the American Airlines terminal, the check-in screen informed me that it was too late to check my bag.
Goodbye $15 can of hair spray.
Trudging through security, I beelined it for the gate. As I found myself starting to relax and even celebrate making the flight, the monitors announced that those of us attempting to get to Philly would be delayed. First an hour. Then almost two.
I’d get to my destination around 1 AM.
Did I mention that to fill the void and the sheer boredom of waiting in airports for a total of 5 hours I ingested every unhealthy, carb and sugar laden option available to me?
By the time I arrived, I was exhausted, bloated, grumpy and…grateful.
Because here is everything that went RIGHT:
I never pack a carry-on sized bag. NEVER. I love having several shoe and clothing options, my makeup case is almost the size of a carry-on itself, and I HATE hoisting a carry-on and flailing to shove it in the overhead.
But for some odd reason, I DID pack my smaller luggage. Had I not, when I finally checked in at Tampa, I could have gotten on the flight – but with no luggage. Which would have been my particular idea of hell on earth.
Did I mention when I booked that last minute flight from Tampa that first-class one way was actually CHEAPER than the main cabin?
When I went to board, the flight attendant looked at my maximum sized carry-on and quite large computer case and said, “Ma’am, you can’t board with both of those items…”
You should have seen the look on my face.
Until she said, “Unless you are in first-class.”
A cause to celebrate. I nodded, numbly, thanking my lucky stars that by some sheer twist of fate, I was indeed in first class.
Which enabled me to plug in my phone.
So I could find out that my wonderful brother/friend, Steve, would personally pick me up from the airport in the wee hours of the morning.
And take me to his home where the most comforting person on earth, Renee, would have my pillows fluffed and soft music playing when I arrived.
So many things went wrong, yes. But so many things went RIGHT.
It’s all how you look at a thing. (Which was ultimately the correct conclusion I came to, after kvetching and moaning and grumbling.)
The scriptures say that complaining overwhelms your spirit. I would add that celebrating buoys your spirit.
Our days are full of plot twists. We can’t control what happens to us, but we sure can choose how we RESPOND to what happens to us. So why not celebrate?
And sometimes, that’s what makes all the difference.
It seems like the universe is continuing with this theme of positivity. I blapped out a word during my closing thoughts on CELEBRATION…and wouldn’t you know, it was a precursor to the new WOW. Here we go!
By the way, for my SW Florida area friends, I am conducting my first open-to-the-public workshop on August 11th at 11 AM at Davis Hall (Sarasota Center of Light). It’s all about how to raise your vibration when you’re “Running on Empty.”
We’ll laugh ALOT and learn, too…and the point is to spend time on YOU so you can course correct and get that happy tank full again. Click on the above photo or here to link to the event and buy a ticket. (Best $25 you’ll ever spend.) Please share with a friend (and I hope to see you there!)
To live in harmony, I’ve had to make peace with the messes in my life. Yes, I’ve looked at them through the lens of bitterness and victim-hood, which did not serve my hope for a happy future.
Instead, I have chosen to see messes through the lens of gratitude and a believe that a Divine thread has woven them into the blessings that sculpted the person I am today.
So, as I shared with my fellow Toastmasters in my first speech this past week: There are three primary MESSES in my life that have made me who I am.
No one wants to ride the seesaw with a 100 pound kindergartner. Yes, you heard correctly.
Born a month too soon in 1963, Sal and Bette Costello weren’t sure I was going to make it! Hooked to tubes in an isolated area, four-pound me needed to reach five pounds to finally go home with mom and dad. When finally released, the need to feed was never a problem again. Getting me to STOP was.
…and there I was in kindergarten, 100 pounds. Twice the size of most of my classmates, I had to have special clothes and shoes made for me; I couldn’t run (without peeing my self) – but my mess became my message. I learned that what I could create between my two ears and come out of my mouth could build the bridges that my lack of looks couldn’t.
This mess birthed in me an empathy for the underdog; a sensitivity to those whose feelings might be hurt. It’s a mess that made me.
For mess #2, we must fast forward to age ten. My mother had long ago put me on a diet, so my weight was no longer an issue. I was in 5th grade, just starting to discover boys…and I was particularly excited for the annual roller skating party where I knew that Aldo Falasca would be and who I hoped would invite me to a couples’ skate.
We whirled around the rink, girls giggling and boys showing off…and I heard my name called over the loudspeaker. Had I won a door prize? I excitedly skated to the office and saw Mr. Coccaro, a friend of the family, with a somber look on his face.
I knew something very bad had happened.
Before a word was said, I blurted, “Was it Mommy?” He shook his head. “Daddy?””
At the very age I am today, one fatal heart attack stole him from our little family and with it, robbed me of so much security.
But eventually, my mess became my message. We all suffer loss in life – mine just occurred earlier than most. And what it taught me is to never take someone you love for granted, because their tomorrows – and yours – are not promised. Oh, I’d give anything to have that stolen time with my dad back, but what a valuable lesson to learn:
That love and gratitude reside in your heart to be expressed…and that if you live a life of love, you live a life with no regrets.
My third mess was the heartbreak of being single when everyone else was married.
My sister was married at age 20, and I had lived through ALL of my twenties and most of my 30’s with NO Mr. Right (and truthfully, very few dates.) I had, however, been in almost ten weddings (to my chagrin) and well-meaning friends encouraged me that, “When you least expect it…”
Ha! I went to every outing – including the grocery store or hopeful visits to Home Depot expecting…and expecting…and expecting. Nothing materialized.
Fortunately, I had a full life filled with friends and family and challenging work. In fact, in 2001 I was writing an annual report for the local government.
Printing companies from around the region competed in a bidding process to win the job and, once awarded, the vendor called to arrange a meeting.
“Oh, it’s not even ready yet. When it is, I’ll call YOU.”
The printing rep called again in a few weeks and by this time, under pressure to meet my deadline I responded with more agitation: “I will call YOU when it’s ready; please don’t call me again.”
You know how you create a mental image of a person you talk to on the phone? This guy was to me Danny Devito from Taxi. Short, gruff, tubby and probably with a cigar sticking out of the side of his mouth. I was not impressed.
Then the day came for the file to be picked up. And this was NOT Danny DeVito.
No, this was more like Tom Selleck from Magnum PI.
I couldn’t find my powers of speech. I fumbled to act professionally, while searching that left hand to see if it was adorned with a ring.
When I least expected it…
…three months later we were engaged.
Fourteen years later, I am still in love with that printing salesman.
My mess is my message: If it is in your heart, it is your destiny. Don’t waste time being sad because what you desire WILL eventually come to you, because I believe with all of my heart that desires are planted there to be fulfilled.
It’s the waiting, though, that makes you grateful when the dream is finally fulfilled.
In closing, is there something that might be a mess in your life today. Hold on, my friends. It could actually end up being your message.
And that’s how I ended my speech! Thanks for letting me share it with you, and I do believe that making peace with your past and seeing through the lens of gratitude makes for a much more HARMONIOUS life.
Drum roll please for the new Word of the Week!:
The scriptures say if we ask for it, we will receive it liberally. Here’s to huge doses of it for all of us this week!
I’d be remiss, as a believer, to not add that there is great comfort in trusting that there is a Higher Power with resources, reinforcements and grace to help in time of need. I choose to TRUST that God’s power is there when I need it (and boy, do I need it.)
I remember facing a really scary circumstance once; the kind of thing that had me quivering on the inside AND the outside. I really was afraid.
Someone reminded me that when I looked at my own strength and abilities, of course it would seem overwhelming.
But when you can call upon the Power that spoke the worlds into existence and ask for help beyond what YOU can do – and you TRUST that when you ask, you’ll receive…it can give you an uncanny boldness.
That scary thing turned into a big win, by the way. I actually surprised MYSELF by my words and the strength behind them, at a time when I never needed those superpowers more.
So that’s my parting thought on TRUSTING. I never push my belief system on any of you wonderful friends out there, but I always try to be clear about what works for me.
So how about we find out what the NEW WOW will be this week? (Along with a few more details about how TRUST played out in my life this past week.)
I’ve already started my own “AWAKENING” in that I finally feel sort of normal again.
Being sick makes you appreciate the little things you take for granted when you’re feeling fine.
Like the ability to get stuff done without taking naps every two hours!
What might you dust off this week that has been lying dormant? What has been slumbering that will finally wake up this week?
Here’s another thing I like about the word AWAKENING. It’s not a clamoring alarm clock that jolts you out of sleep with the gentleness of a sledgehammer.
The very word infers a gentleness…a slow reveal…the lifting of a fog to see things you never saw before.
If we are sensitive to the AWAKENINGS in life, we don’t need the jackhammers.
My prayer is that we are all open to seeing new things with new eyes and a fresh perspective on life this week.