Living Happily Ever After


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The Conditions for Beauty

“No object is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not look ugly.” (Oscar Wilde)
My mom emphasized true beauty, what she called “inner beauty,” and taught me it’s what is on the inside of you that counts. I believed her. And  then my unexpected life hit.
Although it happened five years ago and much of it has become a blur, I’ll never forget what a scary and dark time it was. Overwhelming. All I can say is that I did the best I could given the circumstances. I probably made some mistakes. But one thing I stand by was my intentional refusal to indulge in the vicious hatred and negativity that came my way. (I’d like to say it was a soul perfection that allowed me to take the high road. But the truth is probably closer to the fact that I was so afraid if I allowed myself to indulge in ANY hatred or anger toward anyone who treated me unjustly or betrayed me during those dark days, I might have never been able to rise above it.)
So time passed, I recovered, and I’m still living. I moved on, minus most of the trappings (and some of the friends) who chose to not remain with me. And I’ve become o.k. with all of it. And then earlier this month I had an encounter that reinforced to me, again, that I made the right choice.

One of my biggest losses from my previous spouse’s crimes and Ponzi scheme was the loss of a few friends I’d know even longer than my ex. We weren’t just friends, we were like family. They were some of my heroes–and the first phone call I made when I found out I was married to a criminal and he’d destroyed not just our family, but countless other lives. However in the waning months of my ex-husband’s crimes, their relatives had invested money with him. And he had taken it. So at my greatest time of need (and in all of the years since), they couldn’t be there for me due to the depth of destruction.

And then earlier this month, I unexpectedly ran into one of them. That friend I once knew so well was a literal stranger. In fact, I almost didn’t recognize her. Our encounter was so brief but I was shocked. She looked so different to me. Maybe I just caught her on a bad day…or maybe my mom was right: inner beauty is the only kind of beauty that matters.

It isn’t easy to develop and it certainly isn’t easy to maintain–to rise above the destructive choices of others and the events of life that can be so difficult. But it’s so worth it.

Because in the end, and despite our losses (or perhaps because of them), we will each be truly beautiful.

No Sorrow That Cannot Heal

Step 4: Refrain from speaking useless words and never give in to what they spawn—anger, your’s or anyone else’s!

Thomas S. Monson once said the two most useless words in the English language are “if only.” He’s right, I’m sure, but I would also add two more: “why me?”

Too many people experience adversity—illness, financial reverse, betrayal, a divorce, an unexpected death, even a natural disaster—from which they never recover, usually the result of focusing on “why me” and “if only,” which leads to anger and a downward spiral that goes on to ruin not only their lives, but the lives of others. I was determined NOT to let that same thing happen to me when my world fell apart!

I’d had a friend whose husband betrayed her and asked for a divorce, and instead of carrying on she indulged in the four most useless words, which fed her anger (which she also indulged) to the point that she never recovered. She has been miserable for 11 years now and counting, still angry over what her former husband did, and she has completely ruined not just her life but the lives of her children. Meanwhile, her husband had remarried, had more children, is very happy and has a good relationship with his older children as well.

On another occasion, I met a 50-year-old woman without a job, a place to live, a winter coat or even shoes (other than sandals) in the snowy climate of Colorado. As I drove her to purchase a coat and some winter shoes, I couldn’t help but ask how she had arrived at such desperate circumstances. She said her dad had died unexpectedly when she was a teenager and that the experience had been very difficult for her because she had really loved her dad! She continued, “Why me? If only that hadn’t happened…” In that moment I realized I had been blessed with the same life experience she had, at close to the same age. I believe the difference was in what we had each allowed ourselves to indulge in.

It is never productive and actually, can be very destructive in my experience, if you let yourself indulge in, and wallow in, feelings of anger, resentment and hatred. Hatred, anger and resentment are like acid—they only destroy the vessel in which they are stored. And it IS possible to do that when instead of indulging in those feelings, you choose to allow yourself to heal.

“Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish; Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.” (Thomas More)


Easy To Speak

When I was a girl, my dad had the irritating habit of bursting into song when we weren’t being kind.  ”Let us oft’ speak kind words to each other, at home or where’ere we may be…” he sang–in his best opera voice. 

It did the trick. I absolutely hated that song and how he sang it. I changed my behavior ASAP just to get him to stop singing. His message was clear: my parents expected us to choose kindness, no matter what.

I had no idea what was in store for me, in my life, when I was a girl. I’ve lived through horrific shock; unimaginable loss; personal devastation; grief. I’ve been falsely accused and wrongly judged by people who know me (and thus should have known better) and by random strangers (who don’t know me at all) a few times. Sometimes it seemed like my situation couldn’t have gotten much worse. But I’m thankful I was taught to be kind, because I firmly believe and I’ve seen for myself that the only thing that can make a bad situation worse is anger, contention, venom, hatred, rudeness, hostility, vilification, an unwillingness to forgive…in other words, a lack of kindness and charity.

Regardless of what happens to us, I strongly believe our reaction to every situation, unexpected or otherwise, continues to be a choice and, “Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.” (Samuel Johnson) I’ve seen for myself that, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” (Mother Teresa) I’m reminded of that each day when someone chooses to act or speak with kindness toward me. I was reminded of that even today when a stranger named Mark offered a kind comment on my blog. And when my former spouse was sentenced and a Ponzi scheme victim I don’t know offered a kind word on my blog. I have been uplifted by the kindness of strangers countless times in my life, especially in my unexpected one.

Now I sing that song, my dad’s song, to my own kids. In an opera voice, too. And I’m pleased to report it’s working just as well for the next generation of my family. We’re not perfect, but we’re trying to be kind. Always. And we’re singing about it.

Just a little something in addition to the dance moves we’ve developed…in our unexpected life.

“While I dance I cannot judge, I cannot hate, I cannot separate myself from life. I can only be joyful and whole. That is why I dance.” (Hans Bos)


“Fortune knocks at every man’s door once in a life, but in a good many cases the man is in a neighboring saloon and does not hear her.” (Mark Twain)

Living an unexpected life, I can’t help but sometimes compare the “then” to the now.

Here’s one: fortune cookies.

When I was married, my former spouse had a hostility toward certain things. (And of course, criminal tendencies that have now been revealed or not, as with all people, it’s never what you expect.) Shawn Merriman felt anger toward fortune cookies. The sight of them on the tray at the end of an Asian meal upset him. To have someone read their fortune out loud from the scrap of paper they removed from the crisp cookie shell made him mad. I believe his venom toward the end-of-meal treat stemmed from his mother’s propensity to consult real fortune tellers for prophecies about her life, and that she made plans and lived according to the information they divined–something he completely disagreed with.

Whatever the reason for his hostility, and for the sake of peace and harmony in our relationship, home and family, I gave them up. I didn’t look at or read a fortune from a fortune cookie, for most of the 20 years I was married. Then I got divorced.

A year ago my sister came to town and took my daughter and me to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. When the meal was over, the fortune cookies came. My sister grabbed one, opened hers and read it. My daughter and I did the same. That small event was so huge to me, I recorded it in my journal–not as a defiance of my former spouse and the old life I had lived, as evidence of things from the life of Andrea Christensen I was embracing again–and the crazy single woman I had become. I hadn’t read a fortune cookie in decades.

My fortune cookie revealed, “Someone from your past will happily enter your life.”

So I saved it.

I even put it in my wallet!

I knew I was crazy, and my behavior toward the fortune cookie’s prediction proved it.

Things changed, again, with Bachelor #5. He gave me an entirely new perspective, even with fortune cookies. He not only reads cookie fortunes, he adds certain phrases to the end of them as he reads them out loud, and laughs! His fortunes have opened up whole new realms of possibilities for me. Lol.

Speaking of fortunes, here are some helpful ones for the unexpected, single life. Wisdom I offer to all from a knowledgeable and trusted source: the fortune cookie.

“Every man is a volume if you know how to read him.” (The problem is knowing the language they speak, as evidenced by the international set of bachelors AND by the love language every bachelor speaks–but that is another blog post in itself!)

“Your secret admirer will soon appear.” (Just watch out for stalkers!)

“You are surrounded by fortune hunters.” (That is true for women AND men. I’ll never forget the man who told me he didn’t mind that I had four kids, “As long as they’re provided for by someone else.”)

“Behind an able man, there are always other able men.” (Helpful to remember as you’re looking for your Mr. Awesome and haven’t found him yet. Don’t give up. If he was out there for me, he is out there for you!)

And last but not least: “Answer just what your heart prompts you.” (Useful for you-know-when; THE moment; THE PROPOSAL.)

In fairy tales and real life.

“Life itself is the most wonderful fairy tale of all.” (Hans Christian Andersen)