Living Happily Ever After


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Of Victory, Defeat…and Birthdays

“Time is everything; five minutes make the difference between victory and defeat.” (Horatio Nelson)

I celebrated my birthday yesterday. It was a WONDERFUL day, for many reasons and thanks to so many people. It was a happy day, all day, for me (and my husband, who shares my same birthday.) But then, unexpectedly, there came that moment.

That one moment when I couldn’t help but acknowledge the miracle of having such a wonderful 47th birthday…as I remembered how absolutely terrible turning 42 had been.

That lovely birthday that hit about a month after my extreme life losses and divorce in 2009, amid of a LOT of change, challenge, trauma and turmoil. I felt terrible, I looked awful, and I can’t describe the misery I experienced–feeling like a total failure in my 40s! (I don’t recommend it, haha.)

But I DO recommend hanging in there. Choosing to live anyway, despite your losses, burdens and adversities. Never give up. Get out of bed every day and accomplish something, even if it’s just getting out of bed!

Because time really is everything. And those ensuing minutes (or years, in my case) really do make the difference between defeat and victory. And victory feels so good and is literally, so SWEET.

“Victory is sweetest when you’ve known defeat.” (Malcolm S. Forbes)

Taste it.



The Speech Concluded: ‘R’ is for Resilience

The original definition of resilience had to do with a material’s ability to resume its shape or position AFTER being bent, stretched and compressed: the ability to “bounce back.”

To help you bounce back, I recommend the following:

1. Reflect. Think about other challenges you’ve faced and how you successfully overcame them. Do those things.

2. Write about your feelings. Writing processes thoughts and feelings differently in the brain by putting words to them. Writing about something can change the way you view it. Interestingly, I heard about a 1994 study on job loss that found that participants who wrote about their loss 30 minutes each day for five consecutive days found work significantly faster than those who didn’t.

3. Find the lessons in your loss. Writing can help you do that, too. No matter how bad the circumstances ask, “What can I learn from this?” These lessons can help you avoid giving up despite setbacks, too.

4. Reinvent yourself. Sometimes, you have no other choice–you lose your entire life (like I did) and you’re forced to create a new one. If you aren’t forced to completely reinvent every aspect of a new life, learn a new skill, take up a new hobby, join a new group or meet some new people.

5. Move forward! The shortest way to the other side is through your challenge. Don’t be a pickle sucker. Get through your challenge and move on. And “suddenly” (no guarantee on how long it takes!) you’ll realize your smile is real–not something you’re faking for your children or the world. You’ll realize, with shock, you feel like your “old” self again. You’ll realize your new life is good, although not exactly the same, as the one you lost. And you’ll realize that you’re happy.

So…believe in wearing lipstick. Believe in pink.

Laugh, it’s the best calorie burner.

Be strong when everything seems to be going wrong.

Remember that happy girls are the prettiest ones.

Believe that tomorrow is another day. Believe in miracles.

And you’ll find yourself living your own personal one. Your “happily ever after.”

The Speech Continued: ‘L’ is for Laugh

L: Laugh

In my opinion, if you’re going to survive any life, especially an unexpected one, a sense of humor is indispensable! There are certain shades of limelight that can wreck a girl’s complexion…I know! I lived them! National media attention, public speculation, criminal trials, hatred, vengeance, shock and grief and horror and betrayal can all take their terrible toll on your appearance!

Sometimes the only thing you CAN do is to laugh.

“No matter what your heartache may be, laughing helps you forget it for a few sounds.” (Red Skelton)

Studies show:

Laughter combats fear (it changes your perspective), laughter comforts, it’s a healthy reaction to stress (it reduces three stress hormones), it reduces pain (releases endorphins, it boosts the immune system and bodily functions (like exercise, it improves muscle capacity), and it makes you feel good–even if only for a few invaluable seconds.

In life, you can choose to laugh or cry–I choose to laugh!” (Marjorie Hinckley)


The Speech Continued: ‘P’ is for Plan

P: Plan

When I was a teenager, my dad was killed in an airplane crash. I remember thinking it was the absolute worst thing in the world that could ever happen. My mom (ever one to look on the bright side–if you find my optimism offensive, blame her!) consoled me by saying, “But at least we love him and he loved us and he’s still part of our family. It would have been so much worse if he’d betrayed or abandoned us.” (So that pretty much established in my mind that the absolute worst thing that could ever happen was a husband and father who betrayed his family.)

As a teen, and as a result of my dad’s death, we also lost our home and money. Which helped create my greatest fear: to ever lose my home for any reason.

And for some reason, I was also terrified to ever be responsible for another human being by myself. For that reason, I hadn’t had children until after my husband and I had graduated from college and he was firmly established in a successful career.

And then my unexpected life hit.

My unexpected life is 100% comprised of my worst fears and biggest nightmares: husband betrays wife, loss of home, loss of money, and just another person to be responsible for–FOUR CHILDREN TO PROVIDE FOR AND RAISE! Hmm…isn’t that interesting?

On the bright side, there IS something “freeing” in having your worst fears realized. I can’t think of anything that embarrasses me, or that I’m afraid of, any more!

JK Rowling once said, “I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized, and I still had a daughter I adored, I had an old typewriter and I had a big idea. Rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

Rock bottom IS a solid foundation on which to rebuild.

Again, plan what you CAN do, fix or change.

Never settle for less than a happy ending for yourself.

And when one avenue you think my be your new happily ever after turns into a brick wall, course correct and carry on again until you have it.

Never allow yourself  to lay down and die, figuratively or otherwise, as much as you might want to sometimes. Quitting doesn’t get you to happily ever after. Never has, never will.

The Speech Continued: ‘H’ is for Hang On

H: Hang On.

Don’t walk off into the sunset, disappear into the horizon and drop off the face of the earth as much as you may want to! Don’t lay down and die (like I really wanted to!)

“The best way to guarantee a loss is to quit.” (Morgan Freeman)

So hang on!

The reality is: if you hang on long enough and hang in there strong enough, eventually you’ll see light again. And when the dust settles, it USUALLY doesn’t end up QUITE as bad as you initially think it will. For example, I seriously believed at worst case scenario, I was innocent but would be sent to prison anyway; and at best case, I would be homeless–living in a cardboard box somewhere under a bridge. (It was me and my four kids, so I was envisioning a refrigerator-sized box!) The reality? Yes, I lost my life, my home, my husband, my intact family, many friends, my reputation, every material possession of value (including my wedding ring and most of the gifts my husband had ever given me); yes, I had to go to work and will have to work until the day I die; yes, I WILL be living paycheck to paycheck the rest of my life…but there IS a paycheck, there IS a roof over my head and there IS food for my children. We’re ok!

You CAN do it.

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror, I can take the next thing that comes along!’ You MUST do the thing you THINK you cannot do.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Embrace your horror! Really, what else is there to do?

Own your story, whatever it is, and I promise you, someday you’ll be living with happiness and joy. Again.

Sitting (or Standing, as the Case May Be!) Happy

“But I learned that there’s a certain character that can be built from embarrassing yourself endlessly. If you can sit happy with embarrassment, there’s not much else that can really get to ya.” (Christian Bale)

What happened next is kind of…perfect; completely fitting for a first return to the state I’d left four years ago in total shock, grief, fear (even though I tried my best not to fear) and yes, complete humiliation.

First stop after DIA was to a restaurant for dinner.

As we drove, I was surprised to feel so calm and normal. I must have expected to feel the last feelings I’d had in Colorado (shock, grief, devastation, horror) or even worse, at this stage of life, to feel homesick for the city, state and life I’d loved so much (knowing that chapter of my life has closed and a permanent return to Colorado will never be a possibility) or worst of all, to feel like I didn’t belong there any more. I mean, Colorado had been my home since 1974. I was terrified to feel out of place there because if I didn’t feel I belonged in my home state, where would I EVER belong?

We had a nice dinner and at the end of dinner, I stood up to leave and instantly felt a freezing cold blast across my…nether-regions, looked down to determine why I suddenly felt so cold, only to see my maxi skirt puddled on the floor!

There I stood in a restaurant, on a Friday night, wearing–from the waist down– only my underclothing! I quickly bent down, pulled my skirt on again, and exited the restaurant!

Believe it or not, I could not stop laughing.

Leave it to my unexpected life to come full circle in the most unexpected of ways: depart in embarrassment, humiliation and mortification and  the VERY FIRST THING that happens to me upon my return most would consider embarrassing. (Except, I realized, me. As I’ve said before, it’s pretty difficult to be too embarrassed about anything given the “embarrassment”–revelation of crime, loss of everything, demise of family, divorce, and all of it played out on a very public stage– I’ve lived through! Haha)

Consider me filled with character. And sitting happy with it all. In my unexpected life.

Who EVER could have imagined that?

Not even optimistic, filled-with-hope, determined-to-create-and-live-a-happily-ever-after, little old me!

A Different Kind of Richness: Step 5 Continued

“Be yourself. Above all, let who you are, what you are, what you believe, shine through…” (John Jakes)

So later, when federal agents told me they were coming to inventory my possessions for seizure, unexpectedly came the thought into my mind, “You should hide some of your jewelry, no one will every know, and then you’ll have something to sell to help feed your children and keep them alive.” I was shocked! I’d been honest my entire life—my parents had taught me not to eat even a grape from the bunch at the grocery store without paying for it first; at great inconvenience I’d driven back to stores that had given me a few incorrect cents of change, and now I’d had the thought to, basically, steal something? (Granted, they HAD been MY things, not to mention the stakes were very high for me personally, but I never anticipated ever having such a thought.)

However, within moments I decided, “I am not going to change who I am just because someone else was never who they professed to be!” So I didn’t hide anything, I even reminded the investigators of my jewelry when they came to my home.

The bad  news? Yes, my jewelry was seized and I lost an asset I could have sold and used to begin a new life with. The good news? I remained true to myself and who I’d always been. And it’s always worth it to remain true to yourself, on every level and in every way. Always. No matter what happens.

And when you do that, you’ll survive; you’ll be ok. You may not have all the jewelry you wish you had, but you’ll be ok! You’ll have a different kind of “richness” in your life that no one can seize from you.

“Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.” (Oscar Wilde)

One Grand Sweet Song

“Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.” (Ronald Reagan)

Last month my husband took me to see Olivia Newton John in concert. Even if I hadn’t loved her music or aspired to be her during my childhood and teenage years (yes, I had the white dress from Xanadu and wore my hair like hers!) that concert was a trip down the memory lane of my childhood and life.

It was also there that something very unexpected happened—and I’m not talking about the Olivia enthusiast next to me who didn’t sit down once during the entire performance, who had what appeared to be choreographed danced routines he performed to every song and who didn’t miss an opportunity to call out “I love you, Olivia!” every time there was a pause or break in singing. (For the sake of my husband’s reputation and honor, I should probably clarify that although I love that he knows every word to every song, sang along with Olivia and I and enjoyed the evening as much as I did…I’m talking about the man on the OTHER side of me!)

While sitting on the grass and enjoying the concert, I was unexpectedly struck by the most powerful sense of complete and utter satisfaction and contentment; a feeling of  joy, gratitude, happiness and a love of life. Not just about life itself, but about the life I am living today.

Honestly, it surprised me.

Because I still have an occasional moment of trying not to compare the “then” with the “now.” Yes, a materially blessed life with a beautiful home, a house cleaner, a gardener, luxury cars, vacations and everything else that was mine in a former life was easier, in some ways, than the life I struggle to provide for myself and my children now. Yes, I lived one life I loved until 2009 at which time I began living a new and very different life in which I’ve found much unexpected happiness, joy and satisfaction. But it surprised me to be struck, unexpectedly, by such a powerful sensation that despite its many, many losses and the heartache and grief I’ve passed through, despite the challenges of the past and present and the extreme changes in every aspect of my life including lifestyle, I not only have incredible peace and joy but also total gratitude and contentment in and for my new one.

It made me realize that not only do you have to triumph over your challenges, you must embrace what has happened to you, accept it as a part of you and your life experience, own it (make it yours) and the triumph will be that much sweeter. It was an epiphany for me to realize that is what I had unintentionally done and that the happiness and joy that is yours, when you do that, is indescribable.

Really, it is. I highly recommend it to everyone living an unexpected life. Because when you get to that point, I believe you really ARE experiencing, living AND FINDING JOY in your unexpected life. You’re living your “happily ever after.”

“Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” (Toni Morrison)

A Perfect Day

When I was a girl, I dreamed of perfection: perfect days. I had a pretty great life, basically a fairy tale life until age 19, and I knew that. I appreciated that. And I looked forward to life’s continuing fairy tale perfection for the remainder of my days until…1986—when “life” hit.

One Tragedy. Loss my teenage mind could hardly comprehend. Grief. Hardship. (And the occasional despair!) I learned to deal with it, but never abandoned my dream of fairy tale perfection. Two decades later I again enjoyed a pretty great life, a fairy tale life in many ways until…2009—when the VERY “unexpected life” hit.

Now that I’m older and have moved through additional storms and am hopefully a little wiser, I think I’ve decided I’d settle for a “perfect” day—although I’m not even sure I’ve been able to create or capture many of those either! There’s always something I fall short in, or a struggle that confronts me, that results in some degree of imperfection during almost every 24-hour period.

So here’s my new ideal:

“Every day one should at least hear one little song, read one good poem, see one fine painting and—if it all possible—speak a few sensible words. (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

That sounds doable, doesn’t it? Especially in today’s web world: hear a little song, read a little something, see something visually uplifting…Even I can do that, I think.

It’s the speaking “a few sensible words” that may be a challenge! Lol.

Make it a perfect day. And be sure and let me know how it went for you.

Or Maybe?

Or maybe the secret to life is…simply facing your fears.

My unexpected life was replete with ALL of my lifelong fears and many more I’d never even dreamed of, not even in my worst nightmare, all combined into one fantastically devastating, horrific experience that included, all at the same time, betrayal, crime, a double life, negative publicity, divorce, single motherhood, poverty, loss of home, loss of pretty much everything of worldly value, unemployment, financial devastation and a few other things I shall refrain from detailing.

What do you do when you’re handed your nightmare on a platter of poverty and publicity?

Accept it. You can’t escape it, so deal with it.

Conquer it. Keep at it until you overcome the mountains in your path. (Work at it every single day for as long as it takes to find happiness and joy, to live, again.)

I think THAT is the secret.

“He who is not every day conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)