Living Happily Ever After


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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.”

You Glimpse Tomorrow’s Embarrassment

“Every day, I have a most embarrassing moment.” (Steven Hill)

Upon entering my unexpected life, that was certainly true. Over and over again, day after day, I lived under intense scrutiny and through the utmost humiliation. (To me, in my world. There was nothing like losing my entire life, and so publicly, and for so many wrongs perpetuated.) But some days, some times, are like that. And eventually, they pass.

The good news? I survived the embarrassment. (We always do, don’t we?) Not to mention the added bonus that the whole thing certainly put humiliation into perspective for me: not much mortifies me any more, and there is a certain comfort and sense of security in that.

I was pretty sure I was “unembarrassable” after 2009.

And then I got remarried.

I think it was Jasmine who sang, “It’s a whole new world.” And it has led to a few memorable moments I might once have considered embarrassing. (Thank goodness nothing embarrasses me anymore, huh?)

“Have you ever gotten the feeling that you aren’t completely embarrassed yet, but you glimpse tomorrow’s embarrassment?” (Tom Cruise)


“No date on the calendar is as important as tomorrow.” (Roy W. Howard)


July 13.

Two years to the day I got divorced, loaded my youngest children and two dogs in my new-to-me-but-used Subaru and drove to Utah without a backward glance at my home, neighborhood, former life or home state of Colorado.

A new beginning.

That’s what I had to make.

A new life.

That’s what I was desperate to create.

A few nights ago, my middle son reminded me the anniversary of an important day was coming. “Mom, in just a few days we will have lived in Utah TWO YEARS. Can you believe it? July 13!” (I guess that date had an impact on my children that I hadn’t realized.)

I can’t believe I’ve lived in Utah two years,although thankfully, the number of times I dial “303″ when trying to call a Utah number is dramatically decreasing. But what I really can’t believe is all that we’ve experienced, all that we’ve been blessed with, in such a short amount of time.

It has been QUITE a ride.

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” (Albert Einstein)

Today’s Crisis Is Tomorrow’s Joke, I Hope

“I don’t know how to drive a car.” (Javier Bardem)

However, my daughter is learning to. She’ll be 16 in two months, so despite the fact she’s had her learner’s permit for almost a year, we’re feeling the pressure to get her as much experience behind the wheel before her birthday as we can. Easier said than done, though. Especially when I work full-time in another city.

So tonight we combined a driving lesson with a quick errand. Note to self: it would probably be wise to never attempt teenage daughter driving lessons after working all day and commuting both directions in traffic!

She drove. When I instructed her to turn right, she turned left–like she didn’t know her left from her right. (She really does, and she’s a smart girl, but I think she gets a little flustered behind the wheel.) One time when I instructed her to turn left, she hesitated so long the car behind her got in the turn lane, pulled up beside her and she nearly hit them when trying to get in the lane to turn.  After taking the LONG way to our destination, and experiencing her struggle to both use the turn signal and to change lanes, I admit it wasn’t my finest 20 minutes as a mother.

So by the time she ran a stop sign, cut off the car who actually had the right of way, forced them to slam on their brakes to avoid an accident, which apparently angered them because they tail-gated our car all the way down the street until they could whip around us, cut in front of us and slam on their brakes (to reinforce their anger at the way our driver was driving, I guess) I was completely out of patience.

I lectured her thoroughly (and loudly.)

Upon arriving home, my daughter went straight to her room, crying, committed to never getting behind the wheel of a car again. I make an impressive driving instructor, don’t you think? Or at the very least, an impressive mother. (Not.)

Ironically, tonight a friend told me that I have a very nice daughter and that I’m a good mother. Of all the days to tell me that! I had to confess how not true that is today. I can only hope that, “The crisis of today is the joke of tomorrow.” (H.G. Wells)

Or that she’s at least speaking to me by then, so we can laugh about it!

I apologized to her several times tonight, but I’m thankful “tomorrow is another day,” a new opportunity to stand up and do things better as a mother and as a driving instructor–if my daughter will consent to drive again.

“If you fell down yesterday, stand up today.” (H.G. Wells)

Just don’t run any stop signs.

Glimpse…From The Couch

“Have you ever gotten the feeling that you aren’t completely embarrassed yet, but you glimpse tomorrow’s embarrassment?” (Tom Cruise) 

I remember Tom’s couch jumping and the criticism he endured because of it. I just never imagined I’d feel like he had to have felt at some point in my life–publicly humiliated. And then my unexpected life hit.

Not only was I shocked at what was revealed, not only was I scrambling to preserve what I could from the ashes of destruction and create some semblance of a life for me and my children to carry on with, but I was absolutely mortified. I was appalled at the dishonesty and CRIMES that had been perpetrated; I was embarrassed to not only know a criminal but to be married to him; and I was humiliated at having to endure everything so publicly, played out on a national stage.

It was a struggle to reconcile that all of those events were my life.

I couldn’t help but recall the little girl I once was–the little girl who who loved her dolls and looked forward to the day they would become “real” and I would experience motherhood; the little girl who immersed herself in fairy tales for hours on end and had such dreams of a real one in the future for her and everyone else.

I certainly never envisioned the story I got handed. It wasn’t my plan. My plan was for me, and everyone else, to grow up and live happily ever after.

The bottom line? I didn’t want the life that became mine unexpectedly.

And then I thought of my childhood friends: friends with addictions that destroyed their families and their lives; friends who watched their toddlers suffer and eventually die from physical impairments; friends whose parents committed suicide, died of cancer, or were killed in accidents; friends who divorced; friends who never married; friends who wanted children but couldn’t have them; friends betrayed by spouses; friends who died of cancer; friends diagnosed with M.S. and other diseases they live with and endure the effects of on a daily basis; friends who battle health issues and pain all day every day; friends who struggle with employment; friends who lost their homes; friends who suffered financial reverses; the list is endless.

The challenges varied, but almost every childhood friend I knew had been blessed with an unexpected life.

I couldn’t help but wonder what we would all have thought, as children, if we’d been given a glimpse of what was to come. Honestly? I wondered if I would have run at the thought of 2009. I guess it’s a blessing that certain things are unexpected. And that’s when I remembered, not for the first time, a key to living and enduring life and it’s challenges. You have to expect that unexpected things happen. In every life. To every one. So you have to carry on. Every day.

“Not a day passes over the earth, but men and women of no note do great deeds, speak great words and suffer noble sorrows.” (Charles Reade)

Shocking, devastating, heart breaking, hard, unexpected, even embarrassing things. Expected, exhilarating, happy, joyous and wonderful things. But always unexpected. Sometimes they lead to an uncontrollable desire to jump on a couch. Other times, it’s all you can do to get up off the couch and drag yourself forward to face the day.

But the important thing is that you live it and never lose your glimpse of the possibilities contained in tomorrow…if you can just make it through today.

A helpful tip to getting through the day? Don’t forget to utilize your couch if you need to. Regroup on the couch. Then get up off the couch, jump on your couch, sit close to someone you love on your couch (where is Agent M when you need him?), or rearrange your couch. Couches can be helpful in the unexpected life.

“I got up one morning and couldn’t find my socks, so I called Information. She said, “Hello, Information.” I said, “I can’t find my socks.” She said, “They’re behind the couch. And they were!” (Stephen Wright)

Completely Unexpected

That next weekend we went out and I can’t tell you what we did. I don’t remember much about that night. I only remember this: Before he took me home, Bachelor #5 asked, “Do I even have a chance with you?”

That sounded a little heavy to me. And because I wasn’t about to be serious, I had to lighten things up. I joked, “Sure! I try to keep an open mind. Everyone has a chance with me!”

But that didn’t deter him. He then said, “I would marry you tomorrow if you were willing.”

“I would marry you tomorrow if you were willing?” THAT was COMPLETELY unexpected!

I didn’t know what to say. All I could think in that moment was, “He doesn’t realize what he is saying or how that sounds when it’s verbalized. He can’t know what he just said.” So I didn’t respond much.

Instead, waves of memories washed over me. I thought back exactly eight months to the day, to July 13, 2009, the day my divorce became final.

The day I left my life in Colorado and headed into the unknown, so broken and devastated I couldn’t even look back at what I was leaving as I drove away or think about anything that had happened to my children and I or I wasn’t sure I’d have the courage and strength to go.

The day I was sure my life, hope, and any dreams for a bright future had ended.

The day I was positive no one would ever want an “old bag” like me again.

Back to the days when I had to try so hard every minute of every day not to cry, because I was afraid if I started I might not be able to stop. (Trust me, I failed a lot more than I succeeded in that attempt!)

In the pause as I thought all of the above, Bachelor #5 added, “But no pressure. I can wait as long as it takes you to decide what you want.”

Isn’t life like that?

COMPLETELY unexpected!

“A Scout is never taken by surprise; he knows exactly what to do when anything unexpected happens.” (Robert Baden-Powell)

Too bad I’d never been a Scout. (Or even a Brownie!) Because far too often in my unexpected life I don’t know exactly what to do, or what to say.

July 13, 2010: Life Lesson of The Unexpected Life

I’ve lived a few tough days in my life.

Here are just a few: September 26, 1986, the day the wreckage of my dad’s airplane was discovered and our wait to know his fate was over (as was his life); May 4, 2006, the day my mom suffered a massive stroke and doctors gave her less than 48 hours to live (she actually died a few hours later as I was rushing to Utah to see her one last time before she passed away); March 18, 2009, the day Shawn Merriman (my then-husband) informed me his business was a sham, that he had been running a Ponzi scheme since approximately 1994, that he had turned himself in to authorities, that he was headed to prison for a long time, that all of our assets were seized and I was left with nothing and left alone to raise our four children; and July 13, 2009, the day my divorce was final and I left Colorado for Utah to pick up the pieces and begin a new life.

Although there are a few other “miscellaneous” hard days I’ve endured, the above four days come to mind when I think of difficult days I’ve lived.

A few months ago I was struck by the realization of how much I’ve learned over the past year–things of a spiritual nature, things about myself and what I am capable of, things about people and humanity and life in general. So many things I have learned.

I realized I am grateful for every single thing I have learned. Even the hard stuff.

And I was shocked to realize I feel the lessons I’ve learned are worth the price I have paid.

I never imagined (especially during 2009) I would ever be able to say that or feel this way but I do. In fact, I would do it all over again. I would go through everything I’ve experienced again to learn what I have learned and to get where I am today. The lessons have been that valuable to me.

Mark Twain was right: “If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.” That’s true of life, too! Especially the unexpected life.

I believe that in life, when we’re holding that tail firmly in our grasp because there is nothing else we can do, and if we do our best to keep pressing forward through all of the noise, claws and pain, and if we can be humble and introspective and attempt to learn all we can and to better ourselves while enduring the challenges rather than question, “Why me? Why is this happening to me?” and, “If only,” we will come to the same realization Mark Twain did.

We will learn things we cannot learn any other way. We’ll be better for having learned them. And hopefully, we will be grateful for what we have learned and the growth we have achieved. I believe that is one purpose of the unexpected life.

And not that we’d want to, but “If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we’d all be millionaires!” (Abigail Van Buren) A fun way to look at the lessons (and their value to us) in an unexpected life.

Another lesson I’ve learned is this: “Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better.” (Kevin Henkes, “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse”)

It really will.