This past week I took Lulu (my precious rescue schnauzer) to our family lake house in Arkansas. This respite is the elixir for me. I am a small town Southern girl. It is my salt. When I am there – time slows. The morning fog muffles all sounds of city reality. The crows’ calls are hauntingly comforting. The ducks, geese, and fish have become extended family. And seeing little Lulu jump and run, as if it were her first time – just makes my heart sing. I LOVE being home and especially treasure time with my parents.
This particular year, I decided to reach out to a few old friends to reconnect. It was simply fabulous. These girls exemplify the old Girl Scout song: “Make new friends but keep the old…one is silver and the other gold.” They are indeed golden. We have been friends since elementary school and have traveled many miles since those simple times. I have not seen a few of these ladies for several years. Our paths were as different as you can imagine, with very different challenges. I have not married yet – some have been married as many as three times. I have no children – all have at least one, and some have as many as four. They have experienced divorce, the death of parents, children’s untimely deaths, and the list goes on with extremely diverse experiences. In many ways, our lives could not be more different. Yet, what I learned from these women, and from this beautiful exchange, was worth writing about and sharing with you…as it does apply to life and to business.
1. Resiliency comes in many forms. It is hard for me to imagine the broken heart of betrayal, in whatever form that may take, of a husband. Yet, each one of these women experienced this – more than once in a few cases. Yet, they continue to believe in love and hold fast to the optimism and sacredness of marriage. They forgave and continued to rear children with their children’s father. They worked, in some cases 2-3 jobs to provide for their children and enable them to attend college. They hold no ill will, nor have they become victims. They have stood tall. They have been steel magnolias, without any fan fare and zero notoriety. They did what they needed to do – and did so quietly, gracefully, and humbly. Their challenges are not on the front page of Wall Street; yet, they are everyday challenges that millions of women (and men) face every day. The way in which my friends have mastered their lives exemplifies strength and conviction. Resiliency comes in many forms…and is not reserved for the corporate executive or the Silicon Valley entrepreneur wanting another round of funding. No, it is found every day with folks in our every day circles.
2. They are true women of substance. A dear friend of mine, Susan Marshall, wrote a book entitled Of Beauty and Substance: A Backbone Guide for Women. This book is bold, encouraging, and beautifully written. She talks about forgiveness being a power play…which indeed it is. She speaks about substance being a powerful combination of fortitude, courage, patience, and persistence…which indeed it is. When my mom speaks about folks having substance or strength of character – she calls this “the stuff” – which, from her perspective, is the combination of gumption and ‘can-do-it-ness’. Substance comes about and is revealed through life’s experiences; the things that happen to us AND how we respond to these things. These may be divorce, death, bankruptcy, illness, betrayal, professional setbacks…again, the list is as long as life itself.
Well…these women have substance.
Two of them professionally care for special needs children, one is a Care-flight nurse (Just FYI; these nurses are the ones that are the first to care for the most severely injured individuals who must be taken by air to special care facilities), and one is a successful small business owner.And EACH of them have had the heavy hands of life dealt to them from which they have persevered and ultimately are thriving in their lives. Why do you think this is?
I believe it is because they CHOOSE to thrive and make the very most of each day. They choose to be happy. They choose to love. They choose an abundant attitude versus one of scarcity. They are generous in spirit and are kind. They harbor no ill will – they are happy for others’ successes. They have devout Faith – though they do not preach. They let their lives be their testimony – and it is a powerful message which speaks volumes.
What I will also say, though each of these women have been successful by many definitions, I know other women (and men) who have been monetarily more successful. However, I will also say that the other men and women who may have accumulated more financial wealth and have achieved notoriety in their respective fields (on The List of their industry or on the cover of magazines, etc.) do not hold a candle to these women of substance from my small Southern home town. It takes courage to live an ordinary life extraordinarily without cameras or public admiration.
3. Perspective is powerful. Many times individuals judge books by their covers and make assumptions, which is a very dangerous thing to do. One of my favorite books, The Four Agreements, highlights “make no assumptions” as one of the four agreements. Assumptions can be made about people – for example that an individual “changes” when they reach a level of success. Assumptions can be made by stereotyping individuals and painting with a broad brush. It was amazingly powerful for each of us to universally declare that “none of us have changed” from an inner character or friend perspective…after so many years of varied experiences.
Now, before you jump to a false assumption...this is NOT to say we have not learned, grown, expanded, and evolved – quite the contrary. Every single one of us has – and in spades. What it does say is that our core essences, our souls, our spirits, our childlike intentions of purity, and our solvency of friendship – have remained intact. THAT is a beautiful awakening and gives a powerful perspective. These women have experienced heartache that I have never known – and yet they remain kind, charitable, and loving.
Perspective is powerful. I am grateful for my life, my family, my small town values, and for my childhood friends who graced me this week with their perspectives on life. It gives me a renewed set of lenses through which to look at my fast-paced life. I have always held fast to the simple things of life, those “things” which cannot be bought (or sold), and those virtues from my mom and dad – and their moms and dads – on which they built our family’s foundation.
Faith is a non-negotiable. Love is the glue. And for sure – we are here to teach, to learn, and to Serve one another with LOVE as the mortar. This past week I was indeed the student of my friends, my parents, and my little dog, Lulu.