I am so honored to help such strong and powerful women with their financial health. The moral of the story is that as women, we all come to realize that our lives don’t always go as we planned them to when we were little girls. Unfortunately, tragedies, that we could have never predicted, happen to us all. That is why it is so important to me to help women and their families stay in touch with their financial health and plan ahead for such occurrences. I want my clients and the women around me to know that no matter what happens in their life, that they don’t need to worry about how they will afford to live through.
It is my pleasure to share with you this beautiful story that a client of mine sent to me recently. Her story and many other’s is why I could never imagine doing anything else with my life.
The Canvas of My Life
We all start out with a blank canvas that paints our life. Many situations just happen to us and we truly have no control over that. What I have learned, through many arduous years, is that we DO have control over how we respond to these “pop-up” obstacles and I am referring to the situations that derail us.
I was born into a post World War II home where my grandparents all were immigrants from Italy. I was the only daughter in between 2 brothers and the only family member that finished college. A scholarship sealed that deal. The definition of success a generation ago was simply to own a home, raise your children, have enough money to put food on the table and if your children went to college and didn’t have to go to a war….life was good.
When I reflect on those moments and situations that facilitated key decisions I made in my life, that colored my canvas, I can share this with you.
First, I was the middle of 16 cousins. Although I had many, I never needed friends. I thought all men were like my uncles, I found out that was definitely not true and I was surrounded by so much love that I didn’t realize what I didn’t have. Secondly, my mother was an encourager. There was never a conversation that you couldn’t accomplish something. It was always “you never know until you try”.
My father, a corporal in the war, was a self educated man and I was unique in the sense that I always listened to the wisdom he delivered to me by his words. I realized many times over, doing that helped me survive many hard knocks. The words that reverberate the most are, “ if you can’t change a situation, change your attitude toward it”. When I said I was going to be a teacher, he said, “you have 4 years of education, why would you limit yourself on the income you can make? As a young woman, you should major in business. It is the wave of the future”. I did just that and got a minor degree in teaching.
Lastly, the fact that I was close to my aunts gave me 6 women to model my life after. My mother’s oldest sister that only had one child, saw something in me that my mother didn’t have the wherewithal to recognize. I received such a blessing from her. She sent me to finishing/modeling school. When I think of how I evolved to be a woman with such confidence, in spite of the many hardships I have endured, I can truly say, my Aunt Mary’s belief in me was the seed of my inspiration.
Reflecting on these 4 key ingredients, I graduated from college with a Business Degree. In the mid – late 70s, women were entering the work force with a rage as I was on the cusp on the women’s evolution, perhaps revolution. We had choices that our mothers never had. Women were demanding equality in the work force, taking birth control pills and were juggling careers and families. My second job out of college was with a startup division of a fortune 500 company. That must have been my calling as I have now been involved with at least 7 start ups since then. I was told that I have the energy necessary to build those brands! That has been exciting but a tough road with many bumps. Nonetheless, back to my first real job. In a few short years, I was the number one sales rep in the country and owned my own home at the ripe age of 26. My education, my strong family background, my confidence and those words of encouragement superseded any doubt that I could not attain my dreams. Speaking of dreams, I met that man, got married and had 2 children. Little did I know, my life would be a rollercoaster of extremes. I left a career to be a mom, a position I hold to be the highest honor in my life. I am a mom to many. I thank God every day of my life to have raised 2 amazing daughters that have become the best of their mother and their dad…..goal accomplished! Keep in mind, I am still painting my canvas bright colors as we had a fabulous lifestyle and having my own success enabled me to be a self fulfilled stay at home mom.
The bomb….my husband, at age 38, had a massive heart attack. Our youngest was 4 months old. He had a triple by-pass and suffered the rest of his life due to damage to his heart.
We separated several years later. I knew I had the strength to endure what happened but that he wasn’t equipped emotionally or spiritually to recover. I was abandoned with 2 little children. Please know, this was a devastating experience and I was not abandoned financially but emotionally by my husband, as were our children. What do I do…how do I want to paint my story at this point, my canvas has ripped. I am alone, isolated in my circumstances and have to be stronger than I ever wanted to be. I am sure this resonates as many women experience this same situation even repeatedly in their life. I know I did. You may also have come to learn that as long as life stays the same, the people in your life do. If, however, you move up or down in your scale of life, people do as well. I was blessed enough to have several friends that stuck by my side through all of this mess. They are the sisters I never had and their love continues to sustain me. We all need to have those girls in our lives.
Here is what I did. I not once ever defined myself as a victim. I utilized my tools to build friendships and experiences that would assist me in moving into different places in my life. I had to begin painting my canvas again, if not for me, but certainly for my daughters ages 2 and 4 . I got a part time job and carved out “me time” as well.
After 4 years of being separated, my husband and I went to counseling and decided we wanted to put our lives back together. We did just that. We built a new home, we all shared a passion for the same sport, we surrounded ourselves with family, friends and traveled abroad quite often. Our daughters were flourishing, his business was booming and life was better than I had ever dreamed. Bright colors on this canvas for sure.
The bomb dropped again. This was a terrorist attack though. My husband fell in love with another woman, moved out, filed bankruptcy. I filed for divorce and was tangled in every court in the city for a myriad of reasons. In a 10-year span, I had a 7 year divorce and many legal proceedings to overcome, lost my mother, my father and my mother-in-law that I remained close to. I had been in a horrible car accident, found out I may have thyroid cancer, had it removed to avoid any possibilities, and did I mention that I had become an empty nester too. We were still sifting through court orders and my husband died. I was in a war zone trying to find my way out with land mines everywhere. Concentrating on the emotional and spiritual damage, inheriting a debt of $1.8 million through this process seemed minor. I would have never ever painted my life like this.
Dad, how do I change my attitude towards this situation? Mom, how can I encourage my daughters to be overcomers and not be tainted in their views of families, relationships and the bright colors of life? What would my aunts and the strong women in my life say to me?
I was always the girl that became the woman and the friend that everyone came to with their problems. I had been blessed with the wisdom to successfully advise. Who or where could I go now?
Please know that through my life and all of this devastation, I had unwavering faith. I never blamed God or anyone for what happened to me. We live in such a fallen, imperfect world and all have to acknowledge that. Here is what I can offer as to what I did to begin to paint my canvas bright colors once again.
I knew I had to make right choices. I knew I could never be so self-centric to think I had all the answers. First, I leveraged people I knew and trusted to advise me in the professional areas of my life that I needed to draw on. One of my best decisions was to find a financial advisor that not only understood but was savvy and strong enough to direct me and continues to direct me through the quagmires of my life. I thank God a friend referred me to Regina Beatty. I truly needed another strong woman by my side, and she is as strong as I! Secondly, my aunt reminded me that I am still that woman with skill sets that helped me be successful. I stepped out and answered an ad in the Wall Street journal and began working again. The path has not been easy. I have been hired by several companies to on board for a startup. The last company offered a 6 figure salary but went bankrupt. I am climbing out of that nightmare but at this point, I know I am a survivor and can reinvent myself. Age only limits us if we think it does.
It is so critical that we not define ourselves by our circumstances, especially our worst ones. They are something(s) that happened to us but definitely not who we are. We also cannot let our emotions be the core of our decisions as they will always mislead us. Hope is just not wishful thinking. Hope is knowing that there is a bright future and a positive outcome. I learned what forgiveness truly means. It means not necessarily forgetting, it doesn’t minimize an offense either and sometimes implies that we do not reconcile with the offender. Forgiveness is a choice and not a feeling. Forgiving is freeing oneself, so we aren’t the person in prison. This choice frees us from feeling like a victim.
I learned how powerful words are. We can speak life or death into our lives or someone else’s by what we say. Words are a reflection of the truth we believe in our hearts. Mom & Dad, Aunt Mary, thank you for your words over my life.
More than anything, my faith has made me more than a conqueror in life. I know that God will always put the right people in my life to offer me the colors to paint my life. I choose to paint it with the brightest colors.