Yesterday I had to go for my three-times a year follow up to check my thyroid levels. My doctor and I are actually the same age, so it’s funny to watch him struggle through some of life’s unfair assaults on our aging bodies like I do. He had just returned to work after having surgery on both wrists for carpal tunnel. We certainly aren’t 20-something any more. But I swear, there are days when I feel a good decade older than the calendar says I am!
After our usual time together, I followed my routine of heading around the corner to get my blood drawn. Sitting down chatting with the woman who had been drawing tubes of blood from me for almost two years, the conversation somehow ended up on the topic of the importance of living within your means, and planning for the unexpected. We’d been talking about the recent gas shortage in Nashville, and the impact it had on some people. I began explaining to her about why I’d topped off the gas in my car — because I knew I had several appointments coming up that week; and running out of gas was not going to be an option. She admitted that did not. “My sister called and told me to fill up my tank on that Friday,” she said. “But I figured I’d get around to it later in the weekend, and went about my day.”
By Saturday afternoon, she found herself driving around town to four different gas stations before finding one that hadn’t run out of fuel. “And then I paid much more for it than it was the day before,” she said. We continued our conversation, so that I could pretend the needle prick didn’t hurt, and I shared with her how it’s become a passion of mine to try to help women to not put off nor feel guilty about taking care of themselves. I told her that it needed to start with proper planning. She was lucky because she found an open gas station, and paying more for fuel is better than not having it at all. But I asked her if there was any particular reason why she didn’t go ahead and get it on Friday after she heard the news, and her sister’s advice. She admitted there wasn’t, which lead me to talk about the importance of planning, and finances in general. I told her in the big picture, this was something minor, but it could have turned into a bigger deal. “You spent more money paying for gas, after spending a lot of time being worried that you might not find any, all because you wouldn’t heed the advice and take the time to get some earlier, when you could.” When I was done, she said, “You know, you should write a book.” I laughed a little, and then shared with her that I had already begun working on one. But in the meantime, I told her, I was sharing my story and other people’s stories, advice, and encouragement through this blog. So I gave her my card, told her to check it out, and then said I’d see her again in four months.
Sharing the stories of female friends and associates who have been through different trials, and how they were able to make it through, is important to me. I don’t have all the answers…I just have my story. My friends don’t have all the answers, but they can share what worked and didn’t work for them. It’s their story. And most of you reading this right now…you have your own story. What connects the stories I choose to share, is not just what people do to plan and prepare for the unexpected things that can happen in their life; but also what they did to survive when those unexpected things happened. There are those who live in denial — after a job loss, a divorce, the death of a loved one — who will continue to do things as they always have. Then there are others who acknowledge the changes in their life, how it has impacted them — on personal, social, and oftentimes, financial level — and then they make an adjustment for their different lifestyle. They adjust to their new normal, so that they can move on in the life they now have.
Below is part one of the story a single mom, entrepreneur, and friend shared with me. It’s about the curve ball that life threw her; inconvenient timing and all; and the journey that followed. Remember to come back for part two of her story, next week. Perhaps something she shares might help you or someone you know as well.
From Zero to Hope
I cannot really put my finger on when I took a wrong turn off my life journey toward hope. It could have been the aftermath of drama in high school, the blurry and illogical moments in college, or the sudden and tragic end of my marriage of 12 years. Regardless of how I got to my lowest point, I can recall the emotions affecting my daily life beginning around Christmas of 2006. It was at that time I discovered the reality of a pending divorce, I was 34 weeks pregnant with my second child and the mother of a four and a half year old son. It has been 10 years since I began my journey from zero to hope. I can proclaim two things about this type of journey. The journey is messy and it takes a village!
There is no Hallmark Channel story here. My tragedy transformed how I viewed myself, shattered my confidence and caused misplaced views of my value. I do not know about you, but trying to “dream” for yourself is hard enough. Yet, I needed to look past myself and begin a new life for the joy of my two young sons. There is no magic formula to regaining purpose after tragedy. In the beginning, every decision was painstaking. I found myself overwhelmed every five minutes, either dealing with my emotional struggles, the emotional and physical needs of my children, or just battling loneliness. This was my “zero” point. As much as I wanted to move forward, I often lost strength or ran out of resources, time and/or money.
Today, 10 years later, I own my own business, work from home and am able to play an active role in my children’s lives. I must admit it is not easy to look back. I have not arrived, but I know I am so much further than I was when I started out. The process for me is like a winding road with rest stops, exits to amazing or scary places (all distractions, I might add), and the homes and hearts of friends and family. At the surface, the process seems simple enough.
What this little graphic does not show you are many nights I cried for one reason or another.
- The struggle of overcoming stereotypes as a black woman with two kids; some assuming I was never married and the boys had different dads.
- Endless nights trying to find strength to take every necessary “next step” for my children and me.
- Another night having to turn down companionship or relationships because my new life demanded transformed priorities.
- Struggles to believe I had worth and value.
The list goes on and on. This is the “messy” of the journey. Did I always make the right choice? No, probably not. So finding courage and strength to forgive myself made it even more “messy.”
More from Kathy Phillips in Part Two…