|Judy and Kathy, my cheerleaders at my neighborhood Ace Hardware|
So says the message inside the foil wrapper of my Dove dark chocolate.
Although a wise woman doesn't build the foundation of her philosophy on pithy phrases printed on candy wrappers, no one ever called me wise. So this foil message has become part of the photo collage on my refrigerator. Every day it reminds me to replace a lifetime of negative self-talk with positive self-talk.
Happiness does look great on me. I'm living proof that a woman can undergo a series of unfortunate events and come out on the other side with a smile on her face--and 50 pounds lighter too!
About 18 months ago, happiness wasn't a key ingredient in my life. I was feeling deer-in-the-headlights panic. Shock even.
After my divorce, I was laid off from my job without warning, and immediately had to sell my house in the worst housing market in decades. Incredibly, the house sold, I paid off the mortgage and had just enough money to pay rent and a deposit on a cheap, one-bedroom apartment. My dear mother co-signed the lease for her down-and-out unemployed daughter.
Today, looking back on that time, I took an online Holmes & Rahe Life Events Scale test, checking off which life-changing stressors I'd experienced. Divorce. Laid off from work. Change in residence. Major changes in my financial state and my living conditions. My daughter had moved out about six months earlier, and when I had to sell the house, my son moved out too. Now I was alone, with only my cat, Anakin Skywalker, to keep me company.
My score was 328 on the stress test. I received a message that I'd experienced "a significant amount of life change and had a significant susceptibility (about 80% probability) to stress-related illness."
Here at the lowest point in my life, the universe began to shift. Or perhaps I was the one who shifted. Instead of being angry, I became hopeful. After all, what more could go wrong?
I believe if you're positive in your life--in the way you see yourself and you project that positive energy--it gets reflected back to you.
Everywhere I went, people helped and reflected that positive energy back to me.
On my moving day, a week before Christmas, 17 friends and family helped me move.
Two days before moving day, I broke a tooth--an old root canal--and had to have emergency oral surgery. I had no money to pay the bill. When I checked in, I told the receptionist a little about my circumstances. As I was leaving the oral surgeon's office, the receptionist said: "Your surgery was doctor's gift to you. Merry Christmas."
My car needed $900 of work. My dear mechanic, Don Orange, owner of Hoesley Eco Auto, did the work at no charge. "It's on us," he told me.
And on my many expeditions to my neighborhood Ace Hardware to get settled into my tiny apartment, I chatted with Kathy and Judy and shared my circumstances. They listened, smiled, encouraged me, cheered me on.
In the past 18 months, I got a new job as a newspaper reporter, an all-new career for me. I started paddling on a women's dragon boat team, the Mighty Women. I started eating better and taking care of myself. I lost 50 pounds. I look and feel better than I've felt in 20 years.
Looking back, the severe losses and stressors I experienced were tough, but they actually made me a stronger, happier, joyful person. I'm still paddling a dragon boat with the Mighty Women. And recently I've tried skiing, swing dancing, belly dancing--and even dating.
The old me was too bogged down in unhappiness to imagine I could try new, fun experiences.The new me appreciates that life can change direction without warning at any moment. Life is a gift that should be cherished. Savored. Experienced with gusto. And dark chocolate.
Last week when I stopped by Ace Hardware to buy strawberry plants for my garden, Kathy greeted me with: "There's the woman who reinvented herself!"
I smiled. And bought a piece of chocolate.