Archive for the ‘Overcoming Setbacks or Failures’ Category
There are some days, I admit, when I see little except for a gray existence ahead for me. At 67, I wonder if I will ever fulfill my life’s dream to become a published author. I fear that I will never find security in my old age. The aches and creaks of age wear me down. And I fall into “stinking thinking” that I’ll never find my way back up again.
None of this lasts for long. I don’t let it.
I can’t waste time on negative feelings. Rather, I have to use the next years of my life to accomplish as much as I can.
We all have our gray days. As we get older, we may feel age has caught up with us and overtaken our dreams to achieve what we set out to do. Maybe there isn’t enough time left, or we’re just too old, physically unable, mentally unwilling, or tired.
On the other hand, if we’re interested in the world and passionate about certain subjects, then we can still accomplish what we set out to do.
History and the arts are full of men and women who made surprising comebacks, achieved greatness, or who revived/had prominent careers at an age when most would have given up. And there must be a myriad of other less known or unrecorded cases.
“Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in.”
Winston Churchill, after an up and down career, and ten years as a political pariah or, as he put it, “Out in the wilderness” during the 1930s, returned at 66 to serve as a wartime Prime Minister in 1940. His leadership and great speeches helped inspire the nation’s morale against the would-be Nazi invaders that were pummeling the cities and coast of England. He told the people of England, “If you are going through Hell, keep going.”
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
Nelson Mandela, an anti-apartheid activist in white dominated South Africa, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1962 and served 27 years, 18 as a classification D prisoner – the lowest scale – in the notorious Robben Island Prison. Released in 1990, he returned to lead his party in negotiations that led to multi-racial democracy in 1994. He was 72 when he became South Africa’s first democratically elected South African president in 1994.
“You’ll never find a better sparring partner than adversity.”
Golda Meir came to the U.S. from Russia at the age of 8, and was brought up in Milwaukee, WI. In 1921, she emigrated to Palestine where she worked on a kibbutz and as a teacher before moving up in the political ranks. At 71, she became Prime Minister of the State of Israel in March, 1979. The world’s third woman to be head of state (after Shri Lanka and India), she was portrayed as the “strong-willed, straight-talking, gray-bunned grandmother of the Jewish people.”
“I made a resolve that I was going to amount to something if I could.”
Colonel Sanders started Kentucky Fried Chicken at 65 when his restaurant folded and because his pension was so small; after two years, he went on to wild success. A Kentucky Colonel (in-name military designation only), he gave the chain an image by dressing up in that all-white southern gentleman garb.
“Painting’s not important. The important thing is keeping busy.”
Grandma Moses (Anna Mary Robertson Moses) didn’t begin to paint until the age of 76, when her hands became too crippled by arthritis to hold an embroidery needle and she found herself with nothing to do. She’s usually cited for succeeding for the first time at her art work in her nineties and up to her death at 101. Her paintings were shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City as well as in museums in Vienna and Paris.
“I never had a great role in a great film.”
Gloria Stuart, a movie actress in the 1930s, returned from obscurity at 86 when she landed the role of 100-year-old Rose in James Cameron’s “Titanic.” She remains the oldest person ever nominated for an Oscar. The above quote must have been before “Titanic.”
“You cannot just waste time. Otherwise you’ll die to regret …”
Harriett Doerr finished her Stanford degree at 67. In 1983, at 73, she became a darling of the literary world with the publication of her first novel, “Stones for Ibarra,” which went on to win a National Book Award.
“If I had not lived until I was 90, I would not have been able to write this book. God knows what other potentials lurk in other people who keep going into old age.”
Harry Bernstein published a short story when he was 24, in 1934, but it was not until he was 96 that his well-received debut novel, “The Invisible Wall” was published. Bernstein turned to fiction only after his wife of 67 years died, as therapy for his loss and loneliness. He published two more books after his debut.
“If I had known at the beginning of my life that this is where I would get to, I would have said, “Not possible.”
Jessica Tandy, a well-respected actress came out of a career slump in the mid 1980s to a career revival in her seventies when she won both a Tony Award and an Emmy Award for her role in “Foxfire.” She became the oldest actress to receive the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in “Driving Miss Daisy” in 1989.
There are many other such stories of late life success that I’d have liked to include but then I’d have to write an e-book about them. It’s a fascinating subject – what drove these men and women to not give up despite rejection, imprisonment, lack of education or opportunity, sexism, ageism, defeat … you name it.
Do you know of someone who “made it” late in life, particularly after overcoming problems, losses, rejection, or other setbacks?
If you do, please share their stories with us.
“Do not wait for your ship to come in – swim out to it.” Author Unknown
(Written late 2010)
I’m not writing much anymore. Not personal stuff or my book. Spend too much time online reading other people’s blogs or in coffee houses reading books.
Seem to have lost my zeal, my energy to write, and to rebound, and rekindle that dwindling flame.
Or perhaps I haven’t lost it.
It’s still there, waiting to be relit.
And this is just a result of the last few months of frustration and worry.
No money. No work. Nothing good happening. No hope of anything much. How do I pay my rent?
That was how I felt until I received a surprising email.
Someone I barely knew – a woman I met at Toastmasters and hadn’t seen in four years when I bumped into her a few months ago at Trader Joe’s – offered me a temporary home, her town house, until she can sell it.
Could be for three-six or even more months.
Rent free. Half my bills taken care of.
So I moved there after six years living in what I had come to call fondly, My Dump.
It was tough to move out of my neighborhood where I’d lived for ten years – probably for good. It’s near downtown San Diego, and I could walk there or to the Bay, to Balboa Park, uptown, and to the stores and movies. I had everything nearby.
The day after I moved, I got work – from November 1st through the 30th, non-stop except for a half-day off on Thanksgiving. Over another hurdle.
Two ways to look at it.
I’m living in a nice place. Temporarily. Have enough money to last me another three months. I have a great website and a blog that I haven’t added to in two months while I flood my mind with top bloggers’ advice, hints, tips, and information on how to blog. And how to turn my blog into a vehicle to sell my book, “Don’t Hang Up!” when it’s published – though God only knows how as I don’t have a sou.
My spirits are up. I’ll be getting more work. Not as much as before but enough to tide me over – if I stay here.
The other side is that I’m (technically) homeless as this temporary arrangement could end in a month or so. And I have no regular means of income.
I’m 67, and finding work at this age, and the energy, isn’t easy especially in a slow economy. I have debts. Specifically, an almost unpayable one that my son left on one of my credit cards.
You could say I’m in a rut.
So I tell myself, practice what you preach, and I preach “Don’t Hang Up!” or “Don’t Give Up!”
What is a rut except a hole that you have to get out of?
So how do I get out of my rut?
First, I can’t get stuck in it – that means I can’t let negative thoughts play their mind games with me, or hold me down.
I have a set of skills that took me to the top professionally, and helped me overcome obstacles time after time. I’ve had to make new starts in the past, like the one in 2000, which I wrote a book about.
And a lot of people believe in me, have encouraged and motivated me.
Don’t I owe it to myself and to them to get myself back on my feet again?
But…most important of all, I HAVE NO CHOICE.
It’s either sink further into my rut until it becomes a deep hole or climb out of it while I still can, and get going on making another new start.
I CHALLENGE MYSELF TO DO THIS.
And I’m asking all of you to challenge me to go with this challenge, see where it takes me. See if, at 67, I can still do it. Make making it again one of the proudest achievements in my life.
Because if I do it, that will also show others in the same/similar position that they can as well.
Will you help challenge me to challenge myself?
“We must accept life for what it actually is – a challenge to our quality without which we should never know of what stuff we are made, or grow to our full stature.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
I surveyed the road in front of the house where I’m staying. A long block uphill. I could do it. Make it to the top. But it proved deceptively steep and I stopped half way. Why make the effort?
So I gave up.
Defeated by my low expectations?
Or by my attitude when facing obstacles?
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Maria Robinson
In the last quarter of 2010 and first months of 2011, my entire lifestyle was disrupted, joggled around, went back and forth, and settled – for the time being – into one completely opposite to what I had led before. This affected both my writing and my blogging. I was unable to concentrate though I did write several never-to-be-published posts such as, “What Am I Doing in This Hole Again?”
That said, I am adapting to and even enjoying my changed circumstances. The home where I currently reside is high on a hill overlooking the ocean. It has a view that I could get lost in, of gleaming blue depths that call to me with the siren song of legend.
Yet, at the beginning, I felt imprisoned because there seemed no way out – on foot.
Where could I walk if the hill outside the house was too steep to go up?
I love to take long walks. This started after I’d been an invalid for two years. Then, I’d promised myself that if I ever walked again, I’d try to do so as often as I could. After an operation, my walks became my time to contemplate, to sort out my mind when going through a hard time, to organize my to-dos, take a break from work, get ideas for blog posts, or work out what I’d write in my next chapter or report.
I couldn’t remain stranded or car dependent. I’d have to try that hill again.
Rising to the Challenge
The next time I tried, I did reach the top. Only to find another steep hill, but a shorter one. I’d come this far and I might as well keep going. Then a long trek, still uphill, ahead. I plodded on and it turned out to be a pleasant incline. What a relief. What fulfillment.
I’d got over the worst.
Don’t expect the easy way to be easy going.
The rest of the walk was mainly downhill though filled with treacherous curves – watch out for cars or people on bikes – and little stones and pebbles. Hurrying back down, I slipped and as I landed with a thud on my hands and knees, I heard a stone roll away.
All I could do was lie there, shock and pain coursing through my body. Until I realized that any car coming along might, a) inadvertently run over me or, b) shock the driver to see a person/body lying in his/her path. So I crawled to the side where I sat until I stopped shaking and realized nothing was broken, just bruised. Then I hobbled my way back.
Beware of becoming overconfident.
As I make that now familiar walk, I think how symbolic this is of the challenges in life and how sometimes they seem too daunting to face. All we have to overcome is our fear or reluctance of that first steep hill. However, that is only a first step and we have to persevere and go up more hills. Just don’t forget the little stones or obstacles in our path that can trip us up.
Searching for new challenges
This walk is no longer enough for me. I want more hills to climb, more challenges to overcome, more distances to travel.
Perhaps this reflects the way I feel about my life at present. So far, I’ve got up that first hill and almost up the second. Still have the long part ahead but I know I can do it. And I’ll remember to watch out for the little stones along the way.
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt
Photos: Veronica Valades
From experience, I knew a move would disrupt my life and change my lifestyle, especially since I was going to live in a completely different area. I dwelled on all the negative aspects – how it would affect my sleeping, eating, and working habits.
Until I remembered…
I’d had much worse moves than that one.
These days, most of my possessions fit in a 10 X 10 foot storage unit.
Very different from when I lost my five-bedroom home in suburban Mexico City and had to dismantle it.
The following is an excerpt from my book, “Don’t Hang Up!”
A MEXICAN YARD SALE
At seven-thirty a.m., I open my curtains to see about twenty seedy-looking individuals lined up outside my front door. Battered vehicles with signs on them proclaim their owners to be flea market merchants.
What was I thinking when I put that yard sale ad in the Classifieds section of a popular newspaper? I never expected this kind of potential buyer to troop across the city to my exclusive residential area.
At the door, I face a combo of low-class macho and a slimy thief. Macho leers at me with obvious intent. He has hot eyes, a bushy mustache, and thick curled lips. “Come on, Seňora, let me in. I took the trouble to get here early before all this riff-raff,” and he waves at the others.
I back away from his incinerator breath. “Not until eight.”
Slimy, slicked-back hair, leather jacket, and the sallow, foxy features of a down-at-heels thug, whines that he was the first to arrive and therefore, deserves to have first go at everything.
“You’ll have to wait,” I say, and flee back inside my house.
What have I got myself into?
Hortencia, one of my cooks from my failed food business, arrives with her army sergeant husband, here to give me moral support. They have to push their way through the throng at the door. At eight, she opens the door. The merchants swarm in, almost knocking her over, and shoving each other in a free-for-all to get at the items for sale. Whoever reaches the tables and shelves first grabs whatever he or she can before someone else does.
One wizened little woman who, in her old gray shawl, looks like a beggar, time after time disappears under the throng only to emerge with yet another object. She’s the first to come up to me, not five minutes later, holding an American toaster oven, a top-of-the-line blender, and a food processor, all balanced on an electric frying pan.
“I’ll give you,” she offers the peso equivalent of $3.00, “for everything.”
Lo and behold, the price tags I affixed last night are gone.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t let you have all these items for so little,” I tell her.
She scrunches up her face and pleads with me. She is the sole support of her daughter’s five children. The few pesitos she can make from resale is all that keeps them from being thrown out on the street. With her tattered dress and bony little arms sticking out from under the shawl, she is so pitiful that how can I turn her down?
“$5.00?” Her eyes fill with the kind of hope of someone lighting a candle in a church.
“Okay,” I say. Poor woman. I’m sure she will make a good profit off those pieces.
“May God bless you, Señora,” she says, and slinging the goods into her shawl, tosses it like a sack over her shoulder, and walks away with a spring in her step.
“She always pulls that act to get the best bargains,” someone grumbles. “Her son’s waiting at the corner in a new Ford station wagon.”
Slimy has oozed his way to the head of the line.
“Watch him,” Hortencia says, nudging me. “Check the price tags.”
I do. “Hey, this silver platter is $10.00, not $2.00.”
Slimy stabs me with a finger. “Señora, it’s not my fault you made a mistake.”
“I didn’t, and I’m not selling it for that amount. I’d be giving it away.”
He turns to the people behind who are making noises for him to hurry up. “You’ll have to wait. She’s trying to change the prices on me.”
“I can’t let you have it for less,” I say, despite his threatening expression. I wouldn’t put it past this human eel to be carrying a knife inside his leather jacket.
He comes back with a rapid sally of how rich people diddle the poor, thus whipping up the others to cries of, “Fair’s fair!”
If we don’t settle, I’ll have an uprising on my hands. I name a ridiculously low amount.
In triumph, Slimy brandishes the silver platter on high to show what he achieved by calling on social injustice. I have the feeling that from now on, I’m well and truly screwed.
Next, Macho plunks down an engraved colonial chest filled to the brim with items. “$25 for everything,” he says in a contemptuous voice even while giving me a mental poke with his eyes.
“The chest alone is worth that,” I say.
He waves bills at me; he will pay $30 for everything. His breath has me reeling and I nod. He leans over to inform me in a hot whisper that if I’m interested in selling more than what is on display – wink – to let him know. Leer. Here’s his card. “At your service, Señora.” With a knowing glance, he struts away.
Within forty-five minutes, almost everything has been cleared off shelves and perches. My head rattles while hands and voices assail me on all sides. What the hell? I’ve had enough of these ravenous merchants.
I explode. “Get out! All of you. Get out of here! The sale has ended.”
The place is a mess of rejected pieces. No one wanted the larger or more expensive ones. Furniture merchants and private individuals come for those later. Kitchen equipment goes in a trice for less than half its worth, the same as my new dining room set and living room furniture.
What about the paintings? Those side tables? The church bell lamps?
I hadn’t intended to sell them. But why keep exotic designer furniture and good paintings when I need the money now? Anyway, there’s nowhere to put them in the bungalow – former servants’ quarters – where I’m going to live.
The buyers are gone at last, and I’m left alone with my memories.
Forget them. This day is all that matters. I count my earnings, roughly a sixth of what I expected.
The shambles of my fortunes.
Dear Readers, I’d love to hear from you and what thought about this piece. You can also find me on Facebook, donthangupbook.com and on Twitter.
“Don’t live down to expectations. Go out there and do something remarkable.” Wendy Wasserman, Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize playwright
At the request of a fellow blogger, Janine Ripper, who writes Reflections of a Red Head, this post is in honor of International Women’s Day. Unfortunately, like many women in this world, I don’t have the time to write one myself. I just went through a major move and upheaval in my life and today, I’m leaving for a visit to Mexico City where I used to live.
Instead, I’m giving over the podium, so to speak, to several great women and their inspiring words.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Anaїs Nin, novelist and diarist
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” Helen Keller, activist for the deaf and blind
“We can’t become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” Oprah Winfrey, TV personality
“Everybody must learn this lesson somewhere – that it costs something to be what you are.” Shirley Abbott, magazine writer and editor
“I’ve got a woman’s ability to stick to a job and get on with it when everyone else walks off and leaves it.” Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of Great Britain
“None of us in Superwoman. We are by turns industrious woman, harried woman, organized woman, and sometimes cunning woman, because we all agree that one can always find time, in the most hard-pressed life, to do what one really wants to do, whether it is dancing the tango, playing the harp, or writing a book.” Valerie Grove, journalist and writer
“A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” Eleanor Roosevelt, activist, writer, and former First Lady of the U.S.
Dear friends and readers, if you know any inspirational quotes from women, please share them with us, and I will add them to this list.
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