I hope you’ve had a great week. Mine has not been one of my best, although I saw a movie I really loved “Victoria and Abdul”, with Judy Dench. It’s about Queen Victoria in her final years, and a young Indian commoner, who worked for her, and became a best friend/confidante/almost like a son to her. She must have had a lonely life as the monarch of a vast empire, the longest reigning queen in history, until the current Queen Elizabeth II. Her love for the husband, Prince Albert, whom she married at nineteen, was legendary, and he died at forty one, leaving her alone for more than fifty years until she died. Supposedly, she had his clothes laid out every day after his death, for the rest of her life, and never recovered from his death. So to see the true story (undoubtedly with some dramatizations) of the companionship she found very late in life, from a young man who worked for her and stayed with her until she died, was very touching and poignant. You see the weight on her of being responsible for an empire, the loneliness it created, the people around her jockeying for position, and trying to take advantage of her whenever possible, and the comfort, support and solace she found with this unexpected young man. I loved the movie, and the insight into a Queen who has always fascinated me, and fabulous performances by Judy Dench, and the rest of the cast. What an extraordinary actress. I really loved the movie and both its historical and human aspects.
My week has not been a shining or glorious one, the kind of week that shakes you up, dumps you on your head, breaks your heart a little, and really forces you to scramble, and dig for what you believe in, or say you do. I’ve been working incredibly hard on a project for the past 3 months, involving my home. It was physically and mentally exhausting, and a wonderful challenge filled with joy. I had a great time with it, and put my heart and soul into it, and worked hard on it, and expected a great and happy result. It involved some other people, and I discovered this week that they hadn’t been honest with me, did some double dealing behind my back—-and as happens in life, totally by accident, it all came out, and I made some very nasty discoveries, was brutally disappointed, and will probably lose quite a bit of money over it. My first reaction was shock, crushing disappointment, and overwhelming sadness to have been lied to, misled, and taken advantage of. It happens to most of us at some point, to be disappointed or betrayed by someone, and suffer a loss as a result. And it’s happened to me before too. But as much as the money lost, there is that incredible childlike feeling, like a kid in the sandbox, when another kid kicks sand in your eyes, and you want to just sit there and cry and say “Why did you do that?” HOW could they do that, but some people just don’t have the honor or the scruples to do the honorable thing. And then what do you do? To the best of my ability, I fought back. But sometimes you just don’t win. And that’s hard to stomach too. I have fought my way through a hurricane of emotions this week, from sadness and disappointment to anger and then back to sadness again. There is a wonderful (well not so wonderful, but very apt) word in French which is “lache”. There is really no exact English translation for it, but it means cowardly and dishonorable, people who do the wrong thing, and try to get away with it. It’s ugly and incredibly painful when it happens to you, when someone around you is “lache”, and intentionally hurts you by doing the wrong thing. And if you’ve been square, honest, and fair with them, it hurts even more.
I think in this case, I was taken for a fool, the people involved thought I wouldn’t fight back and they’d get away with it, or maybe they just didn’t care, and did what was the easiest and most convenient for them. It involved being incredibly dishonest with me. When I discovered it, it felt like a massive kick in the gut, and knocked the wind right out of me. I was literally shaking when I made the discovery. Someone “squealed”. And these people had been looking me in the eye, knowing they had been lying to me.
As you know, I love collecting encouraging sayings, I frame them, and hang them on my office wall. I started thinking about them, and it really made me ask myself if I believe what I say. One of them says “When you hit a disappointment, don’t stop there, keep going.” “When a chapter ends badly, that’s not the end of the story, turn the page”. And the one I kept thinking of was a very simple one “Bounce Back”. I will confess that I whined a lot this week, and felt sorry for myself, but I also realize that the sayings on my wall are true. When you get disappointed in life (and this was a big one), you can’t just stop there. Life doesn’t end at that moment, you have to go on, rebuild whatever has been destroyed or lost, and pick yourself up. You HAVE to, there is no other choice. It’s not easy, and dragging yourself around when you’ve been taken advantage of, lied to, or abused is REALLY hard. But do I believe the sayings on my wall, or not? Am I going to just lie down and quit because things went wrong? It’s not the end of the story. There will be other chapters, and victories at other times. My kids were wonderful and supportive because they knew how much the project meant to me. Losing something you care about and have invested yourself in is a real loss, almost like losing a person or a friend.
But I also know what’s real in life, and what isn’t. I survived losing my son Nick, and that’s as hard as it gets. One of the criteria in my life is ‘will this matter in 20 years?”. Most things you won’t even remember then, and won’t matter. This is one of those things I’ll look back on, know it was a rotten experience, but many good things will have happened to balance it in 20 years. So this will never be a good memory, but other good things will come. And we all get kicked in the stomach sometimes. It teaches us something, and in the long run, it makes us strong. I love the saying too that we are “stronger in the broken places”. I think that’s true too.
So here I am. The life lessons were tough this week. I couldn’t have seen this coming, or predicted that these people would really do a lousy thing to me. But it’s not the end of the world. No one I love died. It won’t ruin my life. It’s just one of those nasty times that hurt, and yeah, there are people in the world who hurt us, and are out to do some pretty nasty things at our expense. Getting revenge won’t make me a better person, and won’t get me far. And even if I’m sad for a while, it will make me stronger in the end.
So my conclusion after a really tough week is that the little sign on my office wall is right: Bounce Back. There’s no other choice really. And now I get to practice what I preach—-and what I frame!! And I get to model for my kids that you can be knocked flat on your ass and have the wind knocked out of you, and you can get up, get moving and recover, and life will be good again.
It has been an utterly crap, tough, upsetting, disappointing week—but so what? It happens to all of us, and I think that sign is the only option: Bounce Back. I’m not bouncing too high yet, but I’ll get there. Things will look better eventually, not all things we want work out, no matter how hard we try. And not all people behave honorably. But whatever happens, when the roof falls in, there is really only one choice, for your own sake: Bounce Back!! I’m working on it. It’s actually what my books are about—that tough things happen to all of us, but we can survive them. And hard or even bad things happen to ALL people, fame, looks, money, and success don’t protect us from the tough stuff. Rich or poor, old or young, famous or not, these things happen to us all. I’ll recover from this, and good things will happen again…..and in the meantime, I will be working on bouncing back!!! Have a safe, happy, wonderful week!!! And I’ll try to do the same. Seeing the wonderful movie about Queen Victoria cheered me up!!!
ps. As some of you also know, through this blog, my 17 year old great niece was in the terrorist attack at the Brussels airport 18 months ago. She was one of only 2 people who survived the bomb explosion in the terminal she was in, she was badly burned and lost both her legs, but she survived. Eighteen months later, she had countless surgeries, was in the hospital for 7 months, and since then returned to school, graduated, and has proven to be the most remarkable young woman imaginable with spunk, and drive and courage and determination to have a good, independent life, no matter what happened. The entire school gave her a standing ovation when she came back. Now, she is about to enter intensive rehab for a year at a military facility, where she will be taught to lead a fully independent life. When she finishes, she will start college, and she is already training for the Paralympics, for the equestrian events. She is an extraordinary rider, and had wanted to enter the Olympics, now she will compete in the next Paralympics. Nothing stops her and she absolutely radiates courage and joy. There was a short film made of her, that she did to support an organization that helped her when she was in the hospital, in which she said, that the accident that happened to her was the best thing that ever happened to her, because it taught her so much as a result. I cry just writing that, at what an amazing young woman she is!!!
THAT is real. THAT is courage. A breathtaking unthinkably horrific incident met with that kind of courage and determination. Compared to that, my little disappointment is nothing. Bigger events give one perspective, and given what my great niece has experienced and the positive spin she has put on it—how can I even complain?? I can’t.