A note to my daughters on the occasion of my 48th birthday.
On January 29, 2015, I celebrated my 45th birthday, my 10 year "cancerversary" and “officially” launching Silver Linings Transitions. - Though I’d truly worked on the business the year before, I wanted a good date for the press release. A week after this trifecta celebration, your father and I separated.
I never expected to be starting a business and simultaneously going through a divorce but John Lennon said “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
Mark Twain said the two most important days in a person’s life are they day they are born and the day they find out why.
I always knew I wanted to be a mother. Having three daughters - beautiful, strong, talented and kind and most importantly watching me as an example for what you can and can not accept out of life was my first purpose. In these last three years, there were countless times I wanted to curl up in a ball and hide away from the world and my troubles. At one point on an airplane I remember thinking, “well, if it goes down, I won’t have to deal with all of this”.
I have learned and grown more over the last three years than at any other point in my lifetime. I am glad you saw it. Others told me I was making a mistake showing my emotions but I’m about as good at hiding my emotions as I am at singing. Had you not been watching, you may never have believed when me if I merely told you even when life knocks you down, you stand back up and at the very least take one tiny step forward.
The only way to get through the pain is to be “in” the pain. A wise friend (OK Bryan) told me, you can’t go around the pain, you can’t go over the pain, you have to go through it. If you don’t allow yourself to truly wallow and sit in it, it will find it’s way to make sure you pay attention. Thirteen years ago I was doing work I didn’t believe in. Earning money I didn’t feel I deserved. Jealous of what my friends had (or didn’t have). And I was so resentful.
Another wise friend who’d been diagnosed with cancer in his freshman year of college and since had two children and became one of the most successful business owners/entrepreneurs I know, told me cancer was like getting a "front row seat" to life.
It was certainly my wake up call and what drove me to my other purpose and the reason I used the name Silver Linings Transitions.
Though we may not always have choices when life is hard, we do have choices about the way we react. When something bad happens, look for the lesson or the “silver lining”. What can you learn from the experience? And remember, this too shall pass.
Remember when my computer was stolen from my trunk? I learned a lot of lessons. I have also learned to pause and ask myself if whatever just happened is going to really matter in five years. If it doesn’t, I have learned to let it go. It’s not worth the stress and aggravation.
Persistence in life will get you farther than anything else.
In the book the Alchemist, there is a line that says if you are clear about what you want, the universe will conspire to give it to you. The pictures above represent this. The first one, taken in September 2014, was the very first senior community I visited when I began door knocking. Today, I stood close to that very same spot heading in to host the Silver Linings Transitions third anniversary party in that same community.
Yesterday while getting things for the party, I had an epiphany. I was putting stuff in the car and a wrapper was on the ground. Since the car door was opened, I examined the wrapper since two of you three (I'll give you a hint, it's not Ali) just sort of toss things at will. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t “our” wrapper. It wasn’t a candy I recognized and I went on loading the car until I realized, it WAS our wrapper. Not in real life, but metaphorically. We are each responsible for one another. We are all connected. My neighbor’s behavior impacts me just as mine impacts theirs.
Today I had two more epiphanies (one of my favorite words - I think the other is synchronicity).. It really is true the way people treat you is a reflection of how they feel about themselves. If a person is happy, they have no reason to mess with you. If they are happy they likely want to “be love” ;) and spread kindness. Which leads me to the second one (epiphany). I spent years trying to get other people to like me. I was constantly in trouble and never felt “good”. My ADHD kept me in perpetual trouble and so my “way of being” was about winning people over. You know what I realized? It doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks. I am the person I am intrinsically because this is the way God made me.
Gillian has never been good about schedules or cleanliness. As a child, she refused schedules. She could sleep anywhere. Once she was tired, she slept…period. Ali, on the other hand, HAD to be in her crib at a certain time. For someone who was never good at schedules, I think it may have been the only time in my life I stuck to somewhat of a schedule because Ali demanded it of me. I remember traveling to see Safta in Miami. She’d gone out of her way to get a crib for us. I don’t remember how old Ali was but she would not sleep. She screamed and screamed until we were forced to load up the car and head five hours back home in the middle of the night.
As an infant, Adyson would scream bloody murder in the car. This was pretty inconvenient and gut wrenching since older girls were enrolled in a school thirty minutes away. To this day, she complains in the car about her neck hurting or feeling nauseous.
I know you all vary on the way you feel about spirituality. I can tell you that my God now is not the God of my childhood or adolescence. My God is the voice that directs me to do the right thing. It’s opening my eyes and paying attention to the messages that come. It’s figuring out the lessons I’m meant to learn even when they aren’t convenient or fun. It’s doing something inconvenient or uncomfortable because I know it’s the right thing to do. It’s the decision to live from love and trust and not from fear and worry. It is freeing.
Lastly, life will deliver exactly what you expect of it. In the book “You Are a Badass” by Jen Sincero, she shares an exercise where you look for one minute and count everything that is red. After the exercise, she asks you to recall what was yellow. Only you won’t be able to, because you were too busy looking for red.
Another story I love from Jen Sincero’s book is the story of a bird who is in her home and keeps flying into her window. The bird is so fixed on getting out it never stops to notice she’s opened another window. As you know there have been several things in my life that weren’t going the way I planned or weren’t meeting my expectations. So, I beat my head against a wall or kept flying into the window just like the bird. This has possibly been the biggest lesson for me. If you are frustrated, pause and assess the situation. An if the door doesn’t open, it’s not your door. Another one will open, though, it might not be on your timeline or the one you expected.
I wish my 48 years of experience would be enough to shelter you from the rough parts of life and that you could skip over them softly landing to the place I’ve discovered. It only took 48 years but I have learned to “Let go and let God”. I know the reality is, at your age, I would have ignored these words and learned these lessons the hard way and on my own.. Still, I’m going to share them. Maybe for you, maybe for your children. Maybe as a reminder for me when I am not feeling as certain.
Jami Shapiro is President of Silver Linings Transitions. As a cancer survivor, she embraces aging and the challenges it presents.