Not all the chains that hold women back are visible. Ideally, American women are now free and independent to make their own decisions.
But in real life, if a woman thinks and acts independently, it can threaten the status quo and frighten those who prefer that women know their place, stay in that place, and only parrot the party line instead of thinking for themselves. Diversity is a buzzword which sometimes masks intolerance for independent ideas. Sometimes, those who proclaim their enlightenment the loudest are the least tolerant of new ideas.
The reason the Lifetime TV network is so popular is that it taps a chord that many women recognize. We see the Lifetime movies and see women overcoming obstacles and tragedies to the happy ending we all hope will one day be our own.
I once knew of a woman who wrote of her emergence from a conservative religious sect. She wrote of of her spiritual and personal journey, symbolized by her transition from wearing a traditional cap to wearing a smaller cap to wearing no cap at all. At each stage, as she shed the ties that had held her back, she felt more freedom and was able to be who she was instead of who others decided she should be.
I have experienced the same journey in different circumstances, without the visible cap. If you find yourself struggling to survive in a bad situation, how do you move beyond that to a healthier, better place? I have been lucky in my case to have the support of a husband who believed in me and who has encouraged me for the past 25 years. Here are the steps I have found that helped me change my life for the better.
Since my heart attack, I’ve realized it’s imperative to my health – the more I thrive instead of merely survive, the less stress I feel and less likely I am to have a second heart attack.
- Remove the negative. If there are people or circumstances that mock, criticize, or rebuke you, remove them from your life. You deserve to be treated with respect. If you set a boundaries others will not respect, remove them from your life. The less time you spend with these people, the less they will be in your head and your heart. When you remove yourself from toxic circumstances, toxic people may try to drag you back into the fray. They may try to fight and argue with you to bully and belittle you back into their preconceived idea of your place. You don’t have to attend every fight you’re invited to. If we stoop to wrestle with a pig, the only thing that happens is we get dirty and the pig enjoys it. Waste as little energy as possible on the negative.
- Create a dream team. Find friends who will encourage and inspire you. Choose them carefully. Seek positive people with fresh ideas who value you and what you bring to the table. My husband is my number one cheerleader, and I’m more than thankful for that. I know in my heart of hearts that my husband and kids will always be there for me when I need them. I am also lucky to have a large group of female friends who support other strong women. There are too many to mention but some include JoAnn Krantz, Elise Barrerra, Jean Godfrey, Lisa Taylor, Kimberly Delcoco, Ami Lloyd, Sherry Wright, Cheryl Mochau, Samantha Rogers, Michele Rogers, Cheryl Martin, Debbie Valiant, and Dana Nelson. They – and many others – encouraged me and saw potential in me, sometimes before I saw it in myself. I’m doubly fortunate to work for a dream team company who work well together. My husband has observed that I come home from my new job happy at the end of each day – happier than he’s seen me in 25 years. Dream team friends will transform your life.
- Reframe your thoughts. Seek the positive in current and future circumstances. Words matter. Capture your thoughts and resolve to keep them positive.
- Set goals and go for them. Determine what in your life you’ve wanted to do, both short term and long term. Then plan and work to make them happen. Keep your goals front and center so you see them and won’t get distracted by the rest of life.
- Have fun. If there is music you like, play it. If you like to dance, dance to it while you play it. If you like to sing, sing. The older I get, the more fun I have because I can more easily savor the moment and care less about what others around me think. Removing the negative parts of my life mentioned in Step 1 removed a lot of anger and frustration from my heart and mind. That in turn made room for me to laugh and enjoy the good parts of life more.
Sometimes, survival is in itself a tremendous feat. Moving beyond surviving to thriving takes work, but it is worth it.
When the thriving happens, it will creep upon you before you realize it. Then, in the middle of laughter, you will suddenly realize that life is better, richer, and sweeter than ever before.
I’m not yet 50, and my own journey with these steps has had stumbles, distractions, and often felt I was walking barefoot uphill on a path that alternated between pits of fire and mountains of snow. The world is a very different place when you find yourself in environments where you’re treated with respect, you’re given credit for your ideas, and you’re given opportunities to make new things happen.
Nevertheless, the journey is worth it. I won’t just survive but thrive!