When a fellow blogger commented on my tagline recently it got me thinking. Why did I write that as the thought I want you all to recognise me by? Does it really sum me up in one sentence?
The fact is that in all the years of attempting to mould my daughters to be successes within society’s stipulations and to manipulate Mr Carmichael into the husband I hoped he’d become I have spent a lot of unnecessary and generally thankless energy. I should instead have concentrated on myself. And not in a selfish way. I am the maker of my own destiny. I have the power. This is where I am in my life now. Or trying to be.
This power is defined in another aphorism coined by Jack Canfield in ‘The Success Principles. How to get from where you are to where you want to be’.
Event plus Response equals Outcome. E + R = O. In other words I cannot affect everything that is happening, has happened and will happen in my life but I sure as hell can manage my reaction to each and every one. Canfield states, and I agree, that it’s my response that determines the effect of the event on me. In other words, positive foot forward, Girl.
Of course this is so much easier to do when things are going well, I’ve just won the lottery, all my daughters have graduated summa cum laude and the dogs have learnt to poo in the neighbour’s garden. Ha, I wish. It is when things are going off kilter that response and changing yourself become just that tad harder.
“Keep passing the open windows,” John Irving wrote in The Hotel New Hampshire and there have been micro moments when this one helped me. When I wasn’t being so good at the change thing and when my reaction to really bad stuff was really bad and defeatist and Jack would have told me I wasn’t going to get to where I wanted to be. “Not with that attitude, Lady.”
In my Gordon Gekko days where my life seemed to reflect the plush red and shiny gold of an upmarket casino, opportunity glinted off the roulette wheel straight into my eye, children were still a twinkle in Mr C’s and I hadn’t even noticed the attractive blue of his, I favoured such subjective truths as:
1)No pockets in a shroud. Now where, I ask myself, has that got me? Where are my life savings, my pension and villas in the south of France, Mallorca and my Virgin trip to outer space?
And, 2) it’s the quick and the dead. I must admit I do still find use for this one on the rare occasion. Airport queue of 50, seven seats available. No problem. Check. Tickets to see Ewan MaGregor in Othello. Sleeping bags at dawn. Check. That apartment all in sundry want to rent. Why wouldn’t they want to show it to me at 11pm? Check.
And, rightly or wrongly, I am wont to remind the daughters of this when I feel they need a motherly fillip.
Back, back then into the catacombs of my life I am put in mind of my first day on a graduate programme at a huge American multinational when, straight faced the tutors told us, the 25 successful applicants that, “your best is not good enough” and furthermore, “coming second is as good as coming last”.
The next two years of training certainly showed me the they hadn’t been kidding. As far as one of my bosses at the time was concerned it’s a big wheel [that doesn’t come round] kept me sane and stopped me from pushing him out one of Irving’s open windows. But that’s all in the past and I like to think that I have mellowed over the intervening years.
‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent’ (Eleanor Roosevelt). ‘Only the mediocre are always at their best’ (Jean Giradoux) and perhaps ‘Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it’ (Mahatma Gandhi) are three of my favourites today.
Because I have started writing again two of my daughters bought me a beautiful notebook from Smythson on which is embossed make it happen. They tell me it is for really good ideas, the ideas must be for my book, that I must write neatly on its precious pages and that I mustn’t give up at the first obstacle, “like last time”.
They’re right. you know. All too often I forget I can only change myself. I am going to make it happen this time.
FOOTNOTE: I have stolen the bones of my title from Kelly Killoren Bensimon (The Real Housewives of New York) who’s personal tagline in series 4 was ‘living the American Dream one mistake at a time’. It made me chuckle.