wOw’s Question of the Week


Tell us: what life experience has strengthened you?

Joni Evans: A bad divorce.

At one time he had caused me to lose my home in the country, my apartment in the city, my job (he was my boss), my dogs (he blocked me from our property), my friends (he subpoenaed them in our divorce hearings) and my privacy (our breakup hit the gossip columns and he gave interviews to anyone who asked). I never thought it would happen, but after 7 years of  legal battles, I prevailed.

Ironically, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Joan Ganz Cooney: It is said that which does not kill you makes you stronger.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer back in the bad old days before lumpectomies, chemo and radiation were considered safe, and so I was advised to have radical surgery and not chance the potentially dangerous outcome of lesser treatment. This was pretty tough news for a 45 year old who had just separated from her husband. After many tears and all the fears of death that cancer victims have, I felt infinitely stronger as time went by, strangely indestructible. However, I remember wailing to my sister that no man would be interested in me now that I had a lost a breast. Her answer made me laugh and gave me hope. She said, “Any man who would be interested in you would never have been interested in your little breasts. You’re not Marilyn Monroe.”

Fortunately, it turned out she was prophetic. The man I married five years later seemed hardly to notice — although he did over worry the possibility of a recurrence which, thank God, didn’t happen.

Liz Smith: In 1948 I was about to graduate from the University of Texas. I thought I was hot shit with a journalism degree, ready to lick the world. Then on Christmas Day with my family in a little place called Lamesa, Texas, I was in an automobile accident as a front seat passenger — and those were the days of no seat belts. I hit the windshield, breaking all of my front teeth out and ending up in emergency with 110 stitches in my face. I wasn’t hurt badly otherwise — but this was bad enough and I had to go home to stay with my parents, I couldn’t graduate with my class and I was in for lots of recovery and dentistry.

This accident brought me down to earth. I realized how lucky I was to be alive, how lucky I was to have my parents to care for me and pay for my expensive recovery. I realized that I owed them and was not “ruined” because fate had taken a bad turn. I knew then that I was a lucky duck  with some new teeth and fading scars.  And I wasn’t so great and invulnerable  as I’d thought. I knew I had to now work hard to recover and catch up.

But as I recuperated in my parents’ house, I realized I wanted to move events forward and go to New York. When I could smile again, I did. I never physically graduated, but I set off with $50 cash and no return ticket to Texas. The accident motivated me to “move” and get started and not waste any more time.

I often thought of what the emergency room physician said to me the morning after I had been in his hands for 5 or 6 hours. He said, “Little lady, you are going to be fine. I used up all of my smallest plastic surgery thread and needles on you and you are going to be beautiful.”

I have never been beautiful, but I guess the experience strengthened me. I realized then that it wasn’t my strength, but the strength of so many good people helping me!

14 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Linda Myers says:

    I am not sure there is one, or many which happen and reaffirm. I have been working two jobs for weeks, finishing one while training for another, in a job I would never have seen myself as doing and yet felt the pull to be there. Another in the training class, was a pastor. For the way I believe and trying very hard just to be normal (whatever that is), today on the last day he said he spent part of last night on my website and blogs which he found on the web, without thinking I just said “oh no!”. He looked at me and just said “don’t ever hide who you are” or try to be the “normal” to stay hidden. The new job is going to be tough until I find the comfort zone with a potential worth the effort and just maybe he was there today to give me the strength in knowing when I do – blending a passion with a job will only make me stronger in this journey.

  2. avatar Mary says:

    First of all, Liz,  YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!

    I often look back on my life and wonder which things made my life be what it is.  When I graduated from high school I recall someone said that one day I would look back and see that those were the most carefree days of life and that life would make many twists and turns.  If a fortune teller would have told me all that I would go through I probably would have run fast and hard.  But, when you are going through those times that you look back and think were hard, you realize you got through them because you had to and yes, they led you to new paths and for the most part you are happier and/or stronger .

    1989 a pivitol year of cancer, divorce and adoption of my daughter.   Nothing compared to 9 years ago when I decided to find my birth family.  I didn’t know I would be giving up everything I knew of a pretty comfortable life ( what I thought was a comfortable life) to be rejected and needing all of the survival skills I could draw on to simply survive.  But, getting through each hard day learning more about myself and what strengths I had and developing new ones was more rewarding than anything I ever did.  No time to think about the losses, only time to move forward to each day and each day brought surprises that I never noticed before.  Many tears, many moments of laughter and awe at the world and my strength at the raw emotions, the physical strength and the thought process required to survive and learning that there are many many things you can do without but your mind is your strength and adversity is nothing more than a lightbulb going off that is leading you to new understandings of the important things of life.  Some of us just need the light to be stronger to get there. 

  3. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    Without doubt the words “we may not be able to do anything” from a doctor several months ago. So far, so good. But still. Those words.  So being “grateful for the day” has taken on new meaning. Realizing that indeed that is all any of us have.

    Occasionally I hear “Is that all there is…” and stop and think about all that was. A grand adventure so far.  And so I think about all that will be. At least will be for today.  Which, again, is all any of us have.

  4. avatar Count Snarkula says:

    Realizing, that no matter how much we loved each other, my partner and I could not “make it work”.  As an alpha man, I always thought there would always be a solution, that if we tried hard enough we would make it through.  If we loved each other enough, we could always find our way together.  Well.  No.  Sometimes, no matter how much love there is, it is not enough.  A hard lesson indeed, but clearly one I needed to learn.  I hope one day to try again…with it working.

  5. avatar Amaterasu says:

    It would have to be the death of my parents in less than six months apart. I was married and had a family, but you always rely on your parents being there for you in times of need, even if it is just for moral support. Then, all of a sudden they were no longer there. Fortunately, I learned how to live without them, but it took some time.

    • avatar Count Snarkula says:

      Its been almost three and a half years since I lost my Mom.  When do I learn how to live without her?  So sorry for your losses.

      • avatar Amaterasu says:

        Thanks Count, It’s been 11 years for me. I’m sure everyone is different. It was a gradual healing process I guess, so it’s hard to name a timespan. I’m sure there will always be times when you wish you could pick up the phone and call mom. I had a M.I.L. that filled the gap a little although it wasn’t always the same.
        Wishing you the best in your healing process.

        • avatar Count Snarkula says:

          What a kind and thoughtful response.  Thank you.  It made me feel better.  XOXO

  6. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    Learning my husband had Myasthenia Gravis and there was little I could do but be emotional support through his journey. At the time he was given five to eight years to live and he is still with me over twenty years from the initial diagnosis. Together we have seen milestones as a family we never expected to see. We still look forward instead of looking at what he can no longer do.

  7. avatar Dianne Lopp says:

    Liz, (if I may be so bold), I have and have read and reread Natural Blonde and Dishing, (I’m from Oklahoma so I recognize some of your family’s characters in my own).  The picture of you as a young woman in Natural Blonde with your cowboy hat and jeans on in the Texas mesquite is beautiful and would work as a cover for Vanity Fair today—and you’re beautiful today—so it just ain’t so that you’ve never been beautiful!  Life is so short and you have been blessed with great genes, good luck, and tenacity—and that’s a prescription for beauty!

  8. avatar calgal says:

    Having my one and only child when I was 41. I had thought I had all the answers, but I couldn’t answer his questions about life, the universe, and everything. I got one of those kids who is a pathfinder, who never wants to follow, but will create a new trail. The glib advice I had previously given my siblings on how to handle their kids didn’t work with mine. I was forced to dig deep inside to find out what I really believed, and blaze a few trails myself in how to discipline and guide a child who wasn’t motivated by the usual things, whose extraordinary gift of empathy wasn’t rewarded or even recognized by the average teacher or school. He and I grew up together. I’m proud of us both.

  9. avatar crystalclear says:

    To Joni:   Your experience SHOULD strengthen all women.   It takes great self confidence for women to actually walk away feeling better for it.    Unfortunately, some women would’ve headed back in the same direction and repeated the process.    However, you did not.   You are a brave and intelligent woman having gone through so much in your personal life as a young woman.   

    You ROCK, Joni!

  10. avatar bethonna says:

    I have always been a women of strength but when I discovered I had breast cancer at age 45, there was no doubt.  It was a tremendous adventure and I was in charge.  The worst part was when they tell you that they found something.  Not knowing is horrible.  That was Wed. On Thur the ultrasound.  Friday the biopsy.  I questioned the radiologist about what she was looking for.  If the lump or mass is oval and smooth in shape then it is probably benign.  If jagged in appearance, probably malignant, not always, but probably. Jagged here.  With a history of breast cancer in my family( my mom’s sisters) I knew I had it.  Relief.  Now I can start planning.  Had to wait till Tues to get the call from my physician.  Met with him to review and select a surgeon from the surgery group at Piedmont Hosp.  I made my decision and was off to a whole new world.  This was my first surgery.  Gowns, warm blankets, fabulous nurses, wonderful drugs.  I left the hospital a one-tit wonder, cancer free and walking strong but with a tilt.

  11. avatar junsworth says:

    Almost 2 years ago, my husbands family was hit by tragedy.  A disfunctional group at best.  His sister was diagnosed with cancer and died 3 weeks later.  His mom was batteling cancer at the time of her death.  He had already lost one of his sisters at the age of 42.  Then the dad took a drastic turn with Alzheimers. The mom died of Cancer. All within the span of 4 months.  I spent weeks in the ER and Psych ward with his dad, planned the funeral for the mother (who hated me!). I spent every day of my life dealing with his family issues, because the 3 sons that were left behind (including my husband) simply wern’t doing anything.  I felt consumed and overwhelmed and I hit rock bottom.  It was the lowest point in my life.  The question that jumped out for me was “Who is going to have my back if something happens to me?” It was a huge year for me personally. I learned that life is short, and I can’t wait for someone to step up and make me happy, that my happiness is up to me. So I spend a lot of time with my friends and daughters.  I’m still married, but I have made plans for my medical decisions to be made by someone outside of my family, that I know could make the critical decisions if necessary.