Tell us: what life experience has strengthened you?
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.
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!