The NY Times put out this very interesting article the other week, entitled “How To Build Resilience In Midlife“. The article contends that we all are taught resiliency in childhood but once we grow up, we no longer have this essential skill to help us through our mid-life.
Show me just one middle-aged person who hasn’t lost a job, a loved one, had a bad marriage or romance, broke off a treasured friendship, been betrayed, abused or lost some substantial sum of money as part of their life experience. The odds are good that if you have gotten all through that, plus more (I am sure) you already have mastered the fine art of resiliency by the time you reach your middle years. Duh?
Life is chock full of tough times and we Baby Boomers have seen more than our fair share. We’re not snowflakes and we’re not pushovers. We know what we want, we know what we can take and what we can leave behind, we know what will make us happy and we know what will make us sad. We’ve been on a never-ending search to find ourselves AND help others just the same. Aren’t we the generation that has finally stood up to aging and defied it 1000%?
We all have our own backstories. I was born into a family that was led by an abusive immigrant father who beat me almost daily. Only to go to a series of Catholic schools whereby the nuns as well as the priests were as abusive as my dad. I was bullied in grammar school, high school and yes, even in trade school (as I was the 2nd woman to be admitted into the program and the men did NOT want me there!) My mother, who was my only protector, died when I was 29 and six months pregnant. My first marriage was as abusive as my life back home with my father. My husband was a strangler. He loved to hold me up against the wall by my neck and release me just as I was lastly gasping for air. He used to laugh at that. He thought it was funny.
I went through a brutal divorce and custody battle. I was diagnosed with lupus in 1985 and told I only had five years to live. I was fired from my primary lifetime career (Budget Administrator for a prestigious Law Firm) and involved in a legal tempest as I sued (and won) my previous boss for sexual harassment and age discrimination. (Not a day went by in that office that some reference wasn’t made to the size of my breasts and my going through menopause).
I filed for bankruptcy after the stock market crash of 1987. Not because I couldn’t pay my bills. But an associate of my father thought if he sued me for a large amount of money, my rich father would come to my rescue and pay. Wrong. My father let me go under. My attorney told me that if I kept my case in a common court I wouldn’t get a fair trial because the plaintiff was in cahoots with all the local judges (oh, grow up! these things really do happen!) So, he advised me to file a Chapter 13 thus taking my case to a Federal Bankruptcy court where I did get a fair trial. The case was thrown out of court. All of this cost me money. In no time, I really was broke. I was so broke that I was embarrassed to tell my good friend that I didn’t have the $1.50 I needed to pay a toll bridge to go to his house and collect the $50 he was going to lend me till I got on my feet again.
Burdened with mounting debt, I fell behind in my bills. I sold that primary residence one day before it went into foreclosure. I’ve had all my bank accounts seized, tax liens placed on my person, a car repossessed. I’ve been abandoned by my family and called nothing but ‘white trash’ to my face. Not one family member ever did anything to help me and I had two kids to feed. I worked for my father’s business as a bookkeeper. He paid me $250 a week. When I went through my custody battle I needed him to tell the court I had a secure job. He refused. Both my daughters were taken away from me that day in court. How do you ever recover from something like that? Well, I did. I won my case and I won my settlement from my ex-husband. I had enough money to put as a down payment on a new home for a new beginning. What did my father do? He fired me one day before I went to the closing hoping I would lose the mortgage. He also fought me against collecting unemployment benefits. Nice guy, eh?
I was only 32 years old.
When my mom died in 1978, she left me some very valuable things. My dad refused to give them to me. I had to sue him. It took me 3 years but I prevailed. I used the money my mother left me to start my own business which was in direct competition against my father’s business. My goal was to destroy him AND I did. Once I accomplished this, I sold my business to my ex-husband. Those were the nails in the coffin. I never looked back.
In 1985 I moved to The Hamptons, Long Island, NY and finally lived MY life, MY way. By 2000 I was a millionaire. I was running my own successful computer company for four years. One of my partners, however, stole my client list, spread rumors about me and then proceeded to open up her own company in direct competition against me. What goes around, comes around, right? No worries. She later sued me for $10million dollars stating slander. I turned around and counter-sued her for $100million dollars because she stole my client list, which I proved in court and the $100million was the estimated value of my celebrity client list. I sold computers to the stars. Billy Joel was my first customer. When the dot-com disaster came in 2001-02, I closed my business and moved far, far away.
It was 2002 and I was done with the rat race. I moved to the mountains in upstate New York and vowed to become a hermit. In 2004 my dad became seriously ill. He wanted to see me before he died. My sister drove him to my newish home (we built it ourselves, without a mortgage). Dad was just a bare skeleton. How could I be mad at a skeleton? He looked around my home and saw it was sadly unfinished. “I’ll leave you enough money to finish your home” he said to me. And in 2005 he kept his word. My dad left me close to a million dollars and he took care of both my daughters so that most of their student loans were paid off. My home is now a beautiful estate. My husband and I built a steel barn in my father’s memory: Dedicated To Walter, reads the inscription upon entering the beautiful edifice.
In 2014 I sold a beach home that I had owned for ten years, for fifty thousand dollars less ($50,000) than what I had paid for back in 2004. Tack on the EPA had condemned the septic system the year before I sold and I had to pay for a new fandangoed, above ground septic system at the cost of $37,000. Throw in the $15,000 I had to pay the broker to quickly sell the property and I suffered a $102,000 loss in the year 2014. At the age of 63, how does one recover from yet another financial devastation?
Also, on or about 2014-15 my husband was diagnosed with broken heart syndrome. If this disease wasn’t caught in time, which thankfully, he was, he would have just collapsed and died. After a series of cardiologists AND medications, my husband is alive and well. But our lives have changed drastically.
On November 9, 2016 when Donald Trump was announced as the presidential winner, I stupidly said something aloud about Hillary Clinton and ever since then my two daughters have not spoken to me. They will not let me see my grandchildren. I’ve had to hire an attorney and threaten to take both my daughters to family court just to get visitation rights to see my grandchildren. I never knew my own daughters were such snowflakes but also vindictive, spiteful and hurtful. They took Hillary’s loss out on me. The stress that I went through during this period caused me to have a heart attack three months ago. I’m under special care with my own cardiologist. I’ve also had to change my life considerably these past months. My youngest daughter and I have since reconciled. My oldest however, has not. She won’t even call me ‘mom’. She refers to me as ‘Cindi’. It’s been a painful experience, to say the least.
I’m sure I have left out a gazillion other horrific things that have happened to me in my lifetime. I didn’t even touch on infidelity, theft and dishonesty. Sadly, I think there is way more stuff to come. To say that I have resiliency would be an understatement. The only thing that has kept me alive and going strong has been my belief in God and Jesus Christ. On those dark days when all have turned away, God has always been there to give me strength and help me face yet another day.
I found the NY Times article to be a disparaging. Apparently the writer knows nothing about human challenges and suffering. Life for ALL of us is tough. Back in the 1950’s and 60’s there was no such thing as poverty. Almost every one had money. Today, the homeless and those less-fortunate are everywhere, in plain visible sight. Life today is more a matter of survival than accomplishments. I’ve had my fair share of struggling to contend with: keep a roof over my family’s head, food on the table, clothes on our back and utilities turned on. That has been my life experience. It’s been a battle for DH and myself every single day. DH comes from an abusive back ground also. His father was an alcoholic and anyone out there who grew up under those circumstances knows what I am talking about. His dad was also a heavy-weight boxer. Getting a beating from a father who is both drunk AND an experienced boxer makes me wonder how my husband and I are here, still living, at all.
Life is hard my friend. We make our own happiness. I don’t hold any grudges against anyone. Don’t let anyone fool you that we Baby Boomers aren’t resilient. I’d bet we invented the word.
Live well and prosper, my friend. That’s the only thing that matters.