Last month I wrote a blog titled “Life Lesson #1: Make Up Your Bed,” based on Adm. William H. McRaven’s speech, “Life Lessons from Navy SEAL Training.” I said that new widows are challenged just to get out of bed each morning, let alone make up the bed. This week I have realized that it applies to physical as well as psychological struggles. I cannot act like an invalid if I don’t want to be an invalid. Mindset matters. And I’ve added a personal Life Lesson #2—not on McRaven’s list.
Last Thursday, since I didn’t go anywhere, I stayed in my gown, robe and slippers all day. No makeup. I’m not sure I combed my hair. Of course I looked sick and old when my cousin came by with a freshly made quiche and stayed for a cup of tea. If I were looking for pity, that might be desirable, but pity is absolutely the last thing I have wanted as a widow.
Friday I knew my daughter was coming by. I had physical therapy and wanted to run an errand afterwards. I was going out to dinner. I took one look at myself in the mirror and decided to dress for the day. I put on nice wool slacks and a Kate Spade sweater, good loafers, earrings, makeup—all loose-fitting enough for exercise. And you know what?
I felt better because I liked the image I saw in the mirror. It reinforced health and energy instead of invalidism and depression. I was even less likely to crawl back in bed because not only was my bed made, but I was dressed.
Why Bother? Who Cares?
On one of my first trips to Europe after Lev’s death, I made friends with another recent widow. She confessed that she had not worn makeup for 18 months because without her husband, why bother? I do not want to fall into the trap of why bother? who cares?
Fake It Until You Make It
Amy Cuddy’s new book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, is getting a lot of attention. Reviews generally summarize her thesis as “fake it until you make it.” Since it sounds like the latest in pop psychology/self-help, I debated for several weeks before I downloaded it. It is the next book on my reading list. Why?
Power Perceived Is Power Achieved
In 1981 the Junior League of Corpus Christi asked me to create a local parent anti-drug organization as part of Nancy Reagan’s and Texas Governor Bill Clements’ War on Drugs effort. I have always had difficulty asking others for favors, and now I was charged with building a coalition of prominent community leaders. I needed to enlist the sheriff, mayor and school superintendent to speak at a press conference, and I needed the conference to be held in the board room of the school district’s administration building. These were powerful men whom I knew only slightly, if at all.
I was terrified and confided to a friend that I simply couldn’t call them. I will never forget her lecture: If I acted like I had the authority to ask them, they would believe that I had that authority. Power perceived is power achieved. She was right. It worked. They accepted, and we had a strong working relationship for the three years I led the organization. In the process I learned an important lesson, which has helped me through myriad hurdles of widowhood: Hiring and firing professional advisors, assuming Lev’s role at civic and political meetings, walking alone into a room full of strangers, inviting myself to join a group of strangers at a dinner table, buying a new car—on and on, from the most trivial to the most important issues I have faced. Fake it until you make it is good advice. I am eager to read what Cuddy has to say. Meanwhile…
Get out of bed. Get dressed. Make up your bed.