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Making the Most of Life’s Hard Knocks

A call from an old friend reminds Maura Sweeney that we can always look forward to tomorrow. Read more from Maura on her blog.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” ~ Desmond Tutu

Making the Most of Hard Knock Life

You needn’t be an orphan Annie from Depression-era Manhattan to experience hardship.

You can hail from any era and background and still qualify as having a hard knock life.

Like the fictional Annie, you can also expect to find gray days turning happy as the sun comes out on your tomorrow.

This morning, I received a surprise call from an old friend wishing to thank me for a Facebook birthday post. It had been years since we spoke and I was thrilled to hear her voice.

A midlife woman with a spirit like Annie, she provides present day inspiration for the merits of belief in sunny tomorrows.

“Linda” and I haven’t seen each other in nearly a decade. But beginning in our 30s, we enjoyed a pleasant relationship while living in the same suburban neighborhood.

Back then, I was mostly at home. My life was consumed with cleaning, cooking, picking up after dogs and homeschooling our daughter. Linda and I frequently chatted as she’d jog past our house with kids, tricycles and a puppy in tow.

Sometimes Linda would stop to say hello before heading out of town. She drove a Cadillac Coupe de Ville, a company car that transported her several times a month to Orlando where she flourished in a lucrative sales position.

A sturdy girl with a hearty laugh to match, Linda loved her career, her kids and her husband.

Linda’s attitude and humor became increasingly valuable as the years progressed. When her husband’s social drinking spiraled out of control and his normally genial nature turned dark, Linda found herself with an unexpected divorce.

She kept the kids and the house, became sole supporter of the family and dealt bravely with her son’s emotional loss of a dad.

Divorce, finances and child rearing weren’t Linda’s only challenges. Some female friends grew uncomfortable with her suddenly-single status and quietly distanced themselves from her at the very time she could have used their support.

Linda shared updates from her emerging circumstances but I never heard her complain. We’d gotten together once or twice after my family and I moved a decade ago but lost touch till she called today.

“A positive attitude is something everyone can work on, and everyone can learn how to employ it.” ~ Joan Lunden

I always admired Linda’s grateful spirit but today’s phone call brought appreciation for her positivity to a whole new level.

For starters, Linda called from a hospital where her youngest, age 18, was emerging from a tonsillectomy.

“Maura, I wanted to thank you for the thoughtful Facebook birthday message!” she enthused.

For the next several minutes, we caught up on generalities. But when inquiring about her Orlando-based job, I was surprised to find she lost this prized career position.

“The major account we called on went direct,” she informed me, “so my spot and others had to be eliminated.”

Linda always loved working for that firm and never missed an opportunity to say so. But she expressed no remorse.

“I ended up getting a job in a whole new industry, ” she continued. “For a year, I worked in a commission-only situation and made no money. In fact, I actually lost money driving back and forth to the job and it ultimately cost me my house.”

Did I hear devastation? No. For Linda, there was no time to dwell on the loss of a previous career or the perils of acquiring a new one.

“I picked up lots of experience that year and learned my way around a new industry. Then, I applied for a higher level position at one of the large corporations. I was up against people with a lot more industry experience, but I got hired. Now I’m their top producer!”

I was filled with joy for this woman who was living in the sunshine of a new today.

“Over and over I marvel at the blessings of my life: Each year has grown better than the last.” ~ Lawrence Welk

Before we hung up, Linda delivered a post script that nearly made me laugh.

“When people are unemployed, they should use that time to get trained in new skills – like I did.”

In some magical fashion, Linda viewed a year of working at the bottom of a new industry, making no money and losing her house in the light of good fortune. Similar to Annie, who joyfully embraced a prosperous new life with Daddy Warbucks, Linda is happy and grateful today flourishing in a new career.

You may be in a challenging, frightening or vulnerable place today. Perhaps you’re longing for a past that has been taken and unable to see the possibilities that lay ahead.

You are not alone.

We all need light and hope to sustain us – regardless of our circumstance, condition or age.

May Linda’s tale and Annie’s theme remind you to keep your eyes fixed on tomorrow’s sun!  

Maura Sweeney

Author, Speaker, Publisher of MIKE Sports Comic Books. Huffington Post contributor. One part intelligence. One part scatterbrain. 100% purveyor of hope. A midlife woman on a journey to find what's higher, better, more authentic and more fun. Inspiring others to ask and believe for "What's next in life?" Find me asking insightful questions, discovering your hidden talents, and often forgetting your name. World traveler. Late-in-life dancer. Always engaging.

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Carol Graham

Saturday 13th of June 2015

Thank you for sharing that and I would be very interested in interviewing her on my show. If you would be able to ask her, that would be awesome and, please have her contact me.

Your admiration for her shines through your post. Well done

Maura Sweeney

Monday 15th of June 2015

Carol, I agree my former neighbor would make an excellent interviewee. She's fun, resilient and definitely robust. If I circle around with her again, I will certainly let her know of your kind offer.


Saturday 13th of June 2015

Great story and a true testament to her character that in this day of doing everything but actually making a phone call, she did it! A woman after my own heart. Thanks for sharing Maura :)

Maura Sweeney

Monday 15th of June 2015

Glad you appreciated the positive outlook and sturdiness this woman exemplified, Beth. She certainly inspired me.

Maura Sweeney

Monday 1st of June 2015

Diana, thanks for your comment! I've never studied psychology and have learned about human nature from observing life. Nice to know that someone like you with the professional credentials has come to much of the same conclusions.

Diana Raab, Ph.D.

Thursday 28th of May 2015

Great article. I agree with everything you say. When I teach my workshops in writing for transformation I remind the participants that without knowing or seeing the darkness we cannot find the light.

Love and light, Diana Raab, Ph.D.

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