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Where Would I Be Without You?
LIFe Lessons from WISe and wonDerFuL women
By BJ Gallagher
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2002 BJ Gallagher
All rights reserved.
Attitude Is Everything
can be exactly like me.
Sometimes even I have trouble doing it.
—Tallulah Bankhead, actress
Other women have taught me much about the critical role that attitude plays—in good times and in bad. Most importantly, they taught me that I can choose my own attitude! it's not something immutable in my DNA over which I have no control. My attitude is not cast in concrete— in any given moment, I can choose to change it.
Attitude is everything.
One of my mother's favorite sayings was
"MIND OVER MATTER."
She invoked this mantra whenever I was whining or complaining (as kids often do). "Mind over matter" was an all-purpose panacea for assorted and sundry problems. Feeling lonely? Instead of focusing on your aloneness as a problem, view it as an opportunity to do something that requires solitude, like writing or cleaning your closet. Make a gratitude list and see all the wonderful things you have going for you!
What do you hang on the walls of your mind?
—Eve Arnold, photographer
LIFe IS raw maTerIaL.
WE ARE ARTISANS.
We can sculpt our existence into something beautiful, or debase it into ugliness. It's in our hands.
—Cathy Better, poet and writer
I WENT TO VISIT MY AUNTIE EL IN SEDONA A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO, AND OVER LUNCH ONE AFTERNOON, I COMMENTED ON HER BEAUTIFUL COLLECTION OF HATS.
She smiled knowingly and leaned in to whisper something so that her husband wouldn't overhear: "I wear these stunning hats so people will look at my face and not my big tush!" she confided.
And she was right—that's exactly what people did.
NOTHING CONVEYS THE RIGHT ATTITUDE LIKE A GREAT HAT!
IF YOU OBEY ALL THE RULES you miss all the fun.
—Katharine Hepburn, actress
What separates an ordinary woman from an extraordinary one?
The belief that she is ordinary.
—Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize winner
YOU too, have the power to recreate yourself over and over again, as many times as you want. You can try on new identities much like you might try on a new coat, or experiment with a new hairstyle. The freedom you have as a new woman living in the western hemisphere at this point in history means you can be a tomboy, a scholar, a vamp, a pastor, a cynic, a party girl, a homebody, a hermit, or whatever else strikes your fancy. Your only limit is your creativity, imagination, and energy.
There is no cosmetic for beauty like happiness.
—Marguerite Gardiner Blessington, Irish writer
You don't have to decide what you're going to be, ever. You can be something different every day if you want.
—Laurie Anderson'sm om
we were once WILD Here. Don't let them tame you.
—Isadora Duncan, mother of Modern dance
Where would I be if it weren't for my women friends? We laugh together, cry together, compare notes on our children, and complain about our jobs. I depend on them for so much—company, comfort, guidance, advice, and sometimes a good swift kick when I need it!
Our common bond of feminine experience is stronger than any differences. There is something so essential in women sharing with other women. It seems the most natural thing in the world. Give me the support of a few good women friends, and I can do almost anything!
My friend Suzanne once said to me,
"The greatest gift you can give someone is the gift of the interested listener."
Suzanne was right. Think about it. What is it we all want more than anything? We want to be heard, to be acknowledged, to have someone validate our existence, our thoughts, and our feelings. Like a bank account, friendships grow in direct proportion to interest paid.
A True Friend, From A to Z ...
ACCEPTS you, warts and all.
BELIEVES in your potential.
COMFORTS you when you're sad.
DELIGHTS in your successes.
EMPATHIZES with your struggles.
FORGIVES you when you hurt her feelings, just as you do her.
GIVES you time and attention.
HUGS you ... often.
INSPIRES you to do your best.
JUST LOVES YOU.
KEEPS your secrets.
LISTENS with her heart.
MAKES you want to be a better person.
NEVER JUDGES YOU.
OCCASIONALLY DISAPPOINTS you 'cause she's human, too ...
POINTS OUT your good qualities when you forget.
QUESTIONS you when you're about to do something really dumb.
RESPECTS your boundaries.
SHARES her hopes and fears with you.
TELLS you the truth.
UNDERSTANDS you, even when you don't understand yourself.
VALUES your ideas and opinions.
WILL DO anything she can to help you.
XTENDS a helping hand whenever you need it.
YEARNS to hear from you when you're away.
ZINGS with joy 'cause you're her friend.
"We need to allow other people the dignity of their own choices," my friend Karen told me. The dignity of personal choice—what a wonderful concept!—the essence of free will and self-determination. I certainly want it myself, and I must allow others to have it, too.
If we would build on a sure foundation in friendship, we must love friends for their sake rather than for our own.
—Charlotte Brontë, author
Women of our generation figured out we could try to have it all. We were smart, we went to school, we had careers, and we had families. We learned to be assertive and not aggressive. We learned to volunteer and make a difference. We learned when to say "No" to things that didn't matter to us personally and professionally.
What we didn't learn was how to say "YES".
"Yes," I need help. "Yes," you can bring dinner over, sit with the kids, do my laundry, or just listen because, frankly, I can't do it all by myself. "Yes," I need others. Maybe what we need to do is say "No" to Superwoman more often, and say "Yes" to our friends instead.
Family: Fun or Funky?
98% of families are dysfunctional.
THE OTHER TWO PERCENT ARE LYING.
—Amy Berger, humorist and author
Kids learn much better by experiencing things than by someone telling them things. My mom knew that loving your kids doesn't mean letting them do whatever they want—it means giving them boundaries and guidelines within which to live and grow.
Sometimes there is a huge gap between the intent of a comment and its impact. It's easy to forget how sensitive my family members are—to unthinkingly hurt the ones I love the most.
I must speak more often from my heart, and less from my head.
If it's not one thing, IT'S YOUR MOTHER.
—Gilda Radner, comedian
How women and men handle their money speaks volumes about their families: whether or not they feel loved, how they provide for their children, and ways in which they act out their relationships with other family members. Money is intertwined with issues of power, control, sex, self-esteem, love, and loyalty. Carolyn Wesson's book Women Who Shop Too Much showed me that hiding purchases is just one small example of how interpersonal issues show up in the family checkbook. It's important for families to take the mystery out of money.
Virginia Quirk told me, Advice to children can be risky, and as ours matured, we had a creed we adhered to:
Never give adult children advice unless they are asking for money.
If adult children ask for advice, that's another story.
It worked for us. But in their developmental years, advice was needed—after all, that's what parenting is all about.
Our children sometimes choose paths that we don't understand or approve of, but we must accept their right to choose for themselves.
Making Peace with the Past
is the first inescapable political situation each of us has to negotiate. You are powerless. You are on the wrong side in every respect.
BESIDES THAT, THERE'S THE SIZE THING.
—June Jordan, poet, novelist, and critic
The past is a weird thing. Somehow, it keeps showing up in the present. Even worse, sometimes it seems to predict the future! Old issues that we thought were finished show up disguised with new faces. Old wounds are reopened by new people ... or sometimes by the same people who gave us the original wounds. Our fathers show up in our relationships with men. We're haunted by the fear that we might be turning into our mothers. Old parental issues get reenacted with authority figures like bosses. What's the deal here? More importantly, is there anything we can do about it?
A wise friend once told me
UNTIL YOU GET COMPLETE WITH YOUR PARENTS,
YOU CAN'T get complete with anyone.
Her advice was this:
If you have unresolved issues with your parents, drop everything else you're doing and take care of that. If you don't then old garbage from the past will continue to clutter up your life and your relationships forever.
We all live in SUSPENSE from day to day; in other words, you are the HERO of your own story.
—Mary McCarthy, author of On the Contrary
It's time to let parents off the hook.
My mom told me, Blame your parents for the way you are; blame yourself if you stay that way.
A woman sees what she looks for.
—Barbara Jenkins, author
My friend Anita Goldstein said,
Every time you hear yourself making some blanket statement like, "I'm very insecure ... I need a lot of attention and reassurance," I'd suggest that you add these three words, "up until now." Every time you do that, you're making a break with the past. You're giving
IT'S never TOO LaTe TO Become WHaT YoU mIGHT Have Been.
—George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans, who wrote under a male pen name)
My Body / My self
Women's bodies are both beautiful and practical. Our soft curves and a uuring femininity have for centuries inspired the world's greatest artists. On the other hand, our innate physical durability enables us to give birth to babies and feed them, work hard, juggle multiple roles, and go the distance, outliving men. Our bodies are nothing short of miraculous—the epitome of FORM FOLLOWS FUNCTION.
Some of us are not so thrilled with Mother Nature's handiwork, though. In fact, I don't know a single woman who actually likes her body. Women worry and fret about being too fat, too tall, too short, too something! We worry about our health, aging, and the loss of physical beauty as well as the prospect of being old ladies in a society that worships youth. Having a woman's body is definitely a mixed blessing.
You can take no credit for beauty at sixteen. But if you are beautiful at sixty, it will be your soul's own doing.
—Marie Carmichael Stopes, Scottish writer
When I was a little girl, occasionally I got sick. No matter what minor illness I had, my mother would always say the same thing:
Wash your face—you'll feel better. When you look better, you'll feel better, too.
Women Educate Other Women about Our Bodies
We have been sharing information with one another for thousands of years—mothers and grandmothers taught younger generations about menstruation, sex, pregnancy, and other important female issues. Women friends have always shared with one another what they learned from their own experiences and illnesses.
We have the opportunity to share health information with the dozens of women we know and love. Armed with the latest facts from the Internet, doctors, books, journals ... and Oprah ... we can take charge of our own health and teach other women as well.
THE FIVE STAGE of a WOMAN'S LIFE:
1. To grow up
2. To fill out
3. To slim down
4. To hold it in
5. To hell with it
Men and Marriage
Having a healthy relationship with a man means loving him for who he is now, and not loving him in spite of who he is today, or in hopes of who he will be tomorrow.
—Barbara DeAngelis, author and relationship expert
The woman's vision is deep reaching— the man's far reaching.
With the man, the world is his heart; with the woman, the heart is her world.
—Betty Grable, actress
TOP Ten ThInGS I've LearneD aBouT Men
1. Men are simpler than women are. What you see is pretty much what you get.
2. Men are single-focused. Don't expect them to multi-task.
3. Men need to be right. They like to win.
4. Men are either attracted to you or they're not. Don't go to great lengths to try to win a man who isn't attracted to you. Watch for the ones who are.
5. Men like the chase.
6. Most men have a much higher sex drive than women. It's biological—their bodies and minds are hardwired for frequent sex. It doesn't make them bad or dirty—it just makes them men.
7. Men want sex and trade intimacy to get it. Women want intimacy and trade sex to get it.
8. Many of men's emotions get expressed as anger. They've been socialized not to express other emotions. Fear comes out as anger; frustration comes out as anger; sadness comes out as anger; even jealousy comes out as anger.
9. Men need women. Most of them don't do well without us. They get sick more often, they make less money, and they die sooner without a woman in their lives. Most men know this.
10. Men love and want women, but they often don't understand us. They love us because we're so different from them— complex, paradoxical, emotional, expressive, beautiful. But the differences also confuse them. They sometimes don't know how to make us happy.
What's the secret of a long, happy relationship?
You have to strike the right balance between time together and time apart.
Love is a great degree of tolerance.
The key to a long marriage is a short memory.
The ability to compromise and forgive is essential to a successful marriage.
Hold each other close, with your arms open wide.
For a happy, successful marriage, my friend Carole says,
"The woman should love her man a little, and understand him a lot; and the man should love his woman a lot, and understand her not at all!"
I asked my friend Gwen about her long marriage.
"You shouldn't depend on one man to satisfy all your needs," she said. "I think every woman should have three men in her life:
a gay guy to enjoy the arts with, a stud muffin for the bedroom, and an athlete to bring you adventure and activity."
"What about a husband?" I asked.
"Oh, well, any one of those three could be your husband— you decide," Gwen replied.
Men just want to make us HAPPY.
My friend Alison Armstrong said,
Our men really do want to make us happy. But if they can't make us happy, they'll settle for not making us upset.... Too many women want their men to be mind readers. "If he loves me, he should know what I want!" we complain. Wrong! Men aren't mind readers. You can save yourself and your man a lot of headaches by simply telling him what will make you happy.
Thanks to Alison, I've learned not to make men guess. Heaven knows, men find women mysterious enough as it is—I try not to make the guys more miserable by asking them to read my mind.... Only other women can read my mind!
DO let him read the papers. But not while you accusingly tiptoe around the room, or perch much like a silent bird of prey on the edge of your most uncomfortable chair. (He will read them anyway, and he should read them, so let him choose his own good time.) DON'T make a big exit. Just go. But kiss him quickly, before you go, otherwise he might think you are angry; he is used to suspecting he is doing something wrong.
—Marlene Dietrich, actress
Excerpted from Where Would I Be Without You? by BJ Gallagher. Copyright © 2002 BJ Gallagher. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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