Luck My Ass: To Flourish is a Choice

My sisters, Monya (left) and Melanie (right) with Angie and me. 

One of my favorite people on the planet is my adopted Godmother, Angie. I met her in 2011 through what I still consider to be Divine Intervention. She would say, always the pragmatist, that we just know the same people. 

Now 82 years old, she has opened up my mind to all that a woman can be, can do. She is an incredibly hands-on and loving (and loved in return) mother, grandmother, great grandmother. She has a brilliant, long-term, and loving marriage. Without needing it at the time, she pursued the highest degree in her field from Northwestern University, then went on, more than 40 years ago and with four young children, to launch a successful business. To this day her long-term clients will not let her retire; she’s the best of the best at what she does. She has a circle of friends that is bar-none and she lights up a room with positive energy every time she dawns a doorway. In addition, she’s one of the most passionate and capable women I know.   

For example, Angie LOVES Christmas. She has a beautiful one-story home nestled in a heavily wooded area in the Chicago suburbs. For the first several years I knew her, I attended the most inviting and lavishly decorated (which is difficult to pull off at the same time) Christmas Eve parties I had ever seen. Entering her driveway, my jaw would drop at the lights, strung perfectly throughout her dense forest of trees and adorning every doorway. Inside was more of the same, two to three live Christmas trees and garland that filled the house with the aroma of pine. I would spend the first hour, every single year, just admiring the decadence. 

After a couple of years of this, I asked her to share her decorator’s information with me. I wanted in on the action. Guess what she told me? She does it all herself. “What about garland around all of the windows?” I asked. “I do it myself, of course.” She replied. “What about the outdoor lights?” I continued. “I do them all myself. I put on my fur coat (Remember: the context is Chicago in winter), get my friend, Vic, to hold the ladder, and I string every tree myself.” She told me in a very matter of fact, this is how I roll, kind of way. “Why?” I exclaimed to the then 76-year-old woman. “Because I can. Because I enjoy it and it's part of the way I experience Christmas.” 

Angie is like this with everything. She has an incredibly can-do attitude, but more importantly, she does. To this day, she wakes every morning and takes a five-mile walk, regardless of the weather. She takes pictures along the way of the trees, the birds, she even records herself breathing in the crisp air. In a word, she is flourishing. 

I was telling someone about Angie recently; reveling in all that she does despite what others might consider limitations, like being an octogenarian, the loss of her beloved son, or suffering a stroke four years ago. Their response was “She’s lucky.” Hmmm...really? I don’t think so. Yes, she definitely has enjoyed some degree of good fortune, but a lot of her reality is of her own making. Angie’s luck is her mind, her positive attitude, perseverance, willingness to put forward the effort–every single day–to not just invest in her physical health but her mental and emotional well-being that comes from actually appreciating the here and now, whether on a nature walk or showering affection on her family and friends. 

The lessons I take from Angie are exactly the reason I adopted her as my Godmother. I love the boundlessness of her thinking and her commitment to act–not just armchair quarterback like so many others. It’s easy to look at the lives of people who are happy and flourishing and imagine, “They’re just lucky. If I had what they had my life would be different.” The harder path is to dig a bit deeper, inside of yourself, acknowledge if and where we are setting our own limitations, and unleash them. 

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