As a new single parent, I had to quickly get a car. My first choice was a soft-top Jeep Wrangler, because the family car I’d learned to drive on was a Wrangler and it was so much fun. Instead, I ended up with a ’68 Plymouth Valiant, covered in so much rust that it was difficult to determine the original color.
The Valiant wasn’t old as in cool-vintage. It was old as in ugly. My son and I used to park it, jump out and walk away as fast as we could.
For as long as I can remember, my life strategy has been to make the best of situations. So I hand-sanded the Valiant and then painted it raven-black with a large wall brush. The next year, I taped and masked it myself and paid an auto shop to spray paint it steel-blue. Always trying to make it prettier.
Experiencing what we don’t want usually helps us become clear about what we do want. And during my years with the Valiant, I got super clear about what I wanted – and more and more determined to get there.
It’s also been part of my strategy to be grateful for what I have without sinking into complaining, blaming, comparing or even wishing life were different. So I did my best to be appreciative of the Valiant while anticipating getting rid of it.
And after a few years, I finally got my soft-top Jeep. I loved it so much that, the first night, I parked it inches from our front steps and wished I could bring it in the house.
Expecting the unexpected.
Another piece of my strategy has been to believe in the probability of magic – that we can draw to ourselves whatever we need to fulfill our purposes.
One of those moments occurred when my son was six months old, and I was sitting with him on the floor, cleaning out a box of old papers. In the stack was a brochure from a Montessori teacher-training program that I’d been dragging around for a decade. I still wanted to do it, but with three kids to raise, it didn’t look possible. So I tossed that dream in the garbage pile.
Within an hour, the phone rang. It was someone that I’d never met, the owner of a local Montessori school. She was starting a training for teachers the next day and had been given my name. Inside, I felt Yes! and I jumped in quickly.
The next morning, I showed up at the school with my son on my hip, and we started Montessori school together. And after four years of combined work and study, I completed the two-year teacher’s certification program.
Looking back on that moment, I can see that tossing the brochure into the garbage, even though I still had the desire, was a decision. And decisions, whether they’re right or wrong, usually get energy moving. And then the how presented itself.
I’ve always believed that, if I stay focused on what I want and why I want it, instead of struggling and worrying, the when and the how will unfold naturally.
How doggedness fits in.
Persistence has also been part of my strategy. For instance, it took me a super long time to graduate from university. Initially, I studied Special Education but dropped out to move to Europe. Later, I studied Elementary Education but dropped out when my child was born. Next, I studied Montessori Education. Then back to university to study Visual Arts, until I ran out of money as a single parent.
It would’ve helped to stick with one major, but every time I went back to school, something else looked more interesting. Eventually, I gave up hope of ever graduating. I missed out on job opportunities that I really wanted. And I always tried to hide my lack of a degree, even from friends.
The fourth time I went back, I focused on Interdisciplinary Studies. And after eight years of university study spread over 35 years, I got a bachelor’s. Thankfully, I could finally check that life-goal off my list!
I wish I could say that I’m a conscious practitioner of manifestation. Mostly, I just listen to my intuition and try to think the right thought and then be in the right place at the right time.
They say that when we’re worrying, we’re planning our future. And when we’re feeling grateful, we’re planning our future. So I make it a point to expect the best and not cancel it by feeling that I don’t deserve it. And I try to be relaxed about who I am, and what I have, and where I am in life, while expecting it all to keep getting better.
And every now and then, I stop to ask myself, “What am I focusing on? What future am I building? Is it something on my life-goal list, or is it something that I don’t want?” I’d rather tell my mind what to do, than it tell me what to do. And for me, it’s a strategy that’s working.