I consider myself a throughly blessed person, but I am also uniquely qualified to write about crisis. My father died when I was nine, my mother died when I was twenty nine. My husband died in the middle of our life together leaving me to raise our two daughters alone.
Because of these circumstances I am rarely rattled by everyday set backs and the ups and downs of daily life. When my mother was dying at Stanford Medical Center I was in the middle of a product launch for AT&T Mobile. My boss would swing by my desk and tell me her hair was on fire. Yes, we had some major business obstacles, but she didn’t know what real trouble was.
My mother was in the ICU with a sixteen year old girl who had rejected a double lung and heart transplant. Her bed was next to my mothers and for the twenty minutes that we could see her I couldn’t help but watch this beautiful girl with her vital organs shut down struggling for her life. I sat in the waiting room with a man whose thirty year old wife had an allergic reaction to a penicillin shot. While gardening her finger was pricked by the thorn from a rose bush, it became infected and her doctor gave her a penicillin shot. An allergic reaction to the shot put her into cardiac arrest. Because of the loss of circulation of blood to her extremities her arms and legs had to be amputated.
Back at my office my perspective had completely shifted from the realities of my co-workers. I would look at the same problems with cool equanimity.
Our product eventually had a successful launch, the girl got another donor and survived, the other woman after months of physical therapy was released, but my mother died.
Eventually, I developed a calm outlook in the face of adversity, and took this with me and used it throughout my career to solve many complex problems with a clear headedness I had not possessed before. In this way I allowed a harrowing series of experiences to strengthen me.
I also learned that even something as innocuous as a rose bush could change your life forever. Nothing is guaranteed and our health is our greatest blessing.
Now, as I comprise just a small part of the COVID-19 crisis I’m thinking how can I come out of this better and stronger? So far, my house is as clean as a whistle, my office is organized and my bills are paid. I have a nice routine and I’m teaching my daughters to cook and make mostly healthy meals, although we’ve had lots of ice cream, cookies and chocolate. I’ve worked in my yard, and walked my dog.
Having time to organize the linen closet and wash down my baseboards and door casings has been great, but what about kindness? What can I do to become a better and kinder version of myself? On the surface it feels like not much, as we think of kindness in terms of service, but there are other ways to employ kindness. Calling people who I know are isolated, shopping for my neighbors, writing this blog and being upbeat in general are just a few things that I can do.
This experience will change us all, so it might as well be for the better.
Better. Stronger. Kinder.