Death, Transformation, & JK Rowling

It’s been five years since my husband went to work and was never seen again. He died of a sudden and devastating heart attack at his office where he was working alone. The weekend prior he had golfed in a tournament at our country club and attended a soccer game for our daughter late Sunday afternoon at Stanford University. Because of these activities many people that knew him well saw him with 72 hours of his death.

He was 54 years old and on his last sunny Sunday he was wearing blue and white plaid shorts, a neon green golf shirt, white hat and belt. He was the picture of health, he was in shape with a golden summer tan and no one could image he would die the next day. It was an impossibility.

My transformation started long before this fateful day. For many years I had been a stay at home mother. I was ill suited for this role, but felt obligated to fill it. I believe I operated with a low grade of depression for many years. Sixteen months before the death of my husband I made some drastic changes to my life. I started working at UC Berkeley teaching marketing. I learned how to sail. I stopped being a doormat to my friends and family. I broke ties with toxic people. I started my apparel company Ocean SF. I stopped eating junk food, gluten, dairy and night shades. I stopped drinking wine and lost twenty pounds.

To say I got resistance for these changes would be putting it mildly. It was very difficult. I was unsupported by husband, my in-laws, and friends. Even my pediatrician made an appointment with me at the request of my daughter. She said some fairly harsh things to me that day for which she later apologized. Yet, I persevered. Looking back I don’t even know how I did it, but I prayed continuously and had some very good people around me for which I am very grateful.

I remember I kept my head down and simply worked. I took every job I was offered. I gained so many valuable skills catering, staging, distilling alcohol, making sandwiches in a food truck and more. Many obstacles appeared, but I kept going. I broke my arm twice, was in the emergency room twice with lung related problems, and many times was truly down to my last dollar. My best friends dog drowned in my pool the day before we spread my husbands ashes at pLake Tahoe.

In a short space of time JK Rowling lost her beloved mother, and ended a marriage that gave her a daughter to raise alone. As a result of these events she entered into a state of depression.

Rowling a self proclaimed introvert believed her introversion may have actually predisposed her to the depression she experienced at that time. Depression symptoms are more common among introverts than among extroverts or those who fall in the middle of the introvert/extrovert spectrum. This study links introversion with both social anxiety and depression.

To overcome her depression she focused on her writing. In her 2008 commencement address at Harvard University she shared:

Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.

Rowling’s laser-like focus allowed her to persevere in the face of her obstacles and overcome her own internal struggles. Her focus and work-ethic lead her to create some of the most loved books of our time and they in turn transform her life.

When I lost my husband I too turned to my work and was able to use the tremendous focus I had at the time to work on the projects that mattered most to me. I shared my story on this platform helping others who were also grieving and I devoted my time and energy to the causes that mattered to me through my company Ocean SF and sitting on the board of the Lamorinda Arts Council.

Over the past five years my website has had almost 40,000 visitors and 100,000 views. It’s amazing to me that so many people follow my work. I hope that my story has inspired and helped people who have needed the message to persevere.

As I open my next chapter in life, I’ve decided I will focus on leadership. My classes have started for the fall and I will share what I learn here.

Love and blessings to all.

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