Thursday, March 5, 2015

Do You Blow With the Wind? by Alison Henderson

“She stood in the storm and when the wind did not blow her way, she adjusted her sails.” ~ Elizabeth Edwards

I’ve always admired Elizabeth Edwards. She lived her life with strength and grace through almost unbearable pain and difficulty. When I read this quote from her book Resilience, I thought of all the times she had to adjust her sails to deal with the death of a child, betrayal by her spouse, and terminal cancer.

I’ve been lucky. I haven’t had to endure the ferocious storms life blew her way, but that doesn’t mean it’s all been smooth sailing. Each of us has times the wind doesn’t blow our way.

After reading this quote several times, it occurred to me there are two subtly distinct ways to interpret “adjusting our sails”. In the first, the wind is a bully, a powerful, unsympathetic force that overpowers our attempts to chart our own course. I’m sure Elizabeth felt that way many times in her life. To survive and stay strong she accommodated her outlook, her expectations, and her actions; she adjusted her sails. She didn’t allow the winds of life to flatten her by stubbornly trying to resist them.

In my own life, I look at the winds a bit differently. I see them more as a series of unanticipated changes of direction. Each change brings choices and those choices lead to unexpected opportunities. I expected to marry relatively young, have several children, and live happily ever after. I started down that path, but it wasn’t long before the winds of life blew me off course.

That first, young marriage crumbled, fortunately without children. I changed direction, met my husband, and had my wonderful daughter. A few years later, the winds hit again. Depression stole OG’s ability to work and nearly took his life. I was very lucky to be in just the right place at just the right time to be able to return to work seamlessly and take care of my family. When we wanted to return to Minnesota, the place our daughter considered home, I took a big chance but found the perfect job that lasted me the rest of my career. Retirement has brought changes and surprises, too, not all of them good (OG’s stroke comes to mind), but I’m very happy to be where I am right now.

I never expected to have a significant career of my own. I never expected to be a multi-published author. I never expected to life in such a beautiful place. Nevertheless, those things happened.

As I said, I’ve been very lucky. Fate has been much kinder to me than many. Each gust of wind has offered choices. That doesn’t happen to everyone. I’ve adjusted my sails each time and ended up in a place I could never have foreseen forty years ago.

What about you? Have you followed the wind where it blew you and adjusted your sails?



Liz Flaherty said...

I love that quote. It's also one of the things I love about our gender. I don't know many women who wouldn't just "adjust her sails" without even giving it a lot of thought.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Beautiful post, Alison. Elizabeth Edwards is one of my heroes too. Life certainly has buffeted me along the way. The important thing is to not let it knock you down.

Barbara Edwards said...

I'm so glad you found the way through the things life threw at you.

Jannine Gallant said...

Strong women change direction when they need to. Great post, Alison. You (and Elizabeth) are fine examples of women who do what needs to be done and carry on.

Alison Henderson said...

Thanks, everyone. As Liz said, I think we all do what we need to do, but the spirit in which we do it makes all the difference.

Diane Burton said...

You nailed it in your comment above, Alison. We do what we need to do. Life throws us such curves we have to choose whether to adapt or crash. Like you, I never expected my life to take the turns it did. I've learned (often the hard way) to be flexible. Great post.

Alicia Dean said...

Well said, Alison. Way to go on overcoming the hurdles in your life and in having such a positive outlook. I've had to adjust my sails more than a few times, and each chapter of my life has brought new and wonderful things, even though I'll always miss the things I've had to leave behind.