I met Kristine online via the Forever Fierce Facebook group run by Catherine (Read her story here). This is a group of around 6,000 middle-aged women who are excited to support one another through the transition of our lives from young and vibrant to stronger, wiser, and even more vibrant women. What I found in this group of amazing women is a chosen family. These women are not only kind and generous, but they want to support each other’s businesses and life goals. So, when I shared with the group that I wanted to interview strong women who had experienced hardship but are still joyful, Kristine stepped up to the plate and quickly volunteered.
Once our phone interview was over, I began to consider her experience on a deeper level. While I writing her story, her story became even more thought provoking. The scars of a surgery like this go much further than what is on the surface. A woman is often defined by her appearance. Having a scar on one's face is something that can’t be hidden. It is the first thing you see when you wake up in the morning. The trauma of the experience goes beyond the diagnosis; it goes beyond the pain; it is much more than skin deep. Our beauty is something intrinsic as part of our existence. Learning how to deal with drastic changes is a process, and it takes a strong person to recognize that scars are our badges of honor, that it does not define us but it makes us more special--just like Kintsugi!
Kristine is as Kintsugi as they come.
Lessons Learned from Kristine
1. Commitment to ourselves: We need to commit to ourselves like Kristine did when she vowed to read a book a day for an entire year and succeeded. In fact, she more than succeeded as she read 10% over her original plan. She also made a commitment to be kind and loving to herself and not allow her scar stop her from living. So often, we are dedicated to others: to our children, to our spouses, to our jobs, but we are not as committed to our own health, emotional or physical. When someone is dedicated to oneself, he/she can heal in tangible ways, allowing us to get stronger faster.
2. Being dared helps us step up to the plate: Twice in my conversation with Kristine, I saw how a little competition improved her life. Her doctor said she would not want to be photographed up close. Her son also challenged her to start an Instagram account, which she thought was a place for millennials. She accepted both challenges and began something great, something that aided her in the healing process as well. Sometimes, a bit of self-competition or a dare could force us to step out of our comfort zones and do something that despite being primarily hard is ultimately healing and beneficial.
3. Faith: In all my interviews, I see the strong connection to a higher power. It is not any different in Kristine’s case; she is intensely spiritual and connected to God. The aspect of her connection that made a huge impression on me was her enduring belief that God knows what is best for her. She feels truly loved. I particularly loved her quote about the fridge magnet (read the blog here). It was so symbolic and appropriate for her unique situation. Faith is an enormous contributor to healing broken hearts.
Joy is a Choice
For me, the highlight of our exchange was when we talked about Joy being a choice. I was always a firm believer in this concept. I have a daughter with the middle name Joy. I guess I was always mesmerized by the concept of Joy, even when I was in my early 20s. I also frequently tell my daughters that Joy is indeed a choice, one that no one can make for them. So when Kristine told me that, I could hear myself saying the same words. I felt so validated. It is true that it is a hard choice, for some more difficult than others. But nevertheless it is a choice. One that if we make and work at it, if we are committed to it, if we have faith that it can be achieved, then it can become a reality.
If you find that Joy is a hard choice to make, there are some ways to make it more realistic. It is easier with the right friends by your side. It is easier with faith to guide you. It is easier with family connections. By building up these relationships, Joy can become even more attainable.
Women like myself and Kristine know that it is not an easy choice to make every day, especially if the trials are hard and frequent. Still, it is a choice. I think that there is some hope in that knowledge as well. You can control your own happiness by choosing joy despite your circumstances!
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