It’s time to embark on a refreshing new chapter in my life as an independent woman in her mid-60’s, embracing life’s changes, drawing on wisdom from my prior accomplishments and adding a healthy dose of hindsight.
Reflecting back on the past 6 decades, I’m feeling proud of accomplishing more than I had originally imagined possible as a teenager. Without a formal college education, I was fortunate to be offered educational and mentoring opportunities to achieve a rewarding 25 year career in financial services.
Being a mother to three amazing children brought me many joys and challenges. My sons were preemies and just a year apart. It was pretty scary to be a naive new parent dealing with their special needs, including my infant son having a cataract. Fortunately we had great doctors and the no only survived, they thrived. Then 10 years later, my little surprise came along — a full term baby girl. Talk about a full plate — Two pre-teen boys and an infant, full-time job and a Christmas tree farm. My kids inspired me to become a Cub Scout leader and a Sunday School teacher. We gardened and canned, cooked and baked, had awesome Halloween parties and Easter egg hunts. We canoed and hiked and even became scuba divers. Watching them all graduate from high school, then college and go out into the world to make their way was the greatest reward.
Life knocked the wind out of me at age 40 when I received a diagnosis of stage 3 breast cancer. My kids were 5, 15 and 16 and again, they were my motivation to fight this battle. The mastectomy was rough but the chemotherapy was the real challenge. Six months of my life was a blur between the harsh side effects and exhaustion.
My desire to help others after my experience got me involved with the American Cancer Society as a board member, a fundraiser and motivational speaker. The meek wallflower in high school became an impassioned public speaker for awareness and research.
Fifteen years later, after being suddenly widowed and more than a little angry at the world, I quit my banking career and opened my own business – Annabella’s — a lingerie and breast care boutique in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
It had been a long time dream of mine to open a feminine, compassionate boutique for women after breast surgeries. Armed with a journal full of ideas based on my own difficult experiences in getting fitted for bras and breast forms, my business plan began to take shape. Had you told me in my 40’s that I would actually accomplish this dream, I probably would have laughed. The sudden death of my beloved spouse became the motivation to turn this dream into a reality.
Several of my former banking clients served as mentors for my business plan and helped me network with health care professionals. My boutique filled a huge void in the community for quality products and compassionate service for women facing breast surgeries. My crowning achievement was providing educational seminars for the Main Line Health Care System, as well as Living Beyond Breast Cancer and breast cancer.org including an international conference. When it was time to close the business, my daughter and I knew that we truly had made a valuable difference to many women.
Over the past 7 years, I’ve moved a few times, helped others with their businesses, learned how to play golf, volunteered, and taken art, writing and photography classes. Best of all, my children have blessed me with two beautiful granddaughters. Being a grandmother is truly the highlight of my life. It is fun to be an active part of my granddaughters’ lives soaking up all the simply joys of life. It is extremely rewarding to watch my children become parents.
Recent changes in my personal life have proven to be a wake-up call for this next chapter of my life. I’ve taken a year to reflect, recharge and redefine what is most important.
By sharing my insights and experiences with mindfulness and how it is helping me live a fulfilling, happy life, it’s my hope to inspire and encourage others.