DD3 = Dear Third Daughter
DH = Dear Husband
When news media put out the message that Oprah was “struggling” with OWN, she internalized it. “I was already feeling everything they were saying,” she admitted, and the cycle was vicious. But she shifted that paradigm. “I wasn’t ‘struggling’. I was in a hole, and I was climbing.” Her goal became her step up to the next foothold; then getting a firm hand on that ledge a little bit higher up; never daunted by the entirety of the vertical journey, her focus was to do the next right thing. And she has done some formidable climbing.
An evening with Oprah
I spent an evening with six colleagues and Oprah this week – plus another fifteen thousand people. Through my years of part-time work and extended maternity leave, Oprah was a guest in our home almost every afternoon at 4:00. I remember one summer afternoon, at the neighbourhood public swimming pool, telling three-year-old DD3 that we had to go home. “Is it Oprah time?” she asked. I caught the smiles of other moms, many of whom no doubt were also scheduling their afternoon swims around the Oprah Winfrey Show.
Let me just say that the evening was fabulous. It was a combination of celebrity hype and the homey gratification that comes with seeing an old friend again. Miss Winfrey offered rich testimony; she shared wisdom that resonated; and she made us laugh out loud. (I don’t think I ever before appreciated just how funny she is.) Sitting with my colleagues, I was struck by the versatile applicability of her message. She touched each one of us in our different situations.
For my part, I understood her reflections upon “struggling” – not because I ran a network, but because I started out ten months ago with a $257,000 debt. I could identify with her reality of hopelessness, negative messages, and vicious cycles. And I could see the value in that paradigm shift, so I’m shifting too. I’m not struggling; I’m in a hole and I’m climbing. If I look below me, I can see the nearly $50,000 that we’ve already taken off that gargantuan total. But if I look up, it won’t be to focus on the totality of our still very steep and long climb; it will be to focus on doing the next right thing.
Oprah on “Luck”
“Luck is preparation meeting the moment of opportunity,” she said. In the first ten months of our journey out of debt, DH and I have had episodes of such luck. By budgeting, tracking, being thoughtful and intentional with expenditures in the first months, we were prepared for November’s windfall (See “Debt and Uncertainty . . .” and “Debt Reduction and Guilt . . .”); and we were prepared in December and January when the Christmas rush put DH’s business on steroids. In the three months from November 2012 to January 2013, we paid off $27,300 of debt because we were prepared when the moments of opportunity came. In the three months from December 2011 to January 2012, we had similar opportunities, but because we were still in financial La-La-Land and not remotely prepared, we had no such luck.
Lately, the moments of opportunity have been keeping themselves at bay, and combined with our burned-out sloppiness with budgeting (See “Debtors Anonymous [& Our Property Tax”]) we haven’t been making much progress. But I’m focused now on stepping up to that next foothold, and I’m reaching for the ledge just above my fingertips. Opportunity will come again; I’m preparing myself for it.
It’s been a long, long winter. “I was told it was going to be spring,” Oprah said soon after she came onto the stage, her mock sense of having been tricked making us all laugh. “And now they’re telling me, ‘Last year at this time, it was warm and sunny here.’” And it was! Right now, however, we’re dealing with the after-effects of a snowstorm. Spring remains aggravatingly out of reach, but going to see Oprah was an even more powerful energy-boost than that wonderful season. Miss Winfrey gave me a sharpened vision and fuel to my efforts. By sharing her strategies for triumph, she made me more certain of my own.