On the way home from a sales meeting, my new manager praised me for my confidence. She went into detail about the way I look, my energy level and valuable work experience. My mood immediately improved as I responded to this unexpected display of admiration.
I am courageous, I explained. I take on situations most people wouldn’t want to. I always have and always will. Why? I learned courage by moving every one to two years of my childhood. Over and over, I was the new kid. I had to prove myself to teachers, classmates and coaches. I didn’t see failure as an option. Thus, I stretched myself, working hard in school, trying new sports and volunteering. Most of the time, I succeeded. Then, I got to do it all again at a new school in a different part of the country. These repeated efforts built my confidence and gave me courage.
What if I had grown up in one town and had lifelong friends? I ask myself this question often. When I compare myself to people with more geographic stability, I feel a deep longing for roots. Yet when I go inside for the source of my confidence, I know the frequent moves made me who I am today.
I am a woman who has made the most of life. I raised four children and have had several rewarding careers. I’ve lived in 11 states, owned six houses and made friends around the world without leaving the United States. I’m physically active. I learned to ski at age 48 and now can tackle most mountains. I’ve prac-ticed yoga and meditated for ten years. I celebrate my 55th birthday this week and feel fantastic.
My life hasn’t always been a bed of roses. At 37, I was a divorced mother of four including three-year-old twin boys. My older children were aged 12 and 9.
The divorce was devastating for them. That was tough, but I was grateful for the release from my burden.
My kids’ father and I had married in college. As devout Catholics, we saw marriage as our next right step. I quickly found out he had anger issues. He broke my tennis racket in one fight during our first six months of marriage. I knew I had made a mistake. But I stayed in the marriage for 16 years because I believed God wanted us to stay married forever. I don’t believe that anymore. I believe God wants us to love one another and love ourselves. Staying with a man who was verbally abusive was not loving myself. I finally got the courage to leave when he locked himself in the bedroom all day on Christmas because he was upset about something my dad said to him. A friend said I had a long rope and it finally broke.
My ability to take care of myself financially had a significant impact on my ability to leave my husband. For the first 12 years of my career, I was a television news producer. Not only is this career super-stressful, but it is also relatively low-paying. After the twins were born, I quit my producing job at WDAF-TV in Kansas City to care for my kids full-time. The twins were almost three when a friend called to ask if I wanted to work in public relations for the Kansas City School District. I jumped at the opportunity. The position paid well so I could afford day care. And I felt passionate about the mission of helping inner- city children learn.
One phone call from a friend had ignited my new career in public relations. Breaks like this are a notable part of my journey. By following friends’ invitations and my intuition I have moved almost effortlessly from one position to the next.
“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” the Roman philosopher Seneca said. I prepared for my TV news career by attending the Missouri School of Journalism. When I began working in PR, I attended state and national conferences. I eventually became president of the Missouri School Public Relations Association. I studied for a year for the exam to become accredited in public relations. Having that credential boosted my confidence and increased my stature in the field.
The third phase of my career began in 2005, when I landed a development position at the University of Missouri, Columbia, my alma mater. The university was in a billion-dollar campaign. I had the honor of recognizing million-dollar donors with parties, media placements and publications. My manager, Linda L’Hote, taught me everything she knew. A dozen years later, I continue to be challenged and motivated in the development field. Today, I own Beth Hammock Philanthropy, a Kansas City-based consultancy helping nonprofits raise additional funds for their missions. I’m paying it forward—teach-ing leaders what I know about development, marketing and communications.
Now that my kids are grown, I look back and wonder how in the world I juggled demanding jobs and raising good kids. I give credit to the Innergized Life. Through yoga, prayer and meditation, I stay connected to God. I have access to the power of God anytime, anywhere. God is so many qualities, including love, wisdom, joy and prosperity. Knowing I am a living display of these qualities helps me show up in a positive way wherever I am called.
I have always felt close to God. My parents took us to mass every Sunday. By the time I was in high school, I was a lector, teaching Sunday school and leading retreats. When I got divorced, my husband and I had been presenting Marriage Encounter weekends for three years. I valued marriage, but not enough to stay in a bad one. Continuing in the Catholic Church was difficult for me because I felt guilty every time I went. I was supposed to have stayed married, I thought.
My counselor suggested I try Unity. My first experience with Unity was at Unity Temple on the Plaza, the Unity movement’s flagship church. I cried then and at many Sunday services thereafter. I was crying for both joy and in grief, letting go of my relationship with Catholicism.
Unity recommends meditating daily. Adopting this practice changed my life. I can settle my anxious mind and find a place of peace through meditation. I often hear God speaking to me when my mind is clear. Love wells up inside me and I am prepared for whatever comes my way.
At the suggestion of my brother, Dr. David Kearney, I added yoga to my self-care practices. David’s research is about the impact of meditation and mindfulness training on patients with post-traumatic stress disorder. He recommended I take a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction class, so I did. This class gave me a foundation for using yoga and meditation for creating more peace in my life. It works.
I’m a firm believer in re-creation—getting out of the office to give myself time to think. I have a lot of my best ideas while walking my dog. A daily connection with nature is a must for me.
When I travel, either for work or to visit my children, I seek out the most beautiful place around and spend some time there. For example, when I flew to Spokane, WA to watch my son play college football, I gave myself four days for the trip—two for travel, one for watching the game and one for me. Immediately after arriving, I went to Anthony’s, a seafood restaurant perched above Spokane Falls. I indulged in three of my favorite foods: salmon, peaches and raspberries on a salad. Then I sat there and worked for a couple of hours. I chatted with the staff and felt right at home.
After my visit to Anthony’s, I wandered along the river and came upon a food truck festival. Since I had just eaten, I relaxed by getting a chair massage. Then, it was off to Sandpoint, Idaho, about an hour northeast of Spokane. I had been to Sandpoint once before and fell in love with its sandy beach and mountain views. My Airbnb host was surprised I had just one day for the visit. Being content with a one-day retreat is an essential component of my Innergized Life. The highlight of my visit was practicing yoga on the water’s edge on a perfect day. Blissful moments like this re-charge me.
I have written this chapter one day after moving from St. Louis to Kansas City. I am surrounded by boxes and one may think my life is in disarray. I know it is in perfect order. Three months ago, I hung photos of peonies on the walls of my new apartment in St. Louis. Six weeks later, I received an offer to work with Powell Gardens, Kansas City’s botanical garden. I decided to move back to help raise more money for Powell Gardens. I visualized being surrounded by flowers and now I am.
This story first appeared in Living the Innergized Life, Transforming Ordinary Moments into Extra-Ordinary Memories, a book of inspiring stories by women compiled by Cathy L. Davis (2017). To purchase a copy for $12.95 plus shipping, contact Beth Hammock at Beth@HammockCommunications.com.