The grocery store in Decatur, Alabama, after its closure
Marc’s grandfather Marion emigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon in 1905 when he was still a very young man. We know little of his first years here. Just enough to know that he settled first in Nashville with his wife. She died very young, after giving birth to one son, so Marion wrote to his family and arranged a second marriage. At some point he and his new wife moved to Decatur Alabama and he opened a grocery store. We have a copy of a letter written to Marion from his father, translated by an unknown hand. His father told him that being able to bring money to the family wasn’t enough if Marion wasn’t happy, and that he could always come home. But, Marion stuck it out, even when his small grocery failed. He and Elizabeth had six additional sons and one daughter, so it seems Elizabeth stuck it out too. Marion opened a second grocery business, one that remained in the family until about ten years ago.
It couldn’t have been easy. Even with so few details, we can imagine the fear, the frustration, the sadness. The work to make it work. It seemed, though, that whenever Marion got knocked down, he just got up again and did whatever came next. I remember the pride in Marc’s voice the first time he told me that story. Our sons knew it by heart before each one started kindergarten. Of course, they had memorized the moral of the story as well: Don’t give up. When life knocks you down, you have to get up again, and just do whatever comes next.
We probably all have a story in our lives about the times we’ve felt knocked down. I have had several people comment on how I have “reinvented” myself, going from a career in nursing to a developing career as a writer and health coach. That certainly wasn’t the only time I switched career gears, though. My first job was at a hospital on a medical-surgical floor. I was terrible at it. I was also miserable. You see, I’m a cogitator. Give me big, sticky problems and I will wrestle them to the ground. However, I don’t do well thinking quickly or handling multiple tasks at once. The pace of the unit just staggered me. I remember the moment I knew I had to leave. I was listening to a relatively young patient who was getting bilateral below knee amputations the next day. He was so sad and afraid, and talked with me about it. I listened with half an ear, but my thoughts were focused on the list of things I had to do. When I realized what I was doing, that was it for me.
I decided to become a home care nurse and found that I enjoyed that quite a bit. I loved hearing all my patients’ stories, and I liked wearing a lot of different hats as I helped explain the “Explanation of Benefits” statements they got in the mail, or removed some rugs to prevent tripping. I was a home care nurse for twenty years; it was my identity. Somehow, though, I moved into leadership roles, and found myself with broader responsibilities. I became “corporate” and sometimes felt like I was drowning in all the politics and pressures.
That job ended when the position as eliminated—and believe me, I was knocked down. I did my best to get up, to find meaningful work. I had some great projects and opportunities, but nothing seemed to really stick. My weight was at its highest and my ego just bottomed out. I felt defeated. That is, until Dr. Joe looked at me with compassion and caring and asked me why I was the only person who didn’t know how wonderful I was. He offered me a hand up and a way out, through his complete and beautiful kindness.
Losing weight and becoming fit wasn’t a career move for me, not at first. I was just trying to mark a different path forward for myself. Yet, the more I learned about how to successfully manage weight and health, the more I wanted to help other people do the same. I saw obese people younger than I in the grocery, using their carts like walkers, leaning on the handles with their elbows. I wanted to let them know it didn’t have to be like that. So, I started writing seriously.
As odd as it is to have taken such a complete career turn, it felt completely right to me. That’s because whether I was a home care nurse or an executive; whether I was working on clinical algorithms or a manuscript about becoming happy, healthy and fit, I have had one lifelong core need: to help others. To find small and big ways to help them help themselves. So, what I’m doing now, what I’m moving towards, feels just exactly right. I got up and I’m doing what comes next.
With love to JB