I’ve been thinking recently about all the wonderful people in my life and also about the people who passed by for a second and yet managed to leave a powerful mark or to teach me a vital lesson. I plan to write about those people and the lessons I learned.
Today I’m writing about Mary. She was the wife of someone extremely famous and lived the kind of crazy, wild, exciting, exotic life, us mortals can only dream about. They travelled widely (in first class accommodation), had houses everywhere, ate only in the most exclusive, prestigious restaurants and basically lived the life fantastic.
She was stunningly beautiful with an inner beauty that filled the space around her. She was both charismatic and compelling. She spoke several languages and was glorious in her luscious outfits and accessories – I later discovered that her most exquisite attire she made herself, it was her hobby and she had entire floor dedicated to her wardrobe at her house in Switzerland.
But unlike so many of the wealthy people I met back then, Mary had an enigmatic sense of humour and a joi de vivre, the like of which, I have rarely again encountered in another human being.
I have flash-backs of her and always think of her as someone who cultivated abundance – of joy, of laughter, of sprit – as a fine art. She oozed “happy” by the bucket full.
I was at the house once on a glorious summers morning and looking out over the pool and the vast lawns, saw her dressed scantily, in the most exotic, brightly coloured bikini, driving a gigantic lawn mower, cutting the grass – she hated workmen at her house so if she was there for a prolonged period, she cut the grass herself. The vision of this beautiful woman on a power mower has stayed with me all my days and always makes me smile gleefully.
Another time she talked me into doing summersaults across the lawn of a famous, but rather stuck up resort. But most of all I remember her lipstick. She rarely wore make-up but when she put on her hot red lipstick, she bedazzled.
I wasn’t much of a fashion person and when I’d arrive at the house, I’d find Mary creating an outfit for me, she loved to sew and always had the perfect ensemble that suited my curves and made me magnificent.
Mary taught me a number of things but one of the most powerful lessons I learned one day in London.
It was the 80s. I was a student and single Mom and broke as a church mouse. I was invited by my then boyfriend to spend the weekend in London and was excited to have a break from parenting and studies. I was running late, so I joined the party at an exclusive restaurant in London and having just disembarked from the train wearing a pair of tatty jeans and a Mark One shirt, and a smile. It was before jeans with holes in were fashionable, so I probably looked very out of place.
I barely had a second to absorb the scene…
The place was awash with elegant people, all white, dripping with expensive jewellery, and attired exclusively in Chanel, Armani, and the like. The women were made up to perfection, the men almost all of them in suits and ties. It was a scene of extreme wealth and I was greeted by a rather snooty waitress who asked: “Can I help you?” Her posture and tone however conveyed a different message, more like: “You’re in the wrong place, please leave, you’re not rich enough, white enough or classy enough for this establishment.” However, I saw my party and mumbled “I’m with them” and wandered over to take a seat, having lost my usual happy demeanour and my appetite, I sat quietly, still hurting from the simulated slap in the face.
Mary leaned over to me and whispered: “What’s wrong?” When I told her, I was immediately ushered to the bathroom and taught my first lesson in resilience. With the skills of a professional, she re-enacted the scene and provided me with the script for a few choice responses, should something like that ever happen again – which of course it did and often, but it rarely took me off guard.
That she should help me out like that, was kindness I will never forget but on reflection, she probably learned her responses from a wealth of experience of dealing with such people that I could only guess at. Whatever her motivations, I was both impressed and grateful.
The point is she taught me that slaps and knock-backs would come from everywhere but that I could take steps to not let them hurt or derail me. I could be prepared with something funny, something sharp or something witty, in my tool-kit. What she taught me was a lesson in resilience.
People like Mary come around once in a lifetime, but the beauty I saw in her, is a beauty I have tried to cultivate in myself ever since and one I have tried to share in shed loads with others I encounter. In many ways, she is my story and because I teach others, she is our story.
Do you have a Mary in your life? I’d love to hear from you.