Let’s agree that marriage isn’t easy.  It’s a lesson in compromise, trust, patience, and perseverance.  I’m not sure if most people really consider their marriage vows – in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer.

My marriage to my second husband tested this to its limits.

I met Greg on Match.com and we were a success story. He lived in the town nearby, was handsome, a devoted dad, an athlete and above all kind.  It wasn’t love at first sight but we both quickly knew that this was something incredible.

At the time we met I had three little kids, one with intellectual disabilities. My dad was declining with Alzheimer’s and I was working non-stop to stay financially afloat after a long, drawn-out divorce. My life was chaotic and busy. This was definitely not the time for something serious. Yet here this man came along with a calm, steady presence.  His kids and my kids hit it off immediately and they all accepted and supported my son with disabilities.  It truly felt like we completed each other.

At that time Greg was a highly competitive golfer (a former pro), had played hockey in college and had been invited to try out for the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey “dream team.” He worked out constantly and the beginning of our relationship was filled with dates that included hiking or other outdoor activities.

The only issue had been what doctors had diagnosed as Lyme Disease that seemed to flare up occasionally.  He also had surgery on his leg which led to drop foot as he was recovering.  The first sign he realized something else was going on was when the drop foot started occurring on his good leg and several times he tripped while walking.  He knew before any doctor that something wasn’t right.

By this time, we were engaged and happily planning our future as a blended family.  And then the day came where he sat me down and said he had been doing research.  “Alison, I think I have Multiple Sclerosis.” While I dismissed his worry and told him that couldn’t possibly be the case, inside I was freaking out.  A good friend of the family growing up had M.S. and I had watched his horrible decline and eventual death. This couldn’t be happening!

Getting a diagnosis of MS is a long process filled with MRI’s and spinal taps.  We continued on with our wedding plans and life in general, but we could see things were happening.  The evening before our wedding we hosted a dinner in a vineyard and took pictures walking around the property.  Within 20 minutes of walking, Greg could barely stand and was dragging his legs.  He said if felt as if his legs were blocks of cement that he needed to move.  The morning of our wedding, as I was getting ready, he went to play golf with his friends.  It was the last round of golf he would play for several years.

Four weeks after we were married, as I was driving home from a meeting, Greg called me.  He heard back from the doctors – he was officially diagnosed with Primary Progressive MS (PPMS.)  PPMS is different than regular MS.  Usually with MS you have “flare ups” – some good times, some bad times.  With PPMS, there are no good times, it’s a rapid decline.  As his doctor said, it’s like a herd of horses galloping out of control through your body.  It’s rare and there are no drugs or therapy.

He rapidly declined from walking with a cane, to a walker and finally to a wheelchair.  He also was no longer able to work. His rage and anger at his body betraying him was evident and his depression was understandable.

At the same time, I was grieving the life I had envisioned and dealing with the fear of being a full-time caregiver and sole provider for my family.  I was sad for the things we would never be able to do as a couple – the hikes, bike rides and adventure trips once the kids were grown.  I also quickly learned how many other things you can’t do when you’re in a powerchair full time, like visit the homes of your friends who have stairs leading to their home and bathrooms that aren’t large enough for his powerchair.  Spontaneity doesn’t exist as you need to consider every restaurant, concert venue, outdoor park and plane trips are massively challenging.

This definitely was not what I had in mind and I admit to indulging in  a self-pity party several times.  It would have been easy to allow myself to fall into the role of victim.  After all, this wasn’t my first life-changing tragedy.  In 1997 my first son died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

But allowing ourselves to be a victim traps us. It prevents us from moving forward with our life and keeps us in a cycle of fear, anger, and self-loathing. That doesn’t help anyone and certainly not our selves. You can look at your situation and say, “why me?” or you can realize “why not you?”

You need to recognize that you’re being led down a path. Every joy, triumph, heartache, and failure are leading you to exactly where you’re meant to be to become the best version of yourself and fulfilling your highest purpose.

When you hold on so hard and fast to your vision of the future you don’t allow yourself to be guided by God, the Universe, Spirit. We often have no idea why these things are happening but fighting it is exhausting and leads to misery.  You can either fight the tide or ride the wave.

I loved my husband enough to say “yes” to being a team and dealing with whatever life had in store for us. That meant enjoying one day at a time and not looking too far into the future.  It also meant establishing some ground rules.  I’m a practical person and don’t believe in wallowing.  Problems only remain problems until you find a solution.  I explained to my husband that I would support him in every which way, but  he needed to become the best version of himself he could be.  Maybe he could no longer play golf but that didn’t mean he couldn’t teach it.  Maybe there was something else he was also meant to do.  Whatever it is, he was not allowed to curl up and quit life.

And, I needed to also live my life.  While I couldn’t go hiking with him that didn’t mean I couldn’t hike with my girlfriends or take trips with them.  And even though I would be his caregiver in certain ways, I needed him to be mine in others.  All my life I believed that I wanted someone to take care of me.  In many instances the Universe kept trying to show me that wasn’t the case, but I thought I knew better.  I now realized that I had to redefine what that meant in my head – “being taken care of.”  What that truly meant was a man who was emotionally wealthy – who provided a strong loving presence, who supported and encouraged me to follow my vision for myself.

I also came to understand that there was another reason we were brought together.  My son has an intellectual disability, so he needs help with decision making.  My husband needs support physically.  The two men in my life have formed an amazing bond, helping each other in a way that’s incredibly special.

It took a good deal of time for Greg to get to a place of acceptance and even happiness.  It started when he discovered an amazing device, the Paramobile.  It’s a golf-cart like machine that Greg is strapped into that he can drive around the course.  When he gets to the tee it raises him up to a standing position so he can swing.  This finally allowed him to play the game he loved once again.  From there, he began teaching military vets, stroke victims and people with intellectual disabilities how to play golf. He now sits on the Board of the Stand Up and Play Foundation which donates Paramobiles to individuals.  He readily admits that he feels more inspired and fulfilled doing this work than he ever did before M.S.

Our marriage is a strong partnership.  We have come a long way over 10 years.  We have now taken trips to Mexico, we’ve found hiking trails that accommodate wheelchairs and have many dinner parties at our house with friends whose homes are inaccessible. Greg does chair yoga and modified boxing in addition to golf with his friends and he’s now teaching my daughter how to play. I watch Greg every day live a fulfilled life. Some days are exhausting – that’s OK.  Most importantly, we have both found our passions and life’s work.  I now coach women in midlife who want to get past fear and tragedy to live a life of personal happiness and professional success.

There are no guarantees how our lives will evolve. When women tell me that they want to meet a man who is athletic or has a certain amount of money I remind them that those things can be gone in an instant. Who is the person that’s left?

There are times when Greg asks me if I’m OK with who he is.  To be honest, I don’t even see the wheelchair anymore.  I simply see the man I love.  Are there times, like when we’re at a wedding and everyone’s dancing with their partner that I get sad? Sure.  Do I sometimes worry what the future holds? Absolutely. But those moments are few and far between compared to every morning when I see that man I love lying beside me.  I know that together we will figure out whatever comes our way.

Come on over to my Facebook Group Midlife Mavericks: Fabulous, Fierce, Females! to get inspired and supported by other kick-ass women.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the majority of my adult life I have been an entrepreneur.  I started my first business at the age of 24 – a public relations boutique in Los Angeles focused on commercial production. I built it into a six-figure business with clients on both coasts.   By 28 I had sold it to a multi-national PR agency, relocated back to New York and worked for that agency for several years.  Working for a corporation was great but I realized that in my heart I was an entrepreneur.  So, by 35 I started my next business as a corporate spokesperson, blogger, and nationally recognized child safety expert. Once again I built that company into a multi-six figure company that I ran for the next twelve years.  During this time, I gave birth to my four children, experienced the death of my first son to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, the diagnosis of my second son with Intellectual Disabilities and the end of my marriage.  It was an emotional and chaotic time in my life filled with incredible personal tragedy, but I absolutely loved my business and it’s most likely what kept me sane.

When my kids got older and I remarried my current husband my business no longer fit me.  Now that my kids were grown I was no longer in the child safety space.  My life experiences – the death of my child, the overwhelm of my divorce and the challenges of being a caregiver for my son and now my current husband with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis – and how I overcame them led me to my next business.  I now have my third successful business as a coach/strategist for women in midlife ready to overcome fear and obstacles to live a kick-ass life of personal happiness and professional success.

Each of my businesses grew out my life experiences at that time and I can honestly say now, in midlife, I feel the most comfortable and joyful in my business.  Women in general are starting businesses at a record pace.  Over the past several years, the number of women-owned businesses climbed to nearly 13 million — 42% of all U.S. businesses — and grew at double the rate of all U.S. businesses, according to the 2019 State of Women-Owned Business Report, which is based on U.S. census data.

But women who start businesses in midlife are actually the most successful, with 45 years of age being the mean age among the 1,700 founders of the fastest-growing new ventures according to a study by researchers at MIT Sloan School of Management. And they found the “batting average” for creating successful firms rises dramatically with age. “A 50-year-old founder is 1.8 times more likely to achieve upper-tail growth than a 30-year-old founder,” they wrote.

Here are some of the reasons why women starting businesses in midlife are most successful:

We’ve built up a wealth of experience. Unlike our younger sisters, we have the battle scars as well as the triumphs of years of experiences.  We’ve dealt with the fall-out of bad deals, difficult clients, and misguided loyalties but we’ve also learned how to effectively negotiate, efficiently delegate, and create strong teams. All of this life experience allows us to better manage the struggles of a new business.

We have more time to focus on our business. I’ll never forget one of the first mastermind groups I joined.  It was comprised of about fifteen women business owners.  About half of us had younger kids and we all were exhausted trying to manage our company and the demands of motherhood.  The women in the group who were empty-nesters or had older kids seemed so much calmer.  They assured us that it gets easier but to enjoy the time with our children.  They were right.  With one of my girls off to college and the other a junior in high school I finally have time to focus more fully on my business without guilt or the exhaustion of trying to do everything.

We’ve tried out different roles and have refined what we want. By the time we’re in our late 40’s and beyond we’ve been employees, consultants, bosses and sole-practitioners in various industries. Your desire in your 20’s to work in finance and make millions may have been what you wanted at that time but now maybe your dream is to open a B&B in Vermont or a small clothing boutique. Following your passion, waking up every morning loving what you do is a gift that comes with experience and leads to incredible abundance not just financially but spiritually.

We’ve dialed down the drama. I look at my daughters and women in their 20’s who spend hours re-hashing an argument or some slight on social media and can’t believe how much energy they waste.  One of the beautiful things about being a woman in midlife is we realize that it’s simply not worth our time to deal with haters.  And those narcissistic bosses or clients? Well, we realize that they’re just angry little boys stomping their feet and can roll our eyes and move forward with our day.  Starting a business takes the steady calm of a pilot or surgeon who knows how to deal with problems when they arise.  Women in midlife have learned to not sweat the small stuff.

We’re not afraid to ask for help. Yes, maybe our millennial counterparts have greater knowledge of technology and adapt more quickly to change but we’re not afraid to defer to someone else or ask for help when we need it.  We know that building a successful business requires a strong team that compliments our talents.  And we understand that delegating responsibilities allows us to focus on strategy and networking, the most important tasks for an entrepreneur.  As a coach/strategist for women in midlife who want to grow or start their business I focus on working with my clients and generating content. I allow my business partner and my virtual assistants to manage tasks that, quite frankly, I’m not good at.

Do you have a business idea or are you ready to scale your existing company?  Share in the comments some of your life lessons that have helped you become a better entrepreneur in midlife.

Also, come on over to my Facebook Group Midlife Mavericks: Fabulous, Fierce, Females! to get inspired and supported by other kick-ass women.

Twenty-three years ago, my first-born child, Connor, died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  He was born in April and I’ll always remember how incredibly significant that first Mother’s Day was for me.  Little did I know at the time that the next Mother’s Day I would be hiding in my house with a torrent of emotions overwhelming me.  Connor died August of that same year at 3 mos. and 24 days old.

Needless to say, the most powerful emotion was raw, agonizing grief.  It’s impossible to describe the physical pain you feel when your baby has died.  And on Mother’s Day, when other moms are celebrating, you realize how incredibly alone you really are.  You can’t talk to your other mom friends because both you and they feel so awkward, unsure of what to say.  As a friend how do you celebrate the day while someone else has lost her reason for being?  And as the person who is grieving, how do you rise above your sadness to smile and wish your friend a happy Mother’s Day?  No, for everyone involved, it’s much easier to hide in your home and wait for the day to be over.

And then, to be honest, there’s the anger and resentment.  Why would God allow this to happen to you?! I’ll admit to many times thinking of abusive and negligent parents whose babies were still alive. Yet for me, who did everything right, my baby is dead.  It takes many years for this anger to abate. One day I finally realized that no one is immune to tragedy and that everyone has their own story.  The answer to the question “Why me?” is “Why not me?” Who am I to never experience sorrow or tragedy?

I went on to have three more amazing children who now are 22, 18 ad 15 year’s old.  Each of them in their own way has helped me heal. The pain has softened but there will always be a sense of sadness and longing for what might have been.  I channeled my grief into activism and am now the CEO of First Candle, the non-profit that provides bereavement support to families who have lost a baby to Sudden Unexpected Infant Death and Stillbirth.  When I speak with a young mom who has recently lost her baby I’m transported right back to that moment when my own precious baby died.  It’s hard to believe it’s 23 years ago.  In some ways it feels like a lifetime ago.  In truth I am a different person, wiser and at peace.  What I can offer young moms is hope. When they see me, they see that indeed you can survive the heartbreaking grief.

When my second son Spencer was born I started celebrating Mother’s Day again.  I love looking at the picture every year as my family grew and my children have become young adults.  And somewhere in those pictures I always see their little guardian angel, their brother Connor. It could be a butterfly, a sun beam or an orb over one of their shoulders, but I always know he’s there, my first born who made me a mom that first Mother’s Day.

If you want support overcoming obstacles and living your best life join my Facebook Group Midlife Mavericks: Fabulous, Fierce, Females! .