Morrison had never been one to believe in fairy tales. As far as she was concerned, happy endings were the product of the kind of ambition and hard work that had propelled her to the top of her profession. But she had always considered her relationship with her husband a safe place in her often stressful life. All of her assumptions about how life works crumbled, though, when she discovered that no amount of will and determination was going to save her marriage. For Stacy, the only solution was to keep on living, and to listen -- as deeply and openly as possible -- to what this experience was teaching her. Told with humor and heart, her honest and intimate account of the stress of being a working mother while trying to make sense of her unraveling marriage offers unexpected lessons of love, forgiveness, and dignity that will resonate with women everywhere.
Just like her memoir, Stacy Morrison's answers to the 5 Do's and a Do-over are honest, humorous and include life lessons that we'll definitely take to heart. (And Lisa couldn't agree more with #4 on Stacy's list. Remember when she drove cross country for love?)
DO 1) Move to a new city at least once, preferably on a whim I've been in New York City for -- egad! -- twenty-one years now. Since I had wanted to be a magazine editor since I was very young, I always knew this is the city where I would end up. But I had a moment in the last dot com era (circa 2000) where a fantastic dream job opened up in San Francisco. Two weeks after my first conversation with the company, I accepted the position and then moved to San Francisco by myself two weeks later (my then-husband followed a few months after that). I was a bit terrified and had absolutely no idea what I was doing -- no place to live, had to buy a car, didn't know the neighborhoods -- but I was completely energized, awake and alive in my life in a startling and wonderful new way. I still remember driving my rental car around the city, sun sparkling down on the hood, singing at the top of my lungs because I was so excited to be discovering a whole new world, a whole new me. Absolutely everything was new, except my clothes (though I did have to buy some sensible shoes for walking around all those hills), and every day was packed with discovery and excitement. In the end, the job and the city didn't take (thank you, stock market!), but the experience of having pulled up my roots and boogied out of town showed me that whatever new idea I dream up for my life, I can do it.
2) Embrace heartbreak One of my greatest pieces of luck is that I'm wired to run toward life experiences that scare me. And I don't mean hang-gliding -- though I did do that once in Brazil, strapped to a man who didn't even speak English, and wow! It was amazing! But I found that in my 20 years as a magazine editor, I learned more from failure than from success. (Half of the magazines I helped launch aren't being published anymore.) Same is true for me for matters of the heart. When my husband of ten years ended our marriage -- when our son was 10 months old, and right as I was taking over Redbook magazine -- I went into a total tailspin. Until I remembered to pay attention to what I was learning, the same way I always had in all the terrifying work situations that come up when you're launching a magazine. What I experienced in my divorce changed me so deeply, in a good way, that I now say my divorce is the best thing that ever happened to me: At last I know that what comes my way in life is no statement about who I am or what I deserve; it's just what came next.
3) Go ahead and spend money on your hair I am vain about my hair. I did the math once on how much I was spending on my hair a year -- what with highlights to keep the blonde going and regular trims -- and I almost had a heart attack. Modesty (or is it shame?) prevents me from telling you the amount, but let's just say it was about a Starbucks a day. But then I thought about the jolt of a cup of caffeine compared to the simply fantastic sensation of feeling even mildly attractive on my worst day because my hair looks good: Well, let me tell you, I started brewing at home and never looked back. Some people spend money on a fancy handbag to get the same confidence boost, but I say if you can't hold your investment up against your face and have it make you look better in a photo for time immemorial -- forever! -- then you're not getting your money's worth.
4) Drive across America I've driven cross-country three different times -- once in seven weeks, another time in three days -- but each experience just blew me away: Dusty roadside diners, amazing natural monuments, an improbable variety of vegetation and climate, local sodas and sandwiches, cities sparkling in the distance in the night, and miles and miles and miles of vast emptiness dotted with worn-for-the-wear towns filled with friendly people. And everywhere you go, there's the company of tractor-trailers and gas-station dogs sleeping in the sun. Each drive was its own anthem and made me love this country in a much more intimate way.
5) Swim naked All we women trundle around in our lives with a never-ending lists of to-dos and shoulds and "I gottas." We may try yoga, wine or Twitter to help us shake the constant pressure of this inner conversation, but back it comes -- usually waking us up from a perfectly good sleep in the middle of the night. I can't say I have a cure for this, but I do know this: When I am deep in the embrace of nature, I hear nothing but the wind in the trees and my heart beating in my chest, and all I feel is that everything in life is just as it should be. Where does the swimming naked come in? Like this: Drive to the mountains, rent a canoe, paddle four or five lakes away from the outfitter's cabin where you rented the canoe, find a small island campground in the middle of a shimmering body of water surrounded by tall trees and strip down to nothing and dive in. Swim out toward the middle of the lake. Tread water, kicking and turning slowly around and around and around, trying to take in all the ageless glory and grandeur. There's something about the being naked -- with nothing to separate me from everything else -- that makes me feel like I really belong here, whether my to-dos are to-done or not. Humble majesty.
Do-Over: As a general rule, I regret nothing (see #2 above). I mean, yes, I've embarrassed myself in front of the President of the United States (George W; it's in the book), got busted for stealing M&Ms off a birthday cake in first grade (and was thus stripped of my Class President title), missed my ballet recital when I was 8 (that still hurts), cried like a baby in front of my two-year-old son when my marriage was ending, wasted a lot of money in my failed move to San Francisco (see #1 above), bombed at a celebrity interview (can't tell you who; she'll hunt me down) and desperately wished I could help my parents die easier deaths in the last year. But I truly believe there's no point in a do-over; we have to take the bad with the good -- and we should want to. As my favorite poet Rainer Marie Rilke says, "The point is to live everything." Live it all and take it in, and realize that the wincing moments and "mistakes" and the tragedies of our lives are like rogue waves: they overwhelm us for a moment or longer, and turn us upside-down, but when they retreat they leave the sparkling gifts of compassion and wisdom and grace on the beach for us to discover, life's little treasures. (Plus, you always need a good "Can you believe I did this?" story at a cocktail party, you know? Helps break the ice.)
Liz & Lisa