A New Perspective

By Donna Glanzman

There are happenings in everyone’s life that force us to change direction and focus.  For me it was a shot fired hundreds of miles away. What will it be for you?

As a career woman with very exciting opportunities, I chucked it all.  I know a lot of you have wanted to do the same.  You tire of the pressures surrounding your work, family, and your commitments.  But wouldn’t you be missing something if you quit?  I thought I would—the excitement and the challenges.  In fact, some people thought I might be unhappy without the rewards my position brought.  Not so!  I am loving my new life and I am not bored, as all my associates expected.  And I’m not watching soap operas and eating bonbons!  I am volunteering, chauffeuring kids, riding my horse and spending time with friends.  And, finally, I am fulfilling the dream of many over-extended women—exercising regularly—something I always promised myself as I lurched out of bed and rushed into my twelve-hour work day.

It is reassuring to know the intensity I focused on my work as public relations director for a large Columbus advertising and PR firm could be directed elsewhere.  I did have fears I might become a worthless, sloppy slob—it’s tempting.  But I find I can now value the most simple things—my daughters’ laughter as they return from school, the frequent phone calls from friends and the increasing requests from non-profits for hints on how to do PR. Even a simple dinner with my husband of only three years has taken on new meaning.

In 1982, I found myself the divorced mother of three little girls, ages two, four, and seven.  I could not get a job teaching English or History in Louisville, so I accepted whatever positions might pay my bills.  My masters degree came in quite handy selling women’s lingerie, writing commercials for a radio station; and hawking miniature satellite dishes.  Finally I did experience a semblance of academia when I landed a night teaching job at a local university. 

After such an auspicious return to the working world, I got a break!  Thus began the excitement of a lifetime as I became a key player in the national and international attention that engulfed one of America’s largest hospital chains, Humana, with the implantation of the artificial heart.  With my girls begging for my time and love at home, I found myself stretched beyond belief as all my energy was expected to handle my “paying job”.  There was no time to raise children and no one I could call on for help.  I was strong and determined—the epitome of the 80’s super woman! 

A move to Columbus six years after my divorce added more stress to our small family.    A new job, new home, friends--little time for personal fulfillment or family unity.  Only time to pay the bills, do essential chores and run from one activity to another.  They were the days of much yelling.

I will probably never really know the toll those eight years of struggle had on the four of us.  I do know just enough psychology to realize there is anger and sadness buried within each of my daughters at the fact I was often away when they needed me around.  When I was home, I was often tense or distracted by the tool of my trade, the telephone.  Yet these girls are now bright, beautiful, athletic and very independent.  Testament to the human spirit.

In the midst of all the insanity, a divine being from above chose to present a loving, kind, bright and successful man into our lives.  Many proclaimed him a saint for his sacrificial proposal of marriage—taking on three teenage girls and an intense career woman to boot—“are you crazy?” his friends would ask him.  He would just say, “I am going to show them how to relax and enjoy life.”  He kept trying; I kept working.

Over the years I dealt with decision-makers in corporations, government and the media.  I worked with Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters and Dave Thomas.  I traveled and gave speeches.  I was quoted in USA Today, the New York Times and often in Columbus and Louisville.  I loved my career and the rewards it brought.

Then, one single incident—one single bullet changed the focus of my life forever.  On May 24, 1993, my only sister killed herself with a 32-caliber gun.  She was four months short of her 40th birthday and one step away from a Ph.D. in Economics.  She had a lovely home, friends, a boat and horses, parents who loved her, and an older brother and sister who were both proud to call her sister.  But still she felt alone.  The closest she got to marriage was a broken engagement and the only children she adored were her nieces and nephew.

As we mourned at the funeral home, nearly five hundred people told us their feelings of her.  They spoke of her kindness, thoughtfulness, her sacrificial personality.  Her students told us of her warmth and patience; her friends talked of her great smile and competitive spirit.  They loved her—we all loved her—but the commitments of our lives, demands of careers, the drive to make money, be important—whatever it was—kept us from seeing the real needs of this woman we loved.

So, I pondered and prayed for three months and buried myself in my work.  Then, on August 5, 1993, I walked into my boss’s office and retired. Not resigned as I had done before for better jobs—just retired for my daughters, my husband and for myself. 

I am here now.  Home all the time.  No office to go to, no secretary to organize me, no staff to manage and no clients to satisfy.  The intensity with which I did my job is now focused inward toward those dearest to me.

There will always be new challenges to face, new honors to receive and more money to make.  What is it we are working for?  What stops us from adjusting our focus?  Will there ever be a better time than now for us and those we love?

For me, at forty-four, the answer is no. The time is now.  When will it be yours?

Reprinted from Capitol Women, September/October 1994