Margaret Norton is my special guest! She is the author of When Ties Break: A Memoir About How to Thrive After Loss, her story of splintered relationships with her family of origin, as well as her three marriages. Death, sexual molestation, and divorce are some of the topics covered as Margaret describes how she persevered and emerged from her past a thriving, resilient survivor.
Margaret says that it is entirely possible to “reverse those broken ties” and move on to a healthy fulfilled life, and proves it by her own example each and every day!
When I turned sixty years old, I celebrated my birthday with great fanfare. Two months later, I released the electronic version of my memoir at the basement price of $.99.
Many have asked what I learned from writing my book. I’m going to attempt to summarize this in six points that I’ll call my sexy six.
1. Don’t ever give-up. So many times in life things do not go our way or what we’re trying to do is difficult. We get discouraged, disillusioned, we lose our motivation, we give out of money, we get sick — there’s no limit to the number of challenging things that happen to us. But one thing is for sure, you never reach the final destination if you give up along the way. It really is true that the most rewarding things in lives are the ones you work the hardest to obtain. In my book I talk about the many obstacles I overcame to get where I am today. So many times I wanted to quit, several times I even thought of suicide, and for years I felt I was hanging on by a string. But I always believed things would get better. No matter how difficult it was I never gave up. Looking back today I would not trade my life with anyone.
2. Learn to love and accept yourself. You would think this is easy to do but it’s not. Some children grow up in loving homes with a healthy self-esteem, only to get involved in relationships that make them feel inferior and unloved. Children can be cruel. Often they tease their classmates — picking one thing they feel is wrong with them — and continue until they emotionally destroy the other person. Some individuals believe that marriage gives them a license to remake their partners. Often this is connected to abusive behavior — like my first and second marriages — leading to low self-esteem. If you don’t learn to love yourself you don’t have much to give to others.
3. Don’t let anyone else define who you are. This is hard, especially if you’re a people pleaser. You might not agree with someone but to keep from hurting their feelings or to be accepted by them, you often compromise and lose your identity. I’m not advocating being selfish or tuning others out but rather learning to listen to your heart and developing your intuition. What is it that you really want to do? Relationships are difficult but all too often they are one-sided. You do things you do not want to do for all the wrong reasons. One day you look in the mirror and wonder who you are.
4. Family is worth fighting for. Much of my book deals with my dysfunctional family. I was excommunicated by my brother the day we buried our father. It took me many years to get over this and work my way back into my family. So many individuals asked why I wanted to do this when I was treated so badly. In the past five years I’ve spoken with many people and so many of them came from broken families. I now believe that you don’t have to like your family but you can love them. You don’t have to spend a lot of time with them but when you do it can be bearable. Friends can become a substitute for your family. Families many times feel they can treat each other badly but you don’t have to allow this. It’s essential that you learn to establish boundaries, especially with your family.
5. Master the act of forgiveness. Family, relationships and life deals many wrongs to all of us. Often we become bitter, hold grudges and have a tendency to get back at others. Forgiveness is one of life’s hardest lessons. Many times individuals never admit any wrong doing and they might not ask for your forgiveness. Forgiveness is something you do for yourself, not for the other person. When you hold on to hate and anger you are not getting even with them. These negative feelings are like poison to your body and leads to all kinds of problems for you. Forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation. Sometimes relationships can’t be put back together. Sometimes you have to cut ties with your family or get divorced but as you move on, try to forgive those who’ve wronged you.
6. Don’t ask why, don’t look back, don’t stress over tomorrow, and learn to embrace change. It’s human nature for individuals to do all the above. When things don’t work out or when bad things happen to us, we want to know why. It’s okay to do some soul searching, ask questions, and analyze situations but you need to put a limit on this. What lessons did you learn? What do you want to do differently the next time? If you need to make a change do it. Change leads to growth. You can’t go back and redo things. You may never understand why some things happened. You have to get to the place where you accept it, believe that it was meant to be and that it was part of your journey. All too often we spend so much time looking back that we miss what is happening today. These same principles can be applied to the future. Often we worry excessively over what is going to happen tomorrow when most of those things never come to be. One of the great lessons to living an abundant, contented life is learning how to live in the now.
I became a Personal Life Coach because I felt that I could help others deal with some of the issues addressed above.
As a child, Margaret Norton was painfully shy, had a speech impairment, and felt different from others. The daughter of a minister and stay-at-home mother who struggled with mental illness, she married young to get away from home, but soon found herself in an abusive relationship. At age twenty-seven, she was a divorced mother of two attending college. She fell in love with one of her professors and married him, even though he was twenty-two years her senior. It was not easy combining her children and his from their previous marriages into a blended family. One day, Margaret returned from home to find that he had simply moved out. Margaret says, “My first husband took my innocence. My second one took my self confidence and bankrupted us financially.”
During that time period, Margaret lost a sister to breast cancer, and her father died soon after. Her brother expelled her from the family and a seventeen year struggle to put my life back together and mend things with my family began.
Remarkably, it was during those rough years that Margaret relates she “discovered who I really was.”
Everyone told me I was nothing, but I didn’t listen, because I knew I was something.~ Author Margaret Norton
Over the years, Margaret has held many corporate positions, but has always loved volunteering for nonprofit organizations, as well as churches. Divorces and bad choices forced her to work jobs she did not enjoy in order to provide for her family. “Self improvement became my constant companion, almost to obsession,” she notes. Eventually, she completed the Dale Carnegie Course and trained to be a Coach.
In 2004, Margaret lost her brother, as well as seven other people with whom she shared close connections. She completed training to be a Stephen Minister and began writing, at first solely as a therapeutic measure to facilitate her own healing. But when she shared some of her work with friends, they encouraged her to publish a book. It was also at that time that she left the corporate world behind and devoted herself full time to being a Personal Life Coach, founding Life Transitions in 2007 for the purpose of helping individuals deal with change. Margaret feels she is qualified to serve in that capacity, in part, because she has “experienced more change in my life than most people. . . . Pain and struggle are good teachers.”
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