Life on Three Strings:  Digging Deep and Thriving

Life on Three Strings: Digging Deep and Thriving

life on three strings, woman playing violinFor those who would rather listen, click the link:

Life on Three Strings: Digging Deep and Thriving

It was one of those ‘feel-good’ emails.  And reading it actually did make me feel good.  Maybe you’ve seen it before …

It talked about the great violinist Itzhak Perlman who, because of childhood polio and leg braces, struggles to get to his chair on stage at Lincoln Center.  Everyone waits patiently until he’s finally ready to share his musical magic.

One day, just as he began playing, the loud crack of a snapping violin string pierced through the melody.  Would this mean him getting back up, struggling back across the stage to find another violin or a string to repair this one?  Would the adoring audience have to wait some more?

After a moment of closed-eye concentration, Perlman signaled the conductor to start again.

The impossible feat he accomplished that night, of playing a symphony with just three strings, was a measure of his mastery … and of his unwillingness to admit defeat.  The music?  More beautiful, more sacred and more memorable than ever before.

He quieted the thunderous applause that followed with a gesture and softly said, “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left.”

Bringing It All Home

Mid-December was the beginning of what would look like a bad-luck streak.  Not exactly for me.  But seemingly for people all around me.

For me, pressure during the year had mounted, as one project piled on another.  I had multi-tasked beyond belief, burning candles from both ends and from the middle.  (Of course I knew better.  But we’re infallible, right?)  Short on sleep and emotionally drained, I was ready for some nurturing.

First, my best friend came from Europe to spend three relaxed weeks with me, to hang out in the Florida Keys, maybe hit the Yucatan, whatever moved us.  This was exactly what I needed!  And what she needed, because she was entering a major life transition.

But by Day Two, a first-time back pain sidelined all plans and we spent three weeks taking her to chiropractors and (eventually) orthopedic surgeons … when we weren’t running to the emergency room at 5 a.m.  My frustration at not being able to do anything for her was palpable:  I couldn’t heal her.  Nothing I did would even lessen the pain from her herniated disk.

Then the husband of a childhood friend of mine, where we were originally going for Christmas dinner, tripped and broke his hip.  The last thing an entrepreneurial business owner needed, especially one with a physically demanding business, was to be laid up in a hospital with a long recovery period ahead of him.  Unable to work, unable to be there to move his company forward in a part of the economy that has not yet fully recovered.

Shortly thereafter I got the call that my sister’s husband had died very suddenly.  As any of us would do, I gathered myself up and ran to take on any role I could, do anything to smooth a difficult time.  Long drives, raw emotions, little sleep, disruptions and sadness.  Another drain on my already limited resources.

What is amazing is how I was able to make it all about me.

Did you notice?

Yet none of it was about me.  It was about others whose lives would be inexorably changed.

My friend will have to dig deep to face her life transition with the equivalent of one hand tied behind her back; the pain is a long way from being gone.  My other friend’s husband will have to dig deep for the strength to recuperate the lost business activity once therapy finally permits it.  And my sister will have to dig deep to face life alone after 47 years of marriage, totally unprepared because of the suddenness of her loss.

They will all be playing music with just three strings.

And something tells me all three will play music that is more beautiful, more sacred and more memorable than ever before.

So What About You?

What have you lost these past few years?  What has not turned out as you expected?  What has come out of the blue and ripped something comfortable – and reliable – out of your everyday life?

What of other people’s broken strings are you taking on as your own?

What have you allowed to steal the music from you?

Or have you learned how to play your heart out with just three strings?

Let me know in the Comments section below what you’ve overcome that has turned out to be the stepping-stone to a richer, more fulfilled life.


Bio: Sharon O’Day lost everything at age 53: her home, her business, everything. But how could that be? She’s an expert in global finance and marketing with an MBA from the Wharton School. She has worked with governments, corporations, and individuals … yes, she was the secret “weapon,” if you will, behind many individuals in high places. Yet she did! Since then, with her finances completely turned around, Sharon has gone on to interview countless women. She’s done extensive research to understand how that could have happened, especially with her strong knowledge of numbers and finance.

The surprising answers are shared in her tell-it-like-it-is posts and articles. Today her mission is to show as many women as possible how to become financially free for the long term, through her coaching programs. She has developed a step-by-step plan to get past all the obstacles that keep women broke and scared … and from reaching the financial peace of mind they so deserve … if they’re willing to do what it takes!

  • Excellent article shedding light on the importance of understanding and accepting what we can and cannot control. As they say, life happens! Our success is not measured in what happens but how we respond to it!

    • As you say, Denny, identifying what we can and can’t control is major. And finding that balance of what’s important and what’s not!

  • What a beautiful story and what a powerful message. Difficult times have helped me to learn to appreciate what I have and to make the most of it. Love your posts Sharon!

    • I imagine you feel the same,. Carolyn: I don’t envy people who have had life too easy. So much of peace of mind comes from knowing you can confront challenges should they appear … and overcome them!

  • Thanks Sharon… I needed that!

  • I love Perlman and your use of the metaphor here. Thank you!

    • That story was just begging to be used! And this was the perfect application … 😉

  • chris

    excellent message

  • Beautiful post! Love the message. We’ve seen tough times lately too, i.e. playing with three strings, but I believe it’s made us stronger and more determined.

    Thank you for sharing such a wonderful message.

    • For many people, Patti, post-2008 led to greater strength and different priorities. But, unfortunately, the struggle is going on too long for too many … and I wanted to share that concept. I love that Perlman reference …

  • My peace of mind was shattered. The company my husband worked for for 20 years when bankrupt and we lost his income and the company retirement plan that we had projected. But we both started new jobs and live a different life style and it’s going to be different but okay..;)

    • Wow that is tough!!! But sounds like you are doing fab!

    • Lots of people have redesigned (and redefined) their lives, Elizabeth. For some, the forced pause resulted in richer priorities and values, even if life was simpler. I hope you will find that long-term joy grows out of facing and overcoming your challenges!

  • MamaRed

    Oh goodness, I’ve made so many of those things “about me” I can’t begin to count! Then I had a series of 5 surgeries in 3 years that left me with that 3 string challenge and I sure hope I’ve done it with grace and made a better sound from it. That coupled with my husband losing his job and moving to another city in amongst those surgeries has made fro some challenging times. AND what has been great about it is that my hubster and I smoothed out some rough spots and I’ve learned to ask for help. I’ve learned I can’t control everything (and believe me I had been a control freak with a capital C!).

    I so appreciate the reminder of Perlman’s story. I had forgotten it (although not his amazing gift for the violin). I needed it today. Definitely.

    Many blessings!

    • Oh, how we grow from our “life disruptions,” MamaRed! Some of our rough spots even get shiny! 😉 I’m glad that post hit the spot for you …

  • I love this! And simply because we ALL face terrible difficulties at times. We can either use it as an excuse to sit around and mope, or see it as opportunities to play our song in a new way! Great post!

  • Heartwarming and moving story. I am still reeling from 2012 and not quite enough space to share it all here. Thanks for keeping it real!

    • Step-by-step, you’ll put 2012 behind you, Anita. I’ve had years like that … more than one … and the good news is that they are not fatal. Even with the loss of loved ones, somehow we pick up the pieces and fashion a new “us.”

  • This is a great reminder that we are capable of so much and if we dig deep, try harder do that one extra thing AND it isn’t always all about us : D Thanks for sharing!

    • Elizabeth, suddenly I realized I was all “down” about what was going on around me … but I wasn’t the one who had been hurt. Crazy! (But easy to do …) 😉

  • Aimee

    Great analogies and vulnerability with both illustrations (Perlman and yours). I tend to take on helping my friends/boyfriends with whatever they want in life – I can’t stop being a coach even when nobody is asking me. I need to let what they are going through be only about them and just help when asked (of course some exceptions apply like physical injury or death as in your case – you just start helping).

    • Something tells me, Aimee, that you understand how I got where I did in that sequence … 😉

  • Cathy Taughinbaugh

    I know I’ve had my challenges throughout life as well. For me the best way to deal with it, is to face it head on. It is not always easy, but life does come with an ebb and flow. So at least we know it is only a temporary time. Thanks for sharing.

    • I feel the same, Cathy, those troubles are temporary. And we can always pick ourselves back up if we have enough heart … and grit.

  • Thanks for sharing this powerful story! I tend to be a coach whether it’s been requested of me or not… Having said that, I often say that it’s important to allow everyone their own journey – their way! I appreciate your insights here.

    • The “coaches” in the group will understand how easy it was for me to jump in, Moira. But when it comes to friends and family, sometimes it’s hard to stay balanced in the process …

  • This is such a beautiful post Sharon. I had some challenges a few years ago, and pretty much retreated from the world. Instead of learning how to play with three strings, I just stopped playing altogether. But now slowly with the help of good friends both online and off, I am slowly discovering the song within and learning how to play again.

    • So glad you’ve made that progress, Lena. I know our world would be a sadder place if you weren’t an active part of it. But I also know how tempting retreat can be. Welcome back. Can’t wait to hear your song burst to the outside some day!

  • Wonderfully written. In the last several years there have been some major changes in my life that required adjustments. I think it happens to all of us in some shape, form or fashion. How we deal with it is what is important. Kudos to you Sharon!

    • You’re so right, Forrest. Either we grow from those “required adjustments,” or they pull us down. Something tells me you’ve grown!

  • What a wonderful metaphor…such a beautiful story about Itzak Perlman. Life is full of challenges and it often doesn’t turn out the way we originally planned. I know that has been true of my own life…and yet, we keep playing on, don’t we? Beautifully written post, my dear!

    • Thank you, Sherie. I always look forward to your perceptive take on my articles! Part of what I love about this mentoring work is being able to share what I’ve learned from all the skinned knees …

  • I have lost everything and Nothing… All things LOST served its purpose… If all looked at Lose like this we would really what we have gained and that actually we haven’t lost anything for without those experiences we wouldn’t be who we are NOW…

    • Carly, I have never looked at it like that … and thank you for that revelation! Hope it’s okay with you if I share that on my FB page. That concept has to be shared …

  • Such a powerful post Sharon. I always appreciate your posts and learn so much. Thanks for all you do!

  • What a marvelous, thought-provoking post, Sharon – truly amazing. I love reading your shares – they always leave me thinking more deeply about my life and what I might want to do differently. Thank you.

    • Lisa, I’m so glad my writings make you aware of options that you can factor into your decisions for the future. We can learn so much from one another, especially about things that might have been different from your frame of reference growing up!

  • Pat Moon

    Itzak Perlman is such an amazing violinist.

    I somehow feel we are living on 3 strings right now. Last year we thought we were going to sell both our houses so we could have a fresh new start in many ways.. both deals crashed and here we are a year later, still struggling to make things work financially. Then late last year we found out that my husband’s heart is in a compromised condition which has caused us to feel even more desperate about needing to sell the houses and get in a less stressful environment. On the bright side, new life came to us last year with the birth of our 8th grandchild, a precious little girl. Our daughter passed the 2 year mark and was able to stop the chemo treatment she had been on since her brain tumor was removed 2 1/2 years ago. Our oldest grandson is still in remission from Hodgkin Lymphoma.. he is past the 2 1/2 year mark now. We still have my mother with us who was diagnosed with lung cancer January 2012. We did not expect her to still be with us but she is still going strong with very few symptoms & no pain at age 92 1/2. Many blessings among the broken strings.

    • As you say, Pat, “Many blessings among the broken strings.” And you’ve sure had your share of the latter. I know you have put so much energy into “righting” the damage done by the real estate market after 2008 and we both know how much stress would be removed from everyone if that situation were resolved. Be sure to look at all possibilities, regardless how un-traditional. These are not traditional times …

  • Thank you so much for sharing this post. I’m taking tonight off and part of the weekend. I’ve been playing one string, and it nearly broke.

    • Go baby that string, Catherine, right now! Oil it, feed it, talk to it … and thank it for holding on while you restring your violin! 😉

  • Lorii Abela

    This is indeed a beautiful and inspiring story.
    People will always encounter this difficult journey in life but how to face
    it with strong will and determination will make the journey a learning stage. Getting through it is much more important
    than thinking of how to get out of it. Thanks for sharing.

  • I used to be quite upset that I had an eating disorder and had a big old pity party. Who would have known that I have made recovery my life work and I help others get out of the hell of disordered eating. Thanks for a great post, Sharon.

  • Wow..the last few years have been major…in embracing my authentic self, I gave up most everything I had known all my life…and then along the way, the little that I held onto as symbols, reminders and memories was stolen in a house robbery…so at at 43 I found myself truly beginning life all over…though I was prepared in one sense, i was so unprepared in another and it has been harder than i ever imagined it could be….regrets? Not really but I am tired….deter is exhausting at times…