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Meryl Hartstein Headshot

Having It All

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One of my guilty pleasures in life -- alongside dark chocolate, everything bagels and coffee chip ice cream -- is my obsession with the Real Housewives franchise on Bravo. For years I would faithfully watch week after week, city after city and think to myself, "Life is short, why not have it all?" It's almost embarrassing to let the words out, let alone put it to print. The truth was, I wanted the best of what life had to offer.

Many years before the "housewives," my journey began with my first marriage to an abusive alcoholic. The birth of my first daughter and a divorce followed. Again, adversity struck after my second marriage and second daughter. Cervical cancer was the diagnosis. Surgery and post-traumatic stress soon followed. There were two decades of normal chaos before my next bout of adversity. After my oldest daughter married and had her first child, she divorced and fell into the dark hole of drug addiction. Through her long journey back, I was there to take care of my special needs grandchild.

Through my life, the one strength that I could always rely on was my ability to bounce back. Not just a little bounce that you would see with a rubber ball, but a huge super-ball kind of bounce. For every adversity, I would become more and more resilient. My priority was to discover what it was that kept me going. The four solid contributors that I found were my passion, my compassion, my gratitude and my confidence. I knew that finding passion would lead me to my purpose. I spread my compassion for others every chance I could. I wanted to help others who have suffered as I had. I would talk to everyone who would listen to me. I openly told them my problems instead of hiding them in fear of what they might think. I found that by doing this, I was opening up dialogue with other people who were suffering from the same adversities that I was. That feeling was contagious.

Finding gratitude was the most important aspect of my healing. Becoming spiritual and aware of the positives in my life was enough to carry me through the worst of times. Learning to be confident and having self-love set the course of not being a victim anymore. After being endowed with all this knowledge, the only thing left to do was to share. I wanted to save all the females that have suffered as I have. Realistically, I knew I didn't have any magic potion to share, but I had a voice.

I became an example that anything is possible even when you've been to hell and back. I studied hard, I began to write. I trained to become a coach and I began to speak anywhere I could.

While on this path, I met the most incredible women. I witnessed strengths that I never thought were possible. I met women that lost children and whole families and were able to go on with their lives and not just survive, but to thrive. I knew that there had to be a common thread in all of this.

On a spring morning while blow-drying my hair, the image of the super-ball, the extreme bounce-back effect, would play out in my mind. It was time to for me to bounce so high that I might hit the moon.

I knew I was not the only Real Housewives-obsessed women on the planet, but I also knew that this was not the image I wanted for my daughters and granddaughters to see, either. Women like me can be beautiful and strong, and have amazing lives and careers. We can be businesswomen, doctors, entrepreneurs, authors and entertainers. We can drive beautiful cars and live in big houses. We can bounce back and have it all.

For more by Meryl Hartstein, click here.

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