Every situation has a bright side. Last month, when I found myself between jobs for now, I decided that a bright side was it meant I had the free time to attend this year’s 25th annual Central California Women’s Conference for my first time ever.
I’m so glad I went.
This year’s theme was “Celebrate You: 25 Years of Empowering Women.” From the beginning to the end of the day, that is exactly what the focus was.
Carol Gardner kicked off the day with her story of how she re-invented herself after a painful divorce at the age of 52. Her divorce lawyer told her to get a therapist or get a dog. She chose a dog and launched a successful line of greeting cards featuring her bulldog Zelda.
Luncheon keynote speaker Jamie Lee Curtis was a big part of this year’s draw for me. I love her as an actress, but I also enjoyed reading her children’s books to my youngest daughter, Katie, when she was younger.
Curtis didn’t disappoint with her message, which wasn’t just an uplifting, ego-stroking homily to the magnificence of women. She talked about all the ways we are damaging our world and ourselves, from addiction to pollution to our fixation with false beauty.
She quoted “The Princess Bride” (which starred her husband, Christopher Guest, as Count Rugan, the Six-Fingered Man):
Buttercup: “You mock my pain.”
Man in Black: “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”
Curtis talked about how we can all nod and agree about what needs to be done to make our world a better place. But nodding doesn’t row the boat, she said, paraphrasing an Irish proverb. We need to put action behind our good intentions.
Throughout the day, the conference seminars covered a wide range of topics, from mastering Pinterest to financial topics to making dinnertime easier and healthier. I picked three that I felt would nurture my soul and motivate me to make the most of this transitional phase in my life, from a rewarding career that satisfied me for the past 19 years to the next stage of adventures that I will face.
Home builder Darius Assemi hosted a session called “Even the Smallest Gestures Can Change Our World,” in which three brave young women told their stories of the obstacles they’ve overcome to reach the points they’ve achieved in their lives. It was refreshing to hear a successful businessman, an immigrant to our country, talk about ways each of us can make a difference in our world, on large and small scales.
Friends and authors Armen Bacon and Nancy Miller discussed their journey together, “Surviving the Unthinkable” — the loss of a child, which resulted in the publication of their book, “Griefland.” Bacon inspired me with her words — “Even the darkest moment comes to an end” — and asking “What are you waiting for?” when it comes to making the rest of your life count.
We all have dark moments in our life, whether it’s the end of a marriage, the loss of a job, the death of a child. Life is, indeed, pain. But it’s also love and joy, anger, silliness and laughter. It is all an ebb and flow, a balance between the good times and the bad. We are fragile and resilient, all at the same time.
It is when we are at our most vulnerable that we need to remember why it is worth celebrating who we are, empowering ourselves. And getting by, surviving the difficult times, to start a new day, a new chapter.