‘We’re going to do it Mandela-style’ — A Kelly Luchini moment

Your teachers are all around you.

It’s true. You know that. When we’re alert we find droppings worth absorbing from those who surround us. It’s a matter of having your sensors up.

In our case, one of our greatest teachers of late has been Kelly Luchini.

First the back story, fifteen-plus months ago

We had a family get together and afterward my wife broke down sobbing – not because my family is so awful, though she’ll have to speak on her own about that, but because we’d been forced into the unthinkable. We had hit the point where our business no longer had funds. We could no longer afford our partner in business.

We’d worked with Kelly for ten years and had been so committed to her that we’d also committed to giving her a percentage of the business for one reason only: her extraordinariness.

In the midst of the worst news about the Mideast revolutions, soaring gas prices, Japanese earthquake-tsunami-nuclear plant disasters, it was evident our business had paused – at the height of our season.

The impossible had occurred. We were being forced to part ways with our partner. We no longer had the money. In fact, we no longer had any money. None. What once felt like healthy savings . . . gone.

I wonder if this is true of all disasters, not simply economic ones – that you keep hitting new bottoms. I knew we would turn around . . . but from which bottom?!! I thought we’d already endured the bottom. I’d thought this several times.

This one left my wife Ann racked with sobs one night, just after in-laws and nieces and nephew had left, though my Mom was still there. To lose someone you expected to turn your business over to when you retired – someone special – someone who’d built the business with you for the last ten years – because you simply couldn’t pay her! – because the business had collapsed – was agony. 

This kind of awfulness is God-awful. We can endure our own misfortunes better than we can endure a bitter turn of events for those whom we adore . . . Ann never burst out in a flood of tears when I had to hit the road for a year and a half. But to not be able to keep the business afloat enough to support Kelly felt like the worst kind of nightmare. 

Fate isn’t cruel, it only seems so in the short term. We had begun to wend our way back from the abyss, when everything froze – our clients hit a pause button on their purchasing – right at the height of our season. It was upheaval in the Middle East, it was catastrophe upon calamity in Japan. 

Our troubles were minor compared to what people in those areas were going through, though that didn’t help us face the setbacks in our own lives. 

One day Kelly and I were talking about our ability to live through anything and she said something so breezy and hip and potent it lifted my spirits permanently: 

“We’re going to do it Mandela-style.”

A Nelson Mandela not only inspires those who seek freedom for their people or country. By his example of endurance, he became an icon for all going through troubles. For if Mandela can go through years of hard labor, decades of imprisonment – and come out magnificent, ready to forgive, eager to unify a country – then who are we to bitch about losing our income, about being slapped silly by economic woes. 

“I’m staying in the excited opportunity vessel.” Kelly formed a vessel shape with her hands. “If I veer from it I get freaked out. Staying in this zone keeps me focused and happy, where I need to be, where it makes the good things come.”

I thought: You’re right Kelly! We are so close to the ground that we must be at the inflection point. We are going to do it Mandela-style – no matter what we will emerge triumphant. 

Now the interesting news. I initially wrote this over fifteen months ago. I’ve re-worded it only slightly so that it is not set in the present but the year-plus ago past.

Well here we are now, Ann and I are bounding up the comeback trail. Kelly has a baby boy and is growing her own freelance art appraisal business. Nothing is certain, of course, but you know who I bet on? Kelly! (Oh, and us, for sure, because we know Kelly and she’s rubbed off on us.)

Stand up for your artist
Isn't this a lot like how we want the plot of our life to be too?