The minute Carolyn learned that I was down for the count–hit by a taxi, in NYC– she leaped into action. From thousands of miles away, Carolyn turned into the Rock of Gibraltar as I began to contemplate the metamorphosis from permanent injury to miraculously positive recovery over the coming months.
Carolyn has retired from her role as the CEO of Grey Group EMEA after spearheading a critical period of growth, but she remains as adventurous as ever and passionate every day. Today she is teaching me the art of optimism that she radiates, so brilliantly, no matter the changing conditions in our lives. Carolyn’s husband brags about these traits–in Carolyn. I am ready for her day’s lesson!
Since the accident, Carolyn has instituted scheduled visits–every week. “Up and at ’em,” she says, with suggestions of museum trips, gourmet meals, and theater outings. And she makes them happen–with her help.
Tonight she is taking a giant step; she has invited her husband, Jeffrey to join us for dinner at their favorite haunt. This was a direct signal that my disposition and progress was suitable for company. I hear that Jeffrey is quite the communicator. I shall learn that he enjoys asking questions more than answering them. I may need to adjust my inquisitiveness, a tad. Hmm.
I rev up the engine on my new motorized wheelchair and dare Ms. Carolyn to keep apace in her stiletto heels en route to the Carravagio Restaurant. Of course, Carolyn keeps up with the maximum speed of this vehicle–at 3.5 miles per hour–with gushing admiration for my newly honed driving skills. I returned the compliments, admiring her fitness, grace, and balance.
On arrival, we are greeted by the dashing Jeffrey, smiling broadly -comfortable at his favorite dining spot. He is engaged in animated conversation with the manager and taking complete delight at the sight of his wife. Caravaggio is as inviting as ever — with a perfectly set table, calm lighting, an imaginative menu before us and an endless array of mouthwatering additions . But, independent, as I am prone to demonstrate, I ask for my favorite dish at Caravaggio– a -pasta dish not on the menu, but always available. You see, I too, am familiar with this restaurant, though not a regular. I want Mr.Husband to appreciate my gratitude for his good taste!
As to the rest of my manners, that is another story. My business is like most everyone else’s business; filled with emergencies that fall into the category of poor planning–sometimes the client , sometimes mine. On this Sunday evening, while at the dinner table, I reach for the phone to advise a frantic friend on suitable legal counsel for her big pickle. My newly honed wheelchair driving skills are not quite good enough to scamper away from the table!
I return to the dinner conversation. It continues seamlessly, with husband Jeffrey holding his fire on the questionable disruption. Instead he probes for more insights about his wife’s friend. He is self-assured, low-key, and on the money when he finally decides to speak his mind. He questions the call suggests I like to be in control. Surprise!
Carolyn jumps in–thinking he is astute, but might choose his words differently. She quickly pulls in the reins suggesting that I am “strong.” At this moment she actually sees me as a bit fragile. Husband Jeffrey sees me as strong. We move as an ensemble to a scintillating discussion about strength and weakness and end the dinner with optimism about our continuing friendship.
Carolyn plays bridge with less learned players; she has learned to let frustration roll off her back. She is a role model for women who want to take the business world by storm; she has been there; done that, and got the tee shirt. She travels far and wide; she is a truly curious citizen of the world. And beyond a shadow of a doubt, Carolyn has a contagious zest for life and spreads the word. And now I see that Carolyn loves her husband, madly, but I get the benefit of her gentleness.
In Caroline, I have a treasured friend. As to Jeffrey, I believe our dinner laid the groundwork for a new friendship, but it was also a reminder that good conversations are triggered by honest communication and optimism.