Friday, July 24, 2015

If You Quit, You'll Never Know if You Would Have Made It

This past month is a blur.  It is hard to believe that less than a week ago, my world shifted on its axis. Has that ever happened to you?  Sometimes our lives change in an instant; it could be a good thing..... or not so good.

I have had more than the allotted amount of difficult times that any one person should have to endure in a lifetime. Yet, almost daily, I am reminded that I am blessed and more fortunate than millions of other people.

There is good stress and bad stress.  Sometimes they are equally difficult to handle.  After years of things going wrong, discouragement after discouragement, shattered dreams and broken promises, I became conditioned to question everything, not trusting; yet never giving up hope that someday, somehow, somewhere, it would be my turn.   Often it would take every ounce of effort I could muster to get up in the morning and make it through another day.

Putting one foot in front of the other seemed a greater feat than I might be able to accomplish.  I had to stay strong.  It was a constant battle.

But I did get through the day.  I hid it well.  I was the life of the party.  I laughed....a lot.  It got me through.  I threw many pity parties. but was the only one who showed up.

I knew I had to maintain a good attitude no matter what -- I knew it would be an attitude of gratitude and of hope that would eventually make me a victor and a winner.  It wasn't a choice - it was necessary!

When I wrote my memoir, my purpose and desire was to be an encouragement to one other person who may be going through something similar.  I wanted to give them a ray of hope - a lifesaver. What I didn't know was that writing my memoir would be the springboard into a whole new way of life.

Since Battered Hope was published, I started blogging and creating a social media presence.  I have made more friends than I thought imaginable.  My blogging friends who regularly commented on my posts had no clue how much their words encouraged me.  "Carol you are such an inspiration.  I love reading your posts.  You make my day."   I would respond by thanking them, knowing they had no clue how much their words were appreciated.

As a result of my memoir, speaking engagements became a regular part of each month and the more I shared my story, the more people I met who were encouraged and uplifted.  It was a new high for me. The more I gave of myself, the more I was receiving.  I felt guilty.  It was a conditioned response. My highs were higher, but my lows were even lower.

During this time of struggle, my son and his family walked away from our family.  To read that story click here.  My husband had been in a car accident which left his disabled. (that story here). The economy hit us hard in our business and we were losing everything and getting deeper in debt.  I often wondered when it would end, but I never stopped hoping and believing my day would come.

Last Autumn I had an idea; I do not remember what triggered it but I knew I had to pursue it. The more I thought about it the more excited I got.  My idea was to have a talk show where I would interview people who had overcome trauma in their lives.  I posted a request for people who fit this category to come forward, more than 100 did on the first day.  And it continued.....regularly.  I was almost embarrassed because I didn't have a clue how to do a radio show or what was involved.  I knew that I better figure it out.... quickly.

radio, never ever give up hope
I did not have the means to hire any help or pay for courses or equipment. What on earth was wrong with me?  How could I have been so ignorant.  I spent hours, days and weeks researching; the more I learned, the more discouraged I became.  I was illiterate; still learning the language of the social media world and now I was venturing into whole new territory.  No one could help me.  I was alone.

But if life has taught me anything it has taught me never ever to give up hope.  All the cliches couldn't be wrong:  light at the end of the tunnel and a million others.

I found some free courses online and began to least a little. It seemed that no matter what I figured out, instead of it being a step forward, I was regressing.  Learning how to record, to edit, how to make an intro and outro for the show, what hosting service to use -- each step was challenging but I was making progress.  I was a sponge absorbing every bit of information I could as I slowly learned the language.

During this entire time, I was interviewing up to five times a week.  I had warned my guests that this was a new show and it would be awhile before it would air.  Most of them understood.

Was it worth it?

Were there setbacks?  Almost every week.  Did I cry?  Almost every week.  Why did I keep doing it? What was motivating me?  The people and their stories.  Often after an interview I would stare at the wall, tears rolling down my cheeks.  I was so touched by these survivors of tragic circumstances I would never have been able to endure. I began to change as a person.  New life was welling up inside of me.  Everything was going to work out.  Even if I never got the show on the air, I was encouraged. My guests had no idea they were speaking directly to my heart when they shared their lives with me. They told my audience (of one) how they crawled out of the hole of despair and knew they would succeed.  Little by little, day by day, I grew stronger.  I owe them so much more than I could ever give back.

Then I had a brainstorm.  I decided to do a blog post for each guest. I  have been interviewed many times.  After the interview was over, it was over.  That was the end of it.  I had no knowledge if anyone heard or cared.  It was enjoyable and I hoped my words encouraged someone going through tough times.  But I never heard another word.  I determined my show would be different.

On the post, I wanted to write a bio of each guest and include links to buy their book(s).  I would share their contacts and links to their website including anything else I could do to promote them.  It was more work, but it was important that their stories be shared and promoted to the best of my ability.  My guests were thrilled.  See that blog here.  Listen to the encouraging stories.

Finally, after 10 months I was ready to roll.  I was terrified.  Of what -- I am not sure. Probably failure.

never ever give up hope, carol graham

The course I took said that I had 57 days to be recognized on iTunes as 'New and Noteworthy.'  I followed their steps to the tee.  The first day I posted three shows.  Then one a day for ten days.  Then two per week until I run out of guests.  As of today, that won't happen for years to come. In order to make an impact on iTunes so that you could be "found" you needed a multitude of people to review and comment on the show.

Many of my friends and guests did.  Why weren't the comments showing up?  For the first time in history, iTunes had a glitch in the 'comment department.'   "Sorry, we are working on it and in a few weeks, everything will be back to normal.  However, all comments were lost."

I didn't have a few weeks.  Here came the tears again.  All the months of endless hard work - down the drain.  My husband reminded me that many people didn't like iTunes and they would be listening from my blog.  His words encouraged me ..... a little.

The seesaw of emotions was weird.  I was loving the interviews, making friends of several guests but.....I felt I was doing them a disservice.  Little did I know what was about to happen.

I watched the stats for each show and noticed that over 53 percent of my listeners were in Washington D.C.  This puzzled me.  Who was listening?

Three days ago, I got THE call. The call that will change my career forever.  It was Maryland calling.  As I listened to the publisher of a woman's magazine talk to me over 45 minutes, I kept waiting for the shoe to drop.  As she talked I shuddered.

"Carol you are exactly what we have been searching for.  We have listened to every one of your shows and were so impressed.  For one, it was so professional.  You must have had a great staff of people putting it together for you.  We tried to find out about you as a person, but your show was about your guests, as it should be.  We had our staff of independent book reviewers read your book and it was unanimous.  They wanted you.  Your book."

I was wondering what she was trying to sell to me but was enjoying the attention - a lot.

She continued, "We are a non-profit organization that seeks authors who have lived through a lot and have given of themselves.  It's your turn now.  We want you on the front page of our magazine and a two-page article about you.  We will actively promote your book and put you on the map.  We are very selective and our criteria is high. You and your book title are in a C A T E G O R  Y of your own.  You lived a life of shattered dreams, but you never quit.  We want you on board."

What's the catch?  I was trying NOT to get excited.

"Many of the authors we discover have their books turned into movies.  Your book afflicts the comforted and comforts the afflicted."  Wow, when she said that I knew why my book disturbed some people in their comfort zone.  Often, people are  quick to judge and I have been judged my whole life and lost many friends as a result.  When bad things keep happening to good people, many assume there is something wrong with that person.  It makes them uncomfortable.  I was beginning to understand why so many hurting souls sought me out for an encouraging word.  They knew I would be empathetic.  Everything was becoming clearer by the moment.

She continued to tell me all the perks - and there were many.  I will share them with you as they happen.  In October, I will be attending a formal Gala Affair in Washington D.C.   The prestigious people of influence who will be there made my mouth drop open.  I was pinching myself.  Could this really be happening.  "It's your turn!"

What's the catch?

If that isn't enough, she dropped the bomb that I never expected.  "Although you get the profits from all your book sales, we raise the price by $10.  We take that $10 and give it to the Afghan Women's Fund which is a fund to help women who have been mutilated, set on fire, raped and sent to prison. We have also been able to save 20 girls from a sex-trafficking ring ranging in ages from 18 months to 14 years old."  People who buy your book will be giving to a great cause.  The magazine is here.

The tears flowed easily now.  My heart was breaking and rejoicing at the same time - knowing I would be part of a group that is making a difference.

It IS so much better to give than to receive, but I never expected to receive something of this magnitude.  This is just the beginning.  


I will be sharing more as things happen.  I hesitated sharing any of this because it feels like bragging. When I told my husband that it bothered me, he said I should stand on the rooftops and shout about it.  "It's YOUR turn!"  So I did -- hope you don't mind......

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