First, this: I love TED Talks and I press play on them regularly while I work out. If you find me sobbing, laughing or zoning into the tiny screen of my phone with my mouth wide open, I am just watching another TED Talk. No matter how different from me the speaker is or how new the topic, nearly every time I watch one, I connect and it shifts me. Here, I will share the best of the TED Talks I've seen and what I think single moms can learn from tuning in.
Tania Luna [watch below] spent nine months in the hospital after the Chernobyl disaster made it rain black. She says her sister's hair fell out in clumps. And when visitors were barred from the medical center, her mother bribed the staff and snuck in to see her daughters at night, wearing a borrowed nurse's uniform.
Several years later, Luna's family was granted asylum in the United States. She thought the homeless shelter where they were placed was a hotel - one with rats, but a hotel nonetheless. And when she finds a rusted, sticky penny on the shelter floor, she palms it, feeling like it is a lucky fortune that has fallen into her hand.
In five quick minutes, Luna relays story after story, pictures of misfortune that made her feel rich beyond her circumstances, country, dreams.
It made me think of the day black rain fell all around me, when I sobbed because the obvious end of my marriage felt like my limbs being torn from my body. As that world came to a disastrous end, I felt lost and pained and I had no idea what it would look like to move on or rebuild or feel whole again.
And then I started to see the pennies stuck to the floor. As I healed, as I took tiny steps forward, as I placed one block on top of the other, I slowly began to recognize the million bucks in my own pocket.
My fortune came from friends who ranted and cussed along with me, who held my hand if I spontaneously cried, who took me out for drinks and walks and gently reminded me to eat. A full-time job, then the one of my dreams, came to me like the Bazooka gum Luna describes, through another friend. A spot opened up for my son at a wonderful preschool, the last place for a kid his age for that fall. With the new job, I could afford the school, and so one gift became two.
My parents were the lottery, offering me haven in their home for as long as I needed, writing me checks to pay bills until I found work, sitting with me in endless attorney meetings and court dates, packing up all of my stuff when it was finally time to get my own place.
When I told my story, strangers left comments on my blog and sent emails of encouragement. I'd thought it was enough just to have a platform to share my experiences, and so the validation and support weighed me down with gold.
During the darkest times, the hours when the fretting played in a seemingly endless loop in my head, when I desperately needed sleep, coins seemed to appear from nowhere. I'd open a book to a passage that could have been written just for me, composed perfectly for that one crisis. A truck would drive by with a word that soothed my fears. Someone would call with spontaneous and soothing things to say. That one song would play on the radio.
No wand, no spell, no piles of cash, no fairytale resolution. It was choosing to look in the dirtiest, scariest, rat-infested places and see the glimmer of good fortune. It wasn't easy. It didn't always work - sometimes sulking or sobbing is necessary. But when it did, I felt full and lucky and brimming with hope.
When you watch this TED talk and hear Tania Luna talk about why she felt like a millionaire in the most unlikely of times and places, does it remind you of the pennies you've found? When have you, single mamas, found your fortune in the darkest hours?
Have a TED Talk that has astounded/moved/inspired/irritated/humored you? Leave the link in the comments or submit you're own TED Tuesday post here.