We wanted to share an amazing piece written by one of our RADiCAL women, Seni Lennibur. We hope you find this as powerful and inspirational as we did. Please enjoy.
One of my all-time favorite movies is Apollo 13, based on the true story of the aborted Apollo mission to the moon and the ensuing challenge of returning the three astronauts to Earth safely. I’ve watched the movie dozens of time and still never fail to be inspired by the can-do attitude of the Lead Flight Director at mission control, Gene Kranz.
During one part of the movie, Kranz is given a rundown of everything that is going wrong with the spacecraft. There’s a beat of silence as the direness of the situation is brought to the forefront. Kranz responds by saying,
“Let’s look at this thing from a standpoint of status. What do we have on the spacecraft that’s good?”
As an attorney, I’ve used that quote to guide myself numerous times. When I’m preparing for trial and my case looks weak, I ask myself, “What do I have for this case that’s good?” Forget everything that’s working against me. What’s working in my favor? How can I use what’s going well for me to overcome what’s not going well?
Unsurprisingly, I also used this phrase to shift my focus to the positive while going through my divorce. My world was falling apart. My situation was dire. My “ship was bleeding to death” (another quote from Apollo 13). But I would ask myself, “What do I have in my life that’s good?” There was so much in my life that was bad during that time. So much was painful. So much was unjust. So much was wrong. But when I forced myself to look at my situation from the standpoint of what was going well in my life, I was surprised to learn that there was more for me than against me. I was healthy. My kids were healthy. My children loved me. My family loved me. My friends loved me. My dog loved me. I had meaningful friendships and relationships. I had good employment, a roof over my head, food on my plate, etc.
In another great part of the movie, a bunch of men at flight control are trying to come up with a flight plan to bring the astronauts home, and they’re arguing over what can or can’t be done. Gene Kranz says, “I don’t care about what anything was DESIGNED to do; I care about what it CAN do.” They had made lots of intricate and complicated plans for landing on the moon and had designed the equipment accordingly. But they weren’t going to land on the moon anymore. Mission aborted. They had to figure out how to adapt all of their work and plans and designs to be used instead to bring the astronauts home.
When I was going through my divorce, all of my plans for my present and future were ruined. It was shocking and, oh, so painful, and I still grieve the loss today. But I learned that everything I had built and learned along the journey of my marriage could still be used to guide me into a future that I didn’t anticipate, didn’t want, didn’t expect. I had to focus not on what I had PLANNED to do, but on what I still CAN do. I can still raise and love my kids. I can still travel. I can meet new people and do new things. And while it won’t ever be how I imagined or planned, it will still be good and fulfilling.
While portrayed slightly differently in the movie, in reality Gene Kranz was asked during the mission whether this was going to be NASA’s darkest hour. He responded, “No, it’s going to be our finest hour.” And he was right. Against all odds, the astronauts returned to Earth safely. Apollo 13 was called the “successful failure.” Failure because the mission to land on the moon was aborted; successful because no American life was lost in space. I’d like to think of my life that way, a successful failure. Failure because my mission to grow old with the husband I had married so young was so cruely and unexpectedly aborted. But successful because I overcame. I adapted. I’m still alive and loving life and no failed mission can take that from me.
2 Kings 6:15-16 reminds us that, even when we can’t see it, there is more for us than against us. And Philippians 4:8-9 reminds us to keep our thoughts focused on things that true, honest, just, pure and lovely in order to have peace. Finally, a quote I heard on the radio during the ugly, dark days at the beginning of my divorce journey had such a meaningful impact on me, that I wrote it on a sticky note and stuck it to my computer at work. I still have it there over 4 years later. The quote is: “Don’t let the pain of those who have hurt you outweigh the love of those who have not.” I had to change my focus in order to let the good outweigh the bad. It didn’t happen overnight, of course. The pain of divorce was all-consuming in the beginning. But changing my focus was the key, and your program, Suzy, helped me to do that! So, thank you.