Tuesday, 2 December 2014

A Series of Fortunate Events

Not even the mighty YouTube can help me find a Woody Woodpecker cartoon episode that used to be one of my childhood favourites.
Walter Lantz Animation studio - Universal Pictures
In it, with each hasty step he takes, Woody gets into more and more trouble, being chased by a "bad guy" vulture, while the narrator calmly chimes in, after each scene: “None of this would have happened if only Woody reported this to the police”. 
The Belgrade kids I grew up with will remember the magical time of 7:15 PM when a single cartoon aired each day on the first of the two TV channels, right before the evening news. You read that right -- two. Welcome to the ’70’s in Serbia. 
TV Belgrade cartoon announcement - channel 1
 The narrator’s line in Serbian goes: “Svega ovoga ne bi bilo, da je Pera odmah otišao u policiju”. All throughout my childhood, this line was something we used while playing, getting into more trouble, trying to sound as calm as the cartoon narrator. Little did I know, that the same line would become one of the best metaphors of my life.

Here is how: I am here. Now. It is safe to say I am ridiculously happy. As in: some days it gets a bit ridiculous, but most days I am happy. Very happy. 

How did it happen? How does one get to claim happiness? 

One of the go-to wisdom souls I look up to when I have a matter to resolve is Martha Beck, a life coach. She might not yet be aware of it, but she sits on my invisible Board of Directors, often advising me on how to interpret certain life events (Martha, you rock!). In her book “Stirring by Starlight” she describes the technique called Telling Your Life Story Backward (click for work-book).

Technically, it’s what Woody Woodpecker cartoon kept suggesting @7:15 PM.

At the time of this writing, I'm 45 and living the life I have always wished for: crazy proud of my oldest son - an engineering student, totally smitten with my husband and daily entertained/exhausted by the two little “LEGO” & “Thomas the Tank Engine” obsessed boys. I have incredible friends. My close family - we're really close. My far-away family in Serbia - we're really close too! People I work with - the best. Even my in-laws rock! We share our time between bustling Toronto and Florida sunshine. #LOVEIT

But, how did I get here? If last week's post sounded too easy (it's because it really IS easy), here is the Martha Beck's/Woody Woodpecker's way in deciphering life's landmark moments. It is fun, empowering and very revealing. You should give it a try!

My TOP 10 seemingly unfortunate events and how they channeled this Happily Ever RIGHT NOW:

10. Western Medicine failed me, dictating that: “For the rest of your life you will live with debilitating muscle weakness and fainting spells.”
I had to un-learn what I learned in pharmacy school, seek alternate help and put my trust in a Chinese Medicine man. He healed my symptoms in a jiffy and cleared the way for two fabulously easy, late-in-life pregnancies, suggesting to me that ‘ticking biological clock’ might not exist after all. I am a mother of three!

9. West Nile Virus which left me sick and in bed for 6 months.
Instead of the typical dating scenario of 'who called who first' & exploring city’s shee-shee-foo-foo restaurants, I truly got to know my Mr.Right Now (and husband-to-be) as he continued to visit me at home. He would sit by my bedside and bring his dog for my son to play with. We fell in love in between my 40+ C spikes of fever. His wooing me with watermelon instead of flowers, became one of our favourite 'dating' stories! #CHEAPDATE

8. My mother battled breast cancer (and she is a survivor!)
My mom is my bestie - this was the scariest thing I have ever encountered. When her oncologist confirmed the diagnosis, I excused myself and fainted in the hallway of the Princess Margaret Hospital. This led to my “trial by fire” initiation to Life Coaching - many years, courses and clients later, I remain fulfilled and inspired by how much a little extraordinary work can do for me and everyone around me.

7. My close encounter with the beast called Depression
Many years of the adrenaline-laden life-and-death decision making finally came to claim their due. It's Saturday and I am in bed, unable to get up and wishing the mattress would open up and swallow me. I need the king size feather duvet wrapped tightly on top of me so that no one can hear me sob. Especially not my son. Feelings of guilt and shame are suffocating me. This teaches me how to ask for help and then to humbly receive all the help I could get. This also brought me my life’s BFF. Love you L.! 

6. I divorced for the second time
It simply didn’t work. The marriage. But, boy, did it work on the true life-long friendship side of things! Not only for me, but for my son too. Till this day he calls him dad. They have so much in common. This shattered the last stigma of my life’s unfavourable statistics (aka double divorcee with a child) and introduced the big picture, big time. This whole writing idea is his. Big hug M.! 

Just epic... Beat this Mini Coupe!
5. Immediately after we immigrated to Canada, the biggest snow in 100 years dumped on Toronto. Mel Lastman, then Mayor, called the army to shovel, as the busiest highway had to close down. 
Our 16th anniversary of being 'adopted' is in December.  
Thank You, Canada! 
Day one though, while still jet-lagged, I got a job, a map and a company car. Up to that point, I have never driven a car (other than a Yugo in driving school). My first year I would bank 60k in mileage… the first 30k through the XXL winter of 1999. #KICKASSDRIVER

4. NATO threats bombing Belgrade, Canadian Embassy moves out of Serbia, taking my file somewhere.
This story has a Fairy God-Mother -- my sister, a recent immigrant, a pharmacist, who walked into the HR office of the company she worked for, and ‘sold’ me so well, they decided to interview me and then offer me a job. It gets better: they actually hired a top-notch immigration lawyer, who did the impossible even before I earned for a bottle of water. He dug out our misplaced file from the Embassy in Vienna, refreshed my case and mailed our visa’s, leaving my toddler and me 48h to pack our lives into four suitcases and leave Serbia. You kreyZ M.!

Three months after we left, NATO bombed Belgrade

3. I lost 50% of my salary as a pharmacist, to fellow Bosnian-refugee colleagues, making it impossible to afford more than diapers, one chicken and a dozen eggs per month.
Where do I go with my baby? Stay in the city? Move to the countryside? Immigrate? Cutting roots at age 29 was scary. Leaving my sick parent was guilt-ridden. Gambling my relationship to the long-distance version of it was heart-wrenching. Still, staying in Belgrade became impossible.

2. At the receiving end of hurtful gossip 
My baby was a few months old and I was eager to catch the first rays of spring sunshine, while sporting the stroller my parents bought. As I proudly pushed my boy through our neighbourhood, two middle-aged women observed us sitting on a nearby bench. I didn’t know them. Passing them, I made a little nod as they were still looking at me intently. Thinking I was out of earshot, one said: “That’s the one I was telling you about - her husband left her when she was 9 months pregnant! Can you believe it???” #IGOTTOGETOUTOFHERE became a thought

1. Those women were right: My first husband did leave me when I was 9 months pregnant
This month, we will be marking the 19th anniversary with a Texas sized T-bone steak, BBQ'd to perfection and topped up with onions, a great Serbian culinary tradition. None of this wondrous life would have been possible without him ditching us. Thank you I.S.!!!
“None of this would have happened if only Woody reported this to the police”
Photographs, especially the ones prior to the digital era of the 'selfie' capture mostly happy occasions - travels, celebrations, accomplishments. A new car. Looking closely into them, it is not that easy to find out much about your once younger self, besides the company we kept, sense of fashion and perhaps, eating habits.

Instead of photographs, it's better to look at life as a mini-memoir, in order to capture the real transformation. A fine lace made out of hardships and heartbreaks. 
Before we all get caught up again in the New Year's resolution frenzy, let's zoom in on the 'rough times', in retrospect. Tell your own life story backward, but no awfulizing allowed! Honour each item as a badge of honour that it is. If used wisely, they can all lead to recognizing remarkable in life. So, wake up. Rise up. Speak up. Un-learn. Reframe. Grow out of the confines of the 'small & safe' life. Ditch the 'small and safe'! 
Then realize that life is nothing but a series of fortunate events. 


  1. Hey Marina, Came across this article on 5 Tips for Writing a Memoir from the Publishers Weekly e-newsletter and thought you might find it interesting:


  2. Thank you Sara! Looking forward to our Tea Time in the City with W & B & any other brave souls ;-)

  3. predivno. skoro se rasplakah

    ali, dobro što si tazbinu stavla na kraj opisa sreće, ali gde smo tu mi?!?! mislim na prijatelje...

  4. Pa fora i jeste u tome da se sreca pronalazi na neocekivanim mestima, bas kao npr. bivsa tazbina. A prijatelji... samo polako. I'll keep blogging, you keep reading, there is a special place for special friends!