It was 3:28am exactly last night, or rather this morning, as I was tossing and turning in my hot bedroom, rueing the day I had smugly declared “I live near the beach on L.A.’s west side, I don’t need air conditioning!” that I began to plod irretrievably down the shoulda-coulda road. You know the one – “I should’ve taken that other job, my life would be so much better now!” or “Why did I ever believe that guy? And why on earth did I marry him?” It’s a road down which I am prone to travel despite the fact that I know full well that it is a) useless to look backwards and b) not healthy, and c) keeps one, okay me, stuck back there rather than moving forward. And then the voice came to me.
“Oh, honey, stop … can we talk?”
You know who that is. Joan, baby!! The late, great, fearless comedienne, Joan Rivers, who seems to me was the queen of overcoming bad breaks, of working her ass off until a downturn or setback was re-molded into an up. In essence, she was the queen of making lemonade out of lemons.
When Joan left her gig as permanent Guest Host of Johnny Carson’s classic The Tonight Show to pursue her own TV show – with her then husband and professional partner – who could blame her? I would so have done the same thing! But apparently Johnny did not agree, and famously never spoke to her again, which by all accounts broke her heart. Shortly thereafter, when her own show was cancelled, she was left high and dry, and many might have counted her out.
But no. Not Joan.
She rallied, breaking ground into the world of stand-up, even more a man’s world back then. Even after her husband’s suicide, she seemed to become increasingly unstoppable, as though the doubters were fueling her determination — never mind the plastic surgery, the one-liners and quips so bold they could take your breath away (“Did she really just say that?!”), Joan forged her way into the upper echelons of the comedy world, not to mention the jewelry line, red carpet commentating, various home shopping endeavors, and on and on. Joan blazed many trails, and I imagine her rallying cry when the world tossed troubles her way, would have been “Ha! Is that all you got?!”
But what stands out for me, and what calmed me enough to roll back over at 3:29 this morning, was the realization that through it all – the jokes, the heartbreaks, the gossip – Joan had moxie. Being a public figure, her choices, her challenges, her “failures” (we now call them “learning moments” and “opportunities”), were all out there in broad daylight for the world to see. And I am sure she had her dark moments in private,
So when my own “learning moments,” those choices I’ve made that still make me cringe, get me tossing and turning in the wee hours, I am going to “Joan Rivers” them. That’s right – Joan Rivers, The Verb. Meaning, “To say ‘Oh yeah, world?”‘ I’ll show you – watch me!” And then proceed to achieve smashing success.” To make Joan lemonade, a sweet outcome from a sour start.