I was in Phoenix for a small wedding party.
Someone mentioned that at the table behind me was a distinguished guest.
I turned to see an affable, silver haired woman who happened to be retired Chief Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, an Arizonan, and one of the most powerful women in American history.
She happened to be great friends with the grandfather of the groom.
Sandra Day O’Connor was the first female member of the United States Supreme Court. (See photo of O’Connor receiving the Congressional Medal of Freedom in 2009.)
But what makes her even more special and powerful is the interesting way love manifested in her life and how she responded.
O’Connor retired from the Supreme Court in 2006 to be with her husband, John O’Connor, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.
O’Connor made the tough decision to put her husband in full time assisted living.
Having already lost her husband to Alzheimer’s, she lost her husband again when he fell in love with another patient at the assisted living home.
It’s actually quite common for married Alzheimer’s patients to fall in love because they have forgotten everyone and long for companionship.
Says one manager of an old age home in how families respond to these Alzheimer’s love affairs, “I’ve seen total extremes where the wife doesn’t understand, where families just fall apart.”
But Sandra Day O’Connor handled it with the utmost grace.
Said her son, “Dad was like a teenager in love. Mom would see him with his girlfriend, sitting on the porch-swing holding hands—Mom was thrilled.”
The Real Power
For those of us who entertain the idea of leaving a legacy and becoming a deeply powerful human, we should take a cue from Sandra Day O’Connor.
She embodies the rare level of power that knows when it has control, and when it does not.
As Gregory David Roberts writes in the book Shantaram,
“Love is the opposite of power. That’s why we fear it so much.”
Love comes to us in so many ways over the course of a lifetime. From jealousy to lust, rejection to romance, loneliness to aloneness.
Love stings, soothes, shocks and lulls.
What separates the powerful from the weak is an attitude—a commitment to never turn your back on love, especially during its scariest and loneliest manifestations.
Today is a good day to ask how you might have turned your back, given up, shied away or lost your swagger.
Today is a good day to remember: it’s not how we look or what we can give, but rather our attitude to stay open and keep dancing that makes us attractive, stylish, and powerful.
As Gregory David Roberts explains, “it is the mark of the age in which we live that style becomes the attitude, instead of the attitude becoming the style.”
So whether you are alone, married, dating, or vowing never to date again, what better day than today to open your heart…
…and remember, as a wise one said, that love is not an emotion, person, or relationship status. Rather, love is a state of awareness.
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Ed: Catherine Monkman