GUEST BLOG POST: Flipsides by Annette Herfkens, Later Mom and Author, Turbulence (Book Excerpt)

annettehOnce upon a time, I wanted to go see my fiancé in Vietnam. I had to postpone the trip. Unlucky.
I went one month later. Via Hong Kong. Uncharacteristically, I did not miss my flight, even though it left two hours earlier than planned. Lucky. If I had missed it, I might not have been on that domestic flight in Vietnam and I would not have crashed into that mountain. Unlucky.
I survived. Lucky.
My fiancée died. Everyone else did too. Very unlucky.
I found love again. Very lucky. I may be losing it. Unlucky.
I also made lots of money. Lucky. I spent half, lucky enough, but I ended up losing the other half in 2008. Unlucky. I got two beautiful children. Very lucky. One turned out to be autistic. Unlucky. He has shown me a depth in human life in a way a typical boy would not have done. How lucky!
So what does that make me? Lucky or unlucky?

There is a flip side to any situation. When you look back on unfortunate things that have happened, you can always find something good in the misfortune.
For me, everything got much easier when I started to see the advantage of disadvantage, and vice versa. To own my luck, both good and bad.
Now I can’t help noticing how the more fortunate take ownership of their blessings.
“Everyone makes his own bed, so they should lie in it,” they say, taking credit for their soft sheets and good health, their happy marriages or successful children. When they define, discuss, and judge the less fortunate, they seem to find a reason to hold them responsible for their fate.
This blame must surely be rooted in fear: “If it’s not his/her own fault, it could happen to me.” Finding fault gives the illusion of control. “If the mother of that drug addict is to blame, it won’t happen to my son.” Or: “He got cancer out of stress, a bad diet, a karmic debt.”
But pain gives depth, and even “dysfunction” brings its own brand of love, with an intensity that functional families can’t always understand. That is the flip side to good fortune: you can miss out on the possible benefit of experiencing hardship. But by achieving compassion, the fortunate don’t have to experience misfortune to acquire depth; they import it for free, without the misery. And the less fortunate don’t get an extra kick in the gut by being blamed, frowned at, looked down upon, and excluded.
If the fortunate would see the limitations of their luck, perhaps they would not judge, or pity. They would be less fearful and, thus, more open and more compassionate. True compassion strips away superior-inferior feelings. You walk in the other person’s shoes and see through the other person’s eyes without thinking of yourself as being on a different level.
All you have to do is focus on the other person, put yourself in his or her shoes and forget about yourself for a few minutes. Completely. Don’t think. Compassion comes from the heart.
Just flip sides, and everyone is up.

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turbulenceAnnette Herfkens is the sole survivor of a 1992 airplane disaster in Vietnam. She survived eight days alone in the jungle among the bodies of her fiancé and fellow passengers, sustaining herself by collecting rainwater.
What followed was an improbable Hollywood love story. At home, her family had come to accept that Annette had perished with the other passengers. Obituaries were published in newspapers and arrangements made for her funeral. But her colleague and co- head trader, Jaime, refused to believe she was dead, and with supernatural conviction flew to Vietnam to find her and bring her back home. She ended up marrying him. The couple settled in an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and have two beautiful children.
Enduring tragedy once does not make one immune to further difficulties in life. Annette’s younger child, Max, turned out to be autistic. But after absorbing the initial blow to the future she had envisioned, Annette’s heart and eyes were opened to a different kind of love.
Annette was raised in The Netherlands, where she studied at Leiden University. After an internship with the United Nations in Santiago, Chile, she became an executive trainee for ING Bank which stationed her in New York and London. She then moved to Banco Santander in Madrid, where she was promoted to Managing Director and later sent to New York.
In Turbulence, Annette finally tells her story to the world after years of resisting media attention. As one of the few female international bankers of her time Annette broke down professional barriers; by writing this book she overcomes her personal barriers as well. As a banker she was known for composing the shortest memos possible; yet in Turbulence she writes poetically, with both depth and humor, about love, survival and acceptance of what cannot be changed.

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