“Life is full of surprises,” Maria says.
A beautiful, vivacious dynamo, Maria left her marriage after 15 years of counseling and conflict. Only her 2 sisters and 1 girlfriend knew she’d been struggling. “I kept hoping the marriage would work,” she says. “In my heart, I knew it wouldn’t, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave. Call it Catholic guilt. Nobody promised me a rose garden.”
Maria (her name is changed to protect her family’s privacy) also stayed so long because her son is “intellectually disabled.” She waited until her son had a job and was living, with a similarly challenged friend, in his own apartment.
Soon after, Maria was invited to model in a fashion show supporting a local crisis center. She looked at the website of the organization. “Out of the blue,” she says, she came across an entry: 16 Warning Signs of Domestic Violence.
Troubled about her own marriage, Maria prayed for a sign. She got one. Her former husband threatened her.
“Reading the warning signs made me more aware and gave me the courage to leave when my ex threatened that last time. I grabbed what I could from the house and fled.”
That’s when the Godsigns began…
There was only one room left at the Hyatt Hotel. Maria’s girlfriend secured it for her.
Once there, sobbing and feeling lonely and unmoored, she received a call. A business colleague/tennis teammate said, “I’ve been thinking about you. Is everything okay?” Maria brought her up to date. Her friend said: “Come live with me ’til I sell my house.” Maria moved in. A week later, the house sold. But not to worry…
At a lecture, Maria ran into another friend, a real estate agent with an apartment listed for sale at a downtown high rise. The sellers wanted someone to live there until it sold. Maria moved in. 7 months later, the day she learned her current apartment had gone under contract, she received a call from another realtor. She said, “I found what you’re looking for.”
When Maria walked into the condo she bought (in a different downtown high rise), she realized it was just what she had dreamed about. “Oh, my God,” she exclaimed. “That’s where the Christmas tree was.” She walked to the window. “This is the view I imagined.” Maria had so clearly envisioned this very place that it took her 20 minutes to buy the furnishings.
In the gym of her first apartment building, Maria met a man. “We went for a walk, and as we talked I realized he’d been the Homecoming escort of my best girlfriend when she was Homecoming Queen in her high school. This gentle man supported me through my divorce.” (He’s still in the picture.)
Maria says, “So many things fell into place that I said to my sister, ‘Someone is watching over me.’ She said, ‘You have put out so much love in this world. That love is coming back to you.'” (I received some of that love. A while back Maria invited me to speak about my book, Godsigns, at her book club.)
Maria, a top real estate agent, threw frequent parties at the lovely, large house she once owned in Florida.
Fabulous shoes were Maria’s trademark. First invited to her home, I made a beeline for her shoe closet. Sure enough: dozens of pairs in colors that would have turned Imelda Marcos green with envy. Outside the closet hung a small sign: “One shoe can change your life.”
“I don’t miss my house,” Maria admits. “But I do miss my shoe closet.”
Nevertheless, she says, “Every day I wake up with a heart full of love and gratitude. Things fell into place, one after another. I didn’t have a chance to worry about being homeless. The only time I was lonely was the 1 day I spent at the Hyatt. I’m alive; I’m healthy; I love what I do. When you start paying attention, there are Godsigns all around.”
Recently I came across a sign that read: If you change nothing, nothing changes.
Thanks for the reminder, Maria. Your story will bring hope to many.