One of our best friends who started Virtueconomy has just helped launch this unbelievable campaign #whenshethrives. It’s about paying tribute to the women who power and enrich our world. In honour of this, I (Nikki) thought I would go ahead and make a personal tribute this week to the incredible woman in my life which you might have seen in last Saturday’s Two of Us column in the Good Weekend 🙂

I met Maria Carmen when I was just three days old.  She was enthusiastically waiting for my mum to bring me home from hospital. Maria Carmen started off as our house-keeper, but very quickly morphed into an integral part of our family. When I learned to speak, I couldn’t say ‘Maria Carmen’.  Instead, I called her Lala (and I still do).

On paper (and in reality), Lala has had an incredibly tragic life. She immigrated from Spain when she was 20 years old and built a life for herself here. Then it all came crumbling down when she found her husband hanged from the staircase of their family home in 1982 leaving her with two young children to raise. In 2002, her beautiful daughter suddenly died of a silent heart condition and her son followed only a year and a half later from a seizure.

Yet for someone who has faced as much adversity as her, she has the most incredible equanimity I have ever seen: she imbues sincere joy and love for others, yet can authentically express her sadness and grief when she needs to. She genuinely cares for people and revels in their success and always offers honest advice (which always comes from a good place). She is so full of life and literally draws a crowd around her wherever she goes. At the age of 78, she has the best social life of anyone I know. In fact, we threw her a party after I published a book about her life a couple of months ago and 160 of her friends came (some from inter-state)! And she does all this without ever hiding or suppressing her pain.

For me, she is living proof that it is not our circumstances which dictate our experience of life, but rather who we are in the face of those circumstances. Her courage, resilience, and wisdom is awe-inspiring and she continues to have a profound impact on my life and those around her. I feel it is my duty to be there for her now because I know that when she thrives, we all do.