Book Excerpt: "Remarkable Changes"

Jane Seymour, an acclaimed actress with more than 50 motion pictures and television programs to her credit, has written her third book, Remarkable Changes. Seymour says this latest work revolves around seven signposts of change — stops we all visit, and perhaps revisit, on the turbulent voyage of life. Read chapter one of Remarkable Changes.

Chapter One: Take an Honest Look at Yourself

Examine Your Roots

When everything seems up in the air, and I don't instantly know what to do next, I've found that if I take an honest look at myself and at my predicament, I have a stronger starting point from which to make decisions. If I do not, my decisions all seem to be off center.

Taking a hard look at myself isn't something I was born knowing how to do, but something I came to understand a bit of as I was growing up. However, I don't believe I fully understood just what this particular signpost meant until I was nearly forty years old, and I was faced with one of the most painful episodes in my life — divorce and near bankruptcy all at once. As my life crumbled in little pieces around me, and I found myself at a total loss as to what to do about it, I had no choice but to take that honest look at who I was, and then at what was needed.

Luckily, long before that, there was the groundwork lovingly laid by my parents, who helped me to develop an honest and positive image of myself — one that started with understanding and accepting who I was.

While I must admit I haven't always acted on that image, still, so many times it has proved to be the element deep inside myself that has allowed me to find a way to rise above even the most painful episodes.

I was the firstborn, and I came into the world a year and a day after my parents were married. When I was a child, I used to tease them, embarrass them in public, by saying simply that I was born the day after they were married, ignoring the year that had passed. Of course in those days it seemed very shocking. My mother, Mieke, who is Dutch and from the town of Deventer in Holland, was in her thirties, when she had me, and she was very beautiful, with dark, dark hair, high cheekbones, and beautiful eyes. My father, Dr. John Frankenberg, had jet-black hair and a little mustache, and he was often mistaken for David Niven.

After my birth in 1951, my two sisters appeared in rapid succession. Sally is one year and four months younger than I, and Annie is one year and two months younger than Sally. Our first home outside of London was very small, with just two bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen, in the not-so-nice part of Wimbledon. My mother had a home business at the time, selling wine, tobacco, and other luxury items to the foreign embassies in London, so our tiny house was filled with people working all day. My two sisters and I shared one bedroom, sleeping in beds that folded up against the walls when they weren't in use. When all the beds were down, it was almost impossible to walk from one side of the room to the other! We had a long garden behind the house that led down to some railroad tracks — and we truly thought we lived in heaven.

When I was about ten, we moved to a large Victorian house in a nicer part of Wimbledon, and now we really thought we had it all, with an even larger garden, where we grew vegetables and flowers, and lovely neighbors all around. The house still stands, and looks just as it did then — a happy reminder of my teen years. We finally settled in a beautiful house in Hillingdon Middlesex, not far from Heathrow Airport, and nearly in the country. My mother, who is eighty-eight now, still lives in that house, and she fills it with people and parties at every opportunity. Sadly, my father died in 1991, in October, just before my mother's birthday.

I was very close to both of my parents, but particularly to my father, who treated me like an eldest son. We didn't have any boys in the family, so I didn't realize until later on that sometimes in those days the boy in the family would be given the better education and taken more seriously in terms of what his future and prospects would be. I felt I got that kind of attention, especially from him, and I look back with gratitude at what he offered me. In many ways, both my father and mother led me to believe I could be anything I dreamt of being.

As young girls, my sisters and I had a lot of adventures. My father would read to us from the tales of the Greek heroes as we sat on his lap; that was the big treat. My parents were very keen on the theater, ballet, and opera, and we all listened to opera from a very early age. My father had been the doctor for a number of the opera singers at Covent Garden. Sometimes the singers would give us tickets — or sometimes we'd purchase the cheapest ones ourselves and sit high up in the theater looking down on the expensive sections, waiting to see who hadn't shown up so we could upgrade our seats at the intermission. We would go into London on the weekends and he would show us the architecture of the city and take us to the museums and to the library. We weren't wealthy, so luckily a lot of these entertainments were free.

My father worked for the National Health system, so although he worked very hard he never made a lot of money. His income was never remotely like what people in America think all physicians make. As a family, we belonged to an organization called the Scientific Society, which stemmed, I'm certain, from the fact that my father was a surgeon and my mother, who was passionate about all science, had worked as a nurse before she met him …

The foregoing is excerpted from Remarkable Changes by Jane Seymour. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022