Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Women's Health

Font Size
A
A
A

Martha Stewart Comes Clean

continued...

I'm reminded of her extraordinary will, and of a remark she once made to Oprah: "I can almost bend steel with my mind," she said. I repeat it for her. "I got in trouble for that quote," she says. "But you have to think that way when you do the kinds of things that I have to do."

Of course, she brought more to her hard times than dead-on determination. If that were Stewart's chief survival technique, she would have been successful in life only as, say, a Marine drill sergeant. She approached difficulties with an enviable equilibrium — "The more you adapt, the more interesting you are," Stewart says — and a reliance on family. Daughter Alexis was "tremendously helpful," Stewart says. "Because I could discuss things with her, I could put up with everything. She's been through the fire with me." Stewart's love of physical activity stood her in good stead during her trial: "I'd go build my farm or plant a tree; I had lots of fabulous distractions."

She was also helped, then and after sentencing, by her gift for excising unhappy thoughts. "I'm a very good editor," she says. "I can edit out the bad, the hurtful." Indeed, she's said that she actually doesn't remember exactly what crime she was prosecuted for. More than any other quality, what seems to have sustained Stewart in tough times is an innate belief in herself. "Just knowing in your heart that you are a good person — an honest, good person — can get you through an awful lot of crap," she says.

At Alderson, Stewart reached out to the other prisoners, urging them into activities. "We'd have picnics" — Stewart and the other prisoners were free to roam the prison camp's 100-plus acres during the day — "and we'd have dinner parties," she says. She and about eight other inmates regularly exercised together. "We did 500 sit-ups every night, and I taught yoga." She still practices yoga, and works out with a trainer at 6:30 a.m. three days a week. "And I told stories about what it's like to work and about good business behavior. I was a role model for a lot of these women."

She also got to know many of the children who visited their mothers in prison. "They'd come up to her and show her something they had made," Susan Lyne recalls. Once, in the visiting room, Lyne saw Stewart watching a little boy sloppily stuff a board game into the closet. "He looked up and saw her. All she had to say was his name, and he started putting all the pieces where they belonged." I ask Stewart if she's done any work on sentencing and prison reform, which she discussed in a letter posted on the Internet while she was in Alderson. "I am outspoken about it, but I don't want to concentrate on it now," she says. Building her company has priority at the moment, and she's loving every minute of the long hours she puts in. "I went through three years of extreme torture, and now I'm feeling so much better," she says thoughtfully, with no distress. It's not her way to brood over unpleasantness or the past. Stewart is all about relishing the present and looking ahead to the future. "Aren't these delicious?" she says, offering a plateful of shortbread cookies that had appeared with the pie. "Take some home."

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Today on WebMD

woman looking in mirror
Article
Woman resting on fitness ball
Evaluator
 
woman collapsed over laundry
Quiz
Public restroom door sign
Slideshow
 
Couple with troubles
Article
cat on couch
Evaluator
 
Young woman being vaccinated
Slideshow
woman holding hand to ear
Slideshow
 
Blood pressure check
Slideshow
mother and daughter talking
Evaluator
 
intimate couple
Article
puppy eating
Slideshow