As a psychologist, I have spent the better part of my last twenty years maintaining my privacy. Early training clearly taught me that while the therapeutic relationship between a psychologist and a client is often critical to the change/healing process, personal information about me was not relevant. I never had pictures of my children in my office and took special care during waiting room chit chat to limit topics about me.
With years of experience of doing therapy, I have learned to strike the right balance between my early training of sharing nothing personal to the belief that some information is helpful in establishing and maintaining a therapeutic relationship.
All of that said it is clear to see why writing a memoir for me was like mailing my diary (if I had one) to the world. The word vulnerable does not even begin to capture the feeling I experienced when I woke at 2:00am the day that the book was to be released thinking for the first time about the faces of those who would read my stories. I worried about my neighbors and my father reading about my sex life. I worried that readers would not be interested in the stories. I worried about revealing information about my marriage but mostly I worried about the impact that the process of revealing would have on my professional life.
Since the release of the book just six weeks ago, I never expected that the book would inspire people in the way that it has or to have what some have called “synchronistic events” or others have called “spiritual guidance”. Either way they have all enriched me in ways I could never have expected when I started to write a memoir.
There was the story of a woman sitting on a plane reading on her kindle and my daughter Katie and her friend Kelli in the seats next to her reading, “Greedy for Life”. They struck up a conversation and the woman shared with them that she was traveling back home after just burying her mother two days ago. She inquired what the girls were reading. My daughter shared that it was a book her mother wrote about families and gratitude. She then offered the woman the book and suggested that she may find it helpful. While fighting back tears, the woman accepted the gift and said, “I think my mom had some hand in my good fortune of selecting the seat next to you.”
Of the 829 people who entered a book giveaway that I offered, one of the winners from Arizona shared the following, “I have struggled with the loss of my husband of 35-years and read book after book on grief and “going on” but haven’t come across one of “what comes next” your book gives me an answer I haven’t found elsewhere. And, my husband was an avid Cleveland Indians fan even up to his death of cancer so this was a little private gift. It made me smile.”
In my late night self-absorbed worries about what readers would think of me, it hadn’t occurred to me that the messages in the stories would resonate with so many. It is a reminder of how connected we all are to each other.
I have written three other clinical books designed to help and guide both professionals and the general public through issues of depression, heart disease and behavioral change, but none has had the impact that this little memoir has had for so many. I never expected the outpouring of hundreds of stories and experiences that have come to me over the last six weeks along with the numerous opportunities to give talks on the themes from the book. And, I clearly never expected that writing a memoir may turn out to be one of the most therapeutic and healing things I have done over the past twenty years.