Today we welcome Samantha White, psychotherapist, Positive Aging Coach, and memoirist. If her name sounds familiar, it’s because she shared a story with us last December. Today she tells us about writing and publishing her memoir, Someone to Talk To. Be sure to check out her blog, too, Peace, Purpose, and Joy.
I’m honored to be a guest here. Linda invited me to write about my memoir, Someone to Talk To: Finding Peace, Purpose and Joy After Tragedy and Loss; A Recipe for Healing from Trauma and Grief, and about the inspiration I received from the Book of Job. Obviously, I don’t keep my sentences or my book titles short, but I’ll do my best to say a lot in a small space.
One of the ingredients in my book’s Recipe for Healing is a spiritual belief system, a sense of some kind of meaning in life. When tragedy and loss—my husband’s mental illness, the end of our marriage, betrayal by the next man I loved, the violent death of my daughter—piled up and left me flattened, unable to function and wanting to die, I had no spirituality to support me. How to move from a complete lack of faith to finding something I could believe in?
Ironically, Spirit—or God, the Great Invisible, the Force—found me instead, and planted Itself right in front of me. I heard someone say, “God works through people,” and a light went on somewhere in my head. I realized that even if I didn’t believe in a Heavenly Creator, I could believe in the loving acts of people. A gift from a friend, a subscription to a gentle, non-dogmatic magazine of daily spiritual devotions, offered me an entrance to a spiritual belief I could accept. I became more aware of the acts of love bestowed upon me every day by caring people.
Then there was the Book of Job. All I knew about it was that it was a long, tedious read about suffering. But when I was looking for something to listen to in the car, I came across a recording of the play J.B., a modern retelling of the story read by the author, Archibald MacLeish. I started listening to it in snatches. It gripped me, pulled me in, held me to its great surprise finish. I had never known that Job’s suffering ended, that his life became filled with joy and riches, his pleasure in life restored, all because he persisted in his faith!
So I opted to believe that there was a Divine force that would manifest through the people in my life and carry me to a state of healing. The climb was hard and long, and throughout it all the story of my journey was forming. The words and sentences gathered in me for many years, until I felt driven to express and share them with others who might find hope and courage in my eventual healing and joy, as I had found in Job’s.
I wrote feverishly, driven from within, compelled not to waste all the pain from which there was so much to learn. I was overtaken by an urgency to get it published, dogged by the fear that I might die before completing the project, and repeatedly told my husband how to treat the manuscript if I didn’t live to finish it. To avoid losing time writing book proposals and seeking an agent or a publisher, I opted to self-publish.
When it was finally completed, a great weight lifted from me. I had learned and grown from tragedy and loss, captured my experience in words, and offered them up to share with others. To my utter surprise, the book received a 2012 Nautilus Book Award in the category of Grieving/Death & Dying.
To me it is not as much about Grief and Death as it is about Healing—mine, and that of its readers. People tell me that they find it hard to put down, satisfying to read, and inspirational. I like to think it has wings taking it wherever it needs to go, recommended and given as gifts by those who find something in the story that speaks to them, that feels worth passing along.
Writing it was among the toughest, most draining, most rewarding things I have ever done. The only thing greater in all those aspects was the actual experience it relates. Taken in totality, it justifies and honors the pain that motivated all of it.
Do you have questions for Samantha? If so, leave them in the comments section below, or send an e-mail to grandmaletters [at] aol [dot] com (replace [at] with @ and replace [dot] with a period) and please write “Question for Samantha” in the subject line (so I’ll know it’s not spam). Thanks.