The Year I Saved My Downsized Soul
Why did you write this book?
I began the year of saving my (downsized) soul thinking that I had recklessly broken my very core. My own salvation began the moment I took up my pen every night after my long days at work to record my experiences. I instinctively knew I needed to do something to make sense of what was happening to me. While I’d written 15 books over the past 25 years, many of them inspirational and advice books, this was not a work I intended for publication. I literally wrote this book to save my soul—and it wasn’t until the year I set out to save my (downsized) soul was nearly over that I thought to share this with Patti Breitman, an old friend, and my former agent, wondering if there might be something in this for others. Outside of my own personal journals, I’d never written anything so exposed. Had I shown too much of myself? Her response excited and alarmed me. “This is a brave book” were her exact words.
What do you want your readers to learn or take away from reading this book?
Even successful people are not immune to undeserved hard knocks. However, whether we prosper or not ultimately has more to do with how we respond to the things that happen to us than the things, themselves. Through my own trials and tribulations, I learned that it is possible to be both downsized and spiritually healthy at the same time. Here are the ten key take-aways I learned during this year that I wanted to share with others.
1. All you can hope to control, however long you have and in whatever the circumstances, is whether you will bring your best or worst to bear.
2. There are times when all you can do is remember to breathe.
3. It is the willingness to engage in the struggle for what really matters that merits God’s intervention—not how deserving you think you are, nor whether you manage to emerge unwounded.
4. Because our futures are open and free, many influences contribute to how our lives will unfold over time. Ironically, your ability to hope becomes one of those factors, carrying just enough weight to make the difference.
5. Not everything that happens is a message. Sometimes a rat is only a rat.
6. Embrace the possibility that many things are bound to get in your way. Success comes not in spite of the things that happen to you but because you have grown large enough to embrace it all.
7. It is in the void that the status quo has the lightest hold on us. Released from the constructs of our everyday life, we have the least to lose. In the void, we are freest to make changes.
8. You don’t need an upbeat or even a brave attitude to make progress. You just need discipline, putting resumes out, making phone calls, following up leads and the like. This you can do happy or sad, anxious or full of faith.
9. It’s the economy that’s broken, not you.
10. When you give up the illusion of control, it’s true that you can’t always stop bad things from happening. But you can’t stop good things from happening, either.
What research did you do to write this book?
I have my doctorate in the history and critical theory of religion from Vanderbilt, which provided me with a solid foundation in terms of understanding the psychology, sociology and anthropology of what makes people grow and change spiritually, especially through crisis. (My areas of specialization are ritual studies, conversion theory and the transmission of beliefs from generation to generation.) Plus, I’ve written 15 books based on my studies of spiritual masters from multiple religions, eras and geographies: Sufi, Zen, Chassidic, The I Ching…you name it. That said, the only ultimate research I did was to use myself as a guinea pig, to see how my spiritual knowledge fared when personally put to the test. Short-term: not to well. Long-term: stronger than ever.
Who was this book written for?
Honestly, it was based on my own journals so you’d have to say it was written for myself. Only when I showed my journal to a friend in the publishing field did she tell me that this had value for others. The people who are responding to this book represent a surprising range of ages and circumstances, although ground zero are people after 50 who have been laid off.
What problem does this book solve for your reader?
At a minimum, it will provide the knowledge that if they are in a similar position, they’re not alone. I’ve heard that my story is very validating.
What has been the reaction to the book?
Of all my books, this has received the most enthusiastic response. People tell me they sit down and read it in one sitting, and that when they put it down, they feel better about themselves, their prospects and life.
What is your background/expertise in this field?
In addition to my credentials in academia, I’m Sr. Strategist with VibrantNation.com, a peer-to-peer information-sharing website for smart, passionate women 50+. Because of the vulnerable, honest, optimistic dialogue engaged in by our members, I felt encouraged that if I were to share my story with others, it would be well-received…that I wasn’t some kind of loser, but rather, part of a larger movement, so to speak.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your book or experience in writing it?
The main reason I ended up in corporate life, in the first place, was that I had put my writing career behind me and I needed to find a new way to make a living. It’s not that I didn’t love being an author—I always feel most passionate about life when immersed in the writing process. But I felt that a new time was dawning for authors and readers, alike. The era of authority telling us how we ought to live our lives is definitively over. What we crave, rather, is personal experience, to touch it and feel it—not principles shared from the top down, but the raw, gritty stuff of the fully-lived life.