Another remarkable BBC story in the wee hours inspired and compelled me; an interview with an Afghan refugee speaking about his narrow escape from the death grip of the Taliban, actually from death itself. Knowing he was in perilous danger, of survival necessity he had planned his precarious flight from the country. He describes his painful good-by to his dearest friend. His friend, understandably desperately worried about him, had wrapped his own passport in a little case. In the course of their heartfelt exchange he placed it securely in the speaker’s left side chest shirt pocket. The speaker tried to decline, but his dear friend, insisted that he might need it, and gently patted his friend’s left chest pocket. Hugging goodbye, they did not want to let go, not knowing if they would see each other again.
Sure enough, the protagonist was apprehended by a band of Taliban, badly shot up, left for dead, but he wasn’t. He woke up in a hospital, badly injured and not knowing quite what had happened. He had lost an eye and numerous bullets had to be excavated from various parts of his body. But no bullet had penetrated his heart. His friend’s passport in its little case, however, was riddled with shrapnel. By tucking the passport securely in his left chest pocket with great love, is friend had saved his life. Obviously, he recovered and healed enough to find his way out of the country to tell this story of angels on BBC. Moved, almost to tears, I was grateful to be up in the middle of the night to hear it.
When I was a little girl, I use to love to watch Queen for a Day. It was not exactly a “game show,” but had real life contestants competing for some larger than life prize. They were all women with tragic, hard luck stories. The winner would be crowned with a sparkling tiara, and handed a huge bouquet of red roses. The band played Pomp and Circumstance as she cried, walked ceremonious across the stage, and went to accept the prize: the much needed home when she teetered on the brink of homelessness; the desperately needed surgery for a sick child, or whatever her tremendous winnings were to be. I would cry as I watched her. Sometimes I would hold a small pillow in the crook of my arm pretending it was red roses like hers, and march with her. I loved that show. And I cried because I was so lonely, and because nothing like that would ever happen to me. Or so I thought. Now I know that is not true. Angels are all around, if we are paying attention.
When I was a recently certified sex therapist, I was pretty shy and withdrawn. As I always did with everything I would take all the trainings I possibly could, to try to fortify myself with knowledge, which as we all know, only helps so much if one has the integral sense of worthlessness that comes with neglect. I could never quite know enough to “break even,” or be as good as or as smart as the others. It was news to me when I heard in a training that we all become sex therapists because we “think about sex 24 hours a day.” And we all think we have sexual “dysfunctions” because no one ever speaks aloud about such things. Except, as I was to learn, in sex therapy trainings, or some of them anyway. There I might discover that I was not the only one.
I met Gina as she was a senior clinician who gave workshops all over the country. Sometimes I could attend one without even having to travel. I had read all of her books, at that time, I guess there were about 5 of them. I liked her 4-prong approach to sexuality which included body, mind, emotion and spirituality. She was a lovely, kind person and I learned a lot from her.
Some years later, Gina was vested with producing a special issue of the Journal of Marital and Sexual Therapy on “Extraordinary Sex Therapy.” I dislike academic journals so much that I am not proud to say, I avoid them for the most part. Probably because it was Gina, I took a chance and submitted a manuscript. Lo and behold it was accepted. With Gina’s help I landed my first ever academic journal article. It was followed by a few more over the years, although admittedly I have never particularly sought out that genre. That special issue of JMST was later published as a little book.
Fast forward to 2017, I was beginning to gestate the book that became my recently released book on neglect. I sought out a good solid consultant to help me with my book proposal and I found Waverly. She was a pro: extremely knowledgeable and experienced with helping people write book proposals that bore fruit into published works. She was no-nonsense and said exactly what she meant- not always what I wanted to hear but I knew I could trust her, which goes a long way with me. And although she was not warm and fuzzy, she was patient and I knew she wanted the best for me. We hammered out a proposal, and she taught me about resilience and persistence with the many drafts required to come out with something good, which I think we did. I was so grateful.
When the proposal was done, then I needed to find a home for the book, ie a publisher. I thought to write to Gina, and ask her if she might have time to look over my proposal and perhaps have any ideas where I might send it. Gina responded right away. She was generous and welcoming as ever. She also told me she really could not take anything on now. Then she told me she was in an advanced stage of terminal cancer and was getting ready to die. This news was so sad to me. But a deeply spiritual person, Gina was quite peaceful about it. 80 years old, she felt she had had a very good life. Content, she was spending her remaining time with her partner of many years and with great equanimity and even joy, getting ready to go. She did, however, offer me the name and contact information of her publisher at Routledge, where she had published all of her by now 6 books. She said “Just tell her I sent you; my name is gold over there.” So I did.
Shockingly, I got a return email within the hour. Gina’s publisher told me that she headed the sexuality department at Routledge, but that she had forwarded my proposal to their trauma editor. The trauma editor also responded immediately, and told me to send my proposal along. No joke that Gina’s name was gold! And everyone at Routledge was so prompt, responsive and kind to me. I did not know if that was because Gina had prepared the path for me, or because that is the culture of the organization, but it was a surprising and spectacular relief and joy that even my often-distorted perception could not deny. It was not long before I received a welcoming acceptance. We were good to go.
When I went to tell Gina the good news, and to thank her again, she had already departed.
Waverly and I had done so well together. She was delighted that our proposal had been successful. As I thought it through, I thought I would like to work with Waverly through the whole writing process. I like to write with an additional pair of eyes, chapter by chapter, to keep me accountable and on schedule, and also to help monitor my output as we went along. Re-writing is never easy for me, and doing it in smaller chunks, or sometimes what seemed like “wads” was somewhat easier. I wanted to hire Waverly to be my coach.
When I contacted Waverly to inquire, uncharacteristically she did not respond. I re-sent the email several times, resorted to text and finally even the old-fashioned telephone. Still silence. Then I began to wonder, was she OK? I knew she had not been feeling well.
I called the organization where I had found her and asked her colleague, “Has Waverly changed her contact info? Is she OK?” He paused and softly responded, “Oh Waverly, she passed away.” Apparently much like my own mother, she had been feeling mostly fine, then too late, an advanced and metastasized cancer became detectable, that precipitously and rapidly whisked her away. How very sad. Waverly was close to my age, and unlike Gina, she had had not time to prepare for the journey.
Both of these two precious women, delivered me safely to a worthy publisher before they took their leave. The book is at least in part, the work of angels.
The little girl with the imaginary roses never could have dreamed it, that such grace, such miracles “could happen to me?” I once found a simulated-antique large wall hanging that prominently reads “Work hard and be nice!” It has been hanging in my bathroom for many years, to keep me mindful. If I do that and pay attention, I will notice all the angels, and even perhaps better yet, sometimes be one.
My book “Working with the Developmental Trauma of Childhood Neglect: Using Psychotherapy and Attachment Theory Techniques in Clinical Practice” was published on the 31st August. It provides psychotherapists with a multidimensional view of childhood neglect and a practical roadmap for facilitating survivors’ healing.