About thirty years ago, I was at the peak of my writing career. I had a New York Times bestseller When Society Becomes an Addict, which was also nominated for best political book of the year, I was frequently on TV and radio talk shows, some of which used me as a regular consultant, and I was regularly booked as a keynote speaker for conferences. I even had my own personal stalker. In the eyes of the culture, I had it made.
All this attention was great and, at times, I really enjoyed it. There was something “intoxicating” about it. Yet, deep down in my being, I had a growing awareness that something was terribly wrong.
Several incidents convinced me that I needed to step back and reassess my life. I was a keynote speaker at a large conference attended by several thousand people. When I finished speaking, over 200 people wanted to “speak to me personally.” I responded to as many as I could because I do that. Then, with quite a few left, I announced that I needed to go to the Loo and about 20 people followed me. Two even tried to follow me into the stall. (This is one of many times that I thanked God that I was not a man using a urinal!) I sat in that stall a long time. Later, when I thought everyone would be in listening to a well-known keynoter, I slipped into my swimsuit for a soak in the hot tub. I had only just leaned back and closed my eyes when two women screamed my name and, with their clothes on, jumped in with me to “talk.” Needless to say, all this kind of behavior freaked me out and as soon as I could, I went to my room, packed my bags, and headed for the nearby solitude of the desert. After a few more similar experiences, I was really questioning if I were on the right path for myself (and was not “Leaning In”) and was asked to keynote at a national conference of physicians. One of my dear friends had asked me to come early to hear another keynoter who she admired. As I watched this woman, I saw myself. She was very skilled and competent and had a vast amount of knowledge and experience, which I admired. And, I saw myself. She had become an entertainer, was feeding off the audience, and becoming “intoxicated.” I left that speech and went to call a Native Lakota elder who was my friend and mentor and had much more wisdom and life experience than I did. I didn’t talk to him about anything in particular. We just talked and I felt more grounded. The next day, when I “keynoted,” I shared that I was questioning myself and told the audience what I was struggling with within myself and said that I did not know what I had to offer and needed to make some changes. That was the last of my public life for a while.
I continued to work with the international Living in Process network. This network is comprised of groups of individuals throughout the world who are recovering from their personal addictions (both substances and process addictions), working through, at a deep level, any trauma they have encountered in their lives, and seeking ways to recover from the dysfunctional societies into which they were born. This work which I call Living in Process has resulted in profound healing in many, many people throughout the world and is very rewarding. I did not miss being in public.
Right before the time I withdrew from my “public” life, I had discovered that I was over half Cherokee. My parents and family had not told me because at that time, they feared that I might have been dragged off to a boarding school and deprived of the wisdom of my heritage. It was not “cool” to be an Indian in the late twenties and early thirties so many who could pass for white did. Yet, fortunately for me, my mother and great-grandmother who were both of a woman’s medicine line raised me in the traditional way among the Cherokees. I remember when I went off to college being in shock and writing home saying, “You have not prepared me for this culture.” I did not know I was Cherokee until my late fifties. When I told all my Native elder mentors, they all said, “We knew it. We were waiting for you to find out.”
All of this new information was coming in just about the time I was feeling so uncomfortable with my “success” in the patriarchy or what others call the dominant paradigm.
My response to this discomfort, as I said, was to take a timeout from my participation in the dominant culture. I explored my Native roots. It turns out that I am a typical “Cherokee woman.” I explored my Irish roots, buying a cottage in Ireland and living there whenever I could. I also had a smidgen of English roots, which I discovered were very similar to the patriarchy.
I decided to take as long as I needed to go within and heal whatever I needed to heal from trying to be something I am not – or put another way – to heal from not fully embracing the gifts I have been given.
Oh, I did not stop writing during this time. I wrote poetry, short stories, monthly newsletters, memoirs and all sorts of notes about what needed to be written for books. You see, thanks to my freshman composition professor at Washington University in St. Louis, because of his strong opinion about my writing I had identified as a “non writer.” I truly believed for years that I could not write. I was a great storyteller, though.
So, why do I write books? Because I have to. Why did I write this book? Because I had to.
I had been watching, waiting, and working with people from many different Western and Native cultures all over the world who were eager to heal from their addictions and the damage inflicted on them by the dominant culture.
I saw that these issues which so many think are personal or genetic are really because of our personal and cultural beliefs and indoctrination. This dis-ease we see is cultural and global and the one factor that is present in all the major cultures of the world is that these cultures have been designed and developed by the men with little or no input by the women. There is no balance with the wealth of wisdom women and Native people can bring to the table.
The men are not bad. The women are not bad.
The women have not believed in themselves enough (because of cultural brainwashing) to step up to the plate and take a swing with all that knowledge and wisdom that has been simmering and ripening within us to serve all creation including humankind.
We, as a planet, are woefully out of balance and need to become whole. This wholeness cannot be accomplished without the full participation of the women . . . even Karl Marx knew that.
Hopefully, this book will help all of us to see the bigger picture and help the women to see that our wisdom, our intuition, the way our brains work, and the combination of all our skills and attributes are needed for the wholeness that we need to become on this planet.
Why did I write this book?
Because I had to!