“Anyone who survived childhood has enough material to write for the rest of his life.”
If one were to judge writer Jeannette Walls by that quote, they would be able to say that she has enough stories for a lifetime of writing. Her 2006 memoir, The Glass Castle, is the story of her deeply unconventional and sometimes troubling childhood. Her father deeply loved his children. When he was sober, Rex Walls was dedicated to expanding the education of his offspring beyond the classroom and encouraging them to life live to the fullest. But he also had a penchant for drinking too much, often becoming destructive and abusive. Her mother, Rose Mary, was artistic and free-thinking. She was also not exactly the most maternal of mothers, forcing Jeannette and her siblings to basically raise themselves.
One by one, each of the Walls kids eventually made their way to New York City. Though Rex and Rose Mary followed their youngsters to the Big Apple, they continued in their chosen way of life and became homeless. Choosing a more conventional way of living, the second generation of the Walls family thrived.
It would have been easy for Walls to either be extremely judgemental of her parents or spend years in therapy due to a childhood that had the potential to be psychologically damaging. But she chooses to present them on the page as she knew them and let the reader decide how they feel.
I admire the author for having chutzpah. Pulling herself up by her bootstraps, she did what had to do, which included getting away if she wanted a better life in adulthood than she had in her younger years. My problem is that the book was not as compelling as I thought it would be.
The relationship with our parents is not always black and white. We love them, we respect them, and we are grateful for what they have given us. But we can also be plagued by their flaws and what we wished we had received from them as children.
Trying to live up to the ideals that her mother believed in, Tovah never quite received the emotional support she craved. It was only years later after her father had died that mother and daughter finally had the connection that did not exist in Tovah’s childhood. Balancing work, marriage, and motherhood, she finally understood Lily in a way that only occurs in adulthood.
This is easily one of the best books of 2021. It’s heartfelt, its humorous, and authentic. Though the details are specific to her life, it could easily be the story of any complicated parent/child relationship. What I took from the book is that it is possible to move beyond the unspoken words between us and our parents. It would have not been unexpected to slide into CEN (Childhood Emotional Neglect). But the fact that they were able to not only get along, but understand each other, is a testament that it can be done.
I had the pleasure of seeing Ms. Feldshuh play Golda Meir in Golda’s Balcony years ago. It was one of the most powerful and enduring performances I have ever seen on stage.
When dealing with a problem, the first step is to name it. The second step is to do the work to resolve problem. Comparatively speaking, step is one is considerably easier than step two. But if we are put the issue in the rear view mirror, there is only one option: we have to face our demons.
Getting to the heart of CEN, Dr. Webb is able to walk the reader through the difficult process of being up front about what is holding them back. She is also encourages them to be open with their loved ones about their feelings and begin the process of healing.
At a certain point in our lives, we come to the realization that our parents are not perfect. If we are lucky, they are loving, supportive, and provide the foundation that allows us to become happy, healthy, and productive adults. But that does not mean that our emotional needs as children were met.
Running on Empty, written by Drs. Jonice Webb and Christine Musello was published back in 2012. This self book explores how the specter of childhood emotions that have not been dealt with can grow into a shadow that can hold us back as adults. Using a number of examples, worksheets and practical advice, the authors are guiding readers to move beyond the unseen scars of their past.
I really loved this book. The authors are able to explain how CEN (Childhood Emotional Neglect) does not end when we are no longer children. They also empower their readers to examine and understand their childhood emotions and ultimately, overcome what is holding them back.