Barefoot to Avalon

I recently reconnected with a parent of a child I used to work with years ago. Folks, really years ago. He was 3-5 years old when I worked with him, and now he is a grown up. I lost touch with the family but was reconnected with the mom via another friend via Facebook. Just another reason to love social media. She posted about a book that was recently published, and after reading about it, I was intrigued.

My simple review of this book would be – I read, I related (on many levels), I cried, I loved it.

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The book is about a brother who is diagnosed with Bipolar disorder and his struggle to live. He dies in a car accident helping the older brother (the author) move from Vermont back to North Carolina. I could probably write my own book on the ways I connected with this book, but spring break is over folks and I have to go back to work this week. So, I will try to summarize with a list. If you have ever loved and lost someone to mental illness, I highly recommend this book.

  1. I am going to start with the connection at the ending. The author does what I call a hard reset with how he approaches his kids. This happens after yet another visit to the rose bush and the sighting of a cardinal. Chills folks. My hard reset was this summer with my trying to be supportive husband saying he wanted the old me back after I struggled for months trying to process my mom’s death. And like David, birds were involved with this change. The fledge helped me so much.
  2. Not speaking the truth makes you complicit. As I listened to the story unfold about how each family member dealt with the brother’s mental illness, I saw connections in how his family and my family reacted to mental illness. The father – absent in both stories. My brother was Margaret (the enabler). I was David (the absent one). I still struggle with who approaches the illness the right way. Or is there a right way? I wanted my mom to get treatment, and my brother just accepted our mom for who she was.
  3. Learning to be honest. As hard as my mom’s death was for me, it came at a time in my life when I had the luxury to have time to reflect on her life and mine. If her death had come at another point in my younger life, I am sure this reflection would not have happened.
  4. Being present for my own children. David talks about becoming what he hated the most. For me, it was the modeling of an unhealthy relationship that led me to be with men that were like my dad – selfish and narcissistic. Thankfully, I was able to break this cycle and I found a man that I can truly call my best friend and equal.

Wow. Powerful stuff. We all need to be honest and promise to continue to listen and learn about life. We have a joke in our family, but it is oh so true. We all have issues. Folks that say they do not are more screwed up than the rest of us.

Keep writing David Payne!


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