Why did I write The Song of the Willow?
When I was five years old, living in Chicago’s Southside, a mother and her two children moved into a 2-room apartment near us. 2 rooms! Can you imagine? My family had them over for dinner a few times and once I spent a memorable, pleasant afternoon in their immaculate, barely furnished flat. Several weeks later they disappeared. My father explained that their father was an abuser, a wife and child beater, and a stalker. They fled, for their lives, in the middle of the night, because this horrible, sick fiend had found them. We would never see them again. They were safe, for now.
Of course, I was horrified.
The novel, The Song of the Willow is the result of a lifetime of befriending and advocating for women who are victims of abuse of one form or another. I believe these women’s stories should be told and I felt impelled to tell them. The names have been changed because much of this story is based on true experiences. Some of these women’s voices have been silenced because they have been murdered.
Abuse to women is shocking. Revealing the abuse is POWERFUL. Remember: All it takes for evil to continue is for good people to do nothing.
When human beings experience some degree of pain they can develop compassion. But abuse is different from general human experiences and it is extreme. Experts say as many as two-thirds of couples experience it, one-third of them chronically. The effects of abuse can be devastating: depression, anxiety, and destroyed self-esteem. “It’s very erosive,” says Marti Loring, Ph.D., author of Emotional Abuse. “Whether it’s overt or covert, the abuse negates a woman’s very being.”
Today a culture of abuse exists. Mindfulness and compassion practices go radically against this cultural conditioning by emphasizing how to become aware and present with our experience, with ourselves, and with the world around us rather than disengaging with electronic gadgets, fantasy, and other distractions. Over time, victims can learn to reconcile with their experiences, and realize that their emotions are worthy of consideration. Teaching people to become aware, rather than becoming numb, builds, encourages and leads to happier people. Awareness can also help people be calmer, less burned out, less reactive, more present, and more effective in their choices.
Understanding victim identity and limiting beliefs can lead to healing and reconciliation with past trauma. Psychologists call the success that victims can achieve “flourishing”, the opposite of depression, avoidance, and disengagement. Abused women can survive and grow from the experience. When they share their experience with others, they help others who want to succeed. Mindfulness builds emotional intelligence, boosts happiness, increases curiosity and engagement, reduces anxiety, soothes difficult emotions and trauma, and helps people focus, learn, and make better choices. The only person you can change is yourself.
My intention with this book is to open discussions about this complicated matter, certainly not to dwell on the specifics of abuse, and to explore questions that need answers. Also, included at the end are resources. The story has a happy ending, which promotes life after abuse. It is certainly not meant to say that all victims have such a happy ending to their stories. But there is always hope when the war against abuse is won. And, happily, many of the experiences the protagonist has, are based on the life experiences of real women.
Personally, I look forward to a time when the world is filled with Love and abuse is a thing of the past.