The best thing that can happen to me as a writer is to hear that something I have written has resonated in some significant way in another person's life. That makes it all worthwhile.
I remind myself of this today, after receiving an email from a friend who had been reading a book I published almost 20 years ago. While I Am Not Afraid (you can get a copy now for $1.12 on Amazon!) is a very personal memoir which tells the story of how I was called upon to change my life in order to become, let's say, a better father at a time of pressing, even life-threatening need. It involved, needless to say, a great deal of the kind of inner work I had never learned to do, bringing me to the recognition that I am powerless to change lives other than my own. I had always been "Mr. Fixit," the guy in charge, Peter the Rock, old reliable. Now I was not able to "rescue" even one of my own children. I could help her only by coming to recognize, and begin to heal, the wounds I had been carrying around with me for my entire adult life.
In response, my friend recounted a heart-breaking tale that in many way echoed the one I was telling in my book. People of good heart always want to help. They see others in pain and want so badly to relieve it. And it's easy to delude ourselves into believing that we are in some way responsible for what our fellow human beings are going through. But it inevitably comes back to that old maxim: Physician, heal thyself. Unless we are skilled in the medical or psychiatric arts, our efforts to heal others usually redound back upon ourselves. We make their problems about us, when what we really need to do, before all else, is heal the wounds that create our own suffering--and cause us to act the way we do.
My book, then, is NOT a "how-to." I don't lay claim to any secret that can help others through a difficult time. I simply describe the path that proved necessary for me to take. That it should provide a fellow human being caught in the predicament of life with comfort or inspiration is as rich a reward as I could ask for.