Posted tagged ‘commentary’

Shotgun Shame: Why Some People Bully and Some People Watch

October 13, 2010

     

Bullying makes the news and grabs our collective attention when suicide happens. That’s better than nothing. But just barely.

If we could freeze-frame the tragic headlines and rewind, we would see good people looking the other way. Bullying occurs in plain view of those who know better. It thrives on silent collusion. Why? There is a sick vein of shame running through 0ur collective systems: our school systems, our work systems, our cultural infrastructures. Bullying actually is a variation on domestic violence and child abuse. These three forms of psychological violence often are intertwined and can occur in one family system, branching out when the toxic shame of a bullied soul becomes too overwhelming to contain. That is when the victim can become the perpetrator.

And that is when a good person on the sidelines might privately let out a sigh of relief: In that brief moment someone else is the target of shaming. This isn’t as shocking as it sounds. From early childhood on, watching another get teased, bullied or tormented provides  momentary respite from the near universal feeling of being not good enough. The roots of this fear go deep and are stoked by religions and secular teachings that emphasize hellfire consequences for being imperfect. Combine this wounding experience with the need to save face and project a facade of strength even under fire and you have a river of shame flowing beneath the surface of even the healthiest looking adult. I would venture to say that this human experience could unite us rather than divide us if we could all find the courage to own it and find a safe way to neutralize it. But most people can’t bear to go there. It’s just too painful.

When we look at self-hatred, from constant self-reproach to malignant personality disorders, we must separate it from the appropriate guilt that comes from doing the wrong thing. Learning to manage this uncomfortable emotion and grow in the process of repairing a wrong — that is a step toward becoming a healthy human being. It has nothing to do with the type of self-hatred, projected onto a target, that can result in bullying-induced psychological trauma and suicide. It is also true that not everyone who is bullied turns out to be a bully. Some people, including chidren, have the resilience to endure this pain and become compassionate leaders, healers and parents. But the memories endure, particularly the memories of those who watched in silence instead of intervening. 

So let’s take another look at why good people often shrug their shoulders over bullying. Could it also be that we’ve all had a taste of bullying, maybe in the guise of tough love? Generations of bullied individuals might pass along the “toughen up” message to their offspring, producing the message that you have to learn how to take it in this world. Don’t shrink under abuse. I’m doing this to make you stronger.

It never really works that way, of course. It stinks to be bullied, even if someone is supposedly doing it for your own good. Under the facade of the toughened up child/teen/adult there exists wounds from this kind of upbringing that create the need to get someone back.  You don’t think you are capable of being that childish? Think again. It is one of the most common impulses in the human psyche: the need to get someone back. For some, it happens in traffic. For others it involves yelling at the kids because somebody at work won’t get off your back. The greater the feelings of unworthiness, the more a human being is driven to find a target for the transfer of that shame. That means that the person who labels and hates all gays or all Muslims or all Christians or all of the people of a rival political party is dealing with massive amounts of toxic shame. And when this kind of shotgun hatred starts exploding, whether it’s within one family’s home or on the internet, somebody is going to bleed.

Cathleen Hulbert, LCSW, is a clinical social worker in the healthcare field and a free-lance journalist with a background in newspaper reporting. She also is the author of “The First Lamp — A Story of Cosmic Illumination,” a time-travel tale about love, forgiveness and original innocence. She lives in Roswell, GA. For more information about the author and the book, go to www.cathleenhulbert.com. The pelican, a symbol of service to others, is her personal mascot.

Scroll down to links for more blogs by Cathleen Hulbert.

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So Powerful on Her Death Bed: A Story of Forgiveness

December 27, 2009

 

By Cathleen Hulbert

She was close to death after a long life and she was on a mission. With one foot in heaven, the elderly Josephine’s mighty spirit stayed with her frail body and would not cross over until a deep wound in her family was healed. On the day of her death, she was taken off of life-support and not expected to live more than a few minutes. But hours passed. Doctors were baffled at how this tiny white-haired woman, battered by severe respiratory problems, managed to breathe on her own.

As I said, she was on a mission.  It was a mission of love. 

She was born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1920. She raised a family. She endured hardships and disappointments as well as the joy and satisfaction of seeing her children and grandchildren grow and thrive. I met her when I was a little girl of 4. She would sometimes watch over me while my mother worked. She made me lovely clothes. She had a daughter my age, also Josephine, and we became close friends. I called her Jo. We are close today and call each other sister.  We confide often about the good and the bad in our lives, fearing no judgment from the other.   

So I came to know the story of how Jo and her younger sister Debbie experienced a rift in their relationship. It was the type of rift that many families know all too well. Disagreements grew until an abyss formed. It was dark and cold, that awful abyss between sisters. Occasionally a fire would flare up inside of it, a bitter heat that only sealed the doorway that had shut tight between them.  But their mother, wheelchair-bound in her last days, was destined to blow that seared door off its hinges.  Jo describes it as “divine intervention.” You see, elderly Josephine, who had requested that no extraordinary means be used to keep her alive, was herself doing something extraordinary.  Not able to speak with her voice, she was working in partnership with the Holy Spirit and was not leaving this world until the job was done. 

As Jo recalls: “Our family gathered at her bedside anticipating the unknown. We held hands and prayed in English and in Spanish. We sang songs. We laughed, we cried. We told funny stories about our Mother, our Grandma, our Abuelita. When the time came to withdrawal her from all life support, our family stood firm in agreement that we did not want her to be alone as she passed. The minutes turned into hours and the morning turned into afternoon. She remained alive and breathing on her own despite enough sedation, pain medication and narcotics to knock out an elephant. All but three members of our family made peace with the fact that she was ‘gone’ and left the hospital telling us to call when the moment came that she finally let go.”

Jo knew her mother as someone who did not want to be tied to machines. So what was keeping her mother from that longed-for journey to heaven? She decided to clear her mind and pray. And then she heard her mother’s words as clearly as if she had spoken them out loud. Her mother was still waiting, she whispered directly into Jo’s mind, for her daughters to forgive one another. Jo opened her eyes, stunned. How could that happen? As she told this story, she recalled what had led to this point.

“Several months ago Mom was transferred to a nursing home closer to my house so I could visit her everyday,” Jo said. “It became a routine for her and let’s be honest, a bit of a chore for me. But family was always very important to her and I wanted to make sure she saw family every day. One day I arrived and she said to me, ‘I want you and Debbie to make up.’ Mom knew that Debbie and I were not even friends, much less sisters. I completely ignored her; after all, in my mind it was never going to happen. I asked her what she had for lunch and she told me she already had lunch with ‘Mamaquira,’ my grandmother who died in 1990. So I figured this request about Debbie was the dementia talking and I continued to ignore it.

”Now, back in the hospital room, at her death bed, these words came back to me, so clear, so painful, so obvious that this is why she was hanging on. I grabbed Marlene (a dear family friend and native of Venezuela) and pulled her out into one of those consult rooms. I asked her if she believed that this was the reason for Mom still being alive. She said, ‘Oh yes Sister Jo, you have to go now and make up with your sister.’ It took Marlene several minutes to convince me that it was the right thing to do. She asked, ‘What would Jesus do?’ I knew the answer.

“As much as I resisted, telling her that there was so much pain and hurt, she kept urging me on. She quoted Bible passages and told me the Holy Spirit was inside of me willing me to do it. I should not hold back. She finally asked me what I afraid of. And I told her. Rejection. She said, ‘You have to try, Sister Jo.’ So she left the room to get Debbie. The whole time she was gone I was preparing myself for Debbie to tell me to take a hike! As it turns out, Debbie was in Mom’s room resisting the talk with me as much I had resisted talking to her. When she came in to the room where I waited, I explained that I knew why Mom was holding on. She was waiting for us to finally make up.”

And what did Debbie, this other sister with pain in her heart have to say? She said, “Okay. I want my sister back, Jo.”  Yes, that door had been blown open. Their mother’s powerful presence was felt. They talked, clearing the air as quickly and honestly as they could. When they heard Marlene sobbing they rushed to the bedside, fearing that their mother had passed. But miraculously, she was clearly still breathing on her own.  

“We realized,” Jo explained, “that the whole time we were talking in another room, Marlene was telling Mom in her native language that her daughters were doing as she asked, that we were making up. Marlene said as she was telling Mom these words, a tear came streaming down Mom’s face. It was now one of the few signs that she was still alive. I put my hand on my mother’s hand and Debbie put her hand on mine. I spoke to Mom and told her that we did as she had asked me to do so many months ago. I told her that Debbie and I were united as sisters again. Then Debbie spoke and told her that we promised to be sisters again and she thanked her for fighting so hard for us. Mom took her last breath. She survived 5 hours breathing on her own fighting for a relationship that had been strained for 13 years. Peace is a wonderful gift from the Holy Spirit.  She was a good mother and we know now she did the right thing. Her faith is what kept her alive until she could be a Mom one more time and tell us what to do.”  There is a saying that no more sacred ground exists than the place in which two enemies (or angry sisters) have become friends. Debbie and Jo have made their moment of mutual forgiveness a place of sacred ground. There is no turning back to blame because the past can’t be changed. They have only the present and they plan to make the most of it. 

Mission accomplished. Forgiveness between sisters has become a crowning glory for one mother who refused to give up on her girls. Rest with God, dear Josephine.  And thank you. Something in me also has healed with the hearing of your story.

(Jo and her mother)

Cathleen Hulbert, LCSW, is a clinical social worker in the healthcare field and a free-lance journalist with a background in newspaper reporting. She also is the author of “The First Lamp — A Story of Cosmic Illumination,” a time-travel tale about original innocence. She lives in Roswell, GA. For more information about the author and the book, go to www.cathleenhulbert.com. The pelican, a symbol of service to others, is her personal mascot.

Scroll down to links for more blogs by Cathleen Hulbert.

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After My Husband’s Suicide…

October 20, 2009

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Unfortunately, depression is not always this obvious.

By Cathleen Hulbert

I feel compelled to share this story today. Perhaps Spirit is using me as a means of prevention.  

My husband, Dan, committed suicide on September 11, 2000, exactly one year before terrorists hijacked jets for a suicide mission in New York City, destroying many lives with their own sickness.

That first Christmas after his death, I still was numb with shock. I put up a Christmas tree to let the neighbors and myself know that I was going to be okay. The next Christmas actually was more difficult, with no cushion of shock to protect me. No Christmas tree that year. Sometimes I found myself walking in a daze down the aisles of stores, wondering why I was there. I cried more that holiday season. I got in touch with my anger as well as deep sadness. But I got through it and I am a better, stronger, more compassionate woman today because of my journey along that rocky path.  

Dan, a journalist with degrees from Columbia University and Yale, was highly intelligent and articulate. He adored his 10-year-old son from a previous marriage. He was an active church elder. He also was in the middle of planning his annual get-away with his best friend, Roger, a fun man who always made him laugh. We were trying to have a child and in the meantime planning a trip to France. In short, he seemed so alive, so happy. And he gave no clues. I can’t even look back and say there were clues. He had an almost child-like joy about the simplest things, such as walking hand-in-hand down a neighborhood street walking our dog on a gorgeous fall day. We loved traveling together, particularly to a beach on the Florida panhandle that always brought out the playful kids in us.

A neurologist has since suggested that he might have had an undiagnosed brain tumor that created a sudden psychotic break. A deeply spiritual acquaintance sensed he was taken out by dark forces. A puzzling note he had left at home said that he had “a crisis that needed to be solved” and that he would be back. He wrote at the bottom, “I will always adore you.” Another note found with his body in a wooded state park said that “bad people deserve to die.”

No one was telling him he was bad. In fact, it was quite the opposite. But who can compete with demons or a brain tumor? Not even an intuitive, loving and devoted wife, apparently, or a best friend who has known him since college. 

In the end, I am here and he is gone, at least in physical form. I know that I am not alone. Determined to defy the taboos about discussing suicide, I spoke openly about my experience from the get-go. The number of people around me who began to share their own losses from suicide was mind-boggling. Why don’t we talk about this more?

This is the season in which there is a strong emphasis on planning for family holiday gatherings. It can be incredibly tough if you are depressed or if you have lost someone to depression. It also is the season of Halloween in the United States, a season for wearing masks. I have since discovered that many, many depressed people are wearing masks, as are many survivors of suicide who want an equal right to talk about their grief.

Because depression is so common, and usually highly treatable, I wanted to take a moment to share the national suicide prevention hotline site with its toll-free number:  http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

You can also call your telephone operator and tell him or her that you feel suicidal. They are trained to connect you with a hotline. Or drive yourself to a hospital emergency room and talk about the thoughts you are having. Doctors and nurses will know how to keep you safe. 

I also wanted to say that no matter how dark things might seem, there always is a sacred light of Spirit waiting to break through. Somehow I have evolved since Dan’s death into a profoundly happy, productive and creative woman. I never turned away from God during those dark and confusing days. I always felt deeply loved by family, friends and my Maker. I still do today. For that I am grateful.

And if I have helped even one person with this column, I am more grateful still.

Cathleen Hulbert, LCSW, is a clinical social worker in the healthcare field and a free-lance journalist with a background in newspaper reporting. She also is the author of “The First Lamp — A Story of Cosmic Illumination,” a time-travel tale about love, forgiveness and redemption. She lives in Roswell, GA. For more information about the author and the book, go to www.cathleenhulbert.com.

Life Lessons Learned on the Road

October 13, 2009

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By Cathleen Hulbert

Masseratti Dick

This is not my car. The guy standing next to it doesn’t own it, either. He just wanted his picture taken with a Maserati. 

I’m related to someone who knows somebody who owns this car. If I did have a luxury sports car I think I might command more respect on the road. In fact I’m certain of it. I actually went for a ride in it one day. My brother dropped me off at my neighborhood car repair shop while he was borrowing this car for business. The mechanics stopped what they were doing to go gagga over it, then they were extra polite to me when I paid up and reclaimed my Honda. I think I had temporarily inherited the Maserati’s magnificent aura because they made more eye contact and smiled a lot. 

Such is the power of a cool car.  

Most of the time, my life on the road involves driving my 2005 silver Honda Civic around Atlanta and north Georgia to visit clients. I drive on city roads both narrow and wide as well as two, four and six-lane highways. I travel on highways that are under endless construction, on mountain roads that are curvy and paved and on long country roads that are mud and gravel. I am a healthcare social worker who does home visits with people who have illnesses in their family. When I get to the home of a client, I would prefer to be calm and clear-headed so that I can focus on the client’s needs rather than my own near-death experience. Too often, the latter is the case.

I don’t drive much higher than the speed limit because when I do speed I start sending out signals to the Universe: “I am breaking the law. Please send out a police officer to pull me over and give me a ticket!” Seriously. Why do some of my friends and colleagues speed consistently and not get stopped? They tell me that I must be bringing it on myself by feeling so awful about it. They actually claim that I am manifesting the officer and the ticket by focusing too much on getting caught. There is probably some truth to that.

Unfortunately, I can’t seem to use this twisted power on the people who ride my tail or suddenly pass me on the right before I know they are there — zipping by like rockets. It would be awesome if I could use my strange magnetism with law enforcement to call in a police officer to stop the guy who seems to want to attach the front end of his car to the back end of mine. Can he also be charged with sexual harassment because his car made a pass at me?

Another target of my “call in the police” power would be the driver who thinks that the space I was keeping between myself and the car in front of me  was being held specifically so that she could squeeze into it. Thanks a lot, lady, for eating up my safe distance. If I find a way to make myself feel guilty about your lack of road manners do you think a state trooper would instantly appear?  

My least favorite drivers and the ones I won’t joke about are the mad weavers. They are the ones who wrecklessly flit from space to space, moving back and forth from one lane to the other as if the road were a giant moving game board and they are going for checkmate. It might be thrilling for them but I used to work in a pediatric emergency room. Whole families have been wiped out by drivers like that. I have seen children maimed and orphaned by these lunatics. I see them as weapons of destruction.

I don’t have much choice but to put up with all of them. Driving is a big part of my job now. Most people are considerate drivers and I have to remember that, even though I know that the bad one could ruin my day or my life in an instant. Here are some lessons I have learned while driving my car: 

1.) Yes, I do quickly get into the right lane when I look in my rear view mirror and see a fast-coming car. I just want to be left alone to drive in peace. But if I’m in the right lane and someone wants to ride my tail, even though there is a lane or two on the left in which they can pass me, I take my foot off the gas and gradually drift to a slower speed. It always works and they go away. It’s one of my few passive aggressive moments and victory is always sweet. I never understand these drivers. It’s like they want to go fast but they don’t have the nerve to speed in the left lane where they are more likely to get caught. Sorry, dude. Pushing me with the front end of your car isn’t going to make the entire right lane adjust to your preferred speed!      

2.) I have learned not to make mean gestures with my fingers because such behavior is ugly and it leaves me feeling ugly. So I try to confuse the menace sharing the road with me by giving him or her a thumbs up and a sweet smile. 

3.) Crazed drivers beware. I have learned that when my adrenaline is flowing because I’m terrified I can remember license plate numbers and the company phone numbers printed on the sides of business trucks and vans. If you are driving in a company vehicle and you try to run me off the road, I will find the nearest place to pull over and report you. I am happy to say that business owners take this very seriously and they are always grateful for the call. Such behavior makes them look bad, too. And it puts them at high risk for lawsuits.

4.) I want to be a person who can quickly forgive and let go. Driving a lot helps me practice. I am certain that there have been times in my life when I was the person making some other driver feel bullied. It was usually because I had failed at time management that day and was running late. Or I was having a bad day and being in a car provided me with an anonymous way of acting out. To my “victims,” I am truly sorry.         

5.) On the road, just like in life, I hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Driving defensively has saved my life time and again. When the cell phone rings I try to ignore it. If I drop something on the floor, it’s not worth my life. I move out of the way of dangerous people and recognize road rage as a tragic fact of modern life. I always, always, always adjust my speed for bad weather. If I’m on a winding road and the car behind me wants to go fast, I try to pull over somewhere safe to let that person move on down the road. I don’t need the tension. Neither does that client I’m about to see or the family member waiting for me at home. 

6) Whenever possible, I show acts of kindness to truck drivers and fell0w travelers such as myself who are just trying to get by and do their jobs. When I do this, I always pray for a ripple effect of good will. Who knows? A kindness shown on the highway could even save a life.

 Cathleen Hulbert, LCSW, is a clinical social worker in the healthcare field and a free-lance journalist with a background in newspaper reporting. She also is the author of “The First Lamp — A Story of Cosmic Illumination,” a time-travel tale about love, forgiveness and redemption. She lives in Roswell, GA. For more information about the author and the book, go to www.cathleenhulbert.com.        

 

 

Seeing Our Own Reflection On the TV Screen

October 10, 2009

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By Cathleen Hulbert

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“Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.” President Obama

Watching the news in Europe and other places abroad can be most illuminating. Often, the United States is not even mentioned. It can be jarring if you arrive in a foreign country and turn on the TV without first adjusting your “world view.” You wait and you wait. Lots of important things are going on in the world…

But where’s the news about us?

Oh, right. “us” doesn’t equal “U.S.” once you leave our borders and go to other countries — you know, those places that share the planet with “us.” Love them or hate them, these countries exist soley without your permission or mine and probably aren’t the lease bit interested in our opinions about anything. Ouch. That puts things back in perspective if your own opinions are feeling overwhelmingly important right now.

But on Friday October 9, 2009 the United States was in the international news. And it was about something honorable and important: The Nobel Peace Prize and America’s potential value to the world as a leader with “an unclenched fist.” We are not perfect and neither is the president who was elected by our majority. Think about how many mistakes any one of us can make in a given day and realize that our nation will make its own share of mistakes as a reflection of who we are.

But on that day, on that Friday in October, we were recognized, through our president, as having vast potential to be peacemakers. And that is what the prize was about: our potential. For those of you who chafe and complain that “he didn’t deserve it,” take a moment to consider that you don’t deserve it, either. But under the banner of “United States” you looked a little more hopeful to the world on that day. And when President Obama accepts the award on behalf of the United States, as he certainly will, we should join him in feeling humbled.

Cathleen Hulbert, LCSW, is a clinical social worker in the healthcare field and a free-lance journalist with a background in newspaper reporting. She also is the author of “The First Lamp — A Story of Cosmic Illumination,” a time-travel tale about love, forgiveness and redemption. She lives in Roswell, GA. For more information about the author and the book, go to www.cathleenhulbert.com.

Politics as a Spectator Sport?

October 3, 2009

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By Cathleen Hulbert

There seem to be quite a few Americans who view politics as a spectator sport.  

If you are sitting in the bleachers and your team wins, do you feel like a winner? You can drive home smiling and honking your horn. But if your team loses, then, oh wow. Are you a loser? I personally don’t think so, but then again I’m not really into spectator sports. And when I do watch them, the team I’m cheering for certainly doesn’t define me.

A part of me wishes that I could get more into sports. I once said that my favorite spectator sport is watching my very passionate mother enjoy a football game. It’s a wonderful thing to behold, really, the way she puts herself into it and has so much fun. But when it comes to politics, the “them vs. us” dynamics of a football game doesn’t serve the greater “we” that is our country. That’s particularly true with a subject such as healthcare reform, in which cooperation and a lack of game-playing can save lives. With so much suffering going on, there’s no time for a game mentality.

Given the current climate in which quite a number of Republicans seem hungry for a “fumble” by our newly elected president, I have a hunch that many Americans do view politics as a spectator sport. Afterall, where was this righteous gnashing of teeth when the mess that is our economy was being created in the first place? This rage thing just doesn’t add up unless there’s a serious case of sore loser syndrome going on.

Okay, so maybe the team you voted for, the one that makes you feel okay about yourself, didn’t win this one. The  “sports” commentary is so telling. “Cheater! No fair! I’ll get you next time! We’ll crush you next time! You lied! You didn’t play fair! You’re not in this game long, Pal!”

In other words, if you’re against the current President of the United States, and his team is in control, you might be pulling your hair out, getting red in the face and feeling like the world is going to end. Your only relief will be a mistake by the other side, or at least something you can spin as a mistake. 

In the case of America losing its recent bid to host the Olympics, the odd celebrating by many Republicans could seem completely anti-American until you look at it through the eyes of a footaball fan. The “other side” fumbled, according to them. That’s what it would be like if your self-esteem is based on the win/loss scenario that ends every football game.

Let’s say that half-way into his term, President Obama and his team manage to turn the tide on our greed-sick economy. The crisis that took years to create starts to ease because of his leadership. And let’s say that his leadership leads to some kind of healthcare reform that helps those struggling Americans who are now going bankrupt to pay medical bills. Maybe it won’t be a perfect system, but we’ll look back and wonder how we could have ever let things get so bad before.  

That’s a win for all of us, right? I mean, you would think the answer would be “yes!”

I have a hunch that it won’t be for the side that is now displaying sore loser syndrome. I think it will actually hurt, at least on the level of ego. And that’s what this is all about. Ego. Because it will mean that their own team didn’t score a big whopping political touchdown.

Good grief.

I didn’t care for George W. Bush one bit and suffered for eight years while he was president. I was scared to death about the trends that were leading to the present economic crisis and I was mad at him for letting them happen on his watch. But I also respected the American system and the ultimate wisdom of the voters to correct mistakes. If you are waiting for the pendulum to swing the other way again, then at least be grown up about it. After all, you had your turn. And it was a long one. 

And to those who can’t blog and yell and complain enough about our current president I would ask, “Where were you?

Where were you during the years that this mess was being created? I hear your voice now, screaming that President Obama isn’t working fast enough to fix the problem. But were you using your voice when President Bush was in office? Were you blogging then about how things as we know it were coming to an end? Because they were.

Or maybe you just flipped the station with your remote because you thought your team already had won the game.   

Cathleen Hulbert, LCSW, is a clinical social worker in the healthcare field and a free-lance journalist with a background in newspaper reporting. She also is the author of “The First Lamp — A Story of Cosmic Illumination,” a time-travel tale about love, forgiveness and redemption. She lives in Roswell, GA. For more information about the author and the book, go to www.cathleenhulbert.com.

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Bedside Blogging and Beyond

September 25, 2009

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By Cathleen Hulbert

When I started blogging a few months ago it was because I had something to say about healthcare reform. I needed to blow off steam and I needed to tell it like it is from the front lines in the world of American healthcare.

I found that I loved the way it felt to blog, like I was stretching after a long nap. Newspaper reporting had been my first career. When I wrote for the Atlanta Journal Constitution years and years ago, I mostly reported what other people had to say. Opinion pieces were for grown-ups. I didn’t yet feel like one. 

Back in 1989, when I was wrapping up my newspaper career, I left my home in Roswell, GA and moved to New York City. I felt a strange calling to change vocations. I needed something that would pay even less than newspaper reporting and offer me more stress. I say this tongue-in-cheek. It was a true calling to realize that I wanted to become a social worker and that somehow I wanted to do boot camp in the poorest neighborhoods of Brooklyn. I enrolled at Columbia University’s top rated social work graduate program. I stopped all writing for a time, with the exception of that academic style of writing required to get a degree.

While working in healthcare as a clinical social worker, I started to see and feel things that I thought had to be stuffed, but which really needed to be written about. Working in an AIDS unit at the height of the crisis in the United States, when the diagnosis was an automatic death sentence, was shocking, numbing and yet somehow illuminating. I started to see the demise of human bodies from a front-row-seat perspective, and yet I also saw the power of the human spirit. The latter seemed to grow in strength as the body grew weaker. That was big-time, front-page news for my fellow seekers. But still, I  wasn’t writing.

Then I moved home to Georgia and started working with kids at a pediatric hospital: kids in car accidents, kids who nearly drowned in the backyard pool, kids with cancer and sickle cell disease, kids with brain and spinal cord injuries. Again I saw the magnificence of the soul and how it seemed to expand in a room as the little bodies sat dying, sick or broken in hospital beds.

But still, I wasn’t writing about it.

Then came the book — the book, the novel, the time-travel tale that would somehow come knocking on my head and say, “It’s time to put it all together. It’s time to talk about what you have seen and what you have learned. And guess what, girlfriend? You are going to put it all down in the form of a novel!” I didn’t even know that I had one in me, but apparently I did. It’s a good thing I opened that door when the knocking started.

The novel is called “The First Lamp — A Story of Cosmic Illumination.” I published independently earlier this year, a labor of love which I discussed in one of my first blogs. It’s been an amazing journey. The sequel is in progress.

Still, there are days when I have an opinion and I want to write about it right here, right now. That’s why I love blogging. And I love reading what fellow writers have to say. I can safely say that it has changed my life in ways I could not anticipate.

Today is an excellent day for this writer. 

I have my first article, a reprint of my blog, in an award-winning, online newspaper called Like the Dew. It’s a collection of news articles, reviews, commentary and more by free-lance journalists and fellow bloggers. And hot dog: My blog about publishing independently is situated just underneath a beautifully illustrated piece about sex and nudity. You can’t beat that kind of exposure!

Below is a link to this next wonderful chapter in my life as a born-again (in the literary sense) writer. Did I mention that it’s an excellent day?

http://likethedew.com/2009/09/25/the-courage-to-publish-independently/

cover photo

This is the photo that I fell in love with while looking fo a front cover design for my novel. It was graciously donated by photographer William Tan. Below is the finished product.

book cover

Cathleen Hulbert, LCSW, is a clinical social worker in the healthcare field and a free-lance journalist with a background in newspaper reporting. She also is the author of “The First Lamp — A Story of Cosmic Illumination,” a time-travel tale about love, forgiveness and redemption. She lives in Roswell, GA. For more information about the author and the book, go to www.cathleenhulbert.com.

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