Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life by Lorraine Ash | A Review

Are you living a life of quiet desperation? Questioning what it means to succeed? Wondering if your efforts matter? In this uplifting memoir, Lorraine Ash uses her own life experiences to explore inner landscapes where the seeds of divine healing and insight reside. These are the landscapes on which we create our own meaning and find the resiliency to thrive in a changing and challenging world.

(Image and synopsis via Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

Lorraine Ash shares courageously the story of her greatest loss: the stillbirth of her daughter, Victoria. I cannot begin to know what a loss, such as losing a child before life is breathed into it, does to one’s soul.

A beautifully written memoir takes us along with its author to explore the search for meaning after a loss of this proportion.

As I traveled along learning more about Lorraine’s journey, I began to realize there were still hurts and pains within me from childhood abuses. While combing through her words, I began to realize what I could do with those old abuses and scars.

One particular quote sticks in my mind and heart and will stay with me:

Some people scream out our insignificance … but it is we who choose to believe it.

These words jumped from the screen of my Kindle and into my being with such force it was as if they belonged to me all along. After rereading them a few times, I realized Lorraine’s words had given me permission to toss aside all the hurtful words flung at me as a child. A very freeing experience! (Thank you, Lorraine.)

As I continued to read, I felt as if Lorraine was a friend, a sister, a mentor of sorts. Life never gave her the gift of motherhood, but I see in her memoir that the qualities of mothering are within her and her nurturing reaches into the world via her words and her skillful usage of them.

Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances and/or your pain, reading Self and Soul will bring you inner peace, a new outlook on life, and perhaps even a moment of healing energy which allows you to move on with embracing life as it transforms with each new experience. to be.

I highly recommend Lorraine’s memoir to anyone interested in memoir, coping and healing following loss, and transforming life into a rich and bountiful experience.

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from WOW! Women on Writingas part of Lorraine’s book tour in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed are solely my own.

Meet the Author:

Lorraine Ash, MA, is the author of “Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life” (Cape House Books, 2012) and “Life Touches Life: A Mother’s Story of Stillbirth and Healing” (NewSage Press, 2004). Both are spiritual memoirs, an old but evolving genre she believes in as a catalyst for personal healing and transformation and social change.

“We each were born as a character into a large family and cultural story,” she said, “and not always in the roles we would have chosen for ourselves. Then fate takes us in unexpected directions. Writing spiritual memoir is a way to weave our outer and inner lives to create meaning and trace and direct our evolving identities over time, including that timeless core in each of us called the soul.”

What does all that have to do with social change? Nothing helps the human race see and understand itself more than such honest witnessing in every corner of the human experience. There is no taboo territory in autobiographical writing, which the author William Dean Howells once called “the most democratic province in the republic of letters.”

In her workshops and writing retreats Lorraine fuses rigorous literary techniques with a wide range of spiritual and philosophical thought. Participants learn to find their strongest writing voice, structure their stories in compelling ways, and see their lives from surprising and useful new angles. All these goals are achieved in an informal backdrop of serenity and relaxation. Why? Because gracious contemplation is a friend to creativity. The ultimate achievement always is for the writer to lead herself, and her readers, to some spiritual truth.

Connect with Lorraine here:

Website/blog: www.LorraineAsh.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LorraineAshAuthor

Twitter: @LorraineVAsh

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/lorraine-ash/45/77/650

Book Details:
Publisher: Cape House Books
Published: October 20, 2012
Paperback and e-book available
ISBN-10: 1939129001
ISBN-13: 978-1939129000

Where to buy Self and Soul:

Paperback edition from CreateSpace (Publisher’s fulfillment partner—the fastest and most author-friendly way to buy!)

Paperback and Kindle from Amazon.com

Buy iBooks edition from iTunes

Buy Nook edition from Barnes&Noble

Buy Kobo edition

Also available for other popular ebook readers, or through your favorite bookstore! Audiobook edition coming August 15, 2014 at Audible.com, Amazon.com, and the iTunes store.

For delivery right to your inbox of upcoming memoir reviews, writing resources and tips, plus news items related to writing and publishing, sign up for my bi-weekly newsletter by clicking on the image below:

Exploring Ancestral Patterns in Memoir with Guest Lorraine Ash

Today I am pleased to have as my guest, Lorraine Ash, author of Self and Soul: Creating a Meaningful Life. Lorraine is sharing her thoughts on the ancestral patterns we inherit and how they impact our lives. Lorraine, thank you for being here today. And thank you to WOW! Women on Writing for hosting Lorraine’s blog tour.

Our lives start with all kinds of inheritances. From ancestors, we receive genetic qualities, proclivities, aptitudes, beliefs. Maturing means interacting with all our inheritances, whether that involves embracing, rejecting, or modifying them. Odds are, we decide to keep some and not others.

That thought affirms the value of looking back in time to trace how we got to be who we are. In The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion evokes her ancestry even as she brings her readers deep into her.

As the grandchild of a geologist I learned early to anticipate the absolute mutability of hills and waterfalls and even islands. When a hill slumps into the ocean I see the order in it. …A hill is a transitional accommodation to stress, and ego may be a similar accommodation.

Following the trajectory of our experiences in regard to even one of our inheritances can provide a focus for a rich memoir in essay or book form. Such close scrutiny also can yield new insights about ourselves, which is no small gift.

A father/daughter story

Here’s an example of how I separated the strands of a thread of paternal family inheritance and wove them into my own life. I am like my late father in fundamental ways: I have a probing mind, an ability to sustain focus, the desire and discipline to explore a subject deeply, and an abiding concern for the well-being of the average person.

For my father, a career in the law was a calling—one he first heard when he was a poor kid on the streets of Jersey City, New Jersey, growing up without the benefit of parents. He had to fight for every piece of dignity, dingy boardinghouse room, and meal he got. When he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, he even chose to be a boxer, like his father before him.

My father’s fiery temperament and fighting spirit served him well as he defended clients and argued cases in court. He pushed me toward the law, too, but it was not natural for me to use “our” traits in the same way. I have a more calm temperament and prefer analyzing and integrating information. As a journalist and author, I’m a natural.

I loved my father and intensely value and appreciate the traits I inherited from him. But I knew that love could morph into resentment and self-alienation if I allowed him to hijack my destiny.

Throwing a typewriter

So one day, as a teenager, as I was working in his law office, and he was pressuring me yet again to go to law school, I picked up the typewriter on which I’d been working, and threw it through the glass door of a bookcase.

“You will NOT tell me what I will do with my life!” I said.

That was the only act of physical violence I’ve ever committed. My anger detonated, uncharacteristically, to protect my very core.

“OK,” he said, quietly. “You don’t have to.”

Today, I think of that scene as a key turning point in my life, but it is much better understood in deep family context. My father wanted for me what worked for him. But his ancestors, largely by dint of not living up to their responsibilities, gave him two options: give up and drop out of high school, or fight like hell to rise above his circumstances. His anger toward his family also helped light his inner fire for social justice: he was all about helping others rise up.

By working in his law office as a young adult, I learned from him how to live archetypally—a gift of power. But his archetype was justice. Mine is truth.

When there is no family

Even when there is no family, or its members have scattered, the family still holds power. Indeed when there is no present dynamic, the actions of the ancestors may be all the self-inquiring writer has to work with. In Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed writes about the specter that her absentee father had become in her life.  Deep in the memoir, she breaks his spell over her:

… on that night as I gazed out over the darkening land fifty-some nights out on the PCT, it occurred to me that I didn’t have to be amazed by him anymore.

The family tree, with its intergenerational traumas, gifts, and secrets, holds many fruits for memoirists. Our ancestors, a line of people that inevitably includes heroes and ne’er-do-wells, took the family story as far as they could.

It’s a mistake to focus so intently at their successes and wrongs that we neglect to see how we are continuing the story now. Writing memoir helps us see the past with new eyes and frees us to live into a new day.

Questions: A memoir is driven by some master question that concerns the writer. In Three Weeks with My Brother, Nicholas Sparks asks, essentially, Why am I like this? As the story unfolds, he links his own anxiety and exhaustion to his family story. Ask yourself, Why am I like this?

Lorraine Ash, M.A., is a New Jersey author, award-winning journalist, essayist, book editor, and writing teacher.  Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life, her second book, is available in a variety of formats and online stores, all presented here, http://lorraineash.com/selfsoul.htm . Reach Lorraine at www.LorraineAsh.com, www.facebook.com/LorraineAshAuthor , or @LorraineVAsh .

* * *

Please come back next Thursday, August 28, 2014 when I review Lorraine’s book, Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life.

To entice you to return, Women on Writing and the author have made a copy of Self and Soul available for a giveaway. Hope to see you then!

Don’t forget that you can find more articles similar to what you read here on the blog when you subscribe to my bi-weekly newsletter. Simply click on the image to be directed to the sign-up form.

Mailing List Widget
Mailing List Widget

Upcoming Guest Posts, Interviews & Book Reviews

  • On Tuesday, August 26th, I will post my review of Kathy Pooler‘s recently published Memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse. Kathy has told her story with integrity and holds out hope as a gift to those suffering through abusive relationships.
  • On Thursday, August 28th, my review of Lorraine Ash’s memoir Self and Soul: On Creating a Meaningful Life will be posted. Another story beautifully written from strength and courage with another gift of hope offered. Reminder: Two copies of Lorraine’s memoir will be given away.
  • On Thursday, September 4th,Marie Abanga visits with me as I interview Marie about writing her memoir, My Unconventional Loves: My Hurts, My Adulteries, My Redemption and the struggles she overcame. I met Marie when she visited this blog and left a comment. I knew upon reading her book and learning more about her life I wanted to share Marie with my other followers in a special way. I’m looking forward to Marie’s visit, and I hope you’ll come back and meet her.
  • On Tuesday, September 9th,I review Marie Abanga’s memoir My Unconventional Loves: My Hurts, My Adulteries, My Redemption.
  • On Thursday, September 18th, Mary Gottschalkwill be my guest writing on “giving up on marketing.” Mary is the author of a memoir, Sailing Down the Moonbeam (here is my review) and a recently published novel, A Fitting Place. Having been through the publishing and marketing business with both books, Mary has advice and wisdom to share with us.

Good Things Are Coming: Upcoming Guests and Memoir Reviews

Attributed to http:lifesadance.org
Attributed to http:lifesadance.org

Yes, good things are coming! I have some guests who will be sharing their insights into writing and life as well as a new memoir or two to review here. Thought I’d give you a heads up:

Next Thursday, August 21st, Lorraine Ashauthor of Self and Soul: On Creating Meaningful Lifewill be my guest. Lorraine will be sharing her thoughts on “Exploring Ancestral Patterns in Memoir.” This is a fascinating look at what traits and/or behaviors are ours via ancestry.

On Tuesday, August 26th, I will post my review of Kathy Pooler‘s recently published Memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away from Emotional AbuseKathy has told her story with integrity and holds out hope as a gift to those suffering through abusive relationships.

On Thursday, August 28th, my review of Lorraine Ash’s memoir mentioned above will be posted. Another story beautifully written from strength and courage with another gift of hope offered.

My next guest, Marie Abanga, visits me on Thursday, September 4th, as I interview Marie about writing her memoir, My Unconventional Loves: My Hurts, My Adulteries, My Redemptionand the struggles she overcame. I met Marie when she visited this blog and left a comment. I knew upon reading her book and learning more about her life I wanted to share Marie with my other followers in a special way. I’m looking forward to Marie’s visit, and I hope you’ll come back and meet her.

A few days later on September 9th I will be posting my review of Marie’s memoir mentioned above.

On Thursday, September 18th, Mary Gottschalkwill be my guest writing on “giving up on marketing.” Mary is the author of a memoir, Sailing Down the Moonbeam(here is my review) and a recently published novel, A Fitting PlaceHaving been through the publishing and marketing business with both books, Mary has advice and wisdom to share with us.

Below is a collage of the various books mentioned above. Perhaps one or more interests you. I encourage you to check them and the above dates in mind to return to get to know the authors better.

And if you’d like to have reminders of these upcoming guests and reviews, sign up for my bi-weekly newsletter and you’ll receive reminders right into your inbox. Click below to visit the sign-up page.

Mailing List Widget
Mailing List Widget