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Life’s A Beach: ‘Tell Me More’ Summer Reading Series

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And finally, we continue our Life's a Beach summer book series today with an author who wants to help you bounce back. And we were thinking we normally dig into new fiction in the summer. But this summer, you know, life is kind of tough for a lot of people, so we are exploring books written to help us cope.

Last week, we spoke with author Nancy Trejos about how she dug herself into a deep financial hole while she was still in her 20's and how she got out of it.

Today, we're talking with an author who writes about how to turn things around after a crisis. Daphne Rose Kingma practiced psychotherapy for 25 years. She's the author now of book titled "The Ten Things to Do When Your Life Falls Apart." And she joins us now from near her home base in Santa Barbara, California. Welcome. Thanks for joining us.

Ms. DAPHNE ROSE KINGMA (Author, "The Ten Things to Do When Your Life Falls Apart"): Thank you, Michel. It's good to be with you.

MARTIN: In fact, you say in your book that we are in a time when it just seems that people's problems snowball.

Ms. KINGMA: Yes.

MARTIN: Why do you think that is?

Ms. KINGMA: I think we all are noticing that. I think we're in a time of incredible change and, of course, we know this in the financial world, we know it in all sorts of national catastrophes. And I think there is a feeling of general malaise that people are feeling. It's like the world isn't as safe and calm as it used to be and we're experiencing that personally and then also in a national and even a global sense. And that's very unsettling - deeply unsettling.

MARTIN: In fact, you wrote about the kernel of this book arose when a friend of yours came to visit. You said last fall he came to visit from Europe. He'd lost his job. His wife had left him. His financial portfolio had dwindled substantially - something certainly, a lot of people understand. Then he had to move from an apartment he'd just moved into, and he was diagnosed with a serious degenerative disease. Now, I'm assuming this is a true story. Yeah.

Ms. KINGMA: Yes, it is a true story. And I think this man was such a messenger for me and for so many of us of really saying, hey, this is what life is looking like for many people right now. And, of course, in many instances it isn't this whole pile of things, but it may be one thing that is so overwhelming and so devastating that people are just thrown into very unfamiliar emotional waters and just saying how can I cope? How can I get through this? You know, there's a feeling of really being out of our depth when we meet up with things like this.

MARTIN: And he asked you for so, tell me what to do? Tell me the 10 things to do? And you actually just sat down and came up with 10 things. So I'm going to ask, where did the 10 things come from?

Ms. KINGMA: I don't know, Michel. They were just given to me. I felt immediately when this gentleman asked me, it's like oh, wow, this is a book that I need to write because we want guidelines. We want some flags in the swamp to know how to direct ourselves through these difficult times.

MARTIN: Why don't I pick a couple things of your 10 things and then you pick a couple things.

Ms. KINGMA: Yeah.

MARTIN: Why don't you start?

Ms. KINGMA: Well, I'd like to start with the first one, which is cry your heart out. And I think we so often don't give ourselves permission to have the feelings that we have and people are scared of crying. It's like if I start that I'll never stop and yet this is so important. It's such an organic part of the healing process and it also clears the way for the steps of action. So when you're overwhelmed, give yourself permission to, you know, have that breakdown and cry.

MARTIN: Can I ask, though, whether you feel that that advice is equally appropriate for men and women? I think there are perhaps, I'm generalizing and I understand that I'm generalizing, but...

Ms. KINGMA: I know just where you're going.

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MARTIN: But, you know, they're a lot of women who might say well, okay, that's fine for me but that's not okay for my husband. Or there might be men listening to this and say okay, that's fine for you women, but a man crying is an object of ridicule.

Ms. KINGMA: That is an age-old challenge for men and I think women need to allow this for men, men need to allow it for themselves, and it's a very organic process and your body wants to do it so the stress doesn't come out in some other debilitating form like illness.

MARTIN: And then you say face your defaults. What do you mean by that?

Ms. KINGMA: Oh, that's a big one. Well, it means in a crisis situation look at your habitual behaviors because we all have them and they're developed kind of as a compensation from our childhood stories. It's like okay, well, I'm upset. I think I'll run to the refrigerator. I can't deal with this. Or it's I'm going to work myself into oblivion because I know that, you know, work is the answer.

And so, crisis is an opportunity to challenge the way we normally respond to life and to come up with something more creative and something that really allows us to evolve as people.

MARTIN: But then you say let go. And this is something where I can see where you suffer, say, a loss of a relationship or something. You could see where someone would say okay, well, just you have to just let go of thinking that this person is going to come back. But if you've been let go, you know, you lost your...

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MARTIN: You know, you've lost your job or you're up against it financially. Tell me how letting go is helpful. Help me with that one.

Ms. KINGMA: Well, letting go is a surrender and it's helpful because it creates space. And whatever is new in your life, whether it's a new job, a new relationship, it can't come into your life when you're holding on to whatever you want to hold on to. It's like there needs to be space for the new thing to come. And whenever we let go, even if the person who let go of us, you know, there are people who are still hanging on to people who let go of them 40 years ago. But when we internally let go, space is created and the new thing can show up.

MARTIN: I promise I'm going to let you pick one more, but I just have to ask you about live simply. You say that living simply is very critical to coping from a devastating event. Tell me more about that.

Ms. KINGMA: It's so critical. Yes. Well, it's like when our lives are so complicated and overridden, we can't see solutions. We're just bogged down in the maintenance of all the stuff and all the relationships that we're maintaining. And when we peel some of that back, then really essential things start showing up and we see what's important and we re-orient, you know, our priorities about...

MARTIN: Well, I just wanted to clarify on the live simply piece. You're not just talking about letting go of stuff. You're also talking about kind of clearing out space in your life.

Ms. KINGMA: Yes.

MARTIN: Like let go of some of these commitments that maybe aren't as important as you think they are.

Ms. KINGMA: Let go of commitments. Let go of being stimulated 24 hours a day. You know, leave some space in your heart to feel some different things than just your responsibilities.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're having another in our series of conversations. Part of our summer reading series is with author Daphne Rose Kingma about recovering from major crisis. Her new book is called "The Ten Things to Do When Your Life Falls Apart."

So we've covered a number of those things, but I think some might be listening to this and they might be saying okay, well, Daphne Rose, who made you so smart? Whatever, I've got, you know, death, disease, sickness, job loss. I'm broke. How do you know?

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Ms. KINGMA: Well, I've put in my time on this planet. And like every other person, I've had my share of crisis. And, you know, just for example, as I was beginning to write this book, I went off to work on it. I was exhausted from a very stressful year of work and I went some place to rest. I got up the next morning. My computer and the entire book outline was stolen.

And so, nobody gets through life without going through times like these and I certainly haven't either. And I guess I was able to draw on how have I navigated my own way through these crises? And what I became aware of is that these are the pivotal things and they are what carried me through and what are capable of carrying people through.

MARTIN: Well, finally, before I let you go - I'm sorry about your laptop, by the way but it so...

Ms. KINGMA: Oh, thank you. Thank you.

MARTIN: But it seems to have turned out okay. I mean you applied chapter six, Persist. But the final question I wanted to ask you is the subtitle of the book is "An Emotional and Spiritual Handbook." Now for those who have a spiritual or perhaps, a religious grounding, perhaps some of these things will sound familiar. But what about for those who say all this spirituality, smirituality(ph), stuff like this doesn't interest me.

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MARTIN: And I'm just trying to get through the day the best I know how. Is there something here you think is also applicable to those who take that perspective?

Ms. KINGMA: Well, that's true. There are people who feel that way and I think the spirituality word has been kind of overused and stretched out recently. But I think what is true of everyone is that somewhere inside yourself there is a quiet place. It doesn't matter what you call it.

But I think that as human beings, we do know that there is something in us that is more than just all the events of our days and all the things that we're rushing to do or escape from. And it's just coming to that internal place of peace that I think every person wants to when the world is falling apart around them, wants to when life is peaceful and beautiful to come to some place of just, if not transcendence, if not ecstasy, then just a place of quiet in which you can reside comfortably inside your own skin.

MARTIN: Do you mind if I ask? How is the friend who inspired this book, by the way, that you described?

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MARTIN: It seemed like he was having a tough time. Do you mind if I ask how he's doing?

Ms. KINGMA: No. He's doing very well. And he's come to peace with many of these things. And out of all this pileup, if you will, has come a new career. He is a very talented writer and had never, you know, made time for that and had been so busy being a provider, trying to impress his wife. You know, having a great apartment.

And what was revealed as he went through managing his illness and letting go of some things is like, wow, this is what I've always wanted to do with my life. And so there's a great feeling of being in alignment with, you know, something deeper in himself.

You know, that was the discovery that this man made. It's like, wow, theres something that I've always wanted to do and I've never permitted myself to do it. And as he has mentioned several times to me, I believe that using my creative gift is bringing healing to my body because he's feeling a lot better and, you know, progressing in a way that he never imagined possible.

MARTIN: Daphne Rose Kingma is the author of "The Ten Things To Do When Your Life Falls Apart." Thank you so much for joining us.

Ms. KINGMA: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: If you want to read previous conversations in our summer reading series, just please go to our website. Just go to the TELL ME MORE page at npr.org.

And that's our program for today.

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MARTIN: I'm Michel Martin, and you've been listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. Let's talk more tomorrow.

(Soundbite of music) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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