Barnes and Noble Book Signing – Recovery at Barnes and Noble

I was in Minneapolis this summer and did a book signing and reading at the Minneapolis Barnes and Noble. This was different. I have presented four times at the American Psychological Association Convention and at the Employee Assistance Professionals Association for hundreds of people. However, this was not going to be another academic presentation. I was doing a signing in my home town for my new book, The Adversity Advantage, and it felt different.

It is easy to stand up in front of people who don’t know you and tell them your thoughts and opinions from a professional perspective. You are seen as an expert, and with a Ph.D. behind your name people give you instant respect. But, that is not the case when you are presenting in the town you grew up in. People know your warts.

I was nervous. I had told many people about the event, and my publisher had made it clear that for Barnes and Noble to be happy we needed to have good attendance.  I arrived early, dressed in Minnesota professional, and walked into the bookstore. I was directed to talk to Pete who casually mentioned that at the last book signing, they had a congressman speak about his book and only seven people showed up. That was a scary message.

I took a deep breath and told him that I was expecting at least 25 people and we should set up chairs for the reading. He looked at me quizzically and said fine. He moved some furniture around and made me a space to talk. Once I was assured the room was ready, I wandered over to the coffee shop. My Mom and Aunt were there having a quick cup of coffee before attending the book signing. They were all smiles, as I was. But inside I thought, “They have known me since I was a baby. They know all of my strengths and weaknesses. They know about the good choices I have made in my life and also the bad. They truly know about my adversity because they lived it with me—my brother’s car accident and death, my less than healthy relationships and my struggles with self-esteem.”

It got worse. After we paid our check, we walked toward the bookstore. My friend Jeff, a great confidante, was in the parking lot. I had not seen him for sixteen years—we had lost touch after we both got married and had kids. Then my maid of honor, with whom I worked at Honeywell and then United Health Group, showed up, then my boss from United Health Group, a nanny we employed when the kids were babies, my real estate agent and insurance agent, plus many other very close friends who were psychologists.

The audience was filled with people who loved me but knew all of my warts at work and in my personal life. And now three close friends, all of whom are psychologists and work with trauma victims, were in the front row. This audience of coworkers, best friends, psychologists, and family was the most intimidating audience I had ever presented to!

I took a deep breath and began. My voice sounded unsure and shaky. I reminded myself that they were all on my side.

I read a passage about an international artist who had great success in spite of her emotional and physical abuse as a child. Her story was rich in detail and very specific in the wise advice she gave to others to spur them on the road to recovery.

And, then I talked about my book and the difficult journey I took in writing it. While I was talking, it became apparent that I had experienced alcoholism and abuse in my family. The audience knew me too well and I couldn’t hide that fact through vague answers to questions as I could in academic presentations.

One very intelligent woman asked, “What is the role of forgiveness in recovery?”

I know what I think about this issue, but my anxiety made me defer to my psychologist friends in the audience. My insecurity got the better of me. A group discussion evolved and it was clear that many others in the audience had also experienced abuse.  I no longer felt alone.

My Mom finally spoke up. She is usually very shy. She bluntly said, “If someone says they are sorry, it is easier to forgive.” Well said, Mom.

The audience was quiet for a moment and we moved on to other questions.

The time was up and twenty-five books were sold. Barnes and Noble was happy. I was happy that my message was speaking to others, helping others, and decreasing their sense of loneliness with their childhood adversity.

Here is something I am driven to tell people;

“You are not alone. Childhood adversity is common and yet, very difficult and can impact you for the rest of your life. I also want to tell you that there is hope. You can recover by learning about issues, such as shame, confidence, conflict management, communication, toxic relationships, and the triggers that send you spiraling emotionally back to your childhood. Identifying your triggers and embracing and practicing new thoughts and behaviors leads one down the road to recovery. You can do it!”


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