When I was a girl, I sang every day. I scribbled volumes of journals and poetry. I danced, badly but with gusto. I studied the piano and the flute. I played a nun in The Sound of Music. I once starred in the role of Anne Frank. I created, passionately, and reasonably well.
“Don’t go into the arts,” my father advised. My father had earned his doctorate in music. He played the piano on nights and weekends for side jobs. He never had enough money.
“Why? I love it all so much.”
“It’s just too hard. It’s too hard to make it. You should only go into the arts if there is nothing else you want to do, if nothing else can make you happy. If the arts are the only thing you can imagine doing, then you have to try. Otherwise, really, don’t do it.”
As it happened, I could imagine myself being a psychologist, and that’s what I did. Although to be clear, becoming a psychologist was a brutal endeavor. I slogged through five years of graduate school, internships, clinical placements, comprehensive exams, a dissertation, clinical orals, and then all the steps to earn my license. It wasn’t easy. But being a psychologist has been a good life. I never worry about my mortgage. I take great vacations. I am secure.
Still, that little artist slept inside me. My creative side was lulled by life. It slumbered through having children, accompanying me to all of my daughters’ concerts and plays. I was busy and I stopped inclining inward to hear what my artist had to say.
Then my mother died.
I didn’t know I would write a book, but it just kind of happened. One day I started to write about my life, and the pages flowed out of my typing fingers. The words danced on the page, shouting “why did you make us wait so long?” I wrote in a frenzy, chapters marching unbidden into my head while I was trying to sleep.
My liberated artist has a tale to tell; a story as bold and crazy as any life drama. My tale involves a tragic fire, and a horribly disfigured little girl. The cast of characters around this girl are charming, self-absorbed, gifted, dangerous. Somehow, improbably, this little girl is the lone survivor over time, and somehow now she brims with health and vitality.
Come along and follow my journey.
Lise Deguire's multiple award-winning memoir, Flashback Girl: Lessons on Resilience from a Burn Survivor, is available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Newtown Book Shop and The Commonplace Reader.