Today I am sharing my review of Ever Faithful to His Lead — My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse, and a short interview with the author, Kathleen Pooler. Since I wrote my first memoir, I’ve been following Kathleen’s blog at Memoir Writer’s Journey.
Kathleen Pooler is an author and a retired Family Nurse Practitioner. Her memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead: My Journey Away From Emotional Abuse was published in the summer of 2014. She is currently working on a sequel, Hope Matters: A Memoir.
Both books are about how the power of hope through her faith in God helped her to transform, heal, and transcend life’s obstacles and disappointments to live a life of joy and contentment. . The issues she tackles are domestic abuse, divorce, single parenting, loving and letting go of an alcoholic son, cancer and heart failure.
Pooler believes that hope matters and that we are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.
She lives with her husband Wayne in eastern New York.
Ever Faithful to His Lead — My Journey Away from Emotional Abuse is an important story for anyone who is in an emotionally abusive relationship. It is very courageous writing, insightful into important gender issues, and powerful in its potential to help others.
Kathleen Pooler’s brutally honest and at times self-berating memoir about her not one, but two successive, emotionally abusive marriages is an important read for anyone in a similar situation. It is an important read for anyone who suspects a friend or relative of being in a similar emotionally abusive relationship.
Pooler questions herself, “What I ask myself now is why did I tolerate so much for so long?” Although readers may think that Pooler has a flaw or weakness of character by today’s standards, it is important to remember the times and social constructs and gender expectations that were in play during the 1960s to 1980s era. In some ways, Ever Faithful to His Lead is a good study in gender issues.
Importantly, this is a success story. Through it all Pooler diligently stays on a path to independence. She earns an advanced degree in nursing while raising two children and coping with an alcoholic, at times absentee, husband. Pooler berates herself for tolerating first one and then a second husband who was unsupportive and volatile because she perceived a need for a man in her life and a father for her children. But eventually she takes the necessary steps to independence and self-reliance.
This is a story of resilience, fortitude, and overcoming self-defeating tendencies.
By sharing her story, Pooler has the capacity to help not only herself, but others who may be in a similar situation. We can all learn from Pooler’s experience.
I applaud her courage in telling her story.
Six questions for Kathleen:
1. On your website, Memoir Writer’s Journey, you write, ” We are all strengthened and enlightened when we share our stories.” Can you tell us a little more about this concept and how, in particular, this statement applies to you and to readers of Ever Faithful to His Lead?
This mantra about sharing our stories came to me when I was honing in on the main theme of my website. Hope has always played a powerful role in my life and I personally have found hope and strength from sharing my own stories and from hearing the stories of others. I wanted to create a welcoming atmosphere where people would feel comfortable sharing their stories and envisioned my blog as a kitchen table where people could gather and share. In the case of my memoir, Ever Faithful to His Lead, breaking the silence helped me to heal and forgive.
2. You write,” I grew up with Walt Disney’s myth of dreaming, hoping, praying that someday my prince would come…” How do you think your life might have been different if you would have been born thirty or forty years later than you were? Do you think young women today are better prepared to deal with some of the challenges you faced, or not?
Interesting question. I say this because I have had younger readers tell me they cannot relate to the Boomer issues of societal pressure to marry from the 60’s and 70’s. It’s a different time now and expectations of women and their roles in society have changed dramatically with the Women’s Movement. Abuse still happens but it occurs within a different framework. Yes, I do think the women of today are better prepared to take care of themselves and forge independent lives.
3. Your description of hiding in the closet, on more than one occasion, when you heard your first husband, Ed, returning from a night out drinking is chilling. As you often mention in your memoir, a lot of factors fed into your decision not to leave your marriage before you did. Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently? How would you advise another young wife who may be cowering in a closet somewhere, or pretending to be asleep to avoid a confrontation?
Of course, hindsight always seems to highlight issues that were not apparent at the time. I had a blind and naïve faith that all would work out in time, despite evidence to the contrary. Knowing what I know now, I would heed all those red flags before the wedding and walk away sooner. I would take my inner doubts seriously and take action. My advice to another young wife—value yourself enough to not tolerate abuse of any kind. Listen to your inner voice and claim you inner strength sooner than later. Reach out for support and get out.
4. What made you decide to write your story now?
This is not the story I wanted to write or started out writing. But as I kept writing, this is the story that revealed itself to me. I had to break my own silence by facing the guilt and shame I hid behind for years. I started out writing about the simultaneous battle of a cancer diagnosis and my young son’s spiral into substance abuse (my W-I-P memoir) but soon realized I couldn’t tell that story until I told the story before me. When I looked at the life of peace and joy I was living, I connected with my purpose for writing it—to share hope that no matter how far down into the abyss you go, there’s always hope for a better life—there was no stopping. If my story touches one other person and gives them hope to find freedom from abuse, I will have achieved my purpose in writing it.
5. In one or two sentences, what is the most important advice you would give to someone suffering from emotional abuse based on your own experience?
Love yourself enough to want and demand respect and love in return. Emotional abuse is not as obvious as physical abuse and yet it can be just as devastating. Power and control are at the root of any abuse situation. Trust your feelings, claim your inner strength and have an escape plan. Seek support from trusted family and friends. There are many community resources available but one has to break through the denial that abuse is occurring. Knowledge is power.
6. Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about your book or your memoir-writing experience?
The positive responses to my memoir have been beyond my expectations. So often we question if our personal stories will be of interest to others, if writing our truths will be worth it in terms of possibly offending others who may disagree with our version of the truth. Publishing Ever Faithful to his Lead has validated for me the power of memoir to transform and heal, both the writer and the reader. Not only was I able to forgive those whom I felt hurt me but I was able to forgive myself. That is the freedom I want to share with others. Our stories do matter.
Links to contact Kathleen: