NEW Book by Risa Byars coming soon. Read a sample from her book below...

A memoir of childhood dreams, grownup heartbreaks 
and a belated breakthrough into womanhood

My beloved grandmother was content to sit on a porch for hours engaged in storytelling, while I struggled to remain still long enough to listen. Deeply aware of the special gift of her healthy and vibrant presence in my life, I promised myself to spend more time with her, listen more attentively, and put my own agenda aside in order to enjoy her company. Caught up in the rhythm of daily life and the intricacies of my youthful self-absorption, romantic woes, building a business and searching for Mr. Right, the years flew by and grandma’s body began to break down. I now find myself missing her hugs, her unconditional adoration and the sound of her laughter with a longing that stings my soul.

During our weekly drives together to the traditional Sunday family suppers at my mother’s home, grandma would delight in the details of my private life. “Darling, what ever happened to that nice fellah you were dating?” She would ask with eager anticipation, and I would brush aside her heartfelt question, feeling like a fly under a microscope and yearning to be alone with my thoughts. I knew she could see straight through my eyes into the depths of my soul, and this feeling of transparency filled me with the urge to run and hide from her knowing glance. 

One hot sunny day in mid-summer several years before she died, I decided to surprise grandma with an impromptu afternoon visit. I found her sitting at a public swimming pool next door to her apartment building trying to ease her loneliness by watching the children swim and play. In that rare moment of connection I was overcome with feelings of love and empathy for her. I now ask myself, why was it so difficult for me to sit still with her, to truly listen, to cast aside my own schedule and quiet my mind in order to enjoy those precious moments together?

My mother fought her own demons in the final years of caring for grandma. “Can you believe I drove to 10 different stores trying to find the right kinds of onions and pantyhose?” My mother would moan to me during one of our many gripe sessions involving grandma’s highly specific requests. “Well at least you didn’t have to spend 45 minutes at the supermarket while she examined every single potato”, I would reply with a snicker. Usually these conversations ended with laughter, but beneath the lighthearted banter was a shared understanding that grandma would not be with us forever. 

What are the deepest voices of a woman’s soul, and why is it so difficult for us to stop the noise for long enough to listen? My work as a psychologist has taught me that none of us are immune to the struggles of life. We all have a mountain to climb. It does not matter so much how long it takes us to get there or what path we choose, as long as we finally arrive. And it helps to stop and breathe along the way. When we take the time to embrace inner stillness instead of clinging to chaos and mental clutter, we find wisdom and answers we might have otherwise missed. Life's most important treasures can be found in the most unexpected places, like an afternoon visit with a beloved grandma.

​With the quiet wisdom of middle age I am better able to accept the inevitable passage of time and the many storms I have weathered on this journey. In my fourth decade of life I continue to reach for the stars, trust my own voice and explore new horizons. So many lost dreams scatter behind me like dust in the wind as new dreams emerge and move me forward. Despite our greatest efforts and best intentions, some stories veer off course and head in strange new directions that we never could have anticipated. This is the journey of life, and a universal truth we must all come to face.

As a small child I marveled at how the moon would follow the car, always appearing directly overhead. “The moon wears a seatbelt”, my grandfather explained, and I would try to visualize the glowing sphere fastened securely into a car seat, riding along a parallel interstate in the sky. My grandfather was a creative and playful man who understood the magic of a child’s perspective. Perhaps the pain we all experience stems from faulty perspective brought on by a sense of misalignment, or alienation from the voices of our own soul. In order to act genuinely and authentically from or deepest core, we must allow ourselves to remain still for long enough to hear the answers that already lie within us. 

The child in my heart reminds me that stars in the night sky are diamonds, moons can wear seatbelts and relationships can be reborn. The image of the woman I see in the mirror reminds me that it is not the final destination that matters rather, it is the journey that counts. As I am becoming more mindful in the present moment and releasing my ties to the past and the future, I find myself finally ready to live deeply and wholeheartedly and claim the joy and fulfillment my grandparents left behind. Sometimes when I drive alone at night I remember to find the reflection of the moon in my rearview mirror. Memories of my departed grandparents come rushing back and I swear, the moon still follows me all the way home.
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