free the pen, a blog for writers

June 9, 2017


Filed under: Journal writing,memoir — freethepen @ 1:57 pm

babywithbook What book put new ideas, inspiration, and desires into your brain, or heart? Did you change your life after the book? Did you change how you have relationships?

I remember reading How Can I Help? by Ram Dass about two plus decades ago. It awakened me to think deeper when I saw someone suffering. And I still try to be conscientious of that question: How can I help?

When I went through the darkest time of my life, no one asked me that question. Everyone was interested in trying to change my mood, change my direction, change my decisions, change my attitude. It was clear how desperately I needed help. I had lost my health, home and 98% of my possessions, my money was being spent on lawyers and contractors at a rate of $13,000 to $15,000 a month, and I had to shut my business. I was homeless and sick as a result. Not one person asked me the only question I needed to hear: How can I help? As a result, I felt disconnected from the people I trusted the most. The friends I had taken into my home for months at a time at no cost to them when they needed help had now turned their backs on me and I usually made them chicken soup when they got the flu. Instead, they expected me to stop the tragedies that were coming at me, one after the other. They told me I should read Job because that was what my life sounded like and then they would chuckle. They told me I should laugh too, that life was too short. Generous of them to have such a point of view on something they weren’t living. Several friends told me my life was too stressful and that if they took me in I would interrupt their routine.

So I decided to show compassion to myself. I asked myself the question: “Jan, how can I help?” Then I started moving forward and wound up moving far away, geographically and emotionally, from the people who didn’t see my suffering as worthy of help and compassion.

Ram Dass’ book, How Can I Help?, helped me to be more compassionate with myself. I had read that book almost 15 years before my tragedy but it stuck in my heart. Guess it stayed there until I needed it.

Keep the pen moving,

Jan and


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