An Unbelievable but True Story about Emotional Resilience – a “must read”
I’ve recently had the pleasure of reading the incredibly powerful and inspiring memoir, North of Normal and then meeting the author, the heroine of this story, Cea Sunrise Person. She is truly the living proof of emotional resilience. If you have not yet read this book, I urge you to do so. It is such a gripping and harrowing story that you will not be able to put it down. Cea was born into an eccentric hippie family in 1969, she spent the first decade of her life living in and out of tipis in the Canadian wilderness and surviving reckless adventures with her young mother.
It will most likely leave you awe-struck that this amazingly resilient woman came from a savage-like childhood, to being this woman of grace, who is now a successful author, speaker, teacher, wife, and mother of three living in West Vancouver, BC, Canada. I’m honoured to have been able to ask her some personal questions and to share them with you.
Q: What Are Your Thoughts on Emotional Resilience?
Cea: Emotional resilience is a topic that has come up repeatedly when people read my book and hear my story. I believe all children are born resilient. For children who lead protected lives, I believe it’s important to have challenges and to learn how to problem-solve them. For children who face adversity in their lives, I would recommend finding a way for these children to take their power back. It’s very important for them to have a healthy outlet that they can control and that is nurturing to them. This would be something connected to their passion, and may involve their creativity. In my dysfunctional childhood, my creativity was my outlet. This is where I had control. I loved to draw, write stories and read books.
It’s also really important to look at our children’s challenges as opportunities. Don’t bail them out! Children need to learn how to handle life’s bumps and they need to fall and be able to pick themselves up.
Q: What Kept You Going and Courageous Enough to Escape?
Cea: I have always liked personal challenges. I made a challenge to myself to move forward. I was always planning and envisioning my perfect life. I would look through magazines and I would study the models. I would dream of being a model as a way to escape. I would imagine myself living in Paris. I would get books from the school library about Paris and not only learn about the city, but study the metro system. I would imagine myself trying to get from one metro station to another and I would plan how I would do it. I was always intent on never being a victim. I realize that I always believed in movement and change. It’s better to strike out in a direction that doesn’t work than do nothing. The more one experiments, the more one can learn to follow one’s instincts.
When I decided to write a book, I had no publisher, but I was determined that somehow I would get my book published. It’s very very hard to get a book published and I experienced a lot of rejection. I must have re-written my book about thirty times but finally it was accepted.
Q: How Did you Reach the Point of Forgiveness Toward Your Family?
Cea: I was very angry at my family throughout my twenties and my early thirties. When I started writing my book I realized that it was time to stop blaming and holding my mother responsible for my life, and to take my own responsibility. I needed to find forgiveness and move forward. I could control my own destiny. By writing my book, it allowed me to see what I’d been through in black and white. I realized that I needed to accept it. Writing my book was very therapeutic for me. When people ask me for advice on getting through difficult times in their life, I recommend writing.
Q: What Are the Positive Points You Remember About Your Mom?
Cea: My Mom was always optimistic. She was very resilient and very affectionate. I always felt loved by her. I’m very affectionate with my three children.
Q: How Did the Social Excluding Bullying You Experienced in School Impact You?
Cea: Being a “book-worm” was my saviour, as was my creative outlet for drawing, and writing stories and poetry. I wish I could have realized then, that school is such a short time in one’s life, and the outsiders are often the ones who are most successful later on. By not having a lot of friends, it gave me time to focus on my goals and plan my perfect life. I believe we can start as young as we want, to focus on our goals and plan the life we dream of living. I also now realize that in school, friends are a friendship of convenience, because you’re all in the same place. When you leave school you can pick and choose friends. I still have a close friend from grade five and many of the friends I made in my twenties, I still keep in touch with on a regular basis.
Q: What Did You Learn About Yourself from Writing Your Memoir?
Cea: After I left my modelling career, at my peak and at age 30, I was in crisis and at a loss for six years wondering what to do. I had no university education and I didn’t know what my skills were. I tried different things, trying to figure out my skills. Once I decided to write my memoir, I realized that writing was my gift. This is what I found nurturing and fulfilling. I believe everyone has a gift but sometimes it takes years and years to find it. Also, my memories of my childhood changed after writing my book, because I had asked family members to fill in the details that I didn’t remember or didn’t know about it. My memories are different because of writing the book.
Interviewing Cea, left me with such inspiration. She is a model of hope for so many, especially young people who are struggling in their own lives. Part of her teaching, includes teaching teens to write their own memoirs. This summer she’ll be teaching a Teen Memoir course at Capilano University in North Vancouver for 13-18 year olds.
And of course, I highly recommend reading her book: North of Normal. You can also follow her on Twitter @CeaPerson and if you live locally, she’s happy to attend book club meetings to discuss North of Normal. Her upcoming local appearances include, the Bar Method, W. Vancouver, on April 28th at 7pm and as part of “Authors for Indies Day”, she will be at 32 Books in Edgemont Village (N.Vancouver) on May 2nd from 12-2pm.
I want to extend a huge thank you to Cea for sharing these gems of wisdom and helping us have a deeper understanding of emotional resilience. Cea also told me that she has just finished writing her second memoir which will expand upon her first book. It will take a long time for it to go through the publishing process, but I’ll be waiting, with anticipation, to buy her second memoir!
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