Editors note: In last month’s Unconditionally Her, we heard from author Janet Lynn Roseman on WHY she chose Joan of Arc for her book as well as her inspiration for writing the book. Read below for Part II, a Q/A session with Ms. Roseman.
Q, It is interesting you chose Joan of Arc as the symbol for your book, can you share more about why you chose her?
Certainly. Actually Joan chose me. After my mother passed away, I had a very difficult time adjusting to just how I would live in the world without her and to be honest, I still struggle with the answers to that question. The truth is all I wanted and all that anyone who has suffered a tragic loss in their lives is to find the connection again. I spent long, sleepless nights thinking about the amazing courage that she has during her ten year battle with cancer and I also thought about the many, many women I have worked with as an integrative medicine practitioner who also had extraordinary courage. My mother’s journey was filled with unimaginable suffering and I thought about her amazing courage – it was humbling. I didn’t like the mythology that people with cancer were somehow to be pitied and were weak, which is often the prevailing wisdom, which in my experience, was not true. My mother possessed enviable courage and it took my breath away just how strong she was. One day after she had passed, I tried to distract myself and visited a consignment store, something we had enjoyed doing together. I asked my mom to show me a “sign” that she was with me. Literally at my feet, there was a large painting face down on the floor and when I picked it up, there was a vintage painting depicting Joan on her horse with her head held high carrying a staff. I knew in that moment it was my mother’s sign to me. I read all things Joan, deeply knowing that she would be the symbol to honor my mom and all the other women I have loved and lost.
Q. What do you think that Joan conveys to the reader?
Joan of Arc is the ultimate symbol of courage, of strength, and absolute certainty about how she wanted to live her life. I decided after reading about her that she would be the perfect choice for readers to guide them on their journey, a symbol that they could align themselves when they were seeking inspiration or just too tired to carry their burdens on their own. Joan can be their ally, an ally they can count on during a diagnosis with cancer, or any difficult life challenge.
Q. What impressed you the most about Joan of Arc?
That’s a difficult question to answer, to identify any one particular attribute. She was smart, unyielding, intuitive and most of all she trusted her experiences with the Divine, no matter what. Even during her trial, she refused to alter one word of her testimony and she stood up to all authority who tried to discredit and embarrass her. This teenage girl answered only to her own authority, and the authority of her voices who she believed in and sustained her throughout her tail and ultimately even during her death. The ability to fight for what you believe in at all costs, even when it meant a death sentence is not only inspirational for women who are traveling a journey with cancer, but for all women struggling to listen to their own internal wisdom. It’s a beautiful and honorable lesson for everyone and is desperately needed, especially in this time when many people are not willing to fight for that they believe in.
Q. Some people think that the story of Joan of Arc isn’t real – that she is only a myth.
Well, when you read any biography about Joan, it is easy to dismiss her life as something on legend and not really real. She led an army of men in a century when women didn’t venture out of the house, never mind lead armies. She wore men’s clothing, crowned the rightful King of France, the Dauphin, and earned the respect of thousands of people during her time. And, we have to remember that Joan of Arc did live, and she was not just legend. When you think about a teenager dressed in men’s armor, leading an array of thousands of men to victory, and defying every notion about what a young woman “should do,” her life was extraordinary. One can only imagine what accomplishments she would have been offered the world if she was not burned at the stake.
Q. Your book, is very different than the biographies of Joan of Arc, can you explain a little bit how it is different and why you didn’t choose to write a biography?
When I write, I have to pay attention and listen to my inner promptings, and not only that, I have to honor the information that presents itself to be written. Any writer will tell you that although you may think your book needs to be written in a particular way in the beginning, the truth is that the book tells you, you are not in charge – it’s not the other way around. That process of writing, at least for me, is magical and I wanted to craft a book that would help women and give them actual tools during their illness. I have read many of the biographies of Joan of Arc and they are all terrific, especially Mark Twain’s book on her life. However, I knew that my book had to offer the women reading it, a guide so they too, could possess the qualities that Joan possessed and I had to offer the form that felt right to me during the writing process. The book includes passages from Joan’s trial using her actual words and specific attributes that I selected that literally just spoke to me while I was reading those trial records. I also include an active meditation and a message from Joan in that part of the book. The second part of the book explored each of these attributes in-depth and includes arts-based techniques to help women discover their internal coverage.
Q. Can you tell me more about Joan’s Messages in the book?
Sure, I am an intuitive and have always received messages when I am working with clients so I am quite comfortable with the listening process. When I wrote this section of the book, the words just came to me as I was able to intuitively connect with her. It was a lovely process and I am grateful for that opportunity.
Q. You write a compelling essay at the end of the book which includes specific directives for women to demand during their healthcare journey, can you tell me more about that?
After taking care of my mom, I was very disheartened by the lack of kindness, compassion, and heart that I observed during her nasty stays in hospitals across the country. This is not to say these were not exceptions, but it is and continues to be disturbing to me that it is an accepted part of healthcare that physicians can be without proper bedside manner or their bad behavior is excused. I don’t know of any other profession, especially a profession that is sacred and involved connection with other people’s hearts, minds, and bodies that would allow such lack of compassion. Studies prove that physicians who allow compassion and empathy not only have better connections with their patients, but they are in the privileged position to offer hope, to offer kindness, to help their patients during their journeys and showing one’s heart does not mean collapsing into tears. Clinical competence is a given, however, if you are not able to show yourself as a human being and treat the whole person in front of you, you aren’t practicing, truly practicing, medicine. The other interesting thing is that physicians actually yearn for this connection, but many are not trained to be attentive to whole person interactions and they lose the very heart of the practice of medicine as a sacred profession.
Q. What would you like your readers to know most of all?
That they aren’t alone, even though it may feel that way, or even if it literally is true. I know many women who have gone through their treatments without any support and it breaks my heart. I wanted every woman to be reminded she has a strong voice, and that her needs have to be addressed not only during treatments but that every women sick or not, has the right to listen to herself and to honor her internal voice. Joan can be that companion during the most difficult of times. Her story is a story of triumph, and that is what I want women to identify with, whether they are struggling with cancer or struggling through their own life. Healing can mean many things and I hope that this book offers women readers an opportunity to create and identify exactly what they need without trying to please others, and to put themselves first.
Q. Can healthcare workers use this book with their clients or patients?
Of course. When my mother was sick, we used to attend support meetings at several different hospitals and my mother hated them, and after attending those meetings with her, I understand why. Although, I am sure the therapist leading the program was well-educated, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she had the tools to provide hope to the group; that was what was missing. I offer training sessions with healthcare professionals, particularly social work oncologist and therapists who work with patients who are sick to teach them how they can use the book one-on-one or in a group setting. I am sure that there are some groups that are helpful, but these women or anyone with a serious illness needs tools to not be victimized and often they are by their providers who dictate treatments that may or may not be the best answer for their patients. I am not suggesting that people with cancer should not see their physicians, that is not was I am saying, but I would urge them to really take the time to see what is best for their situation: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I would also urge those in the medical profession to truly listen to the stories of their patients to not only hear what they are saying with their ears, but with their hearts. I am trained as an expressive therapist so I know the power of meditations, art, and writing as a vehicle for healing regardless of any particular stage of one’s disease. Healing has many faces.
If Joan of Arc Had Cancer: Courage, Faith and Healing from History’s Most Inspired Woman Warrior, Author, Janet Lynn Roseman, Ph.D., Publisher New World Library
Book available at www.amazon.com or www.newworldlibrary.com.