By Laura Schultz
My father was a farmer turned politician. It was from him that I learned about honoring the land coupled with a concomitant social conscience. My mother was both a painter and a sculptor and through her influence, I was drawn to the arts at an early age. She believed that all artistic pursuits were a form of therapy, and did it with gusto, flair and true artistry. On more than one occasion I was told that “We show our love for people in the beauty we create for them both on canvass and in the culinary delights we serve them.” I never forgot her words nor her inspiration and it was in creative pursuits that I found solace throughout the many twists and turns along the path.
Although my teachers encouraged my artistic interests, especially my writing, I lacked the self-confidence to pursue my dream, until as if over night my world was plunged into turmoil and despair. In the course of a series of dramatic, life-changing events that included several near death experiences, I began a healing journey that transformed my life and gave me a new and hopeful perspective on the human condition. I began asking the tough questions of who we are as individuals, how we relate to our culture, the world at large, and more importantly where we as human beings are going. In many ways I felt that I had succumbed to Thoreau’s life of quiet desperation while the human community around me was in dire straits and so I feverishly began to write..and write from the heart.
Right before I entered UCLA, I was diagnosed with a terminal blood disorder and given about a year to live. I suddenly felt alienated and forgotten, the victim of a capricious universe and a society that was suddenly cold. I was now a lost child huddling in the corner. It was then that I realized that fear is our only enemy and if we give into it, we are lost. Fear obscures our vision and alienates us from our lives. It fragments our being and pits our thoughts against each other. So I fought my fears and the ensuing battles, and despite medical predictions, I survived the year and many since. It was a harrowing journey experience but I survived and never forgot the tenuous nature of our lives. It was during this time, when I felt isolated and alone that I always remembered the “therapy of creating” that my mother had referred to, and I learned to process feelings through creative writing and journaling. Through the process of becoming whole again, I realized that the same transformation was the key to our social malaise. I began to prepare the path to come out of isolation and become a real part of my community, making meaningful connections to others in a very conscious way.
In conjunction with this realization, I felt a growing needed to be of service to others and my community. I became involved in social action, working in a variety of programs to facilitate positive outcomes for people with disabilities and others who feel disenfranchised. My greatest success seemed to be in helping to heal personal relationships so I became a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. As such I have been assisting individuals and families in crisis for 25 years both in private practice as a clinician and in the nonprofit arena with expertise in the field of disability, chemical dependency, and childhood trauma. At the same time I began writing again. I worked on a number of projects including a self-help book but none seemed to satisfy or adequately convey those feelings and perceptions that I first nurtured in my youth and which were coming back to me with renewed energy. Throughout this time, I heard the call of the voice of the poet within that became too powerful to ignore.
Since that time of awakening, I have been driven to write poetry of the heart that illuminates the struggles of life and how we may triumph in the end. I am convinced that the growing fusion of my personal experiences and my professional knowledge is paving a path to further pursue my call to write. My resume does not tell the whole story, but because of my path, I feel passionate about sharing my voice with others to both inspire and to empower, through my poetry. My goal is to speak for many of what I consider to be the lost voices of the disenfranchised among us. I ascribe my poetic voice to the feelings expressed in the quote by Anne Sexton “Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.”