How do you keep your spirit alive when your environment is inbred with drug addiction and abuse? Susan Torres grips the readers in her beautifully and entertainingly written memoir, Living on Three Spoons, a tale of growing up in the most dysfunctional household possible, while holding on to her “true self.” The life lessons she learned to survive and thrive are ones we can all benefit from – standing up for what you believe to be good and true in your heart, and that the only way to truly fulfill the need for love is by loving ourselves.
Yes, Susan made some of the same mistakes as her mother – her first husband a drug addict, her second husband violent and controlling – until she disengaged from being one of those “dysfunctional women whose family histories creeps into the present, replaying their childhood experiences.” When her mother lay dying from AIDS, Susan forgave her and ceased the years of judging and condemning her. This gave her the freedom to live her own life, on her own terms, without hatred or regret. “Somehow I stumbled upon a healing process for myself,” writes Susan, “I learned to accept (my mother’s) failed life and understood clearly that I was separate from her, completely separate.”
Susan’s acceptance that life was and always would be imperfect – imperfect people living in an imperfect world – allowed her to forgive and to grow emotionally into the kind of mother for her own four children that she had always wanted. Taking this journey with the author leaves you truly believing that no matter how many times you are knocked down, you can keep getting back up and succeeding.
Author Susan Torres is a native New Yorker who currently teaches high school English near her home in the suburbs of New Jersey. An article written about her in the New York Times in 2007, “Single Mother – Creator of Miracles,” prompted her to author this book.
Here, Susan Torres answers my questions about writing and inspiring others:
Q. What is the underlying message of your book?
Susan: Life is about choices. So choose, and be a change agent in your own life.
Q. What inspired you to write your memoir?
Susan: I was inspired by my single parenting struggles. By examining my life through writing I learned that I could reach a higher ground with more emotional power for the next round. I wanted my children to know my travels through life with all of its man-made mistakes. I recognized that I failed as much as I succeeded. And at the end of the day, I was inspired by my own life events.
Q. What do you hope readers will take away from your story?
Susan: People ought to grant themselves a great life and reinvent, if necessary, when life falls apart at the seams.
Q. Where do you find your inspiration?
Susan: People inspire me. From the new people that I meet, to people that I read about, to my good friends, and of course, my children. Not a day goes by that someone hasn’t inspired me.
Q. What is the best thing anyone has said about your book?
Susan: “Not only does it reveal in all their gritty detail the kind of terribly disadvantaged beginnings that some people can have, but it also shows that faith, courage, and a little bit of pragmatic intelligence can go an incredibly long way in helping one to rise well above them.”
The above quote about my story insinuates that people are capable of climbing out of a ditch, one shovel at a time, if they believe they can.
Q. Any advice for others who feel they have inspiration to share?
Susan: Your life experiences are valuable, so offer your stories, the ones you are most proud of and those you would rather keep under cover.