Friday, September 12, 2008

Guest Blogger: Danielle Younge-Ullman

A few weeks ago, I posted a review for a wonderful book called FALLING UNDER. As I mentioned before, I thought this book was very, very good. It's an extremely well written novel, and the prose is just so intense. I highly recommend it!

I am very excited to have Danielle Younge-Ullman, the author of FALLING UNDER, join Booking Mama today. I absolutely love her essay, and I think you will too! Not only does it give a little background into how she created her novel, but I think it's something that we can all relate to... ANXIETY!

Normalcy, Mountain Lions, Internal Catastrophe

I appear pretty normal.

In fact, people who meet me and then read my book are a little shocked that someone rather bubbly and seemingly well-adjusted could write such a raw, intense book.

People who have known me most of my life are also surprised—many of them didn’t know I had another side.

But many of us have hidden depths.

And many of us also have worries, memories that make us ache, things that keep us awake in the night, no matter how “normal” we seem.

When I wrote Falling Under one of the things I wanted to explore was anxiety. Many of us live with more of it than we realize and for some, worry is as natural as breathing. In fact, until my mid-twenties I thought everyone was like me, and had their life flashing before their eyes at the first screech of tires even if they were safe in their houses.

I was amazed to discover there are those who do not worry about a million things all the time. People who just…live. They are smart, deep, good people who know the risks involved in simply getting out of bed in the morning, but they don’t think about those risks all the time.

I started to imagine the sense of freedom and the extra energy I would have without my constant internal catastrophizing. And then I imagined the opposite—people whose fears were like mine but multiplied by a thousand. I started to envision a brilliant young artist; smart, brave and full of possibility, but so afraid of life that she could barely manage to leave her house. How would a person get into such a state? How would she fight her way out of it and learn to take a chance on herself and her life?

Suddenly I had a book—or a starting point at least.

I also had a new perspective on my inner life, on the thoughts that take my energy and direct my actions. (There was some therapy involved in gaining this perspective, in case you’re wondering.)

I still worry a lot—it’s part of me. Recently I was taking a nature walk with my two-year-old. She tends to lag behind, change directions without warning, etc. Now, I wasn’t worried about her getting lost since I would never let her out of my site. No, I was worried about mountain lions, known for grabbing the smallest members of families and running off with them. Of course, THERE ARE NO MOUNTIAN LIONS IN TORONTO, hardly any in the province at all, but you never know…

Nowadays, I have a sense of humor about my anxieties, and I try, as soon as I’m aware of them sneaking up on me, to divert my thought and energy into something else.

And when all else fails, I remind myself that at least it means I have a lively, if somewhat overly dramatic, imagination.


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful post. I truly enjoyed reading it.

I've become much less of a worrier in recent years, I think in a subconscious effort to counterbalance my husband, who is a huge, huge worrier!

Danielle Younge-Ullman said...

Thanks Shana!

It's interesting to hear how you've counterbalanced your husband in the worry department. It's the opposite in mine--he knows I'm the worrier and I know he's the least likely to worry. In a way, worry has become part of my unofficial job description in the family! I wonder, does that mean he would worry more if I stopped?

Gail said...

great post, Danielle!! So interesting to read the backstory. And honestly, for anyone who hasn't read FALLING UNDER.. you MUST! It's GREAT!!!! My oldest daughter and my best friend both read it after I did and loved it!!!

Jenny Gardiner said...

D, we know in fact you're really quite morose and maladusted ;-)
Seriously, though, Danielle's book is absolutely fabulous--I urge everyone to read it.
And I can so relate to those inner demons luring you in with fear. I spent my childhood terrified about being a victim of a tsunami. I lived in Pittsburgh, a good 12 hour drive from the nearest shoreline...

Danielle Younge-Ullman said...

Gail, thank you! I'm happy to hear your daughter and best friend enjoyed Falling Under.

Jenny, you crack me up. And also, I can totally relate to those tsunami worries. I lived part of my childhood in Minnesota where we had tornado drills all the time and I think those weather-related catastrophes are the scariest of all in some ways.

Thanks for stopping by!

Ti said...

Fantastic post. I lived with anxiety in my twenties, post traumatic stress type stuff and it was not fun! As moms, we gain a whole new way of looking at things and worrying about our little ones. I chuckled at the lion story but I would have been thinking about the same thing.

Jess Riley said...

Love the post, D! I'm definitely the worrier in my family--it's actually something of a family joke!

PS: I'll 'third' the recommendations for Falling Under. I was completely riveted while reading and devoured it in two days, while working full-time.

Eileen said...

Ah the rogue mountain lions of Toronto. Got to watch for them. As one who revs up with anxiety at the drop of a hat I could really relate to this essey.

Serena said...

I really enjoyed this background post into Danielle's inspiration for the book. I worry about some things obsessively, like submissions to poetry magazines and what editors will think of them, but usually I try not to worry too much about other things and live my life.

Although I wonder if there are more anxieties in the world today because there is so much corruption, crime, and death on the news and in our neighborhoods. Has society molded us into these anxiety-ridden beings?

bevrosenbaum said...

I can sooo relate! Great post, Danielle!

Danielle Younge-Ullman said...

Ti--thanks for reading. Yes, being a mom adds a whole new level to the angst! I'm happy the mountain lion thing made you chuckle. I have a huge list of examples I could have given, mostly ridiculous, though not all.

Jess--thanks! Do we need t-shirts with "Official Worrier" on them? And more importantly, is there any extra money in it for us?!

Eileen--hey, there really ARE mountain lions out in BC. I know this because we did a trip out there a couple of years ago and I did a bunch of research. (We were legitimately going to the mountains.)

"Has society molded us into these anxiety-ridden beings?" Oh Serena, that is such an apt comment/question. Often I'm surprised not at HOW MUCH we all worry, but WHETHER WE WORRY ENOUGH...! (and I worry about that)

Bev--thanks for stopping by!

Joanne Levy said...

Yes, if nothing else, the worrying will always be fodder for books. I think lots of people worry and can definitely relate with little anxieties and the big ones, too.

And even for someone who probably doesn't worry enough, I totally got Mara's angst in Falling Under.

As far as mountain lions in Toronto, no, I don't think you'll find any. Although there are plenty of cougars.

Cheryl said...

Great interview. I read Falling Under and enjoyed it

Danielle Younge-Ullman said...

Cougars, Joanne?! I'm thinking you mean the human, female kind?! If not, I've got a whole new set of issues. Like no more walking. Anywhere.

Cheryl, thanks for stopping by!

Julie, thanks for hosting me today--this is a great blog!

Larramie said...

For anyone who has yet to read Falling Under, just consider the remarkable insight in this one post and multiply it by 100. That's what you'll find in this brutally gorgeous novel!

Danielle Younge-Ullman said...

Larramie, thank you! I love "brutally gorgeous"as a description of Falling Under.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this post a lot! I've suffered from anxiety ever since my daughter was born eight years ago. It's gotten a bit better; I'm not as much of a worrier as I was in the past.

I just received Falling Under to review, and I can't wait to read it! I've heard nothing but good things about it.

kaylalittle said...

Somehow you know exactly how to write everything i feel. your words are truly touching. thanks for the post!

avid reader,