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  • Emma Palmer

In-between days: the birth of a book

The #MeToo for counselling and psychotherapy book I’ve been co-editing this past 18 months has been sent off to our publisher, PCCS Books. It was winter 2018/19 when my colleague and co-editor Deborah Lee left me an answer phone message suggesting a writing and editing project I might be interested in. I was, and here we are…

Now is the strange limbo of waiting to hear what the editor thinks, then to make any changes, and to wait patiently some more for the proof-reading, setting, and cover design. It’s like a gestation, not that dissimilar in length from a human pregnancy. The book morphs magically from word document to rectangles of finely sliced tree (thank you trees, I hope our collection is worthy of being printed upon you).

With the publication of my previous books Meditating with Character, Other than Mother, and Bodywise, I’ve found these gestation periods useful in starting to let go of ‘my’ words. Off they’ll go into the world sometime in 2020 and we shall have little idea, in the main, who reads them and how they respond.

It teaches me about integrity, this process; standing by the words in the chapter I’ve written, in this case, also standing by the co-editing of this collection, too, without being attached to either the words or the process. If I can’t stand by my words it’s hard to promote the work - the shy-making moments of ‘hello, would you like to read my book?’ If I cling to them then the letting go feels excruciating and can be immobilising.

Harder still is to let go of words about a subject I’ve never written about before now; ‘surviving’, as it’s coined, sexual abuse. Hopefully the hardest time was the soul-searching which arose after the initial decision to say yes to the project. Hopefully - but who knows as yet. My chapter in this collection links sexual abuse and ecocide so it’s easier to let go off, in as much as the words aren’t just about and for me – they’re for the well-being of all other-than-human and more-than-human life, too.

Whatever happens during this gestation I am changed by the experience of standing with the multitude of diverse voices contributing to this book – some former strangers, some friends - and the process of saying, of writing, #MeToo. I hope, in fact, I know, we have between us added nuance, depth and a breadth of reflection to this area.

We’re not Hollywood actresses, we’re therapists, clients, supervisors – human beings living with and living through the ramifications of sexual abuse and violence. At each of the final readings of the book manuscript earlier in the summer before we sent it to the publishers the words taught me things; something different jumped out each time. Sometimes something shocked me which hadn’t shocked me on a previous reading. Or I felt a clink of something dropping into place; new understanding, a fleeting moment of healing, maybe. My shoulders soften. I learn so much from my collaborators; their knowledge, wisdom, suffering, courage, and creativity.

I’m strengthened through the experience in that I no longer feel like I’m standing alone - invisibilised by shame. My heart is gladdened by the thought that readers will also realise they are no longer standing alone, as we make the invisible visible and say #TimesUp.

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