Good Cause: Michelle Linn-Gust shares new book
By Michelle Linn-Gust For The Sun December 10, 2012 5:08PM
Michelle Linn-Gust is celebrating her birthday, Dec. 12, 2012, with the release of her new book, "Conversations with the Water: A Memoir of Cultivating Hope." | submitted
At a Glance
Michelle Linn-Gust’s new book, “Conversations with the Water: A Memoir of Cultivating Hope,” is available at www.inspirebymichelle.com and www.amazon.com as well as other retailers.
To learn more about the author, find her on Facebook and Twitter @MichelLinnGust.
Updated: January 13, 2013 6:11AM
There is no better time to reflect on our lives than on our birthdays. Mine is today, 12/12/12, and I’m celebrating it with the release of my new book, “Conversations with the Water: A Memoir of Cultivating Hope.” The book chronicles where I go as life takes me beyond writing and speaking about suicide loss and prevention — the path I’ve been on since my younger sister’s suicide in Naperville in 1993.
Because I write weekly about people who give back to others and to causes, people assume I am the kind of person who gives back. Mainly, people think that Denise’s suicide defines my life path because I have spoken around the world about it and written several books on the topic.
I could never dream to have been like any of the children and teens I’ve written about in past five months. Giving back just wasn’t me.
In the late 1980s, as a junior at Naperville North High School, I took Kermit Eby’s American problems class. We were required to either do service hours or write a paper on a social issue. I didn’t want to give my time away, so I wrote about eating disorders. I didn’t enjoy going to nursing homes and singing Christmas carols as a Girl Scout at Naper School. There was no specific reason I didn’t like it. I simply didn’t get it.
When Denise ended her life during her senior year at North, the trajectory of my life changed. I was a 21-year-old junior majoring in journalism at Ball State University. Suddenly, I had a need to teach and coach high school students, which I did after moving to Albuquerque and earning a master’s degree in health education from the University of New Mexico. Being the writer I always wanted to be didn’t feel as important as it had before she died.
I had thrived in the competitive atmosphere of Naperville, and there are many teachers here who helped make me the person I am today. But living in New Mexico for 17 years quickly taught me that I wasn’t going to charm my students like I thought I was when I arrived.
I taught at an ethnically diverse school; I was often the only blonde in my classroom. I couldn’t argue when the Jemez Pueblo kids said they had a ceremony one afternoon and wouldn’t be at cross country practice. Some students spent weekends on the reservation with their extended families where they had no electricity and sometimes only dirt floors in a hogan.
Later after earning a doctorate in family studies, I contracted with Indian Health Service, and I found myself traveling along dirt roads to give workshops on suicide to populations that struggled with life sustainment because of poverty and identity issues. Each experience taught me something about how our lives are intertwined no matter what happens to us.
But something happened in the past few years. I began to feel myself come full circle, or on what I call “the old road with new paving.” While I had never left my writing behind, it felt important to me to get back to it. It was what defined me before Denise died, and I know that she is still my biggest cheerleader in life and wants me to be the sister with the writing goals she supported. While I thought that because of grief I would never be the same again, I see I still am the same Michelle who at 21 had those writing goals and dreams.
Today I celebrate who I am. I celebrate the life experiences in the community I was raised in from the time I was three. I celebrate all that I have learned these past few months, especially from the kids who are giving back, creating their own good causes.
And as I go forward to writing about more than coping with suicide, grief and loss, I look forward to the continued stories I will hear. We’ll see where life goes from here.