Where Have I Been All My Life? By Cheryl Rice

The subtitle of Where Have I Been All My Life? “A Journey Toward Love and Wholeness,” is actually only the tip of the iceberg in this moving memoir by Cheryl Rice.  Underneath the author’s name on the cover are more clues: Losing My Mother, Falling for My Therapist and Finding True Love. These are key issues in the author’s journey to love and wholeness. After hearing Cheryl read from her book, listening to her comments, and then reading the book myself, I think this memoir is actually about coming home to oneself with love and forgiveness.

The author begins her book with a painful, childhood experience of being terribly homesick at sleep away camp, the first time at 11 years old. Her parents thought sending their young daughter to camp would help her become more independent, and despite her daily pleadings by mail, she remained. That she kicks off her book with this experience tells me she was traumatized by her weeks of crying and homesickness. The key word here is “home.”

The book continues with details and occurrences that Cheryl considers crucial to her memoir, especially the death of her beloved mother at 67, quickly and unexpectedly from cancer.  She shares her pain and Cheryl’s father’s pain and how her mother’s death has left both of them devastated. Her father seems inconsolable, which compounds the author’s own grief from this tremendous loss.

Her relationship with her therapist occupies a large part of her memoir, how she falls in love with him, how this impacts on her own fairly recent marriage, and how her anger with her therapist is a positive step towards getting through this transference period with a clearer view of herself.

Near the end of the book is a letter from her deceased mother, ghostwritten by the author, a clever way to let the reader in on what Rice thinks her mother would say if she were still alive. The very last chapter is another letter to her mom that sums up the depth of her despair after her mother dies. “After you died, I was lost beyond words, beyond reason, it seems.” Her mother’s death when Cheryl was in her mid-40s took a huge toll on her life, leading to the therapy (and her aforementioned transference to her therapist), and creating waves in her fairly new marriage to a divorced father with two young children the author helps to raise.

In this final chapter, Dear Mom, the author notes: “Day by day, I am becoming more like myself, and day by day, I am liking myself more.  What a revelation that is.” My question is: Why do we need half our lifetimes to come to love ourselves? Is it true more of women than men, because despite women’s lib, most women still have to work twice as hard as men in order to be acknowledged.

In reading Where Have I Been All My Life? I identified with many of the author’s feelings, despite the fact she is much younger than me and grew up when women’s equality was a major issue. I believe each person has to learn to navigate the waters of childhood and adulthood with good role models, positive experiences, and doable challenges. Not all of us have the tools to navigate, and learning how one person manages to do so, despite setbacks and imperfect parents (Aren’t we all?), makes this an interesting, introspective memoir.

But above all, I believe loving ourselves and forgiving our parents for not being “perfect” are two steps in the right direction.  Cheryl demonstrates this with her keen observations and her raw and sometimes difficult truth telling memoir.

Where Have I Been All My Life is published by She Writes Press (Berkeley, Calif.) and costs $16.95 in soft cover.

2 Responses to “Where Have I Been All My Life? By Cheryl Rice”

  1. Mary-Lou Meyers Says:

    very illuminating story, and how many of us could duplicate a similar scenario, but our generation
    of women were more reticent about “airing our linen,” and kept bottled up inside, for the example
    was already set for us by our mothers, sacrifice, don’t expect much in the way of rewards,
    and your husbands probably want boys in preference to girls, because there are limits to what
    they can do short of marriage, teaching, and nursing. But the truth is we all once had dreams,
    but still felt the only real life for a woman was to marry and have children, probably projecting
    on them all their unrealized dreams. Today you can truly let your hair down, and no longer just
    confide to your best friends, but admit your frailties and your mistakes because they duplicate so
    many others

  2. Cheryl Rice Says:

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful review. I’m so glad the themes of my book resonated with you. It is encouraging to know we are all on this journey together. Thanks again for your time and generosity of spirit. Kind regards.

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