Over the weekend I read Margo T Krasne’s I Was There All Along: A Memoir and was so drawn into the story that I finished the book in less than a day. Okay, I am a quick reader, but still, a day for a 246 page memoir is pretty good for me and I still did all the usual weekend stuff!
I Was There All Along is a transformative story that spans decades. At age 48, Margo Krasne has an enormous meltdown. She’s recently lost her mother, her cat and can no longer create art, something she’s done for twenty years. As she examines her feelings with her unique, off-the-wall therapist Suzanne, she embarks on a quest of self-discovery that entails looking into her past, her relationships, and her various career paths. Sometimes on the verge of homelessness, other times successful beyond her imagination, Krasne’s life as a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker takes many twists and turns.
The book often reminded me of Shakespeare’s As You Like It’s Seven Ages of Man speech, that starts “All the world’s a stage/and all the men and women merely players.” In the almost eight decades that the book covers, as she is on the verge of turning 80, Margo Krasne has been a “player.” She met and was influenced by a wide range of people — David Susskind, Mike Nichols, Stella Adler, Bill Bernbach, Wilhelm deKooning, Sanford Meisner, Martha Graham and more. From radio producer/actress, to sculptor, communications coach and now a ‘woman who writes’, Krasne has given each career her all, and it shows. Her first book, Say It With Confidence, has been through several editions. Now with I Was There All Along, readers can delve into the background of this dynamic and exceptional woman.
The book is written in a conversational tone, so you feel as if you were sitting in the room with Margo and she’s telling you her story. She has the ability to bring persons, even those peripheral to her own life, vibrantly alive. Perhaps her years as a communications trainer have affected her style, but it’s warm, engaging and frank. From her sexual relationships, her forays into therapy, or her own self assessments, her prose rings true and insightful. Even her conflicted relationship with her father is dealt with in an honest and spare style that doesn’t rely on self-pity to assess how this relationship affected her own personal development and even rebellion.
From her childhood and teen years through the swinging sixties until the new century, Margo Krasne’s take on the world around her, and her place in that world, has a verisimilitude that is often absent in memoir. She doesn’t spare herself, and assesses her own life clearly and reflectively. Here is an excerpt from her first meeting with her new shrink:
Her high energy stood in sharp contrast to my own to-the-bone lethargy. I tried to sit erect, but my muscles kept collapsing in on themselves. Nothing appeared to exist inside me. Well, there wasn’t, was there? I mean a lack of a self, a perfectly centered inner being — something I had been seeking most of my life, was why I was asking for help in the first place. It was what Martha Graham — the great avant-garde choreographer and modern dancer — called a core. I remember her standing in front of our class, pulled up so much taller than her actual height, her hand swooping down below her pubic area, her fingers shooting upwards seeming to reach through the ceiling towards the sky. “It should be a rod of steel,” she’d cry, or something close to that. How I yearned to possess that rod. To develop an inner strength that wouldn’t sway with whatever winds washed over me. If I were religious, I could call my search a quest for the Holy Grail of Being. But as I was not religious, and a Jew, it wouldn’t work. I sunk amidst the stuffed animals wondering where I’d get the strength to recite the rest of the saga.
If you are looking to unplug and recharge, or gain some words of wisdom and examine your wellbeing, then Margo Krasne’s stellar memoir I Was There All Along, is the perfect weekend or anytime read.
Originally published at medium.com