Think of yourself as being part of a team. Team members help each other. When my husband and I discovered our son had a horrible heart defect we vowed to work together to help our family have the best life possible. We made decisions together, listened to each other’s ideas and most importantly listened to how each other felt about each situation. Lean on the person you trust. Keep the ultimate goal in mind even in the darkest of times.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to develop serenity and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Susan May.
Susan May is the award-winning author of Nick’s New Heart: 30 Years and Counting…the story of her son’s heart transplant experience. She is also written over 25 books of fiction for HarperCollins Publishers. Susan leads workshops on moving through difficult times, organizing your everyday life, time management and dealing with rejection.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
My youngest son was born with a severe heart defect that required immediate surgery and then later had to have a heart transplant all before he was two years old. I quickly learned there was little if any information about pediatric heart problems available. Just as important, there were no books to support families with a chronically ill child. Because of that, I felt compelled to write about Nick and our family’s experience sharing how we lived and survived against the odds.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Having a child who has teetered on the edge of life and death numerous times has to have been the most significant event in my life. It has affected every aspect of my world, including my writing, everyday life, and personal relationships. It has given me material for my stories, and life lessons as well.
I believe I arrived as a writer when Nick read Nick’s New Heart: 30 Years and Counting… and became so engrossed in the story he forgot it was about him. He told me, “I was worried about what was going to happen to that kid, when I realized, Oh that’s me!”
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
I would encourage them to step back and move away from the project they are working on to clear their heads. Even a few minutes away can open the mind to new ideas. Recharging is important. Having down time isn’t wrong; rather, it can be rewarding.
Often, I do a smaller project that can be completed in a short amount of time to help make me feel successful. That process can motivate me to finish the larger project.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Mine is a solitary job, but I quickly found I needed to spend time with other people in my profession. I take short retreats where I share ideas, brainstorm new ones and return to my everyday life ready to finish the book I’m working on.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Death Be Not Proud by John Gunther. Reading this book showed me what not to do regarding with my own chronically ill son. The father refused to tell his son he was dying because the father couldn’t face the fact. Always tell your children the truth on their age level, even the unhappy truth. Fear comes from not understanding.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious just from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Think of yourself as being part of a team. Team members help each other. When my husband and I discovered our son had a horrible heart defect we vowed to work together to help our family have the best life possible. We made decisions together, listened to each other’s ideas and most importantly listened to how each other felt about each situation. Lean on the person you trust. Keep the ultimate goal in mind even in the darkest of times.
- Take care of yourself. Step back and do something you enjoy; it will help remove your worries for awhile. Do something small that makes you feel positive and happy. That might be as simple as sitting in the sunshine and finishing a book you have been reading. If you are stuck in one place, get out and go for a walk. Take a different path within the building to get to where you need to go. Make your brain step out of the rut it’s in.
- Laugh long and hard at every opportunity, no matter how few they might be. Laughter is truly the best medicine. You can survive anything if you can find humor in the situation. Even a bad joke can be therapeutic.
- Stop worrying about what might happen so you can make the most of what you do have. Fear is stifling. It keeps you from moving forward or living in the moment. Don’t miss the good in the here and now by worrying about the bad in the future. It is a waste of precious time.
- Advocate for yourself and your loved ones. Voice what you need to survive. Know your limits. If watching the news raises your anxiety level, then only do so for a set amount of time. Fill your life with things that make you smile. Think about what you do have and not what you are missing.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
Voice your fears, whether it be to a confidante or a support group. Talking it out always makes the problem seem more manageable. I have also found that if I focus on others and their needs that I’m better able to cope with my own. Most people don’t have to look far to find someone they can do something for.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
Memories are all you have left, make them good ones. — Bo Plummer
I set a high priority on creating great memories and I believe traveling is a wonderful way to do that. My family has driven and camped its way through 48 states, swapped our house with another family in Canada and backpacked through Europe. All these adventures have provided memories that are retold and laughed over around the dinner table during holidays. Memories are the glue that hold people together.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would ask everyone to tell their family how they feel about organ donation. One person can save up to seven lives if they donate their organs. With unlimited funds I would have billboards and commercials made showing a photo of a person saved by a transplant with the question: Have you talked to your love ones about saving someone’s life?
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!