Have you ever thought: Who am I? What the hell am I doing? And how did I get here of all places? Probably at some point in your life, if not on a daily basis, you’ve asked yourself these questions. And if you’ve ever turned to the bookshelves for your answers, the new podcast "Self? Help!" is for you. For Season One, I asked best-selling authors the story behind the book that helped them navigate a pivotal moment in their life.
Paula McLain, the author of “The Paris Wife,” found insight from a book she was embarrassed to carry around. “I had to rip the cover off,” she said. “What if I somebody sees me reading this? How horrifying! How could I possibly be like that person?”
It takes a lot to become the person we are, and before McLain published bestselling fiction, she wrote a memoir. It told the story of how she grew up with her sisters in the foster care system after her parents could no longer care for them.
Paula and her sisters were moved from one foster home to another. In and out of these strangers homes, Paula was haunted by her mother’s abandonment. “She gave me away,” said McLain, “and then in repeated placements I had relationships with mothers who rejected me, who criticized me, who abandoned me, who showed me no love, or affection, or approval. Talk about unmet needs. That was my entire life, just one vast sea of unmet needs.”
As an adult, Paula paid a price for her childhood, especially in her relationships with men. “So I had decades and decades and decades of: What is wrong with me that I continue to look for love where it's not? I choose unavailable men. I choose broken men. I obsess over relationships. I treat relationships like a drug. I say I want sex when I don’t. I give away my power. Like, what the hell is going on?"
Paula reached for Robin Norwood’s book “Women Who Love Too Much” to figure out her patterns, and it gave her something she didn’t expect. “With this book, I actually thought I saw something I'd never let myself see before,” she said.
To hear Paula McLain’s story of what she discovered through Norwood’s book, listen to Episode 3 of “Self? Help!”
Learn more about “Self? Help!”, including how to subscribe, on our website.