Local Author Spotlight: Sarahbeth Persiani

COVID-19 has drastically altered the landscape of publishers, authors, and booksellers. The large clearing houses have pushed back many titles until fall, effectively crunching together a few seasons worth of titles into one large cluster of releases beginning this September. Authors, most notably local or self-published writers, have had their main source of publicity cut out from under them as library events, book signings, and in-house displays have upended the grassroots approach many more obscure writers rely on in a top-heavy industry. The inability to promote is so frustrating for authors, many of whom spent years or decades working on a title, only to see it released in the middle of a firestorm.

Root and Press has attempted to partner with local authors through collaborations and workshops, multi-author events and individual signings. All of these have been delayed for the time being, yet we hope to be able to host our second holiday event this winter. In the meantime, we are profiling some work you may not be familiar with in the hope that it will mitigate the lack of in-house options.

Run Walk Crawl: A Caregiver Caught Between Generations by Sarahbeth Persiani.

Persiani, from Millbury, recently echoed the frustrations mentioned above. She had multiple in-person events cancelled and the traction necessary to spread buzz about the book has been difficult to acquire, even as the subject matter the book covers has manifested on multiple fronts due to the pandemic.

From the Publisher:

Imagine running a marathon that you didn’t intend to compete in, let alone train for. The finish line is nowhere in sight, and the stakes are your family’s safety and happiness…Such is the situation of family caregivers, many of them women, who suddenly find themselves trying to simultaneously hold down a job, build a family, and care for elderly parents. Struggling to put on a good face to hide their stress, they compartmentalize their roles and push through their days–treading most carefully when navigating the multigenerational workplace.

Written with a spirit of perseverance and knowing “this too shall pass,” Run, Walk, Crawl: A Caregiver Caught Between Generations, describes Sarahbeth Persiani’s “marathon”–her deeply personal story about figuring out how to meet the daily demands of work and family while taking on increasing responsibility for her aging father. By turns funny, insightful, and poignant, this memoir chronicles her successes, her failures, and, ultimately, her goodbye to a hard-earned, respected professional persona on the way to miraculously finding her better self.

I recently worked with Persiani to shed some background information about the book.

Q- Why did you write this book?

  1. Initially, I began writing to make sense of what I had experienced. It was cathartic to reflect on different memories/situations and mull what I could have done different, better. Then it became about sharing my story as both a caution and white flag to others who do not realize how life-changing caregiving can be. How you can lose yourself in the process (i.e. health, career, relationships) in the name of being helpful. Writing provided a means for reflection and closure.

Q- How is this book different from other caregiver books?

Many books about caregiving offer prescriptive advice and tips that the author learned during their journey, In all fairness, earlier versions of my story contained practical side bar suggestions as well. Along the way, I made the decision to focus on showing (not telling) the reader why this can be the most difficult period in someone’s life. I wanted to share the most authentic, honest retelling of what it was like, rather than overlay hindsight expertise.

My story also encompasses a workplace narrative. We usually hear from the people who say, “I couldn’t have done it without the support from my employer!” which may be the exception not the rule.   

Q- What can companies do to support family caregivers?

There are usually workplace benefits such as EAP (employee assistance programs) that offer resources such as referral programs for child/elder services and subsidies. However, support that is felt every day has to do with culture. Just as we require employees to learn about issues such as insider trading, unconscious bias and sexual harassment, there should be training available about the complex challenges that family caregivers face. Basically, teaching colleagues and managers to be understanding so that family caregivers do not feel the need to mask the reality of their personal life.

Q- Does this book have relevance during this current COVID-19 crisis?

I believe it does, as the premise of the story relates to the need for authenticity and compassion for each other and ourselves. Although the time-frame of the story occurred well before anyone ever heard of the term “coronavirus”, it shines a light on the double life that many women lead of working AND caregiving. Quietly and stoically. The pandemic has landed us all at home and while the current situation is sobering, it is also empowering. We’re recognizing our family care situations in other families, offices and homes across the nation. Knowing “we’re all in this together” we can finally feel confident sharing our once concealed caregiver lifestyle.

Q- Is there advice you can offer family caregivers during the COVID-19 crisis?

Yes, and it’s all about self-care. To be able to take care of others we have to take care of ourselves. Be intentional about setting aside time to refuel our tank in whatever category of self-care we need most.

Physical: Think—stretching, walking, healthy food and SLEEP

Emotional: Forgiveness, compassion, stress relief techniques and self-kindness

Social: Calling friends, support systems, positive social media

Spiritual: Time alone, nature, yoga, meditation

For as much as we hear about professional healthcare workers that are heroes on the front-line, I believe we have just as many deserving family care heroes at home.

Q- What about dealing with siblings who don’t pull their weight?

Unfortunately, the most common complaints that I hear in the work I now do is with regard to sibling tension and family rifts. The strain of caregiving has a way of fueling family dysfunction. Childhood labels and roles often resurface. I advise caregivers to be realistic about the help you’ll receive since you know first-hand about your siblings’ strengths and shortcomings. Move on, find a different plan, your time and energy are better spent elsewhere.

Q- Finally, are their lessons learned that you would like to share?

There are so many lessons learned and one that I hope comes across in my story is the importance of accepting your situation and focusing on what you can control. For a long time, I was ornery and bothered because I (the youngest of five siblings) ended up as the primary caregiver. Rather than being honest with myself (and others!) about my situation, I tried to do it all and didn’t ask for help. I swept problems under the rug to be reckoned another day.  

It’s also important to know what are the things that soothe, comfort and provide respite for your personally. For me, it was my relationship with God. Calling on my faith, I began to see the gifts and rewards of caregiving. Rewards such as special/tender moments, deeper relationships and a new perspective of gratitude and humility to name a few.

Root and Press carries this title in house. If you would like to purchase online, please click here to purchase through bookshop.org.

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