PAR FOR THE CURSE and Family Patterns of Destructive Behavior

My first novel was published in March 2009 after a ten-year creative struggle to find my voice. Par for the Curse certainly outperformed my expectations by winning a few awards. Even more so, I was surprised by an outpour of love for the character “Riley Briggs” who was only supposed to be a minor character. The process of writing was arduous. The publishing process was not much more fun. New York, Boston, Dallas, Baltimore, New Orleans, Las Vegas, Phoenix, LA— city after city, libraries, bookstores, festivals, conferences, and hair salons. The tour was physically and emotionally taxing. I haven’t done a full scale book tour since. My WHY was so big for Par for the Curse that I pushed myself to physical and emotional limits. Every city, every venue I had powerful discussions with men and women who not only talked about the story, but also told me about their own lives and struggles to overcome family patterns of destructive behavior.

Par for the Curse is the story of eight women across three generations. There are 24 husbands among them. In the opening line, Grandma Lila warns, “The men you love will never love you. The men who love you, you will never love.” It was a curse placed on Lila in her youth that plays out in the lives of her granddaughters.

When Change Needs to Happen

When dysfunctional thoughts, behaviors, and consequences tend to replicate themselves across generations and family lines, change needs to happen. In most cases, there is one person in the family— the source, the nature of the problem. From there, the other family members are nurtured into the dysfunction through environmental exposures.

Blah! Blah! What does that mean?

Once somebody in the family does it, it makes it easier (and sometimes acceptable) for the next person to do it, too. Before you know it…everybody’s divorced, or dropping out of school, or cheering for “the school up north” despite living in the Heart of It All.

It Works Both Ways

Just like bad behavior can ooze across generations, so can good behavior. Both positive and negative pressure can be applied across families through environmental exposures. When everybody in the family goes to college it makes it less likely that anyone will drop out of high school. When everyone in the family has stayed married ’til death, it makes it uncomfortable and unacceptable to throw in the towel on your marriage without extreme circumstance.

It Manifests Differently

In Par for the Curse, Stormy, Riley, and Lourdes were all raised with the awareness that they were cursed and would never find true love. Lourdes choses to outrun the curse. Her approach is to never get divorced no matter what. Riley’s approach is to strike the first blow. She’s determined not to have a broken heart so she hurts before she can get hurt. She cheats before she gets cheated on. Stormy is the star of the story. She is determined to get to the bottom of this curse as her own marriage tumbles into dissolution. That’s what the story is all about…Stormy’s quest for truth to save her marriage.

Where to Start…

Grandma Lila had been extremely vague about the curse on her life until her granddaughters were adults. Once she gave them a few details, Stormy “the brilliant child” went into action. She travels back to New Orleans to find the woman who started it all. She gives us a good model of how to create change in our own lives.

Acknowledge the Dysfunction. You can’t change until you accept that something is wrong. If there are patterns of behavior in your family that you hope you and your children won’t repeat— talk about them. Don’t keep them hidden. Call them out for what they are. Stormy’s life was falling apart in a recognizable way. She refused to accept it for herself despite what the other women in the family chose to do.

Know What You Want. I teach my children not to run away from anything. Always run towards something. For example, you don’t run away from a job because you hate it. You run towards a different job because it excites and delights you. It’s one thing to decide that you don’t want a life like your parents or siblings. It’s an entirely different matter to decide what kind of life you do want. In Par for the Curse, the Briggs girls spent a lifetime running away from the curse. The problem was that they weren’t running to anything better.

Hope, Pray, and Have a Plan. You really hope you don’t end up like your father, or your cousin, or your Great Aunt Vera Mae. I don’t hate to tell you this… hope isn’t enough to force meaningful change in your life. This is Shine TYC and we believe in fervent and effectual prayer. Prayer is how we get our plan. It is not, itself, a plan for change. You’ll need to develop some knowledge from books, mentors, and other information sources. You may need to go to therapy to get clarity on what you really want. I’m the poster child that proves Jesus and therapy work well together. Lourdes Briggs hopes she won’t be married four times like her mother. So, she stays in a toxic marriage. Riley vows never to let a broken heart drive her mad. That’s what happened to her mother.

Riley and Lourdes are as different as blacktop and rainbows but they were both trying to run away from a family legacy that haunted them. Stormy tries to intellectualize her way through, hoping to solve all their problems by finding the root cause— an angry young woman from the Bayou. Par for the Curse reveals the impact of generational secrets on family, life, and love.

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