Orange County resident Karen Corinne Herceg has written a thought-provoking essay which the Thought Notebook Journal published in its latest issue titled, "A Tough Pill to Swallow."
Herceg said in a phone interview that we should face our problems head-on instead of relying on addictive behavior. She says in her essay that "we need to ask ourselves why we would need any substance or distraction that takes us out of ourselves."
The Highland Mills resident described today's society as an "upside down world of illusion." She doesn't mince words: "We are a nation of addicts with a great spin."
The Journal's editor, Kat Lahr, says she chose the essay "because it provided a stark and honest review of how outside forces can influence our beliefs, values, and behaviors. I wanted to bring light to the fact that often we are coerced to do things without even thinking about it—and how important it is to take a moment to think about what we do, instead of always being on autopilot, or relying on society to determine what's best for us."
There are all kinds of addictions available to people, legal or illegal. Herceg says legal drugs "truly impact health, emotional wellbeing, and aid in tallying up death tolls."
She points to Big Pharma that introduces new drugs almost on a daily basis and food manufacturers that give us processed foods filled with sugar and carbs. She says "there is too much in our society that benefits and profits from the misdirection of our comforts." Alcohol is one. Her essay points out that "going to a bar is a legitimate recreation" for many people.
Herceg says we have other addictions and obsessions. We tattoo our bodies, we consume goods we don't need, we give in to violence. "Has arming ourselves prevented more violence in our country? If you think so, you've been living under a rock or maybe just busy shooting life-like animated figures on video screens."
Addictions cannot heal the injured heart. "They are like misplaced Band-Aids on wounds," Herceg says. "It's natural to look for relief and comfort, I understand that. The problem is where we look for it."
For people to live in harmony, Herceg said we need to cultivate harmony within ourselves. "We need to be ruthless in the examination of the self. We can't connect to anyone if we are not connected to ourselves."
Examine the Self
Herceg fell into some of the obsessions she speaks of. She went through a painful childhood, full of physical, mental, and emotional abuse, much of it by her mother. In an attempt to recover, she fell into bad relationships and abuse of alcohol.
To heal, "I knew that the way out was to go through it, not around it and not past it." She said her suffering was both a challenge and a learning tool, and she channeled her suffering in a creative way that helped to heal her.
She found people to support her creative path, and she did heal.
Instead of an escape through addictions—alcoholism, overeating, compulsive buying, hoarding—Herceg said a person needs to take a hard look at oneself, "a really tough examination of what's happened in your life, what's affected you, made you who you are, molded your character."
It doesn't work to point a finger at others. What you see in others, she said, is often a reflection of your own issues. "When you point the finger, your index finger and thumb are up and your other three fingers are coming back at you."
"Inevitably we see things in people that if we really look at ourselves we find somewhere in us that which really resonates with who we are and what we perhaps need to look at in ourselves. It's easier to point the finger than to really do an inventory of our self."
Herceg strives for objective truth in all her writing whether it be poetry, essays, or fiction. "I try to tap into my intuition and to allow the words to flow through me. In many ways it's a conflict between a biased ego and the truth."
She said we confuse truth with peace. "People confuse the two. We can't ignore others, we can't rise above situations, and we have to be willing to let go of people in our lives who do not respect who we are." When we are truthful with ourselves, Herceg says "we don't need substances to numb us and perpetuate denial."
Herceg said her truth is the unity and connectedness of humankind. "This is the underlying force really in all of my work."
A Writer Who Must Write
"No matter what happened in my life, I kept writing," Herceg said. Her creative energy found its outlet in the written word. "I can get inspired by something visual like a work of art, but it always somehow translates into something verbal for me."
She recently made a profound discovery. She inspected boxes and files collected from moving around and found her childhood diaries. Entries were as early as the age of seven. She calls the find a gift.
"These diaries—everything was in them," she said. "The truth, even from a little girl at the age of 8 or 9 years old, knew and saw what was going on."
She spent two weeks reading them. "It was like recovering that little girl who had been damaged and lost for so long. It was very powerful."
She says she has resolved many issues that impeded her writing career and at 61 is once again writing.
She doesn't have a choice. "Honestly, if someone were never to read my work again, I would still write. It's something from the soul that you need to do."
Her personal honesty and search for the truth might be paying off. Editors at Penguin Random House have expressed an interest in her memoir. Herceg says whether or not they want it, she will write it.
"It's such a healing process for me, and a gift to be able to do it. If anyone else benefits, that's gravy."
Word is getting out that here is a talented writer who has something to say. Jonathan Wolf read her essay on his June 29 podcast, Our Salon Radio. He says "Ms. Herceg's writing has only in the past year begun to grace the world-wide audience of 'Passionate Justice' and already she is a favorite for the bold courage of her topics."
Thought Notebook Journal is part of the Human Thought Project which considers "who we are and where we are going."
Herceg has published in a wide array of publications including MockingHeart Review, Avalon Literary Review, and Orange Sullivan Magazine.
She recently completed her first novel, "Diva!" and was a finalist as ghost writer for Khalilah Ali, former wife of Muhammad Ali. She edited a new poetry volume by Christi Shannon Kline. Herceg is at work on a second volume of poems. She frequently does poetry readings throughout the Hudson Valley.
To contact this reporter, email [email protected].