Spring has come and gone and we’re well into summer. This season has yielded a great deal of personal insight. After a long internal gathering process, my next offering has finally come together. I am pleased to announce that in April of 2018, I will release a little book entitled, To Lose the Madness: Field Notes on Loss, Trauma and Radical Authenticity. Unlike other books in my library, I wrote this piece some time ago with no intention of sharing it with others; however, it seems the work is destined to be passed along.
I wrote this essay and presented it for an advance narrative non-fiction course at Harvard as a way to “process” a period in my life of mental strain. After class, people began coming up to me privately telling me their stories of suffering and dark times. It was as though my piece had given voice to this unspoken, hidden movement of wounded people around me struggling silently through each day.
This piece I wrote for myself alone, has since gone on to help others who have learned of its existence; so much so that I see the potential good to come from taking this most-intimate of stories and releasing it out into the world.
When this book is published a few months from now, I—a notoriously private person—am going to share the story of my most difficult moments with the world. The prospect of this is both exciting and terrifying. Fear and trembling aside, I am 35-years-old, and I have come to realize that I have no answers—not one. I used to believe in answers but I don’t anymore. Instead, I have only my journey and the time has come to own it.
I look forward to seeing where this new endeavor of authenticity takes me and I hope you all will join me and see fit to give my little book a place in your home when the time comes. Until then, I wish you all a healthy and bright end of the summer.
Leslie M. Browning
Connecticut, Summer 2018
In this career-defining work, Browning explores the breaking point every mind has after finding her own limit during a gauntlet of traumatic events. Pulled out of this blast-crater moment in her life by a friend, she is brought away from the insanity and deep into the snowy Sangre de Cristo Mountains where, standing in front of a herd of wild buffalo, she comes face to face with the terms we all must come to surrounding the loss we face in this life. Offering no answers and seeking no pity, Browning lays herself bare in this radically authentic offering. She carries restricted subjects such as miscarriage, mental illness, and suicide out of the silence by offering her own private journey as an example of the power of transcendence.
“To Lose the Madness is an essay built from the bones of the earth. Browning offers a stripped down, belly-to-the-ground, howling manifesto to authenticity, the truth that resides beneath layers of flesh and soil. It is a roadmap of hard-won scars and suffering, the kind of suffering that carves a life like glaciers carve landscapes. Where it has been, a riverbed of beauty and self-knowledge has been left.”
–Jason Kirkey, award-winning author of The Salmon in the Spring
“This is L.M. Browning’s most personally revealing book to date—and perhaps her best. As intensely personal as it is, it grapples with questions and struggles that are universal, questions that afflict modern humanity, questions that we really haven’t figured out at all. What is the way to deal with pain in a world that seems so intent on sanitizing and sedating us? Do our struggles serve some useful purpose? How, in an age of shallowness can we re-claim our deepest selves? How, in in age of individualism, can we re-discover our place in the family of life? Rather than provide facile answers, Browning offers her own journey as evidence for the possibility of healing not through forgetting or letting go, but by entering more deeply into the story of our pain; and she offers a way to engage with suffering not merely by looking within, but by engaging the cosmos, by entering into deeper relationship with the community of living beings. It is a book that offers a brief but deep glimpse at a writer’s soul, and, in doing so, a glimpse at our own.”
–Theodore Richards, award-winning author of Cosmosophia
“L.M. Browning’s To Lose the Madness is rife with the paraclete, one who comes alongside, to console and to encourage. But this is no trending self-help pablum complete with formulas for accelerating grief or sidestepping trauma. Instead, this is a courageous gift of self-disclosure, complete with unvarnished truth about human suffering and our search for meaning. This is a road trip with a friend, one who’s been there, and who knows the only way home is through.”
–James Scott Smith, author of Water, Rocks and Trees and The Expanse of All Things
“To Lose the Madness, teaches much about ‘trauma, loss, and radical authenticity’ with wisdom, awe, and grace. While her journey is unique, it reveals the universality of brokenness and the yearning for connection. I’m grateful for Browning’s willingness to explore her own suffering—and transcendence—so honestly and poetically; the resulting generous, sage essay is a guide for everyone.”
–Iris Graville, author of Hiking Naked
“To Lose the Madness is poignant, it is granular and gritty, it sings without avoiding the grit. From the depth of a despair often not spoken for, Browning offers her reader a compassionate voice of witnessing for herself and for anyone who has been touched by this kind of suffering. She speaks courageously of healing that comes not by getting rid of pain, but by moving into relationship with it, carrying it, lifting out of it at times, and dipping back into it other times. As she attests, ‘The wounds don’t define us; how we went about surviving does.’ What makes Browning’s way of going about it authentic and reliable is that she speaks not only for the ‘lotus … of hope’ arising out of her suffering, she also speaks openly and honestly for the ‘mud’ out of which that hope arises.”
–Gary Whited, award-winning author of Having Listened