Joey Garcia: a lady who inspires me


If you read this essay, you’ll know why.

Or OK, to save you the time, here is a summary:

  • She was born in Belize, a small Caribbean country that used to be a British colony, but she grew up in Northern California.
  • In addition to a high level job, she has been a relationship counsellor for about 20 years, and has her own advice column in a newspaper. Her book, When Your Heart Breaks, It’s Opening to Love grew out of this service, and has uniformly 5 star reviews.
  • Back in Belize, she has been responsible for helping to improve the educational system. One novel idea was to train California teens to teach, and taking them to Belize to teach summer schools as a volunteer service. This wonderful project has helped thousands of kids.
  • And her more recent project is to foster writing in her home country. She organised Belize’s first-ever writers’ conference, which was a sell-out success.

I decided to interview her, so she can also inspire you.

Bob
Joey, where did your unusual first name come from?

Joey
It’s a nickname! As a child, I was teased quite a lot about my real name. There was a singer on television at that time named Joey Heatherton. So my parents began calling me Joey.

Bob
How did you become an advice columnist?

Joey
In 1996, I wrote a personal essay for the Sacramento News & Review about being raped by a college boyfriend. This was long before the #MeToo movement, of course. The essay ignited conversations in my community about rape and sexual harassment. Women — and men — were telling each other openly about having experienced sexual violence and, in the process, they were discovering how pervasive this kind of violence is. The newspaper was flooded with letters to the editor from readers who appreciated my essay. Melinda Welsh, the editor-in-chief, invited me to write a weekly advice column. I said no to her three times — I couldn’t think of anything worse than giving people advice about their relationships. Melinda persisted. I’m glad she did. Years later I asked her why she was so insistent despite my resistance. She told me that she had a dream in which she was told that I was the person to write the column. Isn’t that incredible?

Bob
Do you have a psychology degree?

Joey
No, and I don’t need one to give advice. It’s unfortunate that many cultures have moved away from valuing wisdom. I come from the era when every neighbourhood had a wise woman, an older person, often single or widowed, that everyone went to for advice. She was never a busybody. She generally stayed home, tended her garden, read and knew the natural remedies valued by previous generations. When someone was troubled, she could ask a question that cut right through the drama, a question to get that person to focus on what was really important.

Bob
Yes, there are natural healers whom people turn to, and who have the ability to make a difference. I am one also, but found the psychology training was helpful all the same.

Bob
What’s the question you’re asked most often?

Joey
The most common question I receive is how to deal with the end of a relationship, whether a breakup, divorce or affair. It’s so important to understand how to manage the death of a relationship: Expect grief, but don’t sit in it too long. Be honest with yourself about how you might have contributed to the relationship’s end and redirect your mind if it begins obsessing about the relationship or the person. Let yourself move forward into what life offers next.

Bob
Exactly right. I see you know your job. 🙂

Bob
Can you offer us some advice about the best way to give advice?

Joey
Yes!

  1. Listen deeply. It’s more important to listen than to talk.
  2. Don’t say that you know how someone feels. You know how you feel. This moment is about the person in pain.
  3. Ask if you can ask a question. When someone is hurting, even a simple question can feel intrusive. So ask permission before asking any question. Say: “Can I ask a question about that?”
  4. Don’t be angry if your advice is disregarded. It’s advice — an opinion — not a commandment. That’s true even if you’re a parent.

Bob
Excellent. I make the similar point that only the person can make a change.

Bob
How did your contribution to Belize’s educational system begin?

Joey
I was too polite! After a Catholic bishop in Belize signed some paperwork for me, I said, “If there’s ever anything I can do for you, let me know!” He said: “You can put on a teacher training program for me.” I thought he was kidding. He wasn’t but I dismissed his request as too difficult. Months went by and then it was New Year’s Eve. My resolution was to develop a habit of completion. As I went back through my journals I saw an entry about the Bishop’s request. I sent him an email, didn’t hear back, and thought I was off the hook. Then I ran into him on my next trip to Belize. Within months I organized a training program for 40 Belizean primary school teachers. That led to developing a leadership training program for teens girls in California that included training them in how to write curriculum, manage a classroom, etc. Then those teens travelled to Belize with me where they were fully responsible for running summer schools for 60 to 100 Belizean children a year. We also provided some scholarships so Belizean youth could attend high school. In the last 16 years, we’ve trained hundreds of Belizean teachers and provided free academic summer school programs for more than 1,500 Belizean children.

Bob
Has it been effective?

Joey
Belizean primary school teachers tell us they know the students who have been through our summer school programs. These children can skip a grade. They are also better behaved.

We also impacted educators in Belize. The rote memorization style of learning was replaced with creative and effective methods of hands-on learning. That’s more exciting for students and for teachers.

Bob
When I read about Belize, I am told it’s a dangerous place. Tell us a little about the country.

Joey
Belize is one of the most naturally beautiful places in the world and it has more acreage set aside for nature preserves than any other country. It features the second largest barrier reef in the world, terrific diving, lovely locals, amazing food and incredible rainforest hikes. I think it should be on everyone’s bucket list. As far as danger, there is crime in Belize, yes, just as there is in every other country in the world. Perth, Auckland, Cairns are also on lists of dangerous cities but the “dangerous” label seems to stick to places in the world where we find more poverty and people of color.

Bob
I am glad you are honestly able to dispel this generally held belief. I asked the question because when I entered “Belize” in a search engine that was the first thing poking its nose onto the front page.

Bob
You’ve now launched a writer’s conference in Belize. Why?

Joey
There’s never been a writer’s conference in my native country and it’s been 20 years since the publishing industry published a book by a Belizean. Belizean authors are not even included in the international literary canon! When I was running free summer schools for Belizean children I realized they needed more local authors to look up to. They needed to see the possibility of themselves as authors.

As a writer and author in the U.S., I could see how easily intimidated writers are by literary agents. My conference allows writers to spend five days at a beachfront resort in Belize with agents. The agents critique manuscripts in the mornings. Late afternoon is spent learning the business of being a successful author. Authentic friendships form. Deals get made. It’s fabulous. Writers who plan to self-publish benefit, too, because literary agents have such deep knowledge about the book business. Stay in touch: www.joeygarcia.com/events.

Bob
Guess what! I haven’t asked you about your book yet! Now is the time for some promotion.

Joey
I wrote my book (When Your Heart Breaks, It’s Opening to Love) to help people bounce back faster from heartbreak. Too many people go right into another relationship. Too few of us know what to say when someone we care about is weeping because the person they love has left. A broken heart can affect mental, emotional and spiritual health, but it can also harm physical health. My book provides insight and wisdom to help us guide ourselves or be a guide for others in the shift from heartbreak to happiness.

Bob
And thank you for honoring us with your presence at Bobbing Around.

Joey
My pleasure! Thank you for the opportunity.

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About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
This entry was posted in Inspiration, Interviews by me, Psychology. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Joey Garcia: a lady who inspires me

  1. Dr Bob Rich says:

    Joey, quite a few people have visited and read our interview. Come on, people, how about chatting with us?

    Like

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