Jan. 26, 2023

Coming Back To Yourself with Ronit Plank

Ronit Plank joins Jonathan and Britt for an illuminating conversation about spirituality, body image, redemption, restoration and how to forgive your family of origin. But most importantly they discuss all sorts of ways we can practice loving kindness in the face of cognitive dissonance, bigotry, and bias.

Join us on this wild ride, as we delve into the tough stuff and plumb the depths of our souls. You won’t want to miss it!








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Ronit Plank







Jonathan Beal






Britt East








Jonathan [00:00:02] Welcome to Not Going Quietly the podcast where we inspire growth, beat down biases and get into all sorts of good trouble with co-hosts Jonathan Beal and Britt East.


Britt [00:00:11] No topic is off limits as we explore ways to help everyone leap into life with a greater sense of clarity, passion, purpose and joy.


Jonathan [00:00:19] So get ready to join us in courageous conversation because Not Going Quietly starts right now.


Britt [00:00:30] Welcome to Not Going Quietly the podcast for heartbroken healers and outraged optimists all over the world where we explore life searing truths in the name of radical togetherness. My name is Britt East. I'm your host, and I'm here with my fantabulous co-host, Jonathan Beal. Jonathan, how the hell are you today?


Jonathan [00:00:49] Pretty good. Pretty good. We are still experiencing summer in the UK. People, you know, they say that it rains all the time. We've discovered that in 2022 that's not true anymore. Climate change, maybe. Who knows? Oh.


Britt [00:01:05] You know, our guest today, Ronit Plank, who we will introduce in a second, and I both live in Seattle. And September is like the one nice month in Seattle. It's sunny and 75 every day. But you know I cannot let this moment pass, Jonathan. You know, here we are recording in early September 2022 and the UK has just elected a new prime minister. Fascinating. I cannot let this moment pass without rubbing your nose in it. And, you know, I know people in glass houses, you know, in the U.S. it's hard to make fun of other countries, politicians.


Jonathan [00:01:44] But, you know, we've had a shit government for 12 years.


Britt [00:01:45] So what happened to you?


Jonathan [00:01:55] I don't know. I kind of see all of these Liberal governments coming into power all over the place, and we're stuck here with with the ones that we're stuck with. And I can't help but feel a little pang of jealousy.


Britt [00:02:10] Oh, my gosh. And I think that judging by her cabinet, I think this is going to be kind of even worse than Boris Johnson from that perspective, like super conservative, super homophobic and stuff. So we'll keep our eye on it. And, you know. Don't get me started going down the rabbit hole! Well, let's let's introduce our amazing special guest today. I'm so happy to bring Ronit onto the podcast and introduce her to our listeners. She's been doing amazing work for years. Ronit Plank is a writer, speaker and podcaster whose work has been published in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Rumpus, Insider, Writer's Digest, and elsewhere. She's the host and producer of three different podcasts, which, you know, doing a one is hard enough. I don't know. She must have like a huge team of I just I'm in awe. So three different podcasts. One of them is called "And Then Everything Changed" and another one is called "The Body Myth" and then she has a third one called "Let's Talk Memoir." And on top of that, she's a nonfiction editor at The Citron Review. And her first book is the memoir, "When She Comes Back," her short story collection, "Home Is A Made Up Place," winner of the 2020 Eluded award will be out later this year. And then you can find her at ronitplank.com. And we'll put all of her links and in our show notes. So it's easy for everybody to find and check her out. Ronit, welcome to the show. We're thrilled to have you. Thanks so much for coming on. How are you today?


Ronit [00:03:54] I am great. And I'm so happy that you invited me on. And it's. It's great to see your faces and to meet you. Jonathan and Britt, you were a guest on my podcast, "And Then Everything Changed" a couple of years ago and it's just lovely for it to come full circle like this. And I was so happy to get your invitation to be your guest. So everything is great. I'm in Virgo season. We're recording in September, a couple of days away for my birthday, and it's just a real treat to be here.


Britt [00:04:24] Happy birthday. I had such fond memories of being on your podcast. It was so much fun and so easy and effortless. And you know, when we were Jonathan, I were getting ready to launch this podcast and brainstorming guests. You came to the top of mind for me. You've been doing such amazing work and with your books and your shows, I definitely want to dig in with you. And you know, in your first book, "When She Comes Back," you talk a lot about the rejection that you experienced personally when your mother abandoned your family to follow the notorious cult guru, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Like a lot of times when we say cult and, you know, in popular culture, we were using that euphemistically, you know, to just making fun. Like, we'll see the the Republican Party is a cult or, you know, Donald Trump has a cult of personality. But that's not true. It's not a true cult you're talking about as an actual cult. And and if a lot of people don't know about this because it was, you know, 6070s in the eighties when he was out in Oregon and in India, you know, you can check out the documentary on Netflix, "Wild, Wild Country" or there's tons of books written about him. I mean, he had millions of followers all over the world. It was a huge deal in India. She moved to India to follow him, which then meant you kind of had this parental side role in your family as the elder sister when you when you were living with your father. And it kind of became her substitute mother. And you write about this so movingly in the book, I was hoping you could kind of recount how some of these surviving some of these painful experiences kind of shaped the contours of your life and and share with us what that taught you about your personal resilience.


Ronit [00:06:19] Thank you so much for for that introduction. And yeah, so a real brief synopsis without giving much of the memoir away, is that my mom I was born on a kibbutz in Israel, which was a kind of communal socialist work farm, very cozy. And then when we moved to the States, my parents divorced and then my father left first for New Jersey because he was done with our family. And that's part of the book. And then my mom was left to take care of me. I was five and my sister, who was two and a half, she had no family in Seattle. She had no money, really, except for a little bit of child support from my father. And she wasn't feeling well. She had done what a lot of people do, which is, well, maybe not so much anymore. But back then she had gone from her mother's house, an abusive, narcissistic parent, into a relationship with my father, who wasn't abusive in any kind of obvious way. But it was not a good relationship. And they were young. They were so young. And I really feel like, you know, I didn't have my child, my first born until I was 31, and I didn't get married until I was 30. And I, I had to learn a lot. And I'm still learning now, decades, decades since. And I feel like when you're that young and you don't explore yourself and what you're about, it's really hard to have a good relationship. And so that's a thread through a lot of my memoir and my work, and we can come back to that afterward. But I think that part of the reason my mom was searching was because she didn't have a strong sense of self. And when her friend introduced her to Bhagwan tapes and a book or two, she was just captivated. I mean, this was a long time ago, right? This was the early to mid seventies. And no one had been speaking like this to my mother and to a lot of Westerners. And so she dropped us off in New Jersey with my father and went to Pawnee. And she lived there. And she was supposed to come back after the summer, but just she just stayed and stayed. And so that kind of catapulted me and my sister into this new phase of our lives where we lived with my father, his girlfriend, her daughters, in this tiny apartment in the tenements in Newark. And my life just began to change from then on out. And, you know, the story unfolds where she comes back a couple of years later and then she leaves again. And so, you know, I never really lived with my mom after that. And then the book is titled When She Comes Back. Because that was kind of a holding pattern that I was in. I was subconsciously and consciously waiting for my childhood basically to begin again. When my mom came back, but I had no way of knowing back then that it was always going to be unsteady ground, it was always going to be moving and nothing I could take for granted nothing anymore. And so for me, writing the book was a way to understand my childhood better and to understand more closely what the hold Bhagwan had on his followers was. And I want to say on a side note, I know I'm really far from your question at this point. There is an article in The Times of London as we're recording this just a few days ago. I don't know if you or Jonathan saw it, but it was claims of sexual abuse on the ashrams with children that were interviewed by a reporter for The Times of London, and a friend of mine who also has a memoir that relates to Bhagwan facilitated these interviews. There's a Facebook group of ex kids or kids from the son Yassin's, who lived on the Ashrams all over the world, who were victims of adults acting like children, were not children, and could be sexualized in part because of what Bhagwan extolled. And so this is just the tip of the iceberg. And one aspect of my memoir, you know, that I really talk a lot about even now in my articles for The Atlantic and The Rumpus is how children were ruined. Their lives were affected by adults who didn't take their responsibility seriously. And so I think Britt, like you and I have intersection in terms of childhood and in terms of insecure attachments and in terms of growing up vulnerable and and having to find ourselves. And I think a lot of listeners can relate to that. You know, I hope the tide is changing for parenting. People with some level of education and empathy will hopefully be raising children with more empathy and understanding in these coming generations. But I think you and I, even though we're different ages and different experiences, may have both grown up feeling like we weren't enough.


Jonathan [00:11:14] Yeah.


Britt [00:11:14] It's really beautifully put. You know, it's such a I don't want to go down the whole rabbit hole with Bhagwan, but I'm just real quickly to kind of put a button on that before we get back to your personal experience. What's fascinating to me as a total outsider learning about this organization because I was so young when it was when it was in the news and so, you know, reading books and watching the documentaries is that there's an interesting intersection in how we hold and judge what was going on. And it seems like there are multiple truths happening, one of which at the time there was, I think, an overtly racist, crystal fascist judgment about anything interceding and potentially violating Judeo-Christian values, especially on U.S. soil and people appearing different than us. And then another dynamic is very clearly has been exposed on multiple levels, all sorts of other abuses, whether it was the attempted murder of a US district attorney or whether it was sexual abuse. And it runs the gamut. And all of these things can be true simultaneously. And it's a very complex situation involving, frankly, millions of people all over the world. So it's hard to extract simple stories, which is why I love what you've done as you've made it a very personal story about your journey and then like an echo of of your mother's journey in the book and in a really fascinating way. And I can't help but think you alluded to how parents kind of write the templates for their children's lives. And when children have insecure attachments, there can be gaps that are missing that don't get quite filled in by society or mentors or teachers or other extended loved ones when their primary caregivers aren't able, they lack the capacity or presence to to to write those templates explicitly. How have you gone back and first attuned yourself to your awareness, to those to any potential gaps that you felt or as you felt were lacking? And how have you gone to address them and reclaim them and and come back to your self to to kind of twist your your book title?


Ronit [00:13:46] Yeah. Yeah. Thank you for that question. And it's interesting, I have it thinking a lot about I'm going to get into this question, the answer side. Ways, I think. But I've been thinking a lot about that idea of promises of the future South. And, you know, so many programs, whether they're physical improvement or, you know, business improvement, they promise this better you and the you you're meant to be about blah, blah, blah. And I've fallen victim to that myself, too, in my life. I mean, certainly in my twenties, you know, when will I be the person I'm supposed to be? When will I be, you know, fill in the blank. And for all of us, that can be different, right? It can be weight, it can be muscles, it can be success, it can be money. And I guess the thing that I always come back to, which took me a while, a really long time to understand, was that, you know, you are ready, you are all ready who you're supposed to be. Nobody can give you the version of yourself that you want. You have to start with where you are now. You are. If this is a heavy metaphor, like heavily use metaphor, but we are the clay and we are always going to be the clay and there's nothing we can do to change the actual substance of that clay. I mean, maybe we can dress it up with a glaze. Oh, look at this metaphor. I'm just going to run with it. But, you know, we can shape it into a different kind of, you know, vessel or whatever, but it's always going to be the same. And we only have ourselves to work with. And so while I want to remain curious and open to ideas that I learn and I want to be receptive to other people, I have to be vulnerable. I don't want to give everything away. I don't want to give my power away. And I think that so many of us do that because we believe that we're not enough. And there's so much in our culture that capitalizes on our insecurity. And it is so painful to think about the children growing up now or the children who are now adults who lacked the stuff they needed to help build a foundation of sense of self. And I cannot necessarily account for why I have been able to get to the place emotionally where I am now. I will tell you that I was incredibly defensive for a really long time, and I think I had this idea that while because the stuff was done to me, I'm the good guy, you know, I'm the hero. This is a while ago and this is subconscious. You know, I didn't know this, but I think even in my own partnership, in my marriage, I for a while felt like, well, I mean, I had it really hard and I'm a good person, so obviously I can't really be hurting you that much with my behavior. And that's like the blinders on, right? Like, that's just having blinders on and inability to want to work on yourself. And I remember my husband telling me a long time ago if I'd say, Well, you knew who I was when you when you married me, you're like, That's not fair. He'd say, You know, basically, like, that doesn't mean you're not supposed to change, right? And so. You know, again, I'm taking this question and I'm like, blowing it up, so I hope I'm giving you what you want. But yeah, I think that I had I had therapy in my twenties. I had therapy in my thirties. I thought I was doing the work, you know, in heavy clothes. But I think it took me a really long time to settle down and just really pay attention to my own patterns. And what I realized was and we all know this, wherever you go, there you are. And I was never going to escape my own patterns of pushing people away or, you know, subtle manipulation unless I really came to Jesus and figured out what I was doing and if I wanted to change. And so I had to allow myself to stay put and to be uncomfortable and to also be open to the relationships I have with my parents. Now, what drives me up a wall, you know, and also not to throw them under a bus. When I was writing the book, it would be very easy to vilify my mom. It would be very easy to be full of self-pity. But I don't think anyone really wants to read that. That's kind of a one note story and what a memoir really should endeavor to do, among a lot of other things is to self-reflect and also find the patterns and the memoirist. And so I had to really pay attention to why I took what happened to me and made it into what it was and how I became the person I am now. And so I guess I feel like we all have different raw materials, but we it behooves us to do the best we can with the intimate relationships in our lives and stay close to who we are and try to understand why we do the things we do.


Jonathan [00:18:27] I really love that. And and there's something in there about I've been thinking a lot about truth, honesty and self-awareness. And there's something about writing in particular when we're writing about our life or our experiences or our feelings or whatever that can that can show us who we are. And you mention patterns and. And I wonder what's in there about the discomfort of seeing the truth in reality of who we are that prevents us from. From being able to do the work because because the truth of who we are often is a difficult pill to swallow. If the truth of who we are has been creating a life that is less than optimal, let's say, or causes pain or causes us to unconsciously or subconsciously destroy relationships or that kind of stuff. I wondered what your perspective was on the role of writing as a tool for self-discovery, self-awareness, and a way to begin changing patterns.


Ronit [00:19:45] Yeah, thank you for that, Jonathan. I love writing and I came to it kind of late. I wrote in high school, I probably joined a little paper and thought I could write poetry and then started laughing at myself and thinking I was ridiculous and not talented. And then I became an actor. And it wasn't until my thirties in L.A. that I wrote a couple of sketches for the Actors gang. I was a Tim Robbins theater in L.A. and I had opportunities to write a couple of sketches and monologues, and I did that and really liked it. And my sister, who is a writer, she's a TV and film writer, she's the one who told me for years, You should write, because I was just always that, like so much, so many things to say, like so much spinning in my head, so many nerves and like anxiety, which I still have to an extent. And so I did finally start writing after my second child was born. And I found so much to explore there. And maybe it is sometimes I think like are writers just completely full of themselves? Like who else wants to sit at a table or a surface and like, write and just spend a whole bunch of time with themselves, like my husband, like he loves writing in a way, and he really respects writers, but he does not want to spend that much time alone. He's incredibly social and me sitting down to my computer and trying to figure out what's there that day or what it is I want to say about something or to understand why something is nagging at me is so fun. Like, I mean the revision part and really honing it to make it readable for somebody else. That that is work for sure. But that idea of being able to just dive in because I'm working on a lot of little creative nonfiction pieces now and little bit of poems, I'm trying and it's very fun for me to like, roll around in that space and figure out what I think about stuff. And it's also playing a role. I mean, there are some smoke and mirrors involved in writing. You're only letting the reader understand and know what you want them to know, right? So like you're lighting up a stage, as one of my teachers said, you're you're you're putting a spotlight on the dark stage and you're guiding the reader to learn what you want the reader to learn. Right? And the more skillful you get, the more you're able to sort of block out the parts you don't want to shine a light on. So it's very manipulative. Writing is manipulative, and I think it does draw on some of my acting background and my emotional interest in things. But I think that for me there is something about the act of sitting down and knowing you're going to write your story that is empowering and that's why I'm a big story advocate. I just feel so strongly about people being able to share their truth, because as one of my other teachers, Deborah GWARTNEY, has always said, if you don't write your story, somebody else is going to write it for you. And that's why I think podcasting is also so empowering, because part of my grading of my podcast was to give people the stage for a while to talk about their experience. It's not about me. When I'm interviewing people, you know, there's a time and a place for everything. And so I'm using different parts of myself and different parts of psychology as I delve and try to figure that stuff out and puzzle things out. And to me, it's a big sense of accomplishment in this great giant world where so much is happening all the time that I can't control. It's a great feeling of accomplishment when I manage to maybe write a couple of paragraphs or a short essay that kind of comes together and makes sense for a minute.


Jonathan [00:23:17] There is there is something in there about a manipulation. And it really stuck out to me because because there's a piece around self-awareness and manipulation and how often we as humans unconsciously manipulate ourselves into believing certain things, seeing the world a certain way. And. And I don't know there's a question in there, but I wanted to highlight it because I thought it was a yes.


Ronit [00:23:44] Yeah. No. And also that reminds me that I may not have actually answered your question about. Yeah. If you look all over the map, I'm so happy to talk with you too. I think that in terms of like, you know, figuring out how to talk about people in their lives and how to, you know, it's so easy when you have when you're the writer, it's so easy to tell your story in a way that vilifies other people. As I was saying before. And there it is so hard to look at ourselves. It is so hard. I mean, think about it. One one feeling I really hate above all others, really, aside from pain is regret. I really I have a couple of things in my life as a mom that I super regret and it's hard for me to think about those. I really don't like to think about them because I can't go back and change them. And I think that when we're locked into a pattern, to your point about why it's so hard to be honest with ourselves or to admit our patterns, it's so much work to admit we're wrong and it's so much work to go back and dwell in the pain of knowing we caused pain for somebody else or that we were wrong. I mean, failed relationships, you know, maybe getting fired from a job, maybe not completing a project. I think there's shame there. And I think that, you know, I'm not the first person to say it. That shame is a very destructive feeling. And I think that the only thing we can really do to feel better about things we did that give us shame is to work through them. Right. You kind of have to go through it. You can't avoid it. And the more you skirt around it, the more those patterns are just going to resurface. So, you know, for example, I'll use a section of my memoir where I talk about the discomfort between me and my father, at least for me, when I was going through puberty and I didn't have a mom around and my father was pretty bad about boundaries, nothing obviously bad happened. It was just sort of a vibe in the house and I did not want to write about that. I felt like it would make me seem dirty or, you know, what's wrong with me? You know what kind of a strange girl was I that I had these worries and feelings? There must be a perversion in me or something. I didn't want to write about it because it made me feel really icky. But I had to write about it because it made me feel icky. And it was a part of sharing truth with the reader. And to say, Look, you know, I'm not just going to show you the funny, weird parts. I have to show you the weird parts that I don't want to talk about. And that's sort of like an agreement you have with the reader and also an agreement I have with myself, to be honest. I mean, I have to say there must be parts of myself I'm still hiding from other people. I'm sure we can't always just walk around like an open book. We have to live in the world. But in that case, that was an example of something I didn't want to talk about, and that's why I knew I had to talk about it.


Britt [00:26:34] Although we mourn the might of beans without becoming untethered from the possibilities, without getting stuck in the dirt, whether we're memoirists or writers or artists, or even just people moving through society. Once we become attuned to all that we lack or all that we missed and actually re-experience it, maybe even cinematically, how do we move through that without dwelling it? There's so much social currency in memoirs from how much blood I can spill on the page. And like you alluded to, that's a that's a one note, one trick pony. So it's like whether we're writers, memoirs or just moving through life, it's like, how do we how do we kind of shift through that and step into, like you were saying, the lives that we we've always been meant to be leading.


Ronit [00:27:25] I think for me, a big part of the way I see things is with a sense of humor. And I think everyone is different. You know, I would never be prescriptive, especially because I have such an aversion to people telling other people how to live. I have such an aversion to, you know, that kind of that kind of pride. You know, I'm very hesitant about that. That said, I'm always looking for a good quote, a good literary quote or a good life quote that will help answer questions for me. When I was a kid, even I would every time I found a quote in a book that I liked, I'd write it down thinking, Oh, this will help my life. Once I live and understand this quote, everything will be better. But I think for me, I have a sense of humor and I take things with a grain of salt. I mean, you know, like I am so embarrassing to myself and my family sometimes and I never take myself too seriously. In fact, my my daughter, whenever she sees me doing an Instagram live or she sees me posting something, she'll say she's 17 now, but she's been saying for a couple of years, Use your real voice, Mom, why are you using that fake voice? And I think it's so easy to have artifice, right? It's so easy to take yourself seriously. And for me, I think I guess every everyone's formula is different. I mean, I can hold a couple of things at once. I am real sad about the way I grew up. I'm also grateful that my mom is in my life now. I'm grateful that my children know my mom. I'm grateful that I'm going to drive my dad to the airport in a few in a little while. Like we still have a relationship, and I'm grateful for that. I am grateful that my parents are still on this planet and I still get to see them. We still get to talk about the past, and it doesn't hurt that they have a sense of humor as well. You know, we kind of laugh in my family a bit and see the ridiculous and things, and that helps me temper the sadness and the loss, because I do think we all have gone through a lot of difficult things. And if you can find a way to create or construct things in your life that give you joy, that is a step in resilience. So whether that's for some people gardening or taking care of their pets or seeing friends or cooking a delicious meal or for me writing and being present with my children, those are ways that I create in the moment and in my life now that I feel ill. The parts of me that missed those kinds of moments of peace and satisfaction a long time ago.


Britt [00:30:01] It's beautiful. You know, there's so many great words in your book and you've dropped a few. Now I want to talk about redemption and restoration, because we're kind of dancing around it. You know, in the U.S. with when it comes to spiritual matters, our culture has is just consumed with Judeo-Christian supremacy. And that context, redemption for a lot of us is a loaded term. But what does it mean to you? And it's like, how can we think of it in a more secular sense? And, you know, also you got me thinking like, okay, can anything ever truly be restored if our lives have been forever altered by a series of adverse experiences? Yes, we can heal. But is anything ever truly restored? And what does restoration mean? So talk to us some about redemption and restoration.


Ronit [00:30:55] Wow. Okay. Well, I'm going to start with restoration because I feel like restoration is sort of this idea of it is sort of that Judeo-Christian and also that kind of Western idea that things will be all good things should be glossy and perfect. And, you know, I think I think that, you know, I mean, of course, it is so satisfying and I'm going to use this on a really like basic a basic way. It's so wonderful to strip a piece of furniture down and sand it and restrain it and let it gleam and be beautiful and nourished. I mean, it's so beautiful when you take something that's falling apart and make it gorgeous again. But like, I think we like that stuff because we can't do that with ourselves. Yeah, we are always falling apart. We're always falling apart and decaying. I mean, literally, like we're getting older every day. Our our hair is getting dryer every day as it's exposed to the elements of these dead cells. Like we cannot you know, there's no ultimate, like, perfect restoration. That's why I think we love story and we love glamor and we love things that make us feel beautiful and perfect. And I do think that this redemption and the restoration is what we love so much about these, you know, what is appealing about biblical stories and what is why they have captivated human beings for so long. I think that we all want to know that we're good and we're okay and that we're going to be safe. I mean, and if you're looking at linear storytelling and I mean the kinds that that many popular novels and also movies subscribe to, not cult following movies. Pardon the use of the word cult like when you look at actual story structure, you know, there's like an inciting incident and then there's like this hero's journey where the protagonist has to keep doing harder and harder things to get what they want. They're less and less comfortable. And finally, by the end, maybe they learn something and something is, you know, there's redemption or there's some type of understanding. We just love that stuff. And that's part of the reason I did. And then everything changed that podcast because I thought our our lives are pretty messy. They span a really long time, if we're lucky. So can we find some through lines? Can we find some connective tissue with them that is satisfying to see how we went from point A to B? But I don't think when we're living our lives it's that clear. And in terms of like forgiveness and redemption, a lot of people ask me about my book, Well, how did you forgive your mom and what do you think of forgiveness? And I'm not a very religious person. I mean, I was I grew up Jewish and I'm very culturally Jewish and culturally New York. And we throw Yiddish around in my family. Even my my formerly Catholic husband does like we just love it. But in terms of being devout or being very faithful, I'm not in that camp anymore. But I think that when people ask me about forgiveness, I couldn't say like I absolutely forgive or, you know, I forgive you. Like, I just don't understand what that word means. For me, it's like a very stagnant word to me. It's not a moving thing. And I feel like if anything, I've learned over these years that everything is always changing and moving. It's all fluid. And so on one day I can be super pissed off when I think about something. My mom is done really irritated and sad about it. And on another day I'm like, Oh, it's water under the bridge, right? So it's a very moving organism, right? And so redemption, you know, I think that there is something more kinetic about redemption because I think that people can always redeem themselves, you know, on some level. Maybe they can't take away everything that they did. Maybe we can't go back and change what happened, but we can change the way we think about it and we can change the way we treat other people now. And so I feel like there is a little more room for that. You know, we can heal a little bit in different ways all the time. We can restore maybe our sense of self, you know, our our feeling that we belong on this planet and that we're good people and we deserve good things. And I feel like. That helped propel me into having a good relationship with my parents, because what else am I here for? Like they give me more good now than they don't. And so why am I going to punish myself and my parents for what happened so long ago? They were kids, you know, like they if they didn't change over the years, maybe I wouldn't give them another chance. But we've all grown and learned. And my mom has even said even the person she was ten years ago wouldn't do what she had done back then. So, yeah, I hope that's that gives you something to think about. I mean, again, I don't have all the answers at all. I just I just feel like I'm really curious and I think curiosity is, is part of what helps me.


Jonathan [00:35:43] Mm. I wonder in the realm of kind of redemption, forgiveness if, if forgiveness isn't necessarily something that we give to somebody else and it's actually something that we give to ourselves. Does that make sense?


Ronit [00:35:59] Yes. Yeah.


Jonathan [00:36:01] And and as you were speaking, there was also some stuff coming to mind around the idea of conflict in relationship and the commitment to relationship and how if we have a commitment to relationship, conflict often leads to greater depth and connection than the absence. Yes. Because if there's real yes, that means we're having real conversations with people about real stuff that's happening.


Ronit [00:36:26] Yes. And yes.


Jonathan [00:36:29] And perhaps that's where redemption is in the courage and commitment to have the hard conversations that lead us to connect on a deeper level. No questions in that. Just clearing up.


Ronit [00:36:43] Yeah, I absolutely agree with you, because I think. Yeah, for a long time, you know. Okay. So this also brings up intimacy, which I don't know if we've talked about yet, but I think that I didn't understand intimacy, which is also kind of vulnerability. Intimacy. I think that I didn't understand I had no relationship to look at growing up that was really stable or nurturing and also deep. Like my father was a single guy. He he dated. He then remarried than they thought all the time, and they divorced. My mom never remarried. It's like people just kind of kept ducking. You know? I just keep thinking of like, you know, someone's about to, like, tap you on the back and you just kind of, like, scooch down and, like, walk away from it. Like, you're just like, yeah, like, I'm just going to, like, go, like, try to get away for without any kind of impact on me. And I did that, too. I mean, I just kind of, like, tried to skate through things subconsciously. Again, I didn't know I was doing that. And it took a long time for me to understand what intimacy was. I thought that meant physical, you know, sex, right? Like someone said, well, you have to, you know, learn how to be intimate, etc.. And I was like, What are you talking about? That's so weird. But what they meant was, you know, that emotional intimacy, which so frightening, it is so frightening, especially for a type-A person who might have grown up with insecure childhood stuff that you have learned to fight and fend for yourself and take care of everything. And it's easy for me to slip back into that. I can I if I'm left to my own devices, I can start growing that little shell around me where I'm self-sufficient and I'm fine and I don't need anything. I really can. I have to watch it like, especially if I'm starting to feel uncomfortable in a situation. And so I, I know that I have to lean into the the kind of more soft shell crab part of me. Like, I have to really just try to be vulnerable, try to be fluid again. Fluid. And I think that that idea of being willing to be called on the carpet for what you've done to really want to talk about what's going on and not play games is one of the hardest things People can do it. You know, anyone can leave town and follow a spiritual leader, anyone can quit a job or decide not to parent. What's hard is to parent and stay put and be in relationship with someone who challenges you.


Britt [00:39:14] Hmm. Hmm hmm hmm hmm. To that. Yeah. Yeah. Mm hmm. You know, if. If forgiveness is a a practice in which we release ourselves, it's like a humility practice in which we release ourselves and all the other parties in any incident to experience more personal freedom and intimacy is a vulnerability practice to allow others to see into us. Into me. See, as they say. What is reconciliation? You talked, Ronit, about your, you know, past relationship with your family, your current relationship with their family. But I think it might help the audience to understand how the how gaps were bridged, even at a high level. Like, what does it mean to simultaneously hold the acknowledgment of all that is true and also practice forgiveness, Practice intimacy. Wade into the muck that's intrinsic to any human relationship. The difficulties, the challenges, as you were both discussing and experience that reconciliation. What even is reconciliation? You know, how do we do that in a way that promotes forgiveness and freedom without necessarily attempting to restore things as they were? And you beautifully painted that picture of furniture restoration. I think it's such a great metaphor without excusing past behavior, without sweeping things under the rug, How do we bridge that gap?


Ronit [00:40:54] Mm. I think that, you know, and in coming back a little bit to that self-forgiveness piece, too, I think, which you asked or mentioned in the previous section, I feel like when you see and acknowledge how flawed we all are and how much work we all have to do to live in the moment or to try to accept people for who they are or to try to really listen. All of these things going on at once are so exhausting, actually. You know, I don't even want to use the word authentically necessarily, because that's such a buzz word, But that's kind of what I'm talking about. Like, here's another buzz term showing up. It's really hard to not use those words that everyone has borrowed, right. Like without making them feel canned. But I mean, to really show up for the people and let me use this as an example, the kind of moment when a friend is telling you something about their life or they're sharing something and your eyes drift off or your brain drifts off to like how it affects you and you know what? What you have to do. And oh, you can't wait to interject and tell them the thing. Like, how much longer will you have to listen to them before you can talk about the thing you really want to talk about? Because that happens sometimes, even if you're like the best person, right? But so that idea of like saying and taking in what you're laughing. Right? Right. You're laughing because you're like, I assume you've been there, right? Yeah. I'm not the best person. So that's not.


Jonathan [00:42:15] Exactly.


Ronit [00:42:16] You know. But listen. But you know what? Like, we have all seen that in other people, right? We've all seen when someone's eyes glaze over and you can tell that they're just listening to us so they can, like, get into their own thing. And sometimes that's okay. Obviously, when we're welling over with, like excitement, you know, sometimes we have to be that way. But we all know we have these really good spidey senses and intuition and and so I try sometimes, like I try to just like, chill out and just try to listen to what someone is saying and just take it in without jumping to the next thing I have to say. And that was also a piece of my old kind of imperiousness where I'd have to like, be ready to go, ready to end the conversation before they did, ready to say goodbye so that I wouldn't look like a dope when they, like, said goodbye. Have to go. I'd always get off the phone first so no one would reject me. I mean, this is how I lived, right, with my little armor and my shield up. And so now I have to just be a little goofier, little more jellyfish and just like, listen to people. And I know I keep using these animal metaphors, but that's how I think. And so I think that reconciliation like, look, let me give you this example, because it's easier than me, you know, getting on my my soapbox in a different way. My book was written my manuscript was pretty much written when, you know, I'd given up on any kind of apology or any kind of earnest, heartfelt thing for my mom that would really recognize anything. We are sitting down after a Shabbat dinner, which is a Friday night meal for Jews. And we started talking and I wrote this in my book. It's toward the end of the book, I my mom started talking about the past in a way that she never had done before. And I took my phone out and I said, Mom, I'm going to record this because I'm not going to this. And bless her. She like, Let me do that. Which is why it's almost verbatim in the book. I mean, who does that? What kind of a daughter am I? But I love like, I really love words. And I also know my memory is so fallible. And so I was like, I got to lock this in. So I pushed play record rather. And we're talking and she actually said things about leaving and about Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and about our childhood that I had never heard her say before. And I realized, oh, my gosh, we're closer to something than we've ever been. And I wasn't looking for it anymore. And that filled a need in me that I that felt so good. But I wasn't. I wasn't looking for it anymore. Not that that's right or wrong, or that the goal is to stop looking. That's not what I'm saying. But I'm saying that sometimes these moments, you can find these moments of peace or breakthroughs when you least expect them like not when you're striving. And for me, reconciliation, because that's how I tagline my book, like the loss of my mother to this guru and our eventual reconciliation. Because while my mom was in my life for years, even in high school, I would go visit her in the summer. Sometimes we saw each other now and then. It wasn't like we weren't talking. It wasn't like one of those stories where the parent leaves and you never see them again. We were in touch, but when I say reconciliation, I mean that's when we really rolled up our sleeves, in my opinion, and started to have a real relationship. And we've only gotten closer in the last two or three years. And we're very she actually hugs me now when before she left, she actually came up to me last Friday when I was washing kale or something in the kitchen and she's like, Oh, let me hug you. And it was very adorable because she's not a physically demonstrative person. And it was like, we're going, we're getting younger. Like, our relationship has gotten like, softer and like, literally I'm going to be 50, right? So these things can happen, you know? Like, I believe in change, I guess, is the thing.


Britt [00:45:58] That is so beautiful. I do tend to make fun of you for a moment. One of the things I'm going to share this with the audience, one of the things we do in Seattle as we wash kale in the sink. So that's a very common Seattle experience. I was doing it the other night, so I feel like I'm right there with you. We watch kale and the same.


Ronit [00:46:15] Yeah, You know, it's funny. My mom, my mom, a couple of weeks ago, we're always making Shabbat dinner together. She makes it mostly, and she kept buying kale, like, every week. And I was like, Mom, she seems a little insulted, but, you know, she. She doesn't have to cook for me at all, right? She cooks for my family on Fridays. But I was like, You got to stop with the frickin kale. It cannot The kale for kale.


Speaker 4 [00:46:43] Can kale.


Jonathan [00:46:47] Really be.


Ronit [00:46:49] The vegetable that you say? It's really a Seattle thing. So, Jonathan, what's the vegetable? The go to vegetable by you, then I have to know.


Jonathan [00:46:56] That we're watching the same thing. I have no idea.


Ronit [00:47:02] It's on ice. It's an icebreaker question. I'm just like, It's true. I'm glad that you called me on that, Britt.


Jonathan [00:47:10] Because I love.


Britt [00:47:10] My good self, but I think the vegetable that they wash in the sink in the UK is probably lamb or steak.


Jonathan [00:47:21] Yeah. You know, So yeah, I regret.


Ronit [00:47:25] I'm a vegetarian, so I'm a vegetarian actually. And I was thinking, we're thinking of traveling sometime soon. Like where will we go? And I'll honestly go anywhere if you can give me a good vegetarian tour of the country. Like, I just don't want to go eat really weird meat parts anywhere. Some fish.


Jonathan [00:47:39] Italian restaurants. Yeah. Valencia in Spain. I can recommend that.


Ronit [00:47:44] Oh, that's a good tip. Thank you. My husband would love to go to.


Jonathan [00:47:47] Space in space.


Britt [00:47:48] Jonathan used to live there, so. Yeah, Yeah. Oh, that's perfect. That's really cool. How did that come about? Like, how did the writing of the book lead to your podcast? That's a big leap. It's a very different.


Ronit [00:48:01] Okay, So okay, so let me I will give you the CliffsNotes and then you can dig it. Do you guys have CliffsNotes over there? Jonathan, welcome. Okay.


Britt [00:48:12] Quintessentially American.


Ronit [00:48:14] Okay.


Britt [00:48:14] Can you bottom line it for me?


Jonathan [00:48:16] Right.


Ronit [00:48:16] Although I'm. Yeah. Let me give you the. Yeah. So the takeaway? No. So essentially, let me get. Yeah, let me give you the synopsis and then if you want, it could. Maybe it's interesting, maybe it's not. But basically, I started as an actor. Then I started. Then I began. I became a writer after as a mom and then a woman I knew from a production of a place, a show called Listen to Your Mother, where we each got to do Mom pieces live in front of an audience. Later on, she asked me to be a co-host with her of a very feminist podcast. So we had a producer. We even did some on camera stuff for the Young Turks Network for a while, and so I was the co-host of that, and then we ended that. After a year, I took a year off and I was like, I don't want to interview people. So I start. I had already written my book. It was like in editing and I was trying to figure out who was going to publish it. So I began, and then everything changed as my very own podcast, and it has like 140 episodes now. That's the one that it was on, and it's on all the platforms. You can find it, and it's about resilience. It was kind of like the defining moments of your life, the pivotal moments in your life and and things that changed you forever. That's kind of what the thing was then. So that went for about two years. And then I became this very interested memoirist. I mean, I do coach memoir a little bit, and I've been teaching a little bit and speaking on memoir, plus having my own, and I just love it so much. I became a full on memoirist after being a fiction writer who hated memoir. But then a couple of years ago, I started loving memoir, and now I have a podcast called Let's Talk Memoir, which I'm in pre-production for my second season, and I've had some really amazing teachers and editors on their memoirs, and we just talk about the craft. It's about a half hour long each episode, which I love, because it's just kind of like a good little vitamin, a little writing vitamin. And then in the meantime, I thought I was going to write a book about body image in American culture, which of course it's been done a lot, but it was called the Body Mass. So I interviewed I have about 15 episodes of that right interview different kinds of women from different experiences living in different kinds of bodies, different childhoods. Some have faced eating disorders, some have faced body shaming from their families about how they live in their body now and how they have navigated, you know, the cultures, assaults on them. And I'm not working on that book at this point. I don't know that I'm the right person for that. You know, I, I feel like my interest is really, really into the Let's Talk memoir podcast right now and my next book. So that's why I started podcasting. But I think that, you know, I would say that within a lot of podcasters is probably a theater ham And I, you know, started off as an actor, so I am not shy to put a microphone in front of me and I will use that. So podcasting seemed like a really good especially now that I'm older, like you don't have to really look nice to podcast, right? You can, you can show up however you want. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, did I answer the question that wasn't even a short answer. That was really long.


Britt [00:51:21] Because of course, you know, I'm sitting here thinking like when you create a podcast like, and then everything changed. You're setting yourself up to be a witness to a lot of painful events, and it just seems like really exhausting to me, like emotionally. And, and I was just curious like, you know, you know, first of all, what have you learned about all the hope and the vulnerability and strength and sharing and highlighting these painful experiences, but also how have you worked through and like cleansed yourself continuously to not take on that karma, an emotional, you know, baggage and trauma from your guests?


Ronit [00:51:59] Yeah. Yeah. Great questions. I think so, Yeah. As a side note, my husband, you know, for a while I had all these memoirs is really sad and hard memoirs lying around. When I was taking my masters in getting my master's in nonfiction, and my husband said, I don't know how you do it. I cannot. I even told him a story the other day, just I wanted to tell him something else. I was like, Oh, remember that story I told you about that woman who he's like, I cannot I can't. He cannot take, like, taking on too much water, can't do it. I would have these books around. You know, there was a memoir I had in grad school called Bereft. I was reading it and he looked at it on the kitchen counter. He's like, How do you do it? I, I don't know what it is. I don't know. Am I a pain magnet? I don't know. I think I guess. Okay, let me answer this without seeming like I'm self-aggrandizing. I can take a lot of it. I have a harder time with abuse of animals and children. It's really hard for me for accounts of that. This is really, really hard for me to read about. A person who made it through their abuse is not. Hard for me to hear how someone's because a story, an account is survivor. Right. Like I wrote recently on Instagram, you know, stories are how we show paraphrase stories or how we show we survived. I mean, they are like, we made it through. So if you lived to tell the tale, you you made it. And so you can tell your tale with humor. You can tell it with, you know, really somberly. But it's a way of saying you're here. And so listening to the stories. Is it weird that it made me feel more alive? I don't know. Is there something wrong with me that listening to stories of hardship and how people overcame things makes me feel better about how we all live? And I think maybe there's a dramatic turn there. Like that whole idea of reading a novel or a movie, watching a movie to see the journey. And I maybe I'm a story, you know, I just seek out story and feeling. And so when someone is telling me what they lost in their life, whether it was a parent or a childhood or their child, you know, they're still here telling me the story and they want to come on to my podcast because they learn something from that experience. And can we all learn from their experience, can't we? I feel almost like there's a reservoir and we can take out when we need it and we can put back in. And I feel like it's just there, this reservoir of human experience and emotion. And sometimes you have to recharge and sometimes you are full of charge and you can give to others, you know what I mean? So for me, it doesn't really affect me. Sometimes if I'm in a different kind of mood, I have to switch gears to receive. Like even with Let's Talk memoir. When I do these recordings, you know, you have to get into the mindset. I mean, you to know you're doing a podcast, you have to be in the generous mindset to listen to someone's story and take on their emotion and their experience. You can't do it if you're just like busy and scattered. It doesn't work. It doesn't come across. So I do have to shift gears, you know, and then I'm there and I'm all there because I firmly believe that that's how you get a better interview. But also people know when you're not present, right? So if you can be present, you're giving a gift to me.


Britt [00:55:35] Well, I'll tell you, Renee, I believe that everything about you is right. Referencing the comment that you made, I don't think anything at all is well.


Ronit [00:55:44] Hold on. Oh, my gosh. Let me get that put on a quote card.


Britt [00:55:48] And then you can you can quote me to your husband the next time you're having a fight for it.


Ronit [00:55:53] Yeah. I'm going to say, look, like Britt. Britt said this and Jonathan laughed. So I don't know what it was.


Jonathan [00:56:01] So it must be true.


Ronit [00:56:04] This is a polite, a polite UK lady.


Britt [00:56:11] Ronit, it's been such a pleasure to have you on the podcast today. You have such an inspirational story. You're so funny and filled with life and joy. It's been absolutely wonderful. Tell us where people can find you.


Ronit [00:56:22] Okay, I will. I want to first say thank you for having me. This was really fun and I love being made to think about things that I thought I knew in a different way. And I just am so happy that you're doing this show. And I love your energy. My everything is findable at Ronit Plank, so you can find me at Ronit Plank dot com, and that's where my podcasts are. My published work is my book. My new book will be there and also on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Tik Tok. Like, I'm almost everywhere. I'm going to stop there. Like, I don't think I'm going to add any other platforms. I'm on Snapchat to you, but I don't use it except to occasionally spy on my children. I need to learn more about it. But anyhow, yeah. So find me at Ronit Plank and I'm I would say I'm on Instagram the very most I just love that's that platform. I do pictures and quote cards and I promote my other friends who write and have resources there and Facebook too. So just reach out.


Britt [00:57:21] Well, and of course, we'll put all of that in the show notes so our listeners have easy access to that and can hop on your website and keep track of all your work. Do you have a release date for your upcoming book? Where are you in the writing about?


Ronit [00:57:36] Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I the book is finished. It basically won an award. Some of those stories had already been published in other magazines, and it won an award for women over 40. And the publisher has changed the very vague date a couple of times. So I, I'm really hoping it will be before the end of this year. I mean, the manuscript is written, they're going over the copy and it's now, yeah, I have a cover I'm dying to release. The cover artist has already released it, but I haven't tagged myself because I don't want to have it out there until people can buy it. But it will be on my. Website. And I wanted to also say, like, if you like fiction, those are all fiction stories. There's short fiction. Before I wrote my memoir and there's also an audiobook sample of my memoir when she comes back on my website. So if you want to listen to if you if you can deal with my voice, I'm the narrator. There's like two chapters, there's two chat. If you don't like the way I sound, do not. But the first you did, the first two chapters are there for you to listen to, and then you'll know, Oh, maybe I want to read this book. Yeah.


Britt [00:58:40] That's wonderful. Thank you so much. Thank you. Like I said, it was an absolute.


Ronit [00:58:45] Expression.


Britt [00:58:45] Of joy. And we can't wait to check out your new book. And, you know, keep tabs on all your essays and hopefully poetry and continued fiction. And of course, your your your various podcasts, which are so wonderful and illuminating. And I encourage everybody to check those out. Well, dear listener, you have made it through another hour of not going quietly. You suffered through our crazy sense of humor, the wild shenanigans of me and my co-host, Jonathan Beale. We thank you so much for sticking with it. It means so much to us to hear your comments and have your participation and to be with us on this shared journey. Thanks for listening. We've had a fantabulous time. I'm your co-host, Britt East, with my fantabulous co-host, Jonathan Beale piece out, everyone. Thank you. Take care. Bye bye. You've been listening to.


Jonathan [00:59:40] Not Going Quietly with co-hosts Jonathan Beale and Britt East. Thanks so much for joining us on this wild ride as we explore ways to help everyone leap into life with a greater sense of clarity, passion, purpose and joy.


Britt [00:59:52] Check out our show notes for links, additional information, and episodes located on your favorite podcast platform.

Ronit PlankProfile Photo

Ronit Plank

Writer, Speaker, and Podcaster

Ronit Plank is a writer, speaker, and podcaster whose work has been published in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Rumpus, Insider, Writer’s Digest, and elsewhere. She is the host and producer of three different podcasts: And Then Everything Changed, The Body Myth, and Let's Talk Memoir. She is nonfiction editor at The Citron Review and her first book is the memoir When She Comes Back. Her short story collection Home is A Made-Up Place, winner of the 2020 Eludia Award, will be out later this year.