6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20, Talk Story Bookstore, Hanapepe.
Deborah Duda was born traveling. For 30 years, the author was a detective on the trail of joy. On her journey, Deborah found not only joy but also discovered what she calls “the least recognized, most widespread, most pernicious addiction of our time – suffering.”
Because her father was a U.S. military attaché to the US Embassy in London after WW II, Deborah was raised until age 11 in a small town in Surrey, England. After returning to the US, she completed high school and a BA from Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio. Two years working at the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C. was followed by delightful years sailing the Mediterranean.
After five years, the sailing life began to pale. Deborah felt self-indulgent and guilty not to be doing something “useful” when there was so much suffering in the world. She returned to Washington, applied to, and was selected to be a US Foreign Service Officer.
Deborah’s first assignment was to a White House Task Force, answering President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s mail from parents who lost in the Vietnam War. Then, after serving as assistant protocol aide to an Ambassador’s, she was sent to Chile, as Vice Consul and Cultural Attaché.
While living in Chile Deborah traveled South America, frequently visiting isolated indigenous villages. There she was often in awe of people who lived simply with very few possession and were consistently joyful. The faces of dirty-faced children joyfully playing in the street with a homemade top or doll touched a core longing in herself.
Very uncomfortable with US foreign policy in Vietnam in the 1960’s and Chile in the early 1970’s, Deborah resigned from the Foreign Service. She moved to Paris, joined a leader of the Brazilian exiles, and edited his expose of the use of torture in Brazil, Un Grano de Mustaza.
Discouraged by the inability of politicians and intellectuals to create peace in the world, she moved to a San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. There she began an inner, spiritual journey including studying alternative healing and metaphysics. To make a living, Deborah designed, manufactured, and sold high fashion suede clothing to Bendel’s and Bloomingdales.
At 33, she decided to fulfill a childhood vow and take a trip around the world. After living for a time in a Nepalese village in the Himalayas, Deborah had a dream about Mother Teresa. After journeying to Calcutta and meeting Mother Teresa, she was inspired to earn an MA in psychology, Goddard College and became a counselor with the terminally ill. She wrote a groundbreaking, award-winning book, Coming Home, a Guide to Dying at Home with Dignity, endorsed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross.
Before spending time with families facing terminal illness, Deborah thought death and dying was mostly about sadness and suffering. She found a surprising amount of joy. Remembering also the joy of materially poor children she’d met in her travels, Deborah made a promise to herself and to god to learn more about joy and why most of humankind doesn’t feel it more often.
Her second groundbreaking book, Lighten Up, Seven Ways to Kick the Suffering Habit — part memoir, part expose, and part guide book — shares her journey. Lighten Up offers practical things readers can do to increase the joy in our daily lives.