Monday, July 20, 2020

Guest Blog - Helplessly Hoping by Douglas Kent #memoir

Music Playlist 

I was very excited to write this guest blog for Roxanne’s Realm, especially when I was asked to provide a playlist to go with my book.  It gave me the perfect opportunity to dive into songs that I always associate with Mara. 

As it happens, I’ve been thinking a lot about Mara’s favorite songs lately.  Writing Helplessly Hoping was more a function of remembering experiences rather than reliving them.  But ever since I’ve finished and released the book, I find myself drifting back to moments in time, to conversations, and of course to music.  I suppose you could call this a glimpse into the soundtrack of our life together. 

I Think I Love You (The Partridge Family) – Neither of us were old enough to watch this show when it originally aired.  Mara apparently had a huge crush on David Cassidy as a youngster, and never missed a chance to watch reruns.  I was more of a Brady Bunch guy, myself.

Walking on the Sun (Smash Mouth) – I’m not sure which Mara loved more: the song or the video.  This was obviously back when MTV still played music.  This era – circa 1997 and 1998 – was a time when Mara kept making me buy her CDs for one song.  She’d listen to that song over and over (as she’d say, “like a mental patient”) and never even try the rest of the CD.

I Guess That’s Why They Call it the Blues (Elton John) – This was “our song” when we first met and started dating.  Mara loved Elton John, and this had just become a hit when we met.  It also described the loneliness we felt during the four months she was away at college.  In retrospect, those months felt like years.  I’m listening to it while I type this, and I’m crying like a baby.  Teenage love.

Something to Hide (Journey) – This was the original title for the book, in part because Journey was Mara’s favorite band (not to mention the huge crush she had on Steve Perry).  She couldn’t sing that well (nether can I, truth be told) but it was a sight to watch her belt this song out at full volume whenever it came on.  If I’m not mistaken, this was the first song Steve Perry and Neil Schon wrote together.

Mother, Father (Journey) – On the other hand, Mara would cry whenever she sang to this Journey song, off the Escape album.  As much as she’d fight with her parents, all she really wanted more than anything was for her to know who she really was inside, and for them to love and accept her in the ways she needed.  But everyone loves in different ways, and sometimes what it given isn’t what you wanted.

The Best of Times (Styx) – Mara also was a huge Styx fan.  She lobbied hard for this song to be selected as the “theme” of her senior prom.  It lost out to the cheesy Phil Collins soundtrack song Against All Odds.  Mara didn’t like to lose; I think she was bitter about that for a few years.

Sea of Love (The Honeydrippers) – Mara chose the song for our first dance at our wedding.  She wasn’t that happy with the band’s rendition, but she still managed to smile her way through it.  She also loved the video.  She always got such a kick out of the xylophone player waiting patiently to play his part.  And she thought the end was super cute.

I Will Remember You (Amy Grant) – When our cat Ubber died, Mara spent weeks in a deep depression.  She wasn’t just grieving over him, but also over her childhood cat Midnight that had gotten outside and been hit by a car.  The two of them looked almost identical.  Sadly, Mara carried grief and pain with her for years; she never really learned how to work through pain and leave at least some of it behind.  In an attempt to shake herself out of it, she made a mix tape of songs that reminded her of Ubber.  This was one of them.  She also included it on the mix tape she made for our three-day drive from New Jersey to Texas.  Sometimes I still feel like I will see her in the distance one day, a face in a crowd.

Helplessly Hoping
Douglas Kent

Genre: Memoir

Date of Publication: May 8, 2020

ISBN: 979-8641132112 (Paperback)

ASIN: B088CQZSD8 (Kindle)
Word Count: 114,000

Cover Artist: Shawn Burkett

Tagline: When Love is All You Have Left

Book Description:

High school sweethearts Mara and Douglas are young and in love, but they’re about to discover that the nightmares of the past have a way of haunting us in the present. Together they will face the demons of Mara’s childhood…but will either of them get out alive?

A true and hauntingly candid look into the tragedy of sexual abuse and mental illness, and the struggle to stay afloat when everything seems hopeless.


One night we were lying in bed watching television. As a general rule at this stage, I would fall asleep hours before Mara would. She’d stay up until 2am or later watching television, unable to sleep, and instead would sleep until 10am or later in the morning, waking up only for a moment to take the handful of pills I’d give her before leaving for work.
Mara had been strangely quiet all evening, neither laughing at the TV nor complaining of any discomfort. I rolled over, gave her a kiss goodnight, and started to settle in to fall asleep. At that point, Mara reached back and opened her own bedside drawer, pulling out the Bowie knife and showing it to me.
“Tonight, when you are sleeping,” she said in an emotionless monotone, “I am going to stab you to death.”
“Okay,” I replied calmly. “And why would you want to do that? Did I do something wrong?”
“No, but I’m tired of living. And if I kill you, I won’t have a reason to live anymore. So I will be free to kill myself. And that’s what I am going to do.  I’m sorry, but I just can’t take it anymore. And I don’t want to kill myself and leave you behind to deal with the guilt and the mess.”
I could actually see the warped logic of what she was telling me. But I didn’t know what to do, or what to say. Life had been dragging us both down, and for a long time I’d had no hope of things getting any better. At any rate, I was tired too, physically, mentally, and emotionally. And I felt completely helpless in my life. I didn’t see how anything would ever really get better. Sure, there would be better days and worse days, but the trend was set: downwards.
I rolled over on my side and faced away from Mara. I didn’t want to look at her. I just put my head down on the pillow, said “I love you,” and closed my eyes. Death has always been a huge fear for me; trying to fathom the concept of nonexistence makes me shake all over, and when that happens, I have to snap out of that quickly. I knew Mara was serious, and I felt fairly certain she would follow through with her plan. But in my state of misery, it didn’t matter. The fear of death, and the thought of that knife plunging in and out of my body, barely moved the needle. I simply didn’t care any longer. In only a few minutes I was asleep.

About the Author:

Born in Danbury, CT, Douglas Kent now makes his home in the Dallas, TX area with his two black cats. While he still dabbles in fiction and satire, his published works have focused on personal experiences in the form of memoirs.

He is also an avid supporter of independent film and music, and a lifelong animal lover.

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