Ruth Wariner, Author of The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir, On The Power of Healing and Faith

Elena, Holly, Ruth, and Leah

Ruth Wariner knows a thing or two about the importance of healing and faith. She grew up in a fundamentalist Mormon community with an abusive stepfather, which she talks about in her book, The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir, and in the first half our interview. After leaving the church and starting a new life in the United States, she found healing from her past by writing and sharing her story. Today, she talks to us about this process of healing, how far she has come since leaving the community, and gives us some advice on faith and spirituality.

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.

SuperheroYou: What was the writing process like for you? How was it having to revisit your past?

Ruth Wariner: It was both healing and also very hard. There were definitely scenes in the book where I had to get up and step away from the computer, sometimes for days, because it was such a hard thing to write. But the more I wrote the traumatic and the tragic scenes, the more I released. It was cathartic for me. It was healing, but it was painful to remember my past and remember the details of my mother and the way her skin was, the way she looked at herself in the mirror. So it was cathartic. It was healing. It was something that I definitely needed to get out of me and get out on the table.

Now that I’ve written it, I feel like a lot of it has stayed there. In fact, in a lot of ways, it’s easier for me to talk about it now, because I went through writing those things so many different times and refining them. I was taking a lot of classes for nonfiction and memoir writing, so I wrote tons of different drafts trying to tell the story in a way that was true to me but also understandable to my readers. It took a lot longer than I expected it to because it was hard to write and it was hard to revisit.

Another thing that was hard for me too was when I thought about my audience and readers in general as a memoir. Because it was my own life,iIt was hard for me to know what was interesting to other people. For example, something that really bothered me about my mother or my stepdad is what every teenager goes through. It was hard to weed out the scenes that weren’t going to be as important to other readers.

SHY: What would you say are some of the most important steps to take to heal from past hurts?

RW: Writing and telling the story was helpful. I think the fact that I wasn’t quiet about what had happened to me; talking about it really helped me. And my education – learning and being honest with myself about how my past had affected me as I was going to college and learning those kind of things.

When I finally got a career, and I had medical and mental health benefits, I started seeing a therapist. It took me a while to find the right one. I knew I needed somebody that was going to be honest with me and that could understand the trauma and the abuse that I had come from. So the therapy, seeking professional help from people who are qualified, was a huge part of my healing process. It helped me understand how that abuse had affected me, and it gave me tools to work on ways in which to move forward. I’ve also always been a very spiritual person, so I’ve used a lot of meditation and prayer to help me heal. Even the quietest times with myself, understanding myself and what’s going on inside of me, tapping into that has been a huge healing process too for me. But personal introspection with professional help, counseling, therapy, and group therapy was really helpful. And it’s a process; understanding that you don’t heal suddenly. For me, I’m still healing and it’s still a process for me and something that I probably will be growing stronger from for the rest of my life – having that patience with myself, my own growth and my own journey.

SHY: Can you tell me how your life looks like now so that our readers can better understand how far you have come? Also, how has your faith changed? Are you still a Mormon or still religious?  

RW: My education hugely influenced the way my life is now. Because I put myself through college, I found a career, and making money and having benefits helped to give me a sense of freedom. Having that also gave me a tremendous amount of confidence. I was hanging around people that were positive, educated and fun. Getting through recognizing my patterns with relationships was something that counseling helped me with too. So once I found that confidence in myself and my own ability to choose my own life and the way that I would live it, it opened up doors in my relationships with other people.

Eventually I was 33 when I met my husband, and I had done so much personal growth by then, and I learned so much self-compassion and self-love at that point, I was able to practice that in my relationship with my husband when I finally met him. So we met 10 years ago this month, and we’ve been married now for 7 years in May. Because I had already raised my sisters, I chose not to have children of my own; I was a single parent for almost 18 years with them and my husband was just nearly divorced and had raised two sons with his former wife. And teaching was really good for me; I taught for 8 years and then decided to take time off to write my book, to finish it and promote it, so that’s what I’m working on now. And I’m fortunate enough to have the freedom to do that.

My husband and I live in a beautiful community in Lake Oswego, Oregon in a town home, and it’s a new life. We love to travel. This last summer, we went to England. We went to the U.K., to Lisbon, and Ireland for three weeks and hiked all over the English countryside and spent some time in the cities and had a wonderful time, so I have that freedom to travel now and it’s something that we really love. I have a lot of positive, great friends and enjoy doing basic things. I guess you can call me a foodie; we like to wine taste. And I live close to Portland, Oregon so the food scene is really good. We enjoy hanging out with our friends, going out into the city, plays and musicals. It’s a good life. I can pay my bills – it’s awesome. There’s a tremendous amount of freedom in all of that.

I have a very loving husband who’s supported me emotionally and in so many ways through writing the book and being able to finish it. I’m 43 years old now, and I feel pretty lucky to have had that kind of support and opportunity to tell a story like mine. My sisters and I are very close too. My brother Aaron and Elena both live in Seattle. They work at Boeing and they’re doing really well. It’s just a three-hour train ride north of Portland. So we see them all the time. And Leah and Holly, my youngest sisters, live close by too. My three youngest sisters are very close, so I’m very happy for that. I’m glad that we were all able to stay together during that time. It was a tremendous amount of work but the payoff has been tremendous. They’re always available to me and they love having my husband as a brother-in-law. My brother Luke, he’s special needs and he plays three sports a year in the Special Olympics, and he’s doing really well. It’s just a turnaround in contrast to what we grew up in and where we came from. It’s night and day. It’s totally different. I live a life I love. I feel pretty incredibly lucky.

Faithwise, I would call myself spiritual. I love learning comparative religions, and I love seeing the similarities in them, because I believe in God, definitely, and that spirit of creation I believe lives in all of us. But I don’t believe any specific religion owns God or that he prefers one over the other necessarily. I grew up fundamentalist, always being told that we were the chosen ones, and we were the right ones. Once I moved away from that and was exposed to more in life, there’s no part of me that still believes that. So I feel like because of my past experience, being so closed off and narrowminded, that part of religion just bothers me. I feel much more spiritual. I pray and I meditate everyday. I read a lot of enlightening literature, things that inspire me. I listen to the voice and the guidance of the spirit of creation I believe is within me. That’s what I practice – listening to myself and my intuition and treating my fellow human beings the way I want to be treated. The golden rule is a big part of that. But I’m not Mormon, I’m not fundamentalist Mormon – I’m not either of that.

SHY: What is your real-life super power?

RW: I think patience and perseverance. I’m definitely hard working, but there are a lot of hard working people in the world. For me, having the patience for things to happen in the right time and persevering enough to continue on, even when they don’t happen in the time we think they should. I think raising my sisters helped develop that quality; it’s helped me in almost every way of my life, continuing to go to college, finishing college, starting a book, writing the book, and finishing the book, even though it took a lot longer than I thought. Those are my two strongest qualities that have been the most helpful for me, and I believe that when I recognize them in other people, they’re inspiring. You can see that people that continue to persevere with their life, even when it’s not easy, helps them in so many ways.

SHY: Who is your real-life superhero?

RW: I would say my husband, because he’s hardworking and he’s opposite of every man that I grew up with. My stepfather, when I was growing up, was never around, and he had over 25 children that he never raised or took care of. My husband, he and his former wife had severely autistic identical twins, and he did everything he could to take care of them and he still does. They’re still in group homes. We lived in an apartment while he bought them a house and made sure they were taken care of. He always had taken care of his children before himself, even though they don’t recognize him. They’re non-verbal and they’re pretty violent, but he takes care of them anyways. He’s really stepped up to the plate and been a responsible person. He has also done that same thing for me and my family. Of course, we’re able to reciprocate that in a way that his sons are not. He’s really been through so many challenges and have survived and risen above that.

SHY:  What is something that you do every day that you think everybody else should do?

RW: Quiet time with myself, getting to know who I am and what’s going on inside of me. I think that’s a valuable practice for everybody. To center ourselves, to spend that quiet time, to turn off the technology, and to be more reflective and introspective.

SHY:  How would you like to be remembered?

RW: I guess as a kind and dedicated person, and a loyal person.

SHY: What kind of advice do you have for millennials who are struggling spiritually or with their faith?

RW: I would say follow your intuition. Spend some quiet time with yourself and follow your intuition. Separate yourself from the noise. One thing as I was growing up, I could see around me, and I knew inside myself that I was in a town and a religion that was not right for me. And I could see that because of the way my mom was treated and because of the way children were treated in comparison to the way the men were treated. I knew that there wasn’t a fair balance in that structure. I knew it even back then, and the more I listened to myself and my intuition, the more I realized I needed to get out. I think that’s really a part of me that saved me, that got me away from a situation that wasn’t right for me

And find out what inspires them and follow that too. What inspires you, what makes you happy?

Liked this? Check out Ruth’s origin story

Written by Diana Kim

Ruth Wariner knows a thing or two about the importance of healing and faith. She grew up in a fundamentalist Mormon community with an abusive stepfather, which she talks about in her book, The Sound of Gravel: A Memoir, and in the first half our interview. After leaving the church and starting a new life in the United States, she found healing from her past by writing and sharing her story. Today, she talks to us about this process of healing, how far she has come since leaving the community, and gives us some advice on faith and spirituality.

Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.

SuperheroYou: What was the writing process like for you? How was it having to revisit your past?

Ruth Wariner: It was both healing and also very hard. There were definitely scenes in the book where I had to get up and step away from the computer, sometimes for days, because it was such a hard thing to write. But the more I wrote the traumatic and the tragic scenes, the more I released. It was cathartic for me. It was healing, but it was painful to remember my past and remember the details of my mother and the way her skin was, the way she looked at herself in the mirror. So it was cathartic. It was healing. It was something that I definitely needed to get out of me and get out on the table.

Now that I’ve written it, I feel like a lot of it has stayed there. In fact, in a lot of ways, it’s easier for me to talk about it now, because I went through writing those things so many different times and refining them. I was taking a lot of classes for nonfiction and memoir writing, so I wrote tons of different drafts trying to tell the story in a way that was true to me but also understandable to my readers. It took a lot longer than I expected it to because it was hard to write and it was hard to revisit.

Another thing that was hard for me too was when I thought about my audience and readers in general as a memoir. Because it was my own life,iIt was hard for me to know what was interesting to other people. For example, something that really bothered me about my mother or my stepdad is what every teenager goes through. It was hard to weed out the scenes that weren’t going to be as important to other readers.

SHY: What would you say are some of the most important steps to take to heal from past hurts?

RW: Writing and telling the story was helpful. I think the fact that I wasn’t quiet about what had happened to me; talking about it really helped me. And my education – learning and being honest with myself about how my past had affected me as I was going to college and learning those kind of things.

When I finally got a career, and I had medical and mental health benefits, I started seeing a therapist. It took me a while to find the right one. I knew I needed somebody that was going to be honest with me and that could understand the trauma and the abuse that I had come from. So the therapy, seeking professional help from people who are qualified, was a huge part of my healing process. It helped me understand how that abuse had affected me, and it gave me tools to work on ways in which to move forward. I’ve also always been a very spiritual person, so I’ve used a lot of meditation and prayer to help me heal. Even the quietest times with myself, understanding myself and what’s going on inside of me, tapping into that has been a huge healing process too for me. But personal introspection with professional help, counseling, therapy, and group therapy was really helpful. And it’s a process; understanding that you don’t heal suddenly. For me, I’m still healing and it’s still a process for me and something that I probably will be growing stronger from for the rest of my life – having that patience with myself, my own growth and my own journey.

SHY: Can you tell me how your life looks like now so that our readers can better understand how far you have come? Also, how has your faith changed? Are you still a Mormon or still religious?  

RW: My education hugely influenced the way my life is now. Because I put myself through college, I found a career, and making money and having benefits helped to give me a sense of freedom. Having that also gave me a tremendous amount of confidence. I was hanging around people that were positive, educated and fun. Getting through recognizing my patterns with relationships was something that counseling helped me with too. So once I found that confidence in myself and my own ability to choose my own life and the way that I would live it, it opened up doors in my relationships with other people.

Eventually I was 33 when I met my husband, and I had done so much personal growth by then, and I learned so much self-compassion and self-love at that point, I was able to practice that in my relationship with my husband when I finally met him. So we met 10 years ago this month, and we’ve been married now for 7 years in May. Because I had already raised my sisters, I chose not to have children of my own; I was a single parent for almost 18 years with them and my husband was just nearly divorced and had raised two sons with his former wife. And teaching was really good for me; I taught for 8 years and then decided to take time off to write my book, to finish it and promote it, so that’s what I’m working on now. And I’m fortunate enough to have the freedom to do that.

My husband and I live in a beautiful community in Lake Oswego, Oregon in a town home, and it’s a new life. We love to travel. This last summer, we went to England. We went to the U.K., to Lisbon, and Ireland for three weeks and hiked all over the English countryside and spent some time in the cities and had a wonderful time, so I have that freedom to travel now and it’s something that we really love. I have a lot of positive, great friends and enjoy doing basic things. I guess you can call me a foodie; we like to wine taste. And I live close to Portland, Oregon so the food scene is really good. We enjoy hanging out with our friends, going out into the city, plays and musicals. It’s a good life. I can pay my bills – it’s awesome. There’s a tremendous amount of freedom in all of that.

I have a very loving husband who’s supported me emotionally and in so many ways through writing the book and being able to finish it. I’m 43 years old now, and I feel pretty lucky to have had that kind of support and opportunity to tell a story like mine. My sisters and I are very close too. My brother Aaron and Elena both live in Seattle. They work at Boeing and they’re doing really well. It’s just a three-hour train ride north of Portland. So we see them all the time. And Leah and Holly, my youngest sisters, live close by too. My three youngest sisters are very close, so I’m very happy for that. I’m glad that we were all able to stay together during that time. It was a tremendous amount of work but the payoff has been tremendous. They’re always available to me and they love having my husband as a brother-in-law. My brother Luke, he’s special needs and he plays three sports a year in the Special Olympics, and he’s doing really well. It’s just a turnaround in contrast to what we grew up in and where we came from. It’s night and day. It’s totally different. I live a life I love. I feel pretty incredibly lucky.

Faithwise, I would call myself spiritual. I love learning comparative religions, and I love seeing the similarities in them, because I believe in God, definitely, and that spirit of creation I believe lives in all of us. But I don’t believe any specific religion owns God or that he prefers one over the other necessarily. I grew up fundamentalist, always being told that we were the chosen ones, and we were the right ones. Once I moved away from that and was exposed to more in life, there’s no part of me that still believes that. So I feel like because of my past experience, being so closed off and narrowminded, that part of religion just bothers me. I feel much more spiritual. I pray and I meditate everyday. I read a lot of enlightening literature, things that inspire me. I listen to the voice and the guidance of the spirit of creation I believe is within me. That’s what I practice – listening to myself and my intuition and treating my fellow human beings the way I want to be treated. The golden rule is a big part of that. But I’m not Mormon, I’m not fundamentalist Mormon – I’m not either of that.

SHY: What is your real-life super power?

RW: I think patience and perseverance. I’m definitely hard working, but there are a lot of hard working people in the world. For me, having the patience for things to happen in the right time and persevering enough to continue on, even when they don’t happen in the time we think they should. I think raising my sisters helped develop that quality; it’s helped me in almost every way of my life, continuing to go to college, finishing college, starting a book, writing the book, and finishing the book, even though it took a lot longer than I thought. Those are my two strongest qualities that have been the most helpful for me, and I believe that when I recognize them in other people, they’re inspiring. You can see that people that continue to persevere with their life, even when it’s not easy, helps them in so many ways.

SHY: Who is your real-life superhero?

RW: I would say my husband, because he’s hardworking and he’s opposite of every man that I grew up with. My stepfather, when I was growing up, was never around, and he had over 25 children that he never raised or took care of. My husband, he and his former wife had severely autistic identical twins, and he did everything he could to take care of them and he still does. They’re still in group homes. We lived in an apartment while he bought them a house and made sure they were taken care of. He always had taken care of his children before himself, even though they don’t recognize him. They’re non-verbal and they’re pretty violent, but he takes care of them anyways. He’s really stepped up to the plate and been a responsible person. He has also done that same thing for me and my family. Of course, we’re able to reciprocate that in a way that his sons are not. He’s really been through so many challenges and have survived and risen above that.

SHY:  What is something that you do every day that you think everybody else should do?

RW: Quiet time with myself, getting to know who I am and what’s going on inside of me. I think that’s a valuable practice for everybody. To center ourselves, to spend that quiet time, to turn off the technology, and to be more reflective and introspective.

SHY:  How would you like to be remembered?

RW: I guess as a kind and dedicated person, and a loyal person.

SHY: What kind of advice do you have for millennials who are struggling spiritually or with their faith?

RW: I would say follow your intuition. Spend some quiet time with yourself and follow your intuition. Separate yourself from the noise. One thing as I was growing up, I could see around me, and I knew inside myself that I was in a town and a religion that was not right for me. And I could see that because of the way my mom was treated and because of the way children were treated in comparison to the way the men were treated. I knew that there wasn’t a fair balance in that structure. I knew it even back then, and the more I listened to myself and my intuition, the more I realized I needed to get out. I think that’s really a part of me that saved me, that got me away from a situation that wasn’t right for me

And find out what inspires them and follow that too. What inspires you, what makes you happy?

Liked this? Check out Ruth’s origin story

Written by Diana Kim

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