Judy Foreman’s life changes have happened through her journey from childhood abuse to empowerment. After an abusive childhood, Judy discovered the unyielding spirit that led her to peace.
In Judy’s latest book, Let The More Loving One Be Me, she takes us through a journey over 70 years covering her growth, deep fulfilment, rewarding work, and most wonderfully love. Through the power of emotional courage and therapy, she changed her inner and outer experience of the world and discovered what matters most, cultivating healthy connections with other people.
*A quick content advisory: Judy and Kristin do speak of the emotional and sexual abuse Judy suffered towards the beginning of the episode. If you feel you may find that difficult, forwarding to about 11 minutes in will allow you to more comfortably listen to our conversation.
For more on Judy:
Most recent book: https://judyforeman.com/books/let-the-more-loving-one-be-me/overview/
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On The Second Chapter, serial careerist and founder of Slackline Productions, Kristin Duffy, chats with women who started the second (or third… or fifth!) chapter in their careers and lives, after 35. You’ll find inspiring stories, have a few laughs, and maybe even be motivated to turn the page on your own second chapter!
Being the More Loving One with Journalist and Author, Judy Foreman[:
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This week I'm speaking with Judy Foreman. Judy's life changes have happened through her journey from childhood abuse to empowerment. It's not too late to heal and thrive after abuse even in your fifties. Take it from Boston Globe, journalist and author, Judy Foreman, who after an abusive childhood discovered the unyielding spirit that led her to peace.
In Judy's latest book, Let The More Loving One Be Me, Judy takes us through a journey over 70 years covering her growth, deep fulfilment, rewarding work, and most wonderfully love. Through the power of emotional courage and therapy, she changed her inner and outer experience of the world and discovered what matters most, cultivating healthy connections with other people.
*A quick content advisory: Judy and I do speak of the emotional and sexual abuse Judy suffered towards the beginning of the episode. If you feel you may find that difficult, forwarding to about 11 minutes in will allow you to more comfortably listen to most of our conversation.[:[:[:[:[:[:
So I know that you've had many, many chapters as so many people that I speak, so many women speak to the podcast do. Your starting chapter was not the happiest of chapters by any means.
I asked you ahead of time maybe what some of the chapters would've been and the first chapter you called Danger. Not to start things on a low note, but can you tell me a little bit about this dangerous childhood?[:
So he was a huge honcho executive corporate. Type to the max. He drank a lot. He was really an alcoholic. Verbally violent emotionally violent and for me, sexually abusive. When I was a teenager, he used to come into my room stand in the doorway every night with just a t-shirt on.
He would come down the hall. I would, I could hear his footsteps and I knew when he turned the corner in the hall, I would turn off my light really fast in hopes of. Tricking him into thinking I was asleep. But he would open the door anyway. And at first I wouldn't answer, and then I would say, I'm trying to go to sleep.
And eventually he would go away. But every night I was afraid he would come all the way into my room and I was afraid of being raped. And this went on night after night until I went to college. So it was like a, a mock execution. You know, where terrorists pretend they're gonna shoot you, they don't actually shoot you, but.
The trauma, the, the, the threat is so intense that it leaves its own psychological scars. And adding to that my mother, who was very pretty, very charming, great hostess but not, Warm, not deep. She couldn't connect to feelings. She was not she was not a, a, shall we say, evolved person. She was superficial.in retrospect, that it's no [:
In addition to what I do, I love to write. So it, it's great for that, but also ferreting out the truth, finding the truth. That really has been my mission personally for my own life and for my life as a professional journalist. So it, in retrospect, it all makes sense.[:[:
We had a decent house and clothes and food and, you know, trips. But as is so often the case, that's a facade. And underneath there's a lot of stuff going on for not just me, for a lot of people, a.[:
And then she moved into the suburbs and one of the things she said to me was, you know, basically she thought her life was going to change very dramatically in the sense that these kids wouldn't have problems. And I said, I really think you'll be surprised that behind you don't know what's happening behind closed doors.
You really don't. And she came to me, you know, six months or a year later and she was like, I, what I'm dealing with behind these closed doors is so much more complicated in some instances than what was happening with these inner city kids that I really thought would be, the more difficult to help.[:
I mean, and adolescents too are very frequently. Sexually abused and it's usually by a parent, by the father. So, and you know, looking at the house when the plantings and the rose bushes, you wouldn't think that was the case. But that is very frequently the case and it's hard to talk about. And I think it's harder in a way than the Me Too movement where people are talking about workplace harassment and abuse.
'cause the family's supposed to be sacrosanct, but it's not. It's really not for many, many people. For some people I assume that things are rosy, but for many people they may look rosy, but they're, they're not underneath.[:
And it's interesting because I do feel like part of I. This is being able to talk about it because I think for so long, so many women especially aren't able to say, this happened to me or I, I'm, I'm up seeing shows at the Edinburgh Fringe and I just saw one about a woman who was raped and her statement was, I believe you.[:[:[:
I, I didn't like it. I hated it. I was terrified, but I didn't know that it, there was an it to talk about this is what it was. I mean, that's very hard for people. You know, what you grow up with is, is the world, you know? And you don't even know there's something wrong with it because you can't verbalize it.
You don't, it, it's just, it's not a concept. This, this is wrong. I mean, you sort of subconsciously know, but you sort of have to get away from it a little bit to think, holy cow, this was not right. It's not supposed to happen.[:[:
And then yeah, I, I was an American Field Service exchange student at Denmark. The summer between junior year and high school and senior year, and it was my first chance living in a, in a normal family. And it was weird. Nobody got drunk, nobody was swearing, nobody was coming into my room at night. I thought, wow, this is really nice.[:[:
I grew up in a very. I mean, not, not right wing conservative, but sort of normal Republican women don't matter. Environment and to be valued and to think I was valued for my brain and my mind, not just how good I looked or something. That was huge. That was just unbelievable being valued as a woman.
That was, that was life changing for me. I'm so glad I went there. I'm so disappointed that my almost classmate Hillary Clinton didn't get to be president,[:[:
Lucky if there's such a thing. In marriage. I married my college sweetheart and we went in the Peace Corps in Brazil, which was great. We were, we were 18 when we met and essentially psychologically 18 when we split up at age 30, we were very young. We had no clue what we were doing. But we had a great time in the Peace Corps and we have had a great and still great son.
But it was not. It was not a mature relationship. But my second husband who died 17 years ago of prostate cancer was a good match. And my current husband is also a very, very good match. I mean, both men have really been soulmates, especially my, my current husband. And I really give a lot of credit to that for psychotherapy, which I've done a lot of.
And getting to know myself better and. Real realizing or sort of figuring out slowly how to pick a good partner. You know, who's someone who was really really there for me which[:[:
I mean, journalism was a lucky hit for me. And I, I credit psychotherapy hugely for the way that I've been able to grow and I. I honestly think that each of the men I've been married to and one I never did marry but was engaged to each one has been right for where I was maturationally along the way, sort of I.
As I became more capable of intimacy myself, I picked better and better men, which I think is a really encouraging message for people 'cause there's a lot of divorce and a lot of angst in trying to find a partner. And I really feel it, my own growing pains or whatever help me pick better and better men.[:
And for me, I just, I didn't have role models of parents that were together forever, but with him it seemed like that was the case. And we had what was, for me, a very traumatic divorce. And I think at the time I didn't wanna be the person that was like, oh, there's the one. And he, but, but he felt like he was the one.
I mean, that was it for me. So it is interesting because what I always thought about our relationship is, what was good about it is we did kind of mature together and sometimes we were in different places and sometimes we were in the same place. And that was okay until it wasn't. So I realize now, you know, I mean, I, I'm trying to think, five and a half, six years on, from.think there is something to [:
This is it. 'cause I do think people feel like
There's only one person. Although my husband now, I, I feel like we are perfect for each other. And he feels that way too, which is really nice. In fact, it's essential. So,[:
There's no one left for me. you don't think that. I don't think that, but I think that does happen and people settle and they shouldn't.[:
And I was depressed for a week. I thought, that's terrible. And then I found the best possible person for me. It's it's tough, but in terms of my own trajectory with my story, it, it, I'm glad we're talking about this. 'cause my story is not just the bad beginning, it's kind of the emerging from that and really growing despite that.
And because of that in a way you[:
you definitely have to give yourself credit and as you said, psychotherapy and you know, a strong community at your university, all of those things deserve a lot of credit For sure.[:
Or something else just feeding the kids. And that's a shame because worthwhile, intrinsically valuable work is, is just, it's very soul enriching. And journalism has definitely been that for me.[:[:
Backwards because when I, I was an American field service exchange student, as I mentioned before, and we all, like 700 of us went across the ocean in a big ship called the Seven Cs, which, there's 700, you know, 17 year olds. And there was a notice on the bulletin board saying editor wanted for ship newspaper.
And I, I was a girl obviously, and I thought, well, girls can't do that. But there was a guy standing next to me, I didn't know him and I said, Hey, you wanna do that? And I said, you know, I can't do it 'cause I'm a girl, but we could do it together. And he said, sure. I still couldn't remember his name, the whole trip, much less now.
But we ran this newspaper and we mainly wrote stupid stuff about what was to eat and, you know, a storm coming, stuff like that. But I wrote this one editorial because I had heard on shipboard that some of the a f s students had had sex with their counterparts in the. European countries and Iowa is horrified.
I thought that we are here for world peace, not sec. So I wrote this scathing column saying the lousy few have messed up our world, idealistic mission. And then I know went back to my little cabin and the next day I went to the lunchroom and there are these kids parading around a big bedsheet and written the lousy few on it.
And they. Marching around making fun of me. They didn't know I nobody knew what anybody looked like. I, so I hid in my cabin. But I thought, this is great. I, I, I, I can move people with my words. So it was kind of an inauspicious start to journalism,[:[:[:[:
'cause I wanted to do a story about hospice care. And this was in the late nineties when there was a whole big move of, of afoot about physician assisted suicide and hospice. In my mind then and now, Is a much better alternative for people at the end of life if there's no hope for quality of life.
Anyway, I followed this young woman who was 39 with terminal breast cancer and It was supposed to be a two or three month story. She was supposed to be dying. She did so well in hospice. It took two years for her to die. She made many friends. She was thrilled that I was writing about her 'cause she had no children.
But she saw my story as kind of her legacy for the world. Her, you know, it kind of put her on the map and. Was something people could remember her by. And she was very courageous, very honest. And we became very close. She became very close to the Globe photographer and we ended up with this group of people who were her support group.
And you know, that gave me the opportunity to write about hospice in general, which I still think is practically the best thing going in medicine. It's, it's it's very patient centered. It's very non-interventional only pain control, nausea control, only trying to control symptoms, not trying to put people through endless procedures.
So much compassion and love and support with the hospice volunteers and the hospice nurses who were the cheeriest people I've ever met. I mean, they were comfortable with the idea of death, not afraid. Very caring. It was just, it was probably the most meaningful journalistic experience I have ever had.
I have a poster, a big picture of, of my, my patient right here in my study to remind me of how, how courageous some people are and how, how wonderful hospice is. So that, I guess that would be my, my favorite story[:
I don't know. I mean, even just to go to a doctor's visit, sometimes it's, it can be very traumatic as far as the people at the desk were rude or the doctor didn't have time for me, and I'm not by any means faulting the doctors, but at the same time it is such a shame that that's not something that's just, of course, a doctor's compassionate. Of course care is caring.[:
Much easier in the old days to call up and say something and have a phone conversation rather than all these, you know, high tech things.[:[:[:
So speaking of all of this, we didn't really, other than the hospice article, we didn't really talk about that so much of your journalism was about medicine.
And it's funny 'cause I logged onto your website and there's FAQs, so I'm going to look about you. And then it's all these health questions. But you also wrote a book exercises. We wrote several books, but exercise is Medicine is one that was specifically about aging. So I just kinda wanted to have the conversation, I mean, to say that the conversation about aging is a bit broad, but uh, um, a little bit about, exercise as medicine and, and why you chose to write that book and how it's affecting you now.[:[:[:
It does so many different things and it, it does help. Combat, that's kind of a strong word, but the processes of aging that normally occur, it slows, it literally slows them down. Particularly important to my mind are the, the benefits of aging on the brain when we exercise, I. Our brains produces a chemical called B D N F, which stands for brain derived neurotrophic factor, which just means it's a chemical made in the brain that acts on the brain.
It acts on the, specifically on the hippocampus, which is the memory center. And there's a lot of evidence showing that it helps nerve cells grow and make more connections, and that's obviously good for memory. It's also fantastically good for mood. It's exercise, aerobic exercise can be as effective for many people as medications for depression and other things, and it's as strong.
Helper and preventing cognitive decline. There's one study I, I often think of from Canada that said if everyone who is now not exercising started exercising, we could eliminate one in every seven cases of Alzheimer's. Has this, this chemical, which they call people, dub it miracle growth in the brain.
It really does help. Prevent cognitive decline. I mean, obviously not all the time. There's still a rampant Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease and other problems that that affect the brain, but it exercise is incredibly potent for that. Obviously people know it's good for their heart. For their breathing, good for their muscles.
People don't think of it so much as being really good for their brain, but it really is. So that's, that's my take home message from that. And that book was really fun, fun to write. Well, they all have been. I have a a novel that came out last year about the new gene editing technique. Called crispr.
It's a way of using genetic engineering to change genes or insert good genes and take out bad ones. It's, that's kind of a simplistic explanation. So I wrote a, a medical thriller about that process where there's an evil geneticist doing bad things with crispr, even though CRISPR is a very, very good thing for, for medicine.
For, it has the potential to treat and cure a number of diseases that are called caused by.[:[:[:[:[:[:[:
I will definitely do that 'cause it sounds amazing. I actually, one of my favorite television shows that I think was about two seasons, maybe it got to three here and then it just stopped and there was so much more that could have happened. But it was a television show called Utopia and.[:[:
But this was sort of like, I, if I recall, it's been several years, but it was almost like they were genetically engineering out. Weaker, as you might say. And again, to kind of, to combat that. And that was very, it was fascinating 'cause it was, I mean there were parts of it that, that made, you wanna have a discussion about it, but it was obviously at the end of the day, they were the bad guys.[:[:[:ast joints and stuff, that's [:
It's, it's one of the big causes of pain and there's very promising results with that and with other. Diseases that are caused by a single gene. I mean, there's a lot of hope with this. And, and with everything else, you know, potential danger too. who makes the decision, who decides which scientists are on the right track and which are on the wrong track? And if you've recently seen moving Oppenheimer, as I have, you know, this was tremendously exciting science to make the Adam bomb and tremendously dangerous as well. So it's, it's a double-edged sword.[:
So that they could, you know, I mean apparently it's for good, blah, blah, blah, but you don't know what they're gonna use it for. And it cuts off my ability to do voiceover work. It cuts off any other actor that might have the same kind of casting for a voice as me. And you know, when, when I, when I brought it up, they said something like, well, you know, in the paperwork it'll say we can never use it for like defamatory purposes.
And I was like, It's not just that. I mean, it's my voice. You're stealing a part of my identity.[:[:
And, and it, it's one of those things again, I mean, I know that I do some of the editing of the podcast on this wonderful AI program to script. I think it's great editing tool, but I also am concerned with some of the things when they're like, we wanna record your voice 'cause we have it almost perfect that we can change things. It's really frightening.
I'm on such a tangent, but I do think that technology is so good, but it's so scary as well.[:[:
Better and, and helped you to get past a lot of childhood , trauma. But tell me about the book and tell me about, forgiveness and the title and, and how that all came about.[:
So this is gonna make me sound more aite than I am, but somehow this line from a poem popped into my head and the poem was by Den and the actual. Quote was, if equal affection cannot be let, the more loving one be me. So I stopped on the trail and I said this to my husband and he said, wow that's amazing.
What's that from? And I said, I think it's from Auden. And I said, yeah, let the more loving one be me. And both of our eyes filled with tears. And he gave him this big hug and he said, no, let the more loving one be me.[:[:
I, I'm in this wonderful organization called the Harvard Institute for Learning and Retirement. It's, it's part of Harvard University, but for people, not just Harvard people, but. Other people who, sign up and get admitted. I started taking a memoir class just for fun. It was taught by this terrific, very flamboyant, dramatic woman.
And the class was amazing. And so I wrote a memoir a week about anything, silly things, important things whatever. And I ended up with this huge pile of memoirs and I sort of kept writing after the class was over. And eventually I thought, you know, this is. Kind of interesting. I think I have a book.
And you know, of course you wonder, well, who, who's interested in my life? Why, you know, I'm not a famous celebrity. But I thought, you know, my story could be interesting to people because it has been a journey of sort of self-discovery and, and what, I don't know what word to use except progress or.asically having had a really [:
'cause it's hard to. Crawl your way out of, out of the past if it's still affecting you. So I thought it was worth a try.[:
That can inspire someone to something different to know that their life can be okay. I do think one of the things with the podcast for me is yes, I've had some people that have a higher level of being known higher levels of fame or being known.
And, but I really do love talking to a variety of people that some have had the most normal. Quote unquote lives[:
I had one editor at the Globe say, yeah, the reporters are extroverts. The editors are introverts, and there was something to that. You know, we were the ones out there in the street or on the phone talking to total strangers. And I, I do, my husband kind of is always astonished I strike up conversations with tons of people, you know, like the gas station attendant or something, it's just, it's part of my personality, but it's, it's a very useful trait for, for finding things out.
I mean, it's not that I'm necessarily intending to find things out, but. You come back to the newsroom with a story whether you plan two or not.[:[:
you can't forgive. I can't forgive something that was a violation of me and why should I? I mean, I, I think there's kind of a cult-ish idea around forgiveness that, that will make everything okay.
And I, there's sort of religious overtones that I don't like. I think you can't do violence to your own emotions in the name of forgiveness. I mean, I think you can, wow, this is your hard question.
The rest have been easy. What do I think? I think you can heal from trauma and things that someone might think you should forgive.
But forgiveness itself, it it, I, I, I think there's the. Sort of a right way of doing it in a wrong, a superficial or wrong or inauthentic way of doing it. And I think it's really hard to tease it apart. Thinking of that guy. Kevin Roof, or Ruth or something, the guy who shot up all those people in church in South Carolina and the, the, the congregation, they, they immediately were forgiving him.
How can you know that? Just how is that possible? That just uh, psychologically that doesn't seem possible to me. It doesn't seem authentic to me.[:
Yeah. I think that's an important thing to, to kind a, a good way to kind of think of things because I, I agree. We kind of have this superficial, like, and maybe people can really deeply forgive. I don't think that's in my nature. I think that there are things that, you know what? I'll get over it, but why should I forgive you?[:[:[:
I'm convinced she was much more concerned with preserving the marriage than anyone's mental health, especially mine or my brother's. It, it wouldn't have done any good to tell her, but it wasn't, it wasn't even you know, I didn't know that there was something to tell. It was so normal.[:[:
I mean, if she, if she had been honest about her own feelings and honest about feelings in general in the family, she would've left him. But people didn't do that in those days,[:[:
I. In that generation, I think more than now,[:[:
I don't wanna say to be remembered. Sounds like you're walking off into the sunset. You're not dead yet, but No. One of the exercises I've done is writing a letter to my future self. I think that, you know, you write a letter sometimes to your past to self, but I love the idea of talking to myself in the future.
'cause it, it helps me think about who I wanna be at that point. So looking into the future, where would you like to be and how would you like people to be talking about you? That's a better way to ask it.[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:
Welcome and entertain them all. Even if there are a crowd of sorrows who violently sweep your house, empty of its furniture, still treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice. Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.[:[:
Running away from them doesn't work.[:
And I thank for you to tell your story and to be willing to sit with those feelings is definitely being very brave.part of your story. There's [:[:[:[: