At this point in her life, Iyanla Vanzant is not particularly concerned about jumping back into the rat race that was her existence in 2002. And her newest book “Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through” is a result of the battles, and war the New York Times best-selling author, Yoruba priestess, mother and grandmother went through to reach that realization.
It all began in 2002, when by mutual agreement Vanzant passed on renewing her $1 million television contract.
“I didn’t want what they were doing and they didn’t want what I was proposing. But to the world it looked like my television show was canceled.”
That was in February. Then in September, Vanzant was hit with the most devastating news any mother can ever receive.
“My 31-year-old daughter (Gemmia) was diagnosed with a rare form of colon cancer. For the next 15 months, I was mamma bear talking care of her cub. She passed on Christmas day,” explained the former co-host of the NBC show “Starting Over.”
“For me it (the end of the T.V. contract) was insignificant because, once my daughter got ill, I recognized why I could not be on television. There was no way I could have chosen between taking care of my child and shooting a television show everyday. In the industry (they say), the show must go on, and God knows they would have been suing me,” recalls the author with a laugh.
What made Vanzant’s loss even more acute was the fact that the two of them were more than mother daughter.
“She was my best friend. We hung out together. We built my business, my career, my brand together.”
Adding insult to injury, Vanzant said her marriage and the 40-year relationship she had ended in divorce. She also lost her home to foreclosure although she was not forced to move.
Vanzant found herself floored and bedridden by the experience, to the point that a former student in her ministry, Lydia Ruiz, ended up moving in to take care of the house, her grandson and the former talk show host herself.
During the first six months after her daughter’s death, Vanzant said she was in mourning, and then she spent two years grieving.
What gave Vanzant some sense of solace during that time was reading her daughter’s journals. However it was a somewhat uncomfortable fit, because the mother-of-three and grandmother of eight discovered some painful truths about herself and her daughter.
“. . . I learned to be very, very aware and conscious of how who you are impacts on other people. I thought I impacted people in a very clear, powerful way, but my daughter (in her journals) revealed to me that I didn’t always do that. I didn’t always impact (my children in a positive way.
(Gemmia wrote) As a child there were things she wanted and needed from her mother that she didn’t get, because of course, I was out saving the world.”
Vanzant discovered in the journal that her daughter felt even as a grown woman, she was not getting everything she needed from her mom.
That was a tough less to learn, agreed the author quietly.
Reading those sentiments forced Vanzant to begin to explore some issues in her life, and what she discovered was that being unavailable to her children was an acquired pathology.
“I grew up in a home where the people who raised me, were emotionally unavailable . . . My foundation was very unstable. I never knew from one day to the next where I would be and if I would have food,” remembers Vanzant, who said she was hell-bent on making sure her children did not experience that same thing.
So she worked doggedly to make sure they had the physical comforts she was denied in her own childhood.
“By working two jobs and being tired all the times, (my daughter ironically) experienced me being emotionally unavailable. And the things that could have made me available, made me a different parent, I didn’t know how to do, because the people who raised me were unemotionally not there.”
Vanzant continued, “While my kids always knew where their next meal was coming from, they didn’t know if I would be there to kiss and hug them, when they needed it.”
The author also found her daughter correcting another belief she had about herself.
“I consider myself a very good listener, but in her experience I was always the one asking the questions,” Vanzant said, adding that her daughter never was able to ask questions.
Another valuable lesson the Maryland resident learned from her daughter was the importance of ownership. Calling herself a high-priced indentured servant, Vanzant said her daughter was about ownership and had a business acumen she lacks.
“If you asked me today for a video clip of myself, I found, there is not one that I own.”
All of these realizations have coalesced into a new Iyanla Vanzant, who has spent time exploring and facing her pathologies, and understanding how they get transferred to the next generation. The author knows that breaking this cycle is vitally important because of the daughter, her own daughters has left behind.
Finally, Vanzant is taking her time in terms of career to see exactly what direction she wants to go.
And one of the first steps on that path is a series of promotional events for her new book.
Her Los Angeles appearance will take place Nov. 14 at 4:30 p.m. at the Museum of African American Art, Macy’s Third Floor, Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, 4005 Crenshaw Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 294-7071. Seating is limited. The event is sponsored by Tavis Smiley Foundation.