How STAR Saved My Life and Gave Me a Second “Career”

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Graduate Profiles

By Vilma Ginzberg

May 1989
Depressed/suicidal, 62 years old with a successful practice in Wisconsin, I go to Pocket Ranch [California] on personal retreat, while a STAR is going on simultaneously. We all eat in the same dining room. I am depressed but not stupid; my therapist eyes can see the profound and daily changes in the STAR participants. I ask Barbara what that is; she tells me about STAR. I ask if I can have some of that. She says there is one opening left in the next STAR in June. I take it.

June 1989
I do my STAR, a 21-day “workshop.” My birthwork is profoundly insightful, my reader Helen Kincheloe incredibly patient and nurturing though she calls me on my games. I “know” my life has been literally saved.

August 1989
Visiting my aged mother in New Jersey, I ask her about my actual birth. After some hesitation and embarrassment on her part, she describes the same birth I had re-experienced in STAR. Now I know for sure I had not just made it up.

January 1990-March 1991
I read for every STAR, commuting from my practice in Wisconsin for two-week periods about every two months. My STAR-started healing continues, deepens.

March 1991
Barbara offers me a position with STAR on the Ranch as Workshop Coordinator for about a third the salary of my Wisconsin practice income, in California where the cost of living is about three times that in Wisconsin. Without hesitation, I accept.

I am summoned to New Jersey and am with the family when my mother dies.

April/May/June 1991
I wrap up my Wisconsin practice, ready my home for sale, go to my long-time physician for a total health work-up before I move. He finds a “suspicious” Pap result.

July 1991
I begin my job at Pocket Ranch. I follow up on the Pap.

December 1991
I have surgery for the cervical cancer that was found early. My life has been literally saved, this time physically.

September 1992
I move permanently to Healdsburg, and continue to work at Pocket Ranch, primarily as Assistant Director of the Residential [In-patient] Treatment Center until the STAR Foundation work ends there in about 1996.

After that I continue as Reader, and as trainer in the Reader Training program and occasional writer of training materials for STAR through 2009.

MEANWHILE, back OFF the ranch:
In 1995 I begin writing “family stories” for my granddaughter, Rachel, and revive my interest in writing poetry. In about 2000 I become involved with the community of writers in the Healdsburg area.

2004
At age 77 I publish my first volume of poems, Colors of Glass.

2006
I co-edit Present at the Creation, an anthology of poems written by area poets on the writing of poetry.

2007
I publish my second volume of poems, Murmurs & Outcries. I also take over as host of the long-running monthly Third Sunday Salon, a venue for writers to read/share their works.

2008/2009
I am named Healdsburg Literary Laureate.

2010
I publish my chapbook, Snake Pit, memoir-wrapped poems inspired by my experiences as a psychotherapist.

2011
I produce my fourth collection of poems and stories, I Don’t Know How to Do This, poems on aging, in three forms: book, DVD and CD.

STAR not only saved my life; it made possible a most creative and rewarding “retirement,” and a second life as a writer!