#authorinterview with Penny Christian Knight, Author of Developing Resilience
Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Diane Lunsford is talking with Penny Christian Knight, author of Developing Resilience: Secrets, Sex Abuse, and the Quest for Love and Inner Peace Book One.
FQ: What an honor it has been to read your story, and I want to thank you for the pleasure of chatting with you today. Before we get into the actual biography, I would like to talk a bit about you and your accomplishments. I am a strong advocate of journaling because I think this (coupled with reading) is foundational to penning more than a volume of pages filled with (in some cases) meaningless prose. How difficult was it to revisit some of your journal entries in formulating the foundation of this first book in your Developing Resilience series (and what was your beacon to give you the comfort to keep writing forward)?
KNIGHT: Thank you for your positive and encouraging comments about Book One of my memoir trilogy. You ask how difficult it was to revisit my journal entries to formulate the foundation of my first book in my memoir trilogy (as well as my other two books). There were difficult times, especially on the pages of the revealing of my challenging first marriage, where I came in touch with extreme anger at Ed, my husband, and Edith and Bunny. Although I had dealt with this situation a bit in my earlier psychotherapy, I don’t believe I was in touch with the anger. When I reviewed it, typed it into the manuscript, and edited it, I became irate, maybe for the first time ever, at what I encountered in that marriage and even wondered why I stayed so long, except for at the time, I had seen no way out. It was a different period of history, and women were relegated to weakened domestic roles.
There are two reasons why I continued to write and complete my memoir. One reason was I came to the conclusion that I have a mission to share my story to help other people (men and women) find hope, courage, a means of growth, or whatever they need to move forward with their lives and out of toxic situations that hold them prisoner.
As for my first marriage section, I did not include those chapters in my original book writing. I began my writing with the idea that it would be one book, but it became too long. I just turned 90 on January 3 and have much of my life to reveal. So, I received the suggestion to turn it into a trilogy, but to do that, I needed to add the marriage journal to Book One, completing about the first third of my life.
I also want to point out that our lives appear to consist of layers like an onion. We work on the outer layer, but there is not much to work on there. When we work on the successive layers, we engage in more profound work involving more intense emotions and trauma each time until we reach the core. Some of us may never get to the core. Depending on which “onion” I am working on, I have come close. So, when I encountered anger about what occurred to me in that marriage, I began to work on a deeper layer than ever before. I am not sure, but there may not be any layers under that one.
FQ: There is a forward written by Marta Szabo, who references The Authentic Writing Workshops. Please elaborate on what makes this organization vital to you.
KNIGHT: What makes The Authentic Writing Workshop vital to me is that my experience with their workshop is that I began to write authentically, revealing the truth of what happened and not making it superficial. It is the truth to be shared with others, hiding their facts, which are too painful to talk or write about. If we can ever help others, we need to show how life really works and come out of our hiding so we all can become real.
FQ: I applaud you for penning such a clear vision of your interpretation of what reincarnation represents for you. Please break down the last sentence in your analysis: "...I have been living an extremely active vibration this time around. Hopefully, I have cleared up a lot of karma without creating more..."
KNIGHT: To clarify what I meant about living an active vibration this time around (I refer to my life as Penny). I haven’t been sitting on my hands. I have gone from encounter to encounter, which continually led me to further encounters of one sort or another. If I wanted to do something, I found a way to do it, even if I sat out for a while. Many times, life sought me, and I could not hide for long. I believe it was intended by the Universe to do all that was presented to me. And you will see more experiences in Books Two and Three. That is why I refer to an ‘active vibration.”
To me, vibration refers to everything energetic. I believe science agrees that we humans are vibrating forms of energy. I have learned forms of energetic healing such as Reiki and Healing Touch, where we scan a person’s body with our hands slightly above and can feel that energy and detect whether it is static or not smooth, indicating an area of discomfort for the person.
There is a saying, “What goes around, comes around.” That is karma. We may experience immediate karma (good or bad). Sometimes, it may take lifetimes until we receive retribution for our good or evil acts. When I say that I hope to have “cleared up a lot of karma,” I think of what I have gone through as perhaps paying the price of what I did poorly in another lifetime. The object is learning, seeing how another person feels when something terrible happens to them. Being sexually abused communicated that it is a horrible thing to endure. Did I do that to someone else in another life? Maybe. (but not as Penny but as another personality, same soul) I would not want to do it to someone else now or ever. Have I learned the lesson? Probably. Hopefully.
FQ: In line with my previous question, I was enthralled later in the book with your references to Edgar Cayce’s teachings. In my opinion, he is tantamount to layering credibility when it comes to ‘reincarnation.’ What is the greatest impact his work has made on you in your personal healing journey?
KNIGHT: Have I kept from creating any new karma? Not always. I was awakened when I discovered Edgar Cayce and his informative psychic readings. The Readings agree with many other older organizations with similar ideologies. Cayce’s readings are about different people/souls and their karma and what they were dealing with at the time; he gave them readings for physical or spiritual growth and readings that helped bring understanding to the individuals involved. So, I think the most significant impact his work had on me was the concept of reincarnation and karma. I was ready for that knowledge.
I believe God and my guardian angels led me to the job where I first heard about him as I began to trust him and the A.R.E. a little bit. Then, I went to the workshop offered by the organization formed to protect his readings and submit them to the public. I awoke from my human sleep due to being open to learning more and practicing meditation to listen to God’s still, small voice. Awakening led to my healing as I understood more about how our Universe works.
FQ: Last question about you. I’m often intrigued by what inspires an author to cite a specific quote in his/her book to anchor a chapter. In the Introduction, a quote by Melody Beattie: "Live your life from your heart. Share from your heart. And your story will touch and heal people’s souls." How often did you reference this sentiment in your journey? I personally believe with love anything is possible. Without sounding too radical, do you suppose a lot of the predicaments the world has been experiencing lately are simply because people have lost sight of faith and how to love? What would be your encouraging words to turn this around?
KNIGHT: About the introduction quotation regarding love, what frequency did I use that sentiment throughout my journey? Well, indeed, I referenced it in the introduction. I think love is needed in certain situations with my former clients in therapy. Still, it might be more about love for oneself to avoid being caught in a bad relationship versus giving themselves up entirely for someone else. I struggled with that concept since I was always seeking love but never really finding it. I found it in narcissistic people who are thought to love themselves more than anyone else. Yet, maybe it is because they don’t love themselves, really. Why? Perhaps love was missing from their lives. Therefore, they don’t know how to give it. Could that have been true for me? I didn’t know what it was until I awoke and began to learn that loving myself was more important than finding it with another. It quieted my search for it. Also, I have developed into an empath who can feel another person’s pain, even if a million miles away.
I also believe the problem with our world is a lack of love and faith in a higher power. It is shown by our traditional churches and synagogues combining with other churches/synagogues due to significant membership losses. Fewer children or young adults are attending, except, perhaps, in the mega-churches. The older congregations are trying to hold their churches together. Then, look at the people causing the dysfunction in our societies. There are many children, adolescents, and young adults. What happened? I am only guessing.
When I was in elementary school, we used to have prayer in our schools. Then, that was gone. When I was young, we had a parent at home all day. This is not a comment on women’s freedom to create themselves and work outside the home, which many must do to help finance their families. But who is home for the children after school now? Why isn’t the family going to church on Sunday? There are so many other activities for the children that the family is rushing everywhere to get it all done. So separated from church, parents may begin to lose faith or the practice of it. They don’t impart it to their children, who never develop faith. Plus, it is a crazy world, and children’s brains are not fully developed until their mid-twenties. So, they are having difficulty understanding and navigating the world. I haven’t read any studies on this. This is only from my observation that I believe this is what is happening. Hate for one another or for certain religious groups is the absence of love. I think electronic games may also play a part in all this, especially for young people who don’t think about the consequences of their actions.
We need to start talking about love to our children and exhibiting it to one another and to strangers. All the talk about immigrants and keeping them out of the country when they really can be helpful to our population and because they do work many of us don’t want to do. We must repopulate due to massive losses due to Covid, etc. Also, has anyone thought about working with the origin of the problem? Working with the countries the immigrants are coming from and trying to make it better for them there.
Is our country becoming more like their countries so that we may eventually seek to leave our country for a better place? My belief is that we all (all of us) are one. We cannot see the part of us that is connected. Therefore, to harm another is harming a part of ourselves. Also, it creates karma, such that the individual soul doing the evil act will have a lot of karma to pay in another life. That is my belief. Not theirs. So, it is doubtful they will listen to this. Perhaps we can offer programs on love. We need more television programs like “Highway to Heaven” and “Little House on the Prairie.” What happened to those kind of shows? Most selections today do not show the values emulated from these programs. We need more of those shows, but would people watch them? We must make everyone we meet feel important and loved for being here.
FQ: Immediately in Chapter 1, the stage is set for a traumatic experience you had at 14 years of age. You were running away from your brother Toby (10 years your senior) because you knew if he caught you, "...I felt like the terrified, vulnerable woman in the scary movies I saw. She ran from the vampire, who knew she couldn’t escape him or his bite on her neck. And it was the only door in our turn-of-the-century house that locked, providing me with a false sense of safety. I slammed and latched the door, screaming at my older brother, Leave me alone! Go away! I don’t want to do it!..." What is your relationship like today with your brother Toby?
KNIGHT: I described an experience that was frequent and not isolated, with my brother chasing me. It seems I was always running away from him. Today, there is no relationship with Toby. I cover that early in Book Two. He died at 45, alone, in a restaurant out of state after choking on his food. I also describe my adult relationship with him in Book Two. I had repressed all memories of what happened, which allowed me to have an adult relationship with Toby and to care about what happened to him. My memories didn’t emerge until I was in my 50s.
FQ: Your parents grew up during the Great Depression, and you talk about the gravity of poverty. I was horrified to read the entry of your home catching fire, and your father was the first one out to safety (leaving your mother single-handedly to get your brother and you to safety). You later write a caveat of how you "...never verified the story of the fire with my father as my parents divorced in my fourth year, and I had minimal contact with him throughout my life, but when we were together, this incident was the farthest from my mind. I guess my first conscious impression of my father, though, was that he was a coward..." (pg. 10) That’s pretty powerful stuff. How much of this impression weighed on the travails of your young adult years?
KNIGHT: Miles was eight years younger than my mother. Miles grew up in Tennessee and was 17 when I was born; my mother was 25. Miles’ family must have experienced the Depression differently from my parents. I am not aware of what it was like for my stepfather. I have referenced what it may have been like for my mother and biological father in Book One. About the house fire in which my father was reported to have fled the house, and I thought him to be a coward when I was old enough to consider that fact was not something I thought much about other than when I wrote about it in the book. It did not linger with me. What hurt and remained was that he didn’t make much effort to see or contact me. Of course, this made me feel unimportant and unloved because his attention appeared to go to his current family. That lingered with me until I finally healed it, which I will report on in Book Three.
FQ: The gravity of many passages you write are often difficult for me to digest. You are recounting a time when your brother Toby got off to a bad start "...he was a baby when a housekeeper gave him gonorrhea, but I never learned how that happened. Although I have imagined that she sexually abused him, I can only guess..." (pg. 17) Living in the (ahem) ‘modern’ times we live in today, why do you think there was such blatant denial toward such horrific abuses of children then?
KNIGHT: Why was there blatant denial about sexual abuse of children when my brother was a baby or even when I was a young girl? Times today certainly differ due to the immediate broadcast of various newsworthy items on television or the internet. Today, there is news about Catholic priests, Boy Scout leaders, and a multitude of television programs, either news or drama shows, and yet, there is still much absent from these venues for a variety of reasons. But people are people with all their issues and secrets. Eventually, they come out, or have been coming out, as survivors declare what happened to them by whom. It has taken society many years to reveal the ugly things that happen in our world, which seem to be worsening daily.
FQ: In line with my previous question, what is your view on the egregious abuses and trafficking of innocent children today? Do you think there will ever be a time when such evil is completely eradicated? How much abuse do you think your own parents endured and chose to ‘look the other way’; almost in a sense, if I don’t address it, it doesn’t exist. (With all due respect, this is not a judgment; rather, it’s a cry for why is obvious evil allowed to persevere.)
KNIGHT: Trafficking children. They are vulnerable, unsophisticated, and easy victims. Someone may start grooming them even from infancy. When I worked in foster care, I visited a foster kid family in their early teens whose father violated them when they were babies. They grew up thinking it was normal and had a plethora of problems as a result. Will there be will be a time when this evil is eradicated? It seems to me that it could be thousands of years until enough souls have paid their karma and learned from it and for it (as well as other evils) to cease. I hope it eventually stops, but if there is no such thing as reincarnation and karma, it will continue forever.
I think that much of this evil is one victim creating another victim, and so on. I keep searching for how my brother even knew about sex or how to do it during the historical period in which we lived. As far as I know, there was no television or explicit movies or magazines. I address this question further in Book Three. I never thought my parents were victims of this kind of sexual abuse. Maybe my stepfather was. My half-sister in my father’s third marriage told me that our father had sexually abused her from the time she was a toddler. I cannot speculate where that came from in his life. But he, like my stepfather, may have had a nonsexual wife, and they went unsatisfied at home, so they sought sex elsewhere.
FQ: In one of your journal entries dated February 23, 1989, you talk about your mother encouraging you to swim in the pool where all the male students swam; however, you had no swimsuit. Her ‘fix’ was to provide shorts for you but no top, leaving your chest exposed. I have to wonder how you didn’t end up completely broken and institutionalized, given the gravity of the offenses you endured. Was there a ‘safe place’ you would go to in your mind to convince yourself that this too shall be behind me and on the other side, I believe I’m going to ‘make it’? What would be the one defining assurance you would give to a young child that he/she could believe he/she can overcome this and be a stronger person once through it?
KNIGHT: You wonder how I didn’t end up completely broken and institutionalized, considering what I experienced from early on. My only answer is my favorite phrase, “It really doesn’t matter.” I believe that is what I used to repress my memories of the unpleasant events. If I didn’t remember it, it couldn’t hurt me. However, as I will report in the following two books, repression has problems. It takes a lot of energy and grit to repress a memory, and I have been plagued with chronic pain most of my adult life, which I believe is a result of the repression. As for a safe place in my mind, my mother used to tell me, “This, too, shall pass.” I don’t know if I told myself I would make it. I kept myself busy with activities that took me out of myself, such as cheerleading in high school.
What advice would I give a young child? I would tell the child or child’s parent to get the child into therapy because that is so readily available today. I would also tell the child they can survive what happened to them and find happiness and fulfillment. They can look at what happened to them like any other challenge we face in life. Climb the mountain to get to the other side. There is another side. We also need to overcome that we are responsible for whatever happened to us, to let go of the shame that accompanies the abuse, and to love ourselves enough that we won’t let anyone else ever take advantage of us if we can help it. Another axiom is, “Whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”
FQ: Thank you for such a raw and honest emotion across the pages of Developing Resilience. Your biography reads like a bittersweet journey of holding onto faith and hope no matter what. I applaud you for your tenacity to share your story. Your final words in Developing Resilience are: "...I continue developing my spirituality, discovering new adventures, and experiencing more challenges. See you in Book Two..." (pg. 312) Are you able to share some insights toward what we can expect in ‘Book Two’?
KNIGHT: You wonder if I can share some insights toward what can be expected in Book Two. I have indicated that in some of my answers, but it will be more detailed in the book. Also, I give a historical background for what was happening in the world during and following my first marriage. I was still drawn to narcissistic men and married twice more while still seeking love. I developed my spiritual life through spiritual experiences.
Finally, at 46, I returned to college after finding a way. Also, I became one of the first older women contingent to do so. It was an exciting process that gave me strength and knowledge that had been lacking. I found support from my professors and eventually ended up with a master’s degree in clinical social work at 50, which allowed me to share with therapy clients the strengths I found for myself. In Book Two, I also find one more love after searching for it one last time. I experienced the loss of my mother with the long goodbye. I experimented with and built my career creatively and moved to Virginia Beach twice to be near the A.R.E.
Thank you for the opportunity to share this information with you.