UPDATE 9/13/13: Mariel’s documentary Running FromCrazy, will debut on OWN in 2014 after a theatrical release on November 1.
We’ve admired Academy Award-nominated actress Mariel Hemingway on the big screen. But now the woman with the famous last name lives to inspire others. Growing up in a family who struggled with mental illness and addiction led her on a path to finding her own personal best.
“I just wouldn’t think it would be right to have gotten out of a lifelong depression and not tell everybody how I did it. I always think that the only way you can teach somebody something is to share your experience.” Mariel Hemingway
Her documentary, Running From Crazy, chronicles her life and the difficult challenges she faced growing up in the Hemingway family. Her new book, Running With Nature: Stepping Into the Life You’re Meant to Live, written with her life partner Bobby Williams, shares her discoveries about living a simpler, happier life.
I have always admired Mariel and was fortunate to have her as a guest on The Women’s Eye Radio Show recently to talk about her personal story and her journey to find inner peace. The following is an excerpt from that conversation on 1480KPHX…
TWE: You’ve had a banner 2013 so far. Where are you in your life right now? Have we found you in a good place?
MARIEL: You found me actually in the most amazing place of my life. But you’re right. It is kind of a banner year. Who knew that in my 50s, I’d be like coming into my own? This is awesome. It’s great.
MARIEL: That’s the point of everything that my life partner, Bobby Williams, who is the co-author of our book, Running With Nature, and I are about. It’s about saying you’re never too old to get younger and to grow younger every single day.
So our passion is to inspire other people to find their own personal way to their own health and well-being. Because it’s not 30, 60, 90 days to your best in life….it’s a lifetime, so everything you do leads into everything else. That’s really our passion and our message.
TWE: Where do you think we are as a nation when it comes to accepting your message?
MARIEL: I think that there’s definitely a couple of camps. There are people that have no awareness of health and wellness and where it needs to be. But then I think there’s this huge population of people who really want answers or guidance or someplace to go, but don’t know quite where. They know that there’s something out there for them.
They’re just not sure what it is. We’re trying to fill this void and say there’s not one way to do things. There’s all kinds of ways to really focus in on who you are so that you can create a lifestyle that fulfills your happiness and makes you healthier.
TWE: Why do you want to help so many other people?
MARIEL: My documentary, Running From Crazy, is about my family and my looking at my family and why we have these genetic predispositions for suicide and mental illness. My passion has been to figure that out for myself. I think it’s only fair to share that I have some answers that are truly simple, doable, and available to everybody.
I just wouldn’t think it would be right to have gotten out of a lifelong depression and not tell everybody how I did it. I always think that the only way you can teach somebody something is to share your experience.
“The reason why I’m thrilled about sharing it is because everybody’s got a story…I don’t think my story is that extraordinary…but if it gives somebody the courage and the permission to talk about what’s going on in their family…that’s super important.”
TWE: Are you glad that you made the documentary?
MARIEL: I’m thrilled I did it. I was definitely nervous because making a documentary, especially about your family, your inner feelings and about your own transformation, is a little bit daunting. But I had Barbara Kopple directing who said, “No, we’re not going to be making a reality show. We’re actually going to be making something really extraordinary.”
I didn’t know how it would end up, but I knew that she had 43 hours of uncut, unseen footage. When I saw it, it came full circle. I thought “Oh, my God!” because I was telling these stories and then seeing this footage of my family, and I just was blown away at how much more compassion I had for my sister Margaux.
I had been so judgmental of her, especially when I was younger. I thought that I was more caring and loving in retrospect as I got older. But really, it was seeing her and seeing the pain that she was in. I was humbled. I was compassionate. It was a feeling for me that made me forgive myself, forgive her, forgive my parents. It was wonderful.
The reason why I’m thrilled about sharing it is because everybody’s got a story. I don’t think my story is that extraordinary. But if it gives somebody the courage and the permission to talk about what’s going on in their family, and bring light to a subject that we try to keep in the dark because we have shame around it, that’s really super-important.
The best part is that it enabled me to talk about Running With Nature and how our lifestyle choices can be the key to unlocking the door to health, well-being and finding inner peace.
TWE: Exactly. It’s interesting too, because I look at your family and this seems like something that is genetic. It isn’t necessarily a learned behavior. Do you think if this information had been available to your family, their legacy would have been different?
MARIEL: I absolutely think that if they had the kind of knowledge that I’ve grown to have now at my age, it would have been very different. But it was also a different time. My grandfather was living a man’s man life and drinking and doing whatever he was doing in a time where they didn’t know how bad that was for you.
“They didn’t realize that this behavior could screw up brain chemistry. Nobody put these things together. Nobody realized that food had an impact on the brain and its balance.”
But I also think one of the triggers is addiction. We all had addictive personalities. My grandfather was a drinker; my father was a drinker. My sister was into drinking and drugs and also had an eating disorder. So, all of these levels of mental illness or dysfunction or imbalance just are part of that.
TWE: I’m 47 now, and you talked about having this big awakening moment when you were 47. What was it? And can I get that too?
MARIEL: Oh, absolutely. I think that was really when I decided that I was no longer going to not honor my inner voice. I knew that it was time to listen to myself. I’d been reaching outside of myself my whole life for answers to my problems. Then I realized that I’m my best teacher, my best guru, my best therapist, my best whatever you want. It lies within me.
TWE: Was it also about finding a Bobby? Ha!!
MARIEL: It absolutely is about finding a Bobby. That’s been an extraordinary part of my life.
TWE: Your book is excellent and very simple. You have chapters about sleep, getting enough wholesome food and drinking water. You really break it down. To me, it’s a no-brainer. But why are people resisting wellness?
MARIEL: I think they resist wellness only because they want somebody to come out with a pill or an absolute solution. To be healthy, to be well, to be balanced, to have inner peace is all a journey. Bobby and I see it as a fantastic journey; we’re thrilled to be doing it.
“It makes so much sense to us. I think the people that don’t want to do it have to change their attitudes about what it means to be healthy.”
Health doesn’t come in one grain drink. It doesn’t come in one choice. It comes in everything you do. Start to see it as you’re on this adventure to be healthy. Our bodies are so extraordinary, and our minds are so extraordinary, so to not think that you’re the orchestrator of your own health and well-being is so sad.
We really have the power to be whoever we want to be: healthy, happy, and totally connected. But it is a journey. And I don’t want to say it’s work, but it is a commitment.
MARIEL: I think that my life now, and the way that I live it in a very balanced way, has helped tremendously. It means I eat really well. But it’s not like I’m extreme. I’m not all raw. I’m not all vegan. I’m not all anything.
I really looked at myself and I saw that I need animal protein, but I only eat it humanely. I drink more water and I get rest. I never rested enough. And I learned with Bobby how much sleep and rest we need. And I take time for myself.
I think that people get wrapped up in their lives, and they let their lives rule them instead of ruling their own life. Take charge. It’s not that we’re in control, but it is that we can control our choices.
TWE: You have so many phenomenal tips in your book like just simply turning off technology or tossing the microwave, which is really hard for me to do. But are there three important tips that you want people to remember?
MARIEL: Number one: Be good to yourself. Number two: drink water. Most people are dehydrated and they don’t even know it. And number three, learn how to breathe. It doesn’t mean that you have to learn how to deeply breathe, but breathe more deeply with more consciousness.
Be more aware. Take two to five minutes a day to be still and silent. There are many more tips, but those would be three tips that I think could save your life.
“Start slowly. If you want to change the way you eat, change your breakfast.”
TWE: But you know that life gets in the way…
MARIEL: Yes, but here’s why our book is different. We give you things that you can keep doing. If you change your breakfast and you feel differently, you might stick with that for a while, and then you’ll change your lunch. If you start with two to five minutes of meditation, you start to feel differently. You’ll do it again and you’ll keep doing it.
But if you go, “I’m going to start meditating,” and you say, “I’m going to sit for an hour,” you’re going to fail because you put yourself up to a standard that you can’t meet right away. Start slowly. If you want to change the way you eat, change your breakfast.
TWE: Mariel, good luck with all that you’re doing and continued success to you and Bobby!