INSIDE MY HEART: Choosing to Live With Passion and Purpose
This is a book for married women who watch and appreciate the daily "Dr. Phil" television show, hosted by psychologist Phillip McGraw, who gives no-nonsense advice and often follow-up support to families and individuals in need of, well, advice and support. At the taping of every episode, Mrs. McGraw is in the audience, if not onstage, and miked, ready to chip in with a woman's viewpoint if it's requested. Every show ends with Dr. and Mrs. McGraw walking together out of the studio, smiling hand in hand. In TV land it's his show, but it's hard to imagine the setting without her.
In book land, INSIDE MY HEART may be similarly Robin McGraw's "show," but it's impossible to envision the landscape without her husband. In chapter 1 she lays out the goal of her book: to tell every reader "about the power of choosing her life rather than taking it as it comes along." What were Robin's life choices? As a young woman she saw herself "as the one person and the only force besides God who I could count on to design the life I wanted to live, and make it a reality. I knew I was meant to be a wife and mother, and I made it happen. I wanted a husband who didn't drink or gamble, and I made it happen." She looked for a man who respected her and whom she could respect. That husband was not that celebrity we know as "Dr. Phil," but the mere mortal she always calls Phillip. "He's [just] a man, with all the lovable and quirky qualities that implies." Does she let him psychoanalyze her? Not on your life.
INSIDE MY HEART is not a self-help book as much as a topical memoir, full of personal anecdotes that tell her life story and reveal her philosophy on life as a woman, wife and mother. She doesn't fit neatly into stereotypes. She's a menopausal woman who still calls herself a "girl." She says she's "happiest when" she's "taking care of someone" --- whether it be her twin brother in childhood, widowed father, her husband or her sons. (An empty-nest crying jag --- her younger son having gone off to college --- sets the stage for an opening anecdote that isn't really about her son but about her relationship with Phillip.)
But don't think this is a push-over woman. Robin McGraw clearly knows her mind and doesn't take being dismissed, or disrespected, sitting down. "It's no secret that I don't like being told what to do." In several stories she stands up to people with some influence, particularly doctors. She refused hormone replacement therapy, at a time when "everybody" was popping the pills; she also champions medical advocacy anecdotally on behalf of her own children, and by implication she encourages her readers to do the same --- to trust their own intuition and judgment when they think that something is amiss or misdiagnosed.
Belief in God underlies Robin's world, but in these pages she really doesn't talk much about God, worship or a church community. About the closest she gets to citing Scripture is quoting "one of the oldest sayings around" (at least in America): "the Lord helps those who help themselves."
There are great personal stories here that illuminate the personal lives of a husband and wife who have done great work in helping unfocused Americans get their lives back on track. Robin McGraw talks about acceptance, about forgiveness, about being "the heart" of her home, about claiming one's own ground. "I believe we were put on this earth to enjoy lives of joy and abundance," she says at the end of the book." She's claimed it for herself, and she wishes it also for you.
--- Reviewed by Evelyn Bence
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