Arden Recommends A Strange Path to Freedom by Holly Pasut (interview included)

IMG_6953Book: A Strange Path to Freedom

Author: Holly Pasut

Publisher: SPARK Publications

Genre: Nonfiction

Basic Description: Have you ever said yes when you should have said no, especially in your workplace and to someone you thought was trustworthy? Holly Pasut, widow and single mother of three children, was a nationally recognized real estate agent in a booming market. Then she said yes to something that landed her in federal prison. A Strange Path to Freedom shares slices of Holly’s prison life through her quirky and often spiritual lens, as well as the wisdom she gained from the experience. Holly spent time in a literal, physical prison. But people erect figurative, mental prisons around themselves all the time. Her stories offer a guide for others to free themselves from negative thoughts and emotions that lock them in. And they offer a cautionary tale for navigating ethical choices in the workplace.

Arden’s Thoughts: I’ve always believed most of us are one to two steps away from tragedy. One misstep and we’re in for it. In fact, just today, I was riding my bike, hit a curb, and took a 6 feet spill. I miraculously ended up on my two wheels without a scratch on me. Legit miraculously. But, what happens when the miracle doesn’t come through and we have to deal with some really tough stuff?

Well, we deal with it. And, if you’re like author Holly Pasut, you make the most of it. In her book, Holly shares insights of how she made a mistake, tried to rectify it, and still ended up in federal prison. The beauty of Holly and her writing comes through so simply: She’s not bitter. She’s gracious and wants to share her experience so others don’t have to experience the loss she did. I recently got to interview Holly. Check it out…

Arden: Why would you write a book about such a vulnerable and heart-breaking topic?

Holly: I never set out to write a book.  Actually, I felt silly calling myself a writer, plus I didn’t think I had the skills or drive to complete a book. While I lived in [prison] cube 44, I journaled daily. It was healing and therapeutic for me, it was my truest self, sharing with my most trusted friend. Sometimes, I wrote from my heart, my personal sadness and other times I wrote about the craziest things that happened in prison. When you put 1200 women together, you’re going to get some pretty wild things! When I returned home, I went through those journals and found myself laughing and crying. For some oddball reason, I began blogging about the difference between women on the outside and women on the inside. When I met Fabi Preslar, with SPARK Publications, she seemed fascinated with my experience and planted the idea of turning my blogs into a book. Again, I resisted, but over time and support I decided it was my chance to do something with what I had learned and hopefully others would find themselves in my story.

Arden: Well, I think a lot of people will benefit from what you have written. Do you fear judgement on other people’s parts about what you have experienced? If so, how do you counteract this judgement?

Holly: Yes, I absolutely do. But it isn’t fatal. I know I am judged by others, but I am not responsible for their judgement or what they choose to believe. It is however hurtful. Since I cannot change what happened to me, I accept it and use it to weed out the people I want to spend time with. I call it “my filter.” Those that judge, are not the ones I want to spend time with anyway. I probably would have been one of those judgmental people too. Now, I find an admiration for people I meet who are not and those are the folks I am fascinated with.

Arden: That’s quite gracious of you and a good lesson for all of us! You know, you write about prison in a way most people do not. There is almost an appreciation for it. Did you appreciate it?

Holly: That is a great question, and I get it. In a strange way, I see that too. It definitely is the thorn in my side! If I had been locked up for a long time, I might feel differently, but I had an end in sight and tried to make the most of my time. Thankfully, my sense of humor helped. I don’t think I ever felt lower, than when I entered the prison gates. I not only was physically incarcerated but became mentally locked up as well. I couldn’t change the physical part and it wasn’t as if I decided to free myself mentally, it was as if something in my head unlocked itself. Spending endless hours reading, praying, meditating I began to see the world a little differently than I had experienced and I liked what I saw. I like to say, I was beginning to live a new way of thinking. I never want to go back to prison, yet in way I am grateful for the trip. Mental freedom is being true to who you are and that is real freedom.

Arden: Hmmm… Mental freedom is being true to who you are. That’s really beautiful. With that quote in mind, what has been your favorite thing to do since being released from prison?

Holly: LOL, the first thing I asked for was a cup of hot brewed coffee, in a ceramic mug, with half and half and I wanted to hear the sound of a metal spoon as I stirred my coffee. It was actually a struggle coming home, because I was lost. My career and reputation were gone, I didn’t know where to go or what to do. My new pain was soothed by my favorite thing, being able to touch my kids, kiss their cheeks and hear their voices, along with little things. Having a hand towel to dry my hands instead of toilet paper. The convenience of having a bathroom, a few steps away instead of down a dark hallway. Today I have lots of favorite things and feel grateful for all I do have. I continue to get up at 5 am (sometimes 6:30 instead, LOL) and pray, journal and meditate, it’s one of my favorites of favorite things.

Arden: So, Holly, what is next for you?

Holly: Who knows? I do know I cannot control what life throws a me, I can only control how I will react to it. I would like to continue speaking to white collar professionals as a cautionary tale and university students as a preparation tool. My attitude is to go through the doors God opens for me. If the doors close, I will be redirected. I like the idea of maybe writing another book too, perhaps the focus will be about living beyond a stigma.

Arden: Very cool. Is there anything else you’d like my readers to know?

Holly: Hmmmm. A question often asked is why I get up in front of audiences and speak. I will try to explain my own personal, why. The pain I caused my family and especially my kids was not the kind of pain that goes away with a Band-Aid or an apology. Speaking to adults gives me an opportunity to protect their kids and or the ones that love them. They suffer greatly. Sometimes I tell audiences I don’t really care about them personally (in a funny way) because I don’t know them, but I feel a personal attachment to their kids and their family and standing up before audiences as a reminder that sometimes knowledge is not always enough motivation to do the right thing. Critical thinking errors, fear of disappointing others, people pleasing the list goes on, can land you in prison. The decisions we make today will affect others, and that is why I made my decision to speak to audiences, not because I want to share my critical thinking errors, but because we all share critical thinking errors, mine took me Federal Prison.

As far as reading the book, it is a quick read, not a victim book, sprinkled with suffering, hope, humor and lessons learned. I would love to speak to readers who too have pulled themselves out of their own personal muck and found ways to buckle on their boot straps and move forward. Those are the kinds of people I want in my next book.

You can purchase Holly’s book here or here.

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