How It Started

Although The Stairway of Surprise is unabashedly and intentionally fun, its origin story reflects the serious power it has to improve your wellbeing.

More than a decade ago, a gifted therapist told me that with severely depressed people, she’d ask them to check back in with her after a certain time period—maybe the next day, week, month, or even year, depending on her relationship with them—and report on what was different. Particularly, she asked them to tell her what unexpected things they noticed, big or small.

This was helpful, she said, because when they looked for shifts, they found them. Maybe they even created them.

Either way, they were changed at a subtle level. Because when you’re stuck in the very worst depression, you believe your situation isn’t going to change. To see that things surprise you is tangible proof to your body, mind, and soul that you don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s real evidence that things shift. You learn it in your cells. And at an unconscious level, that is soothing.

Because if things can change, well… then things can change. That’s what’s commonly known as hope. As long as there is life, there is change. Things will surprise you. There is hope.

I shared an early draft of this book with one of my friends last year and also told them this origin story since it’s the reason I wanted to publish the book. They nodded and murmured sounds that I took as encouragement… though I did notice they never actually weighed in on the content one way or the other. But in the year that followed, they always looked carefully at the latest revisions and celebrated with me as the various steps along the publishing journey were completed. On launch day, I was surprised and moved when they shared with me that the book’s premise was a touchstone they themselves had been returning to through some hard times they were negotiating. “Things can change,” they repeated, and nodded and exhaled. “I can change. My life can change.”

It’s simply true. Perhaps that’s why it lands so solidly and reassuringly inside us.

May this little book—with the way it feels so good in your hands, delights your eye, reminds you to see the unexpected, and gives you a space to record that wonder—ease your way through remembering that anything is possible for the world and for you. That is our hope and our intention.

C. Jane Estelle, PhD, the therapist whose words started this project, has since left this life, but I love that her insight lives on in this book. With every thank you note and personal story of the book’s impact, I send her thanks and love.

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