Longtime columnist Diane Langley writes first book

Diane Langley is no stranger to hard times. She’s dealt with death, trauma, illness and other difficulties. But one thing Langley doesn’t want to do is wallow in the anger, depression or guilt. It’s just not her.

Several years ago, Langley approached the Sun-Gazette about writing an column about healing. That first piece began the “Life Changes” column that is published on the first Sunday of each month in the Lifestyle section – and it also became the first chapter in her newly published book of the same name.

The book is a compilation of 30 of her Sun-Gazette columns. The 152-page paperback book is available at Amazon.com. and Otto Book Store, 107 W. Fourth St., where Langley will hold a book-signing from 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 6, during First Friday festivities.

Each month, Langley would write about a topic that moved her from readers’ suggestions. Topics ranged from loss, depression, unemployment, times of transition and feelings of hopelessness to unwelcome events, emotional triggers, starting over, moving on, being at peace with ourselves and the many other changes that take place throughout our lives.

“I pray throughout the week that someone will say something that will resonate with me,” Langley said. “So when the time comes, the words just flow.”

Langley admits that her writing process is unique: she writes between 3 and 4:30 a.m. “I am nudged in the middle of the night by God,” she said. “I sit and write from beginning to end, without stopping. Then the next day, I read it again and edit. It’s one way the Holy Spirit works through me.”

And her columns certainly have gained a following. “Diane Langley’s monthly column indeed is a special gift to the Sun-Gazette’s readers,” wrote one fan.

“I receive the nicest compliments from people who say, ‘I felt like you were speaking directly to me,’ ” she said. “Wow, what an honor that is.”

But Langley doesn’t write for the recognition. “I listen, that’s what I do,” she said. “I look for commonalities.”

And one thing she knows is that hurt is hurt, no matter what the catalyst. Her goal with the book is to have a conversation of sorts with the reader, to discuss topics that people don’t often talk about – yet want to.

Langley knows that everyone has a story to tell and that everyone’s life has value. When she was 5 years old, she was in a tractor accident with her brother and father in which her father did not survive. She asked her mother where her father went because she didn’t understand the concept of death.

Her mother said that her father is “with God now, working on a mission. When he was here with us, he also had a mission. He must have finished what he needed to do here, but it does not mean he ever wanted to leave you. He loved you dearly – and you and your brothers could very well have been his mission in this lifetime.”

This was Langley’s first introduction to the idea of “mission” in her life. She grew up during the mid-1960s, when there was no one to talk with her family about the changes taking place in their lives. And she wanted to change that for future generations.

“I wanted to be there for someone else, as I knew how the silence and lack of validation felt,” she said. “Conversations were important and healing. Words were powerful.”

She stresses that she is not trying to sound like an expert to take the place of professional medical advice; Langley merely wants to be a friendly voice supporting someone during a transitional time.

“There is very little of me in the columns,” she said. “They are peppered lightly so that someone can recognize themselves. They are not written in a condescending way but in an understanding manner.”

The book itself has been a journey of about four years. In fact, “Journeys” is what she titled the 30 chapters. She also includes keywords on the back cover, including anxiety, blessings, depression, goal setting, gratitude, hope, survivor guilt, transitioning, trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder – a topic of great importance to her.

“In many ways, this book is meant to work with those who have post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and-or anxiety – whether initiated from unwelcome life events or the military,” she said. “At the same time, the book is meant to be for people of all ages and stages in life – those who just need some fresh perspectives and other questions to ask themselves as their life changes.”

She even printed the book in a larger point size to make it easier to read for those who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression or anxiety-related vision distortion, which she discovered while working with Dr. Betsy Hancock, an ophthalmologist in Bloomsburg who runs the Visual Difference office.

“In my lifetime, I have managed post-traumatic stress, several layoffs, breast cancer and other unwelcome events,” she said. “I can appreciate how each person’s story is an important one to honor. I can also appreciate the healing that can unfold – whether through times of normal transition or times of great challenge. I see the lessons that can be revealed. I also have great faith and appreciation for our very breath.”

For Langley, words are extremely powerful. That’s why she has continuously volunteered her time to write for the Sun-Gazette for more than a decade – first with her “Business Toolbox” column that she wrote while she was employed at the James V. Brown Library and then with “Life Changes.” She also created a local television show titled “Medical Straight Talk” that ran for seven years.

Langley is a communication specialist, having worked since 1995 with her own referral-based company, Langley Communications, along with teaching communication at several local colleges and universities. She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communications from Bloomsburg University and was pursuing a doctorate degree in leadership and change at Antioch University before she had to take a break to heal from breast cancer treatments.

But don’t call Langley a survivor.

“I hate the ‘survivor’ term. I call it a ‘word allergy,’ ” she said. “Because of my personal history, that means someone else did not survive I know many other people with survivor guilt whom feel the same way. It’s definitely a trigger for me.”

Her goal is to be a positive influence on those she meets, that’s why her columns are positive in tone, even though they may deal with negative or difficult issues. She makes a point of ending each column with her take on an Irish blessing: “May peace be with you.” And for those who read her book, that’s great advice for getting through all of life’s changes.