A Companion Worksheet for Falling with Wings – A Mother’s Story
A Reader’s Worksheet and Book Club Guide – by Vickie McIntyre
- Although the story follows the arc of Dianna De La Garza, formerly Dianna Hart, as she pursues her dream of becoming a famous singer and later, as a mother helping her daughters pursue showbiz careers of their own, this memoir isn’t a guidebook about pursuing stardom. Rather, as the Prologue illustrates, the focus of the memoir is about the bonds of faith and family and the strain that mental and emotional health issues can put on those bonds, especially when signs and symptoms of distress are ignored. What further complicates this process is Dianna’s tendency to keep all of her struggles secret, which is an attempt to project to others that her life is “perfect” and under control.
How have you hidden your own struggles with life in an attempt to appear successful, perfect, etc.? And, why did you feel it was necessary to do so? As you read about Dianna’s patterns of behavior and her symptoms of anxiety and depression, did anything resonate with your own life?
- Like Dianna, many of us tend toequate success or the attainment of our dreams as the antidote to heal our distresses, when, in fact, achieving goals, often puts more pressure on our vulnerabilities.
In your own life, have you ever said: “If I could just _______________ (get that promotion, buy that house, inherit some money, etc.), then my life would be _______________ (perfect, trouble-free, easier, etc.)? Looking back at your own experiences, can you identify what that title, promotion, or prize really represented? And, did getting what you wanted solve your problems or create new ones?
- Dianna’s childhood is shaped by: faith, family, and music. Sometimes those three elements are the gifts that heal her traumas and sometimes those very things that she holds dear cause her more trauma and pain, such as when she attempted to run away from home and the severe punishment that followed (p. 17), when she began starving herself in an attempt to look perfect (p. 19), and when she endorsed the reasoning that one sin would send her to hell (p. 45).
Childhood shapes us in countless ways. What struck you as the good, positive qualities that shaped Dianna’s life and what elements seemed to fracture her sense of self? As Dianna tried to erase the negative impacts of her childhood, she clung to the belief that success was the key to make that happen. Unfortunately, reducing our lives to a formula that guarantees happiness or satisfaction is never a good idea, yet there are few teachers or manuals to suggest better coping skills. In what ways are you and Dianna similar when it comes to pursuing goals and striving for perfection? What issues are you stilldealing with from your childhood and where have you found solid, helpful advice about dealing with those issues?
- Eventually we all have to choose a separate path from the one our parents want for us. Dianna made that decision in rather dramatic fashion when she left home at seventeen to start her own music career (Chapter Five). Unfortunately, the repercussions from that decision reverberated for a long time.
Do you remember a choice you made that your parents strongly disagreed with? What were the consequences you had to deal with? How was your situation the same and how was it different from Dianna’s? Are you grateful for the learning opportunities that came from your decision?
- Trauma and misfortune seem to follow Dianna like a shadow, but she firmly believes that eventually her life will get better. As time passes, though, nothing changes. With two children who have witnessed violence and substance abuse and with her career in shambles, Dianna finally makes the decision to create change by fleeing from her abusive husband (Chapter Ten).
When have you stayed in a bad situation too long and what finally propelled you to change direction? What did you learn from the experience?
- When Dianna moves in with Eddie De La Garza, her life points in a new direction (Chapter Twelve). But, even when financial security, stable relationships, and a decent job are present, Dianna finds herself coping with anxiety attacks and the relentless need to diet and stay thin.
Is it possible to simply move from one environment to another and expect patterns of behavior to change? What then is necessary or advantageous to help facilitate positive life changes? And, how can we take better self-care of ourselves after life events that severely tax our mental and emotional health?
- Chapters Twelve through Twenty-Two are mostly about Dianna’s heroic efforts to help her girls pursue their dreams. Some say that Dianna wanted to be a stage mom; others argue she should be praised for sacrificing her money and time to help her kids excel.
Looking at your own life, where did you draw the line on providing your kids with teachers, lessons, equipment, etc. to help them to further their own talents and interests? How did you make that decision?
- We all have blind spots when it comes to our lives and the lives of our children. Looking back at those Colleyville years (Chapters Twelve through Twenty-Two), Dianna admits that certain situations could have been addressed with more honesty and effort, but instead, she kept hoping that her problems would disappear or spontaneously resolve themselves.
If you could have a conversation with Dianna, what questions would you ask her regarding this topic? In your own life, what troubling or disturbing incidents concerning yourself or your own children were not handled with as much openness and directness as there could have been?
- Throughout the story, there are, what Dianna refers to as, “God-moments” – those times when divine guidance or energy seems to be present. In fact, some of those moments seemed to confirm that Dianna and later, her girls were on the right path. (Chapter Four – when Brandon was miraculously healed and when Dianna refused to enter a house for a prayer meeting; Chapter Twelve – the baptism incident; Chapter Eighteen – the prophecy at the Bible conference, and Chapter Twenty – when Dallas had a vision of Demi’s success and when Demi found the business card with “Are you ready?” printed on it shortly before landing the lead in Camp Rock.)
What “God-moments” from Dianna’s story touched or affected you in some way? Have you experienced similar moments in your own life or in the lives of those close to you? What do you make of such events?
- Moving is considered one of the most stressful experiences in people’s lives, even when it’s voluntary and for good reasons. When Dianna and her family moved to Hollywood, they encountered many exciting and stressful situations, which were part and parcel of their new lives. (Chapters Twenty-Three through Thirty-Three)
How did Dianna’s life change after moving and how did moving affect their family dynamics? What role did Xanax play in Dianna’s downward spiral? What crutches do you use when anxiety and unsettledness prevail?
- Therapy is a central topic in much of the last section of the book. Together with faith and family, therapy helps to put the family back on stable footing.
What specific moments, revelations, or struggles touched you during these chapters? What surprised or angered you?
- Dianna purposely ended the book on a high note, but she also admitted that life holds no guarantees. Addictions, as well as mental health issues – everything from anxiety to depression – require constant monitoring and self-care.
What insights from this story can you apply to your own life in an effort to keep yourself and your family mentally and emotionally healthy?