This is an unusual but rewarding book. It's the story of a man who, as the author words it:
"Because of a childhood filled with sexual abuse and molestation at the hands of a pedophile, Carter Lee was later in life diagnosed with PTSD; paired with violence and intimidation throughout school, he was pre-destined to become a monster."
That man is the author. In 25 chapters, Lee takes you through his struggles from childhood to adulthood, and his transcending of them. These struggles were not born of the things that most of us go through. They were seeded in a disturbing childhood secret that Lee repressed for years, and then revealed itself suddenly and in unexpected circumstances.
That secret—and this is no spoiler, because Lee openly talks about it on his book site, in the synopsis, and publicly—was that a teenaged neighbor sexually molested him when he was a young boy. Afraid to tell his parents, the abuse continued until his family moved to a different city. The molestation was behind him, but not its effects, despite his repression of the memories soon after moving.
The effects of the molestation come as no surprise to the reader, and were manifested as fear, low self-esteem, deep anger, PTSD, chronic depression, and more. This is common for victims of child molestation. In chapter 4, “A Merry-Go-Round of Memories,” Lee emphasizes this in his quote from Herbert Ward: “Child abuse casts a shadow the length of a lifetime.”
The surprises of this book are how Lee compensated for the effects of the molestation and violence and intimidation in school. This compensation came about in some most unusual, but always dysfunctional, ways. One of those ways was becoming a pro-wrestler, a scheme he hatched during the period of molestation as a “way out.”
Make no mistake, however, about the overall topic of this book. It is not a book about sexual child abuse; it is not about PTSD, depression, and anger. It involves those things, but, more important, it is about the circumstances and ways that he eventually transcended these things. It is about transformation.
Like many people who have gone through a personal transformation, the genesis of Lee’s transformation was a deep personal crisis. His whole life came crashing down upon him and he saw no way out, but through the worst way. Here is where more surprises lay in wait.
The story of his transformation is about the many influences that helped him attain this, including psychotherapy; Dr. Viktor Frankl’s book, "Man’s Search for Meaning"; creative visualization; Neural-Linguistic Programming (NLP); quantum mechanics; Taoism, and other philosophies.
The book is a mixture of psychology, philosophy, religion, sexual mores, and discovery. Lee wrote this book to help others overcome whatever may be in the way of their own personal happiness, to overcome fear, and achieve their own personal transformation. He writes:
“I chose to tell my story with the purpose of not only legitimizing my philosophies that I share throughout this catamaran of honest emotions, but also with the hope that this can be a tool for someone to achieve the greatest gift of all: the gift of True-Inner-Peace.”
But Lee discovered that he could not effectively tell this story without being brutally honest and reveal things about himself that few of us could publicly, including being sexually molested. He writes:
“What once was a step-by-step, bullet-point essay of self-improvement is now a vessel on which I have chosen to share my story and message. As I was writing the original version, I felt something was missing, and one day I realized what it was. No matter how much sense the information I reveal may make, so many people would wonder, ‘Who the hell are you that I should read your book and philosophies on a healthy way to go through life?’ I also felt that I was hiding the most important lessons I’ve learned in gaining inner peace, because I wanted to protect people close to me.”
Therein lies the power of this book.
Lee delivers on the promise of his book with edginess, irreverence, and humor, sometimes ribald. Chapter 14, “Wanna Dance?” had tears streaming down my face I was laughing so hard.
This is no self-help book filled with bromides and truisms. It is not a simple prescription for happiness. There are plenty of books like that that inspire you, but are little more than “sugar highs.” You get an initial infusion of optimism, but it fades. This book is about taking a journey that has risks along the way. In chapter 20, “Perfect Vision,” Lee explains:
“When we start taking these leaps of faith into the unknown and start breaking outside of our comfort barrier, we take a leap of faith in ourselves. It is only then that we realize what we are made of and what we are capable of as healthy individuals.”
He quotes E.E. Cummings: “Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.
This is a delightful and engaging book, and hard to put down. Lee pushes at boundaries and sometimes takes you outside of your comfort zone. Even when you disagree with him, however, you cannot help but learn from him. While there is something for most everyone in it, this is not a book for children.
Last, you may wonder about the title of the book, "When Jonathan Cried for Me." Who is Jonathan, and why did he cry? This is another unusual aspect of the book, and I’ll leave it to other readers to learn why. No spoilers here.