Friday, September 28, 2007

Shore Books

Last time I was at the beach, I read two books - the first book I purchased on the way down and the second was in the bookcase just waiting. Funny thing, both the books had similar themes that when combined moved me to think thoughtfully about my own life.

Between the Tides by Patti Callahan Henry was the book I bought because I walked past it in the bookstore seeing the word tides and a white crinoline showing beneath a child's white skirt. You know it looked and sounded beachy.

William Shakespeare wrote "What is past is prologue." Between the Tides explores the reality of the middle ground between the past and future, between high tide and low. Nine months after her father's death, Catherine still could not bring herself to sprinkle the ashes in the Carolina Low Country river of her childhood as her father wished. By sending his daughter back to her childhood home he hoped that she would be able assuage guilt, find truth, and change her perceptions, so that she could live fully in the future. Encouraged by Forest Anderson, her father's assistant professor, Catherine makes the trip, finds answers, and is able to embrace her true self and a future full of love and expectation.

Having heard of The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd, yet knowing nothing of it, I picked it up to finish out my weekend of relaxation. Jessie Sullivan goes to the Barrier Islands of South Carolina to care for her mother who has intentionally severed a finger while cooking at a monastery. Though being contentedly married for years, Jessie falls in love with a monk who has not yet taken his final vows. Through this love she reignites her life and breaks out of her metaphorical box. In the end, she decides to reunite with her husband, but before she does she makes a commitment to herself.

OK, I guess everyone is wondering what sprinkling the ashes of a father and an affair with a monk have in common. Seeing it written does make it seem more improbable, yet each of these women chose a safe place, rather than finding a place of growth and full living. Each put life and love on hold while living a truncated life. True, one was trapped by the past and the other trapped by the needs and routines of life with a family, but what each failed to do(and in my opinion what many women fail to do) was to devote time, space, and energy to nurture herself.

There is a scene at the end of The Mermaid Chair when Jessie walks out into the water to complete a ritual that she had seen her mother and her mother's friends perform when she was young in which they tied some yarn together and cast it to the sea to show an enduring bond between the friends, but instead of making a vow to family or friends she makes a commitment to herself - a commitment to make room for her inner spirit.

I let the demands of family, work, and home smother the person I am. Even without having an affair with a monk or losing a parent I realize that I, too, need to commit to myself. I think I will walk to the top of the highest hill on our farm in the almost full moon, tie a knot in a ribbon and cast it into the breeze, thereby vowing to make a little time for me - not the mother me, not the wife me, not the daughter me, not the sister me, not the useful at work me. What about you?


Melora said...

Well, I'm sitting at the computer reading blogs when I should be vacuuming/picking up/putting away laundry. Does that count? Your idea of walking on a hill under a full moon sounds lovely, though!

Wisteria said...

If you are sitting at the computer guilt-free, I think it should count.

Mother Crone's Homeschool said...

This is one of the most important habits for any woman, but more especially homeschooling moms. I force myself to do this often, because I stop functioning well without a little "me" time. Whether it be lunch and shopping with a friend or laying in bed with a book, I take the time to stay connected to my needs so I can be better and happier in every role!

Kate in NJ said...

I'm working on this one too.

ZBTzahBTzoo said...

I think ...

I think I will applaud you.

I think it is the challenge of remarkably self-sufficient women to allow others to be as self-sufficient. Yet, your spirit of independence and capability always rings through.

You have never, ever (in your blog), come off as smothered or truncated. To admit that you've felt that way, and that you intend to address it in a ceremonial and meaningful way, is a beautiful thing.

As for me, I have so much time for me; and while I never feel it is squandered, there is this ... whiplash I feel -- the "friction of re-entry," I call it -- when the frequently absent return, asserting that I've ... changed things too much, or (as I've just learned) I've rendered the rightful Head of the Family into a mere figurehead, because in my competence and capability I've made decisions rather than let decisions go delayed or, let's be honest, left them never to be made.

I think I would tie love into a knot and cast it into hope.

I never worry about me.

Sometimes I worry about us.

Wisteria said...

I've been thinking about this post. It sounds sort of selfish. Do you think? I do express myself in just about everything I do. I look around and see my mark just about everywhere - work, children, home. I guess what I mean is that I spend so much time being useful for others and putting my mark on things that I don't remember to do good things for myself. To accomplish all the things that I do, sacrifices have to be made. Lately, I'm the sacrifice.

Yet, when I read this a day after I wrote it, I felt that I sounded selfish. Living on the farm was a choice, having children was a choice, homeschooling the children was a choice, and living sustainably was a choice. With these lifestyle choices come the work involved in pursuing these choices. So instead of whining about needing time for me, I need to develop a backbone and a good attitude so I can glean every ounce of enjoyment from the wonderful life I have. What I need is organization, a secretary, and a cleaning service.

Z, We have the re-entry friction, too. I suspect any household where one person stays gone weeks at a time will have some. I'm bracing for ours. Mr. W will be back for a couple of days on Friday. By the time things feel normal with him here, he will be gone again. When he comes home I feel that he goes around and rubs his scent on things - reclaiming his territory. I want to think it is a shortcoming of the male of the species, but I would probably do the same if the tables were turned. Maybe we haven't evolved as much as we would like to think.