I read a book. To myself and not aloud to children. From beginning to end. Nobody made me do it and it didn’t take me six months. So, twelve and a half years after the birth of my first child, and almost eight years after the birth of my last, I’m finally getting my brain back.
Reading used to be my chief pastime, comfort, and joy. I read everywhere and everywhen: at lunch, on busses and trains, walking, waiting in line, sitting at bars, in restaurants, at the beach, on the front steps, in the yard, in bed. In school I’d hide books under my desk. And I read everything: classic literature, modern novels, the dirty parts of Judy Bloom books, and toothpaste boxes.
Now I read slower, better, absorbing and remembering more, but I can only concentrate on a very little at a time. Because I have limited brain capacity, I’m also choosier about what I read. Anyway, it seems appropriate that I should tell you about the book that seems to be the rekindling of a beautiful friendship between me and books.
I just finished Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea. It’s about “[t]he search for outward simplicity, for inner integrity, for fuller relationship.” Oh, is that all?
Mrs. Lindbergh compares stages of life to various seashells. It sounds trite when I say it, but it works in her writing.
There are so many little helpful nuggets confirming my suspicions, or stretching my thinking. The need for alone time, creative outlets, quiet, solitude, nurturing relationships, and how these things don’t easily blend with modern life and the practical needs of a family.
She writes about the evolution of one’s self and the evolution of relationships, especially the marriage relationship. Anyone in a long-ish marriage can testify that there are ups and downs. Lindbergh doesn’t say “ups and downs,” but “ebb and flow.” Much more apt because it points out the inevitable return of connectedness and intimacy. What goes out comes back in, dependable as the
sunrise tide if you only wait for it. I cannot say whether this is universally true in relationships, but it seems to be so in mine. The tide always returns. Faithfully.
But Mrs. Lindbergh’s husband wasn’t technically faithful. Or maybe it’s more true to say that he divided his faithfulness between several families. So, is this ebb and flow idea just a lie she told herself? And if it wasn’t true for her, is it not true for anyone?
And if Mrs. Lindbergh was lying to herself, why? To be able to stay married? But why? For the good of the children? Financial concerns? Respectability? Because other relationships wouldn’t be as satisfying or they’d be much the same?(A friend’s mother says, “I had to get married twice to figure out they’re all assholes.”)
But maybe the facts of Mrs. Lindbergh’s marriage are irrelevant. Am I committing an error in logic by criticizing an idea based upon its origin? (genetic fallacy).
Whatever the message of this book, it was the calm seaside feeling that I really enjoyed. I admit to being jealous, that though Mrs. Lindbergh struggled with many of the same issues that bother me, her wealth gave her a buffer that mitigated many of the problems. She wrote much of this book while on a beach vacation ALONE for several weeks, even though she had five children. I can’t even imagine.
I’ll be off to Goodwill in the next day or two to pick up my next book. Wish me luck!