Monday, January 7, 2008

Gift From the Sea

I've been feeling the need of late to refocus on myself and, as a result, be more of what I want to be for my family. During this final trimester of pregnancy, I've been having trouble getting to sleep. So, of course, during the day I'm low on patience and energy. I have a long list of things I want to get done in the house before the baby arrives. I've been snapping at my children, neglecting my husband and at a loss of who I am in the few quiet moments I allow myself. I haven't been taking the time to refuel myself. Definitely in need of an interior makeover.

Partly because of this, I choose the classic Gift From the Sea by Anne Murrow Lindbergh for our book club pick this month. At the time she wrote this book, Anne was a busy wife and mother of five. She went to the beach for a couple of weeks vacation by herself and mediated on what the different types of shells she collected on the shore illustrated in a woman's life and roles.

This little book is packed with wisdom for women of any age and time. In fact, the first time I read this book I was amazed that a book written fifty years ago was just as applicable today. This is one of those rare gems that you glean new insights each time you read it. I want to share a few highlights that particularly resonate with me at the moment.

But I want first of all--in fact, as an end to these other desires--to be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact--to borrow from the language of the saints--to live "in grace" as much of the time as possible. I am not using this term in a strictly theological sense. By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony. I am seeking perhaps what Socrates asked for in the prayer form the Phaedrus when he said, "May the outward and inward man be at one." I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace form which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eye of God (pg. 17-18).

When one is a stranger to oneself then one is estranged from others too. If one is out of touch with oneself, then one cannot touch others (pg. 38).

Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone. The artist knows he must be alone to create; the writer, to work out his thoughts; the musician, to compose; the saint, to pray. But women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves (pg. 44).

But neither woman nor man are likely to be fed by another relationship which seems easier because it is in an earlier stage. Such a love affair cannot really bring back a sense of identity. Certainly, one has the illusion that one will find oneself in being loved for what one really is, not for a collection of functions. But can one actually find oneself in someone else? In someone else's love? Or even in the mirror someone else holds up for one? I believe that true identity is found, as Eckhart once said, by "going into one's own ground and knowing oneself." It is found in creative activity springing from within. It is found, paradoxically, when one loses oneself. One must lose one's life to find it. Woman can best refind herself by losing herself in some kind of creative activity of her own. Here she will be able to refind her strength, the strength she needs to look and work at the second half of the problem--the neglected pure relationship. Only a refound person can refind a personal relationship (pg. 60-61)

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