I had dinner with Eileen (Sterling; friend since about 1970; recent falling out) last night; then, I stayed at her house last night. I will probably stay tonight, too.
Yesterday afternoon, Eileen drove us up to Matilija Canyon to Burton’s house (he used to be married to old friend, Rain; I’ve never met him before). We went to the creek behind his house and walked down creek to a beautiful, private swimming hole. No other access to it except through private property. We took off our clothes and went for a swim. Wonderful! Eileen saw a snake in the water.
We saw a beautiful, brightly colored bird up by Burton’s: it was black, white and bright orange. Black-headed Grosbeak? Tanager?
I am seeking the impersonal, universal (cosmic) view rather than the personal perspective. Ever since I was born (and certainly during my 37 years of mothering), I have HAD TO have a personal, intimate view of everything and everyone. It’s almost a requirement of motherhood.
Some essayists in Season of Adventure: Traveling Tales and Outdoor Journeys of Women Over 50 (edited by Jean Gould) speak directly of this bondage of women/mothers and of the liberation that CAN follow, if women will only let themselves be free and let go of their total dedication to (usually familial) relationships.
Relationships can still prosper and thrive, even with a loosening of the ties (I want to say “apron strings”). I am aware that for some women the life of intense relatedness to and interaction with family IS liberating. These women have no desire to let that go; being defined primarily by their relationships to children and grandchildren is the ultimate satisfaction for these women.
I believe that many women (distinct from those mentioned above), rather than truly enjoying family relationships, are addicted to the power that being a mother and grandmother gives them. Their heavy-handedness (whether obvious or disguised) and subtle manipulation of their children (and grandchildren) throughout their lives is a dead giveaway. These are the controlling mothers who never let go. These women fear and reject detaching themselves from their families; they are unwilling and perhaps unable to strike out on their own and find a new, independent LIFE OF THEIR OWN once their children have grown up. They never achieve a life that is not connected to or defined by their role as a mother.
I have been liberated by my children’s distancing themselves from me. Megan has rejected me recently because of serious problems between us and because of the dictates of her new in-laws (Jeremy’s family). Seth has chosen a life closer to his wife’s family. And Anya and Alon live a very private life that excludes most family members in favor of close friends. Thanks to their choices, I have been able to find myself and create my own authentic life. It’s a life that has “ME” stamped all over it. Here are the quotes which champion such a life:
“If too many men… spend their lives fighting battles for turf and dominion over rival clans, too many women spend too much of their lives defining themselves in relation to others… When I married, I slipped into the family I would help create and became wife and mother for nearly thirty years. But I could feel a shift even as I was making my vows on my wedding day. When the veil was lifted, I felt I had lost my liberty. My attempt to maintain my individual freedom within family life became a daily struggle. Like so many wives and mothers before me, I gradually sacrificed my own will for what I thought was the good of the family. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t grasp how to right it.
“In order to five my life meaning, I defined myself as both heart and anchor of my family” (p. 116-117). ~~from NanaWatkins’ “Writing the Wind”
“I found that we live in different selves, each following its own path throughout our lifetime: the visible one, and the invisible unfolding of the dreamer. They also have their own calendars, and while rearing a family and pursuing my career as a professor, the dreamer went underground. It was only when my children reached adolescence that I returned to my earlier interest and began to write poetry as well as to keep a journal” (p. 207). ~~from Marguerite Guzman Bouvard’s “In Search of the Blue-Footed Booby”
“… I am thinking that the river is like a feminine force, flowing softly, yet firmly, around me. I can easily identify with the flowing motion, always moving on, yet definable in its own right. It is constantly in a state of change. Motion is its very essence. I love liquid and swimming and water” (p. 123). ~~ again, from Nana Watkins’ “Writing the Wind”
“Women born prior to 1945 were supposed to be reined in by the ‘Goldilocks factor,’ the ‘Red Riding Hood lesson.’ And so on… And certainly, women over a certain age–shall we say fifty?–had no authority to wander the world, to wear bathing suits, to ride camels.
“Something about my independent nature can rankle others.
“Ah, labels: old, civilized, or–and here it is–‘feminine.’ Definitions of these concepts are complex, personal and highly charged. The point is that none of us is one-dimensional: we can be and are adventurous and cautious, brave and frightened, rebellious and conforming, old and young, and even feminine and masculine at the same time. The truth is that most women over fifty are active, healthy and self-supporting” (p. x-xi).
“The truth is that as we map new territory outdoors and indoors, most of us accommodate, sometimes can even honor, the aging process. In the end, however, although relationship with self and other may set a context for these essays, I think the primary connection put forth by writers in this anthology is with nature. Where, each woman asks, is her place among natural phenomena?
“This collection informs its readers about nature as a way of life, as a means to travel, and as physical sport… For all, such exploration facilitates renewal and discovery, as if, in fact, we need such experiences to remember who we are and can be.
“So. We ride horses, swim, climb mountains, garden, sail, canoe, walk in the wind, report from the Sahara, play tennis at home, go with others to the Amazon or to Guyana, climb Indian ruins, have fun with grandchildren or learn to climb ropes. We are confident and curious and lively. We are bold and brave. We accept risk as part of living, seeking it out. Outdoor adventure surely is its own reward. Yet,in the middle or late-middle or close-to-the-end of our lives, our perspective lets us know what has value. We are not fearless. And that’s the human thing: we are at home with our lives and know that vulnerability does not signal weakness of character” (p. xii). ~~ from Gould’s introduction