Sunday, September 21, 2008

Where a Fully-Read Book Might Take You

If you read yesterday’s post, you will recall that I recently completed reading a book. As a woman who has endured, survived and suffered through way too many changes of late, I see why Joan Anderson’s The Second Journey The Road Back to Yourself caught my eye.

I fully intended to sit in one of Batavia Library’s comfy chairs and read a bit of the book, which I did. However, when it was time to go, I took the slim volume along with me. You see, Joan Anderson had 10 years earlier lived out one of my fantasies when she left her everyday life and spent a year by the sea in a journey to self-discovery. I haven’t read that book, but there is a part of me that wishes I could go off to some isolated natural environment and contemplate exactly what course and direction I want to steer the rest of my life. I don’t suppose younger readers will get this. They are too busy raising families and building careers and time is way too short for this sort of self-indulgent exploration. While time is not endless for them, it is indeed not quite so pressing an issue as it is with the older among us.

It had been 10 years since Anderson wrote her first book, the bestseller A Year by the Sea, and she was again ready to explore how her life was evolving. Anderson writes,

Now, as part of my ten-year inventory, I reflect on what is outlived in my life today. I’ve known for some time that holding on to anything ruins it, as does clinging to old ways, outdated ideals, worn-out relationships, and lifestyles that have run their course. As a culture, we seem to prize permanency. Certainly the familiar is comforting. But the way we were is not the way we are, and why would I want to still have those parts of my life that have lost their zest? Perhaps one of the reasons I felt so compelled to come out here today was actually to witness massive change. None of us can control the way life passes: we can only adapt.

Before writing the second book, Anderson again found herself at what I call loose ends. The first book propelled her into a notoriety of book signings and retreats and a newly found status as a guide or mentor of women seeking self-discovery. By all accounts, she was successful. Yet, her busy life was not all that she desired, and thus, the author set out on the second journey, a journey that this time included a visit to the mystical and remote Scottish Isle of Iona.

Maybe when I write and publish my book, I will be able to jet to my island of self-discovery. She writes:
The call to a second journey usually commences when unexpected change is thrust upon you, causing a crisis of feelings so great that you are stopped in your tracks. Personal events such as a betrayal, a diagnosis of serious illness, the death of a loved one, loss of self-esteem, a fall from power are only a few of the catalysts. A woman caught thusly has no choice but to pause, isolate, even relocate until she can reevaluate the direction in which she should head. Should she stay the course or choose another path?

But alas, many of us inhibit our capacity for growth because the culture encourages us to live lives of uniformity. We stall, deny, ignore the ensuing crisis because of confusion, malaise, and yes, even propriety. Yet more and more, I come in contact with women, particularly in midlife—that uneasy and ill-defined period—who do not want merely to be stagnant but rather desire to be generative. Today’s woman has the urge to go against the prevailing currents, step out of line, and break with a polite society that has her following the unwritten rules of relationship, accepting the abuses of power in the workplace, and blithely living with myriad shoulds when she has her own burgeoning desires.

Anderson’s book got me to thinking anyway. And I actually finished a book. Not too bad for a woman who has endured, survived and suffered through way too many changes of late.


Marion said...

When my second marriage broke up, books such as Anderson's seemed to leap off the store shelves into my hands. Each had a was a time in my life when I was ready to hear and to learn and to apply those lessons to the changes which seemed never ending.

It took a couple of years of intensive therapy and reading those books, before I was able to comprehend that all these events which occurred had a reason.

Those events propelled me forward, on the path I finally chose to take and to face, at the greatest speed imaginable.

Keep reading! My thoughts are with you.

Sheila said...

What you say is so true. We do have to be ready to hear and learn these lessons. Earlier in my life I wasn't ready. Now I am and hope to make some headway on my journey. Thanks for wonderful encouragement.