Being Yourself. Rope Analogy. Especially as a Mother. Wife. Creator. Thoughts of Anne Lindbergh (Jan. 2008)

Susan's Thursday morning note January 24, 2008 
Journals of Anne Lindbergh.  Being yourself with various roles (mother, wife...)

Good morning!  I almost want to just tell you all that this cold weather has frozen up my brain and I can’t come up with coherent thoughts for you!  But, alas, the hot drink chosen this morning was lemon tea & I have gradually thawed enough of my neurons to let you read with me what I underlined and think you would love to think about also.  What is ironic is that what I was going to write about (trying to remain sane and creative with constant interruption) is how my morning since 6:00 has been going!!!!!!!!!

These are thoughts taken from Anne Lindbergh’s journals, The Flower and the Nettle (1936-1939 with young children) and War Within and Without (1939-1944).  Anne is now writing in her own diary and in letters to her sister and mother.  Her thoughts that I have been mulling over this month are on the idea – how can she not lose who she is (the Anne in her) and also be a good wife, good mother, and at the same time keep her writing (in your case maybe your sports, your quilting, your cooking, what makes you you).  Here are some of the different paragraphs I underlined.  You’ll appreciate the last paragraph I’ll include!

But where is the real me?  It is completely buried.  I want to stop being a good housekeeper.  I want to go back again to being a bad housekeeper and a good writer!  But can you do it (you insert here what makes you you) and be interrupted - even at lunch - by children and household problems?  It demands a different person.  I had to put the writer and dreamer away and become the practical aware immediate mother-housekeeper.  The transition from one to the other is terribly difficult, perhaps impossible.  Can one be a good mother and write?  Can one be a writer for half the day?  I oscillate between the two.  In Englewood I wrote but was a terrible mother-wife.  At Lloyd Neck I wrote and was a good wife, but not a good mother or housekeeper.  At Illiec I was a good wife, an excellent mother and housekeeper, and not a writer at all...We must not expect perfection any more but work in the teeth of the storm - in snatches of time and ease - in the twenty minutes's.  It means disciplining my self - my two selves.

(Her sister made an analogy in a letter to Anne of "the twisted-thread kind of life a woman always seems to have."  Anne's thoughts on that line...The twisted-thread kind of life is and must be my special talent.  But in order to do it well I must also somewhat specialize.  I must write, not because I feel I have anything to give, not because being an artist comes first, not because it matters to anyone else what I say, but simply because the "thread" will not be strong without that strand.  It is quite selfish of me.  Writing is taking, then, and not giving.  I must do it - without it I should not be able to breathe or talk or walk at all smoothly...  She can never again summon up that concentration, that ruthlessness, that narrowness that it inevitably takes-should take.  She cannot get such concrete results.  She has got to be content with a different kind of result - not a tangible one, not one you can weigh.  But perhaps one that is bigger, broader, more general, more intangible - but nevertheless a whole.  (I loved that analogy - we are a rope, need all the strands to keep us developing into who God created us to be - in our entirety, in all that we can be if we can figure out how!)

If you could put it down at all it would be something like a “sphere of influence.” Something wheel-like, with the essence of you at the center, reaching out on all sides in various directions.  And each person must find her own specialized core.  But she must never fool herself into thinking that the core is the whole.  It is just there so that the wheel can go round – to keep the wheel going…I am beginning to think that women should never work for results that can be weighed, or even for marks on themes.  I think they must be content, or wise enough, to work for something much bigger and much more intangible, something that includes husbands and children and homes and background and character – and work too.  But the work is only part of it, only a spoke in the wheel without which, perhaps, the wheel won’t go round as well, but not an end in itself, not a straight-line objective.  Our grandmothers, I think, left that “room of one’s own” spoke out of the wheel (they couldn’t help it, really) and our mothers forgot abut the “circle” and wanted and proved that they could be straight lines (concentrating on their work).  And now we have somehow got to do both.  We have got to have our own work in order to feed or illumine or fire that bigger thing we are creating.  Something that we can’t see, that isn’t tangible, that gets no reward, that we must continue to work at and believe in even though perhaps the people around us don’t.

“The growth of personality,” Carrel says, involves a constant trimming of oneself.” (she is now referring to an author, Carrel) Those years “when the iron sizzled” were years of trimming and of acquiring strength within our limitations.  “Every man (again Carrel) is a fluid that become solid…a personality that is being created.” And the “limitations” do it, I am beginning to think, although it is hard to accept.  That, I think, is the hard thing about thirty, facing your limitations.  I once heard a discussion between a man of about fifty and a girl about our age (of some talent).  She said that the most terrible moment in life was when one came up against the walls of one’s self.  And he said that although it was a difficult moment, once you had recognized them, life was much better and easier after that.  I am hoping so – hoping that one gains a kind of strength within the walls.  Perhaps they aren’t “walls” at all, but the sides of a frame which can hold great distances and vistas of perspective.

I was in the middle of impatience – a feeling of pressure at so little done, so much to do, so little time, so many interruptions, and such imperfections at the best that Jon was the only “perfect” thing in life, that is, in him there was no past and no future, no sense of impatience or wanting to change anything, no sense of time rushing away or standing still.  Just Jon and complete satisfaction in that “All losses are restored and sorrows end.” When I look at him I am satisfied.  I do not long for other things.  I do not look back, or forward – simply Here and Now.  Why chastise myself for work not done or people I long for?  That is enough.  “Whose looks could all my bitter thoughts assuage.”

Then she write on another evening – what it all comes down to (like the cathedrals – we don’t see the results)…  I love this line!!!  Around the house with a lantern to look a the sleeping children and put on an extra cover.  The miser’s hour for a mother – she looks at her gold and gloats over it!

Okay – it’s hardly good morning any more – have a great day.  For those of you that read all of that above, I hope that it helps you to think through what you maybe were not able to put in your own words.  That’s what I love about books.  Go take on your life – go for the challenge putting all of your “selves” together in your little snatches of time!  Keep trying to develop all the strands of your rope!  Susan

Latin for this week: 
A Posse ad Esse - From Possibility to Reality

Works Cited:
Lindberg, Anne Morrow. War Within and Without: Diaries and Letters 1939-1944. New York. Harcourt Brace. 1980
Lindberg, Anne Morrow. The Flower and the Nettle: Diaries and Letters 1936-1939. New York. Harcourt Brace. 1976.