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Women’s Wisdom

The longer I go along in my life, the more it seems like the universe is cradling me, showing me what I need to see, providing teachers when I’m ready to learn, making things come together and crop up and appear when I need them to so that everything is working together in balance. It may very well have been doing this all along, my whole life, but for the most part, I wasn’t ready to see it. I do find that the more open I am to learning, the more I learn. I’ve had huge long periods in my life where I wasn’t really open to learning very much. Sometimes I’ve felt very threatened by learning, by knowledge–as if knowledge increases responsibility, and I wanted to avoid that. Responsibility does not have a lot of the “woohoo, party!” factor attached to it. Nowadays I’m finding that the more I embrace the weight of life, as well as the light, the more I get. Or the more complete I feel.

In general, I learn best visually. I create mental images that express emotional or psychological states. The image I have of myself when I was younger was–kind of like a possibly really amazing building, but with big mortar-shell holes in it. Big holes sort of blasted out, weakening the structure, obliterating some of the cooler features of the building. And some of the holes had, like, sheet plastic duct-taped over them, so the building could preserve some of its function–a lot of its function, but would clearly not stand the test of time.

I feel like many of my life experiences, both wonderful and horrible, have slowly filled in the big holes with tight, solid patches of bricks. And the more I know and understand myself and others, the more holes get filled in. I feel really quite solid nowadays. I still have a few holes, definitely. But I haven’t slapped sheet plastic over them–I leave them out in the sunlight, and look at them, and try to figure out how to fix them. I think I will continue to make progress on them.

Lately I’ve been doing some reading that’s very exciting for me. In general, I don’t read a lot of current fiction. Woefully unread in today’s literary world. I read genre fiction, some fantasy, for example, and some romance–nothing cheers me up like a fun romance novel! But I also read memoirs, mostly of women, and sometimes someone will recommend a book and I’ll try it.

Lately I’ve been reading: “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter” by Sue Monk Kidd. It’s about a traditionally religious woman who comes to see her church as forbiddingly patriarchal, to the point of feeling betrayed by her faith. The book is a memoir of her years-long quest to recreate a faith, a belief in the divine, that she feels honors both male and female spirit. It’s a fascinating account of a personal journey.

Also reading: “Eat, Pray, Love,” by Elizabeth Gilbert. This has been a very popular book-club book, which made me suspicious, but a writer I respect recommended it to me, and I am loving it! Also a memoir about a woman dealing with her divorce and her search for faith and meaning–but it’s very funny, very down-to-earth, not highfalutin, and full of emotional, psychological, and spiritual insights that make me shiver.

And rereading “The Dance of Anger” by Harriet Lerner, a psychologist and therapist. It’s all about women’s mass inability to use anger effectively, to be authentic in their anger, and to clarify and define their true positions to get to what their anger is really about. Such an important and useful book for everyone. I don’t express anger very well, I don’t argue very well, but this book helps me every time I read it. It’s not just about anger in romantic relationships–anger is a touchstone in virtually every relationship, including the one you have with yourself. I love it when I write a character just forthrightly expressing her anger, because it’s not something that I myself would be able to do naturally. I live vicariously through my characters!

I’m not saying everyone should run out and read these books. Books mean different things to different people, and what’s meaningful or useful to me might leave others scratching their heads and thinking, “Huh?” But I wanted to share some of what I’m reading, doing, thinking about. It’s forming me, informing my writing. Patching up my building.

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