Monday, April 16, 2012

the pull of the moon

The Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg
Amazon Book Description:  In the middle of her life, Nan decides to leave her husband at home and begin an impromptu trek across the country, carrying with her a turquoise leather journal she intends to fill. The Pull of the Moon is a novel about a woman coming to terms with issues of importance to all women. In her journal, Nan addresses the thorniness—and the allure—of marriage, the sweet ties to children, and the gifts and lessons that come from random encounters with strangers, including a handsome man appearing out of the woods and a lonely housewife sitting on her front porch steps. Most of all, Nan writes about the need for the self to stay alive. In this luminous and exquisitely written novel, Elizabeth Berg shows how sometimes you have to leave your life behind in order to find it.
I read this book in two days, in two sittings, and I had two completely different reactions:

I began the book at the end of the day, when I was overly tired and overly emotional, and I wept for Nan and for every woman who in taking care of everyone else must lay herself down, discovering one day that she has lost herself.

The next day I finished the book, and I thought, Really?  How many women have the luxury of crossing the country, staying in hotels and charming B&B's in order to "find herself"?  Why are women so snively, so whiney, always wanting something we don't have?  (Myself among them).

I sat on my grandmother's couch the other day and asked her, Why is everybody so miserable?  So many marriages ending, so much unhappiness. Was it always this way?  And she said Well, we couldn't afford to think about leaving.  There was no money, divorce wasn't even a thought.  We had to work things out.

And once again I have two different reactions:

I am glad that women today can leave their husbands if they need to.  No doubt there were women in my grandmother's generation who suffered abuse in ways that no one ever knew.  Today, women are not forced to be silent victims.  Along with so many other freedoms, the freedom to divorce is good and necessary.

But of course freedom hasn't solved our problem, has it?  Women are still unhappy, still searching for something out of reach.

I read this article a few weeks ago about a trend of women wishing their husbands would have an affair
 because they do not want to be married anymore.
The common factor amongst all of these women is that they say that their husbands are really solid, good, nice men. They are not victims of physical or emotional abuse. They are not married to felons. They are not married to alcoholics or drug addicts. Their husbands are not having affairs. In fact, they tell me, there really isn't anything "wrong" with their husbands ... they just don't want to be married to them anymore because they have fallen out of love. It's actually a depressing conversation. When did we all become so unfulfilled with life?
I found this article irritating.  When did we all become so unfulfilled?  And why do women blame everyone else for our unhappiness?

This struggle for identity must be the curse in women . . . our identity and happiness can only be found in Christ.

Practical Theology for Women this week has a Scholarly Analysis of Gen.3:16 (...Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you).  The entire post is really great, and I agree with her conclusion, that a woman's "desire for" her husband is not to dominate him, but to desire him to be what Christ alone can fill.

(The interpretation that our desire is to dominate never sat well with me; I have experience far more of the curse in my desire to be loved than in wanting to control my husband)
No, feminism isn't the ultimate problem. The problem didn't start as women wanting control over the men in their lives. Women set up men as idols and looked to them to provide emotionally, spiritually, physically what only God can provide. Apart from Christ, men oppressed them in return, hence the modern coping mechanisms of independence, self-sufficiency, and control (often ineffective) for dealing with that oppression. The curse read at face value reflects the real issue, and the gospel is the clear answer. The gospel gives the woman sufficiency in Him that allows her to stay engaged as a helper after God's own example. And when a man oppresses her to the point of abusing her or her children, that same gospel equips her to stand strong and remove herself and her children, for she is no longer so needy of the man that she has to subject her children to his sin. No, God, not her husband, is her Savior.
Neither phony happiness or guilt for being unhappy are what women need.  Perhaps there is a season for every woman when it is good to run away, in whatever form that takes, to find time and space to figure out who she is or to grieve what she has left behind, to keep herself alive.

But I think it is also necessary that we look for and find our life in Christ who offers living water.  Interesting that he offers this water to a woman, alone, who has had five husbands, and still thirsts.

Two related links:

"A Dog Could Take Care of Your Child" or Why I Quit Grad School to Stay at Home With My Kids"
at Carrots for Michaelmas- I loved this!

 The Good Old Days at Home Sweet Home at Writer's Almanac

Tuesday my mother ironed my
father's underwear. Wednesday
she mended, darned socks on
a wooden egg. Shined shoes.
Thursday she scrubbed floors.
Put down newspapers to keep

them clean. Friday she
vacuumed, dusted, polished,
scraped, waxed, pummeled.
How did you become a feminist
interviewers always ask,
as if to say, when did this

rare virus attack your brain?
It could have been Sunday
when she washed the windows,
Thursday when she burned
the trash, bought groceries
hauling the heavy bags home.  (read the rest here)

If you only read one of link, choose this one: Ruth's poem, Yellow Dress, describes some of this sense of a woman looking back and questioning who she could have been, but in such a delightful way!

Maybe we all need to take ourselves a lot less seriously?

related, the only marriage advice I would ever give

*I should add that Berg's writing in this book is gorgeous.  Even though I am being critical, I do recommend reading it!


Deb Colarossi said...

I love her writing, so will probably speed read this if I find it used. Don't like the story from the way you've shared. Please. ( hated Eat Pray Love .. so you know where I'm coming from :) ).

It's all so complicated isn't it.

barefootmommy said...

Love this. Thanks for sharing. The link to the rest of the "good old days at home sweet home" is not working for me...not sure if it works for others.

Jessica said...

thanks! I think it is fixed now!

Haley@Carrots for Michaelmas said...

What a thoughtful post. It took three years of marriage for my husband and I to realize that we were unsatisfied because we were expecting each other to fulfill what only Christ could. As we began to love Our Lord and his holy Church more, there was so much more love overflowing from his grace to give to each other. I'm so grateful that we didn't give up during the hard times or we wouldn't have experienced the beautiful love we have now.

Thanks so much for stopping by Carrots for Michaelmas and linking to my post!