Monday, April 15, 2019

Chatting with Myself

Do you talk to yourself? I do, always have. I feel comfortable with myself. I don't feel alone because I find myself fair company. That's not to say that I'm not often dissatisfied with myself too. Just that there's a constant, running conversation in my head -- the inner voice. I remember being surprised to find that not everyone has this feeling.

This is complicated when I'm reading a book, especially a diary or autobiography as I am now in Anne Lindbergh's The Flower and the Nettle. When reading a book like this, someone else's inner voice contributes continually to the conversation.
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I'm nearing the end now and often ponder what to share here with you about the book. What quotes to share, what concepts to address from the turbulent days she was living, what personal struggles of hers to talk of. She was a private woman and loathed any public attention, which attention persecuted them for years -- think of the paparazzi's pursuit of the royal family, except with ordinary people untrained to handle it.

If I had to summarize what seems her primary struggle, it's finding any kind of workable balance between the home life she loves and the public life she feels obligated to. In 1938 her husband Charles traveled to various countries at their request to examine their aviation programs. It was impossible to separate this task from war preparations. Anne cannot seem to keep herself from traveling with him, leaving their baby boys at home with a nurse. 

On August 5 she writes:
"I decide to go with Charles. I hate to leave the children, especially Jon, right now. And I don't want much to go to Russia, but feel I must. It is part of the European picture. Charles must know it and I must go so we can talk it over together."
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Anne later, with her three youngest children
And the next day:
"Why do I go? Why do I keep my eye on that white speck [Charles, walking away from the house] as far as I can see it? ... I must go, I must be part of Charles's life. I must go even though I am afraid to go."

They travel by plane, which Charles pilots as she sits behind. They don't come back home until Sept. 10. On Sept. 20 they leave again, for London. Political events keep them there longer than expected. She writes:
"... today I am desperately tired and like a fighting animal inside wanting to get back to the children. Each delay seems unbearable. it takes so much energy to be patient that I can do nothing else all day. I am worn out by the struggle" (419).

And again, "A nice talk with Silvia Monnet about women's struggle to choose between husband and children. We are both, however, very tired from train trips" (427) The photo below shows how far she went to enter her husband's world.
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Her inner voice, struggling with itself inside the privacy of her diary, rattles around in my head during the day. It's hard to hear her political questions, knowing how history will disappoint her. It's hard to hear her adoring devotion to Charles, knowing how their marriage will turn out. It's hard to hear her desperate love of Illiec, the private, rocky island on France's coast with a single house that they bought in 1938, knowing they will leave in December and never return. I want to reach into the pages of her diary, gently shake her by the shoulders, and say, "No, no, Anne. Don't go there. Don't think that." Now I want to read all her diaries, but they're so very long, and I have other reading on my list.

Adam and I met a 22 year old girl recently who had given up her cell phone and computer. We are convinced that, in spite of the criticism of today's youth regarding social media addiction, the older generations are just as bad - so many are also glued to their smart phones. I admire anyone willing to put aside technology and turn their eyes to green trees and blue sky and real faces. I wonder if more young people will do this -- seems unlikely. I'm tempted! I'm not on my phone much; the screen is too small. And I'm neither blogging nor facebooking as much as before. Technology and social media connections don't seem to contribute to the peaceful, slow life that I want. I've let many things distract me from the life I actually want, from the relationships that endure. Like Anne, we're all torn by obligations, and during early motherhood we're particularly bad at choosing.
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When I finish Anne's book, perhaps I'll share more. I do recommend it if you find it, as I did, in the free bin at the thrift store. Her voice is worth knowing.

17 comments:

  1. I like reading her vicariously through you! Don't be away completely: yours is one of the gentle, beautiful voices that lulls me in my petty domestic storms x

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    1. Awww, Mags!! I promise I won't leave blogging, or even leave the online world. I tend to fluctuate, coming and going with the seasons I think. I do find Anne so interesting. It's just that sometimes I look longingly at how life was 40 years ago, when I was in high school (well, not high school years themselves, you understand. They were awful.) -- the slowness of it, and how the primary things we were engaged with were real humans in real time, instead of technological humans in delayed time.

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  2. Just this morning when I woke up way too early to actually get up I decided to have a "meeting" with myself to discuss certain issues that are troubling me. I hope this doesn't make me seem too weird. I can't say my meeting resolved anything but at least I could get a few things straight in my head. To know what to do then to actually DO it are two different things.

    Your book sounds like great reading and I will be looking for her diary. Knowing how her life evolved must make some of her decisions look not-so-smart when you're reading about them.

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  3. GM, you're not weird at all, and I know exactly what you mean. I have those meetings with myself -- real, structured sit-down talks (but usually lying in bed at 3:00 am) -- fairly often. I find them useful too, and calming. Sometimes my feeling of anxiety or panic is not a result of the actual worries, but of a lack of just such talking to myself.

    The other diaries I want to read are the one before this one that addresses her baby's death, and perhaps the one after this one that might show what happened to them as a couple, how they fell apart. Even in her diaries she doesn't bare her heart exactly. I suspect they're heavily edited to remove things too painful to share with the world when she published them in the '70s. But it's amazing how much you can read, between the lines, piecing her thoughts together. And in piecing her thoughts like that, you get to know her so much better. It's an interesting process.

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  4. I love reading the works of famous people of the past as they talk about their own lives.

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    1. RK, this is just about my favorite type of reading now, biographies and autobiographies. And she lived in a most interesting time, right in the thick of it. I'm so glad she kept diaries.

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  5. This does sound like an interesting read. I love bios and memoirs. I'm curious about people's lives, but I tend not to question people directly. My parents kind of taught me that it's nosy to ask too many questions, lol. That sort of crippled me when it comes to making small talk. Now, give me an interesting topic and permission to join the conversation and look out! I think what you're describing, as far as talking to ourselves, is classic introversion. I've always loved talking to myself internally. I even find myself explaining something to "someone else" in my mind. Now, that's kind of weird. I've tried to stop doing that sort of "storytelling" and focus more on talking to the Lord, but my mind is so undisciplined, it's hard to keep it on track! Good to know I'm not the only one out here talking to myself, lol.

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    1. Yes, Lisa -- I identify with all that! I agree that this is classic introversion, definitely. And I understand that "explaining something" to that "someone else" inside. I do that too. I feel silly, but I still do it!

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  6. I talk to myself all the time. I also talk out loud to God all day too. :)

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  9. I wonder what you mean by this: "Like Anne, we're all torn by obligations, and during early motherhood we're particularly bad at choosing." I mean, what exactly is this tendency you hint at, that you think is characteristic of early motherhood?

    I subscribed to further comments from this thread, so if you could elaborate here, others could read your thoughts, too, and I won't miss them.

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    1. Hi, GJ. That's a good question. Generally, I think during early motherhood (late 20s or early 30s) we don't have the maturity we'll have in later years. Maturity teaches us what is really important, what is eternal, what is lasting. Maybe I'm only talking about myself in that sentence, that I did not feel I did a good job at choosing how I doled out my time and attention when my children were little and I had other obligations too. I often was teaching school when they were young. I found myself horribly torn between my longing to be fully at home (in my heart, in my concentration), and doing a good job at my teaching. Or church obligations. Or musical obligations. I would console myself that it was good for my kids to see me/us working hard at these worthwhile activities, but now I wonder. When you're a young mother, you just plow ahead. I realize now how few vivid moments I captured in my memory of when my kids were little. I treasure those so much.

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    2. Hmmm.... Well, we are all limited in our understanding in the present. And looking back, it might seem that we had more freedom to choose than we actually did at the time. My experience of mothering in my 20's and 30's didn't leave me with any regrets about choices I made regarding how to spend my time. There are lots of other things, though, that I wish I had known back then...

      There is one thing I think we both understand and can agree on: Those years passed too quickly!!

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  10. As usual, I'm late seeing this post. I came looking for a post from you. Enjoyed this very much and it makes me want to read her books. I do talk to myself and was awake at 2:30 this morning doing just that. I have enjoyed my blog and especially my blogging friends, but honestly sometimes I wish we could all go back to the simpler days. It drives me crazy when folks can't be away from their cell phone long enough to carry on a conversation. Hope you won't stop posting. Have a happy Easter, you and Adam.

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    1. Hi, HP :) I won't stop posting, no worries. I just may not feel as compelled to do it daily (or several times a week) as I have for so many years. I think I've accumulated way too many interests and hobbies, and they're gobbling up my time. I do wish we could go back to sipping tea and visiting at home, but then how would I do that with you friends who live far away?

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