What a story. Gripping true-life story of a woman finding her way out of realizing she doesn’t want a child, then her marriage, then the profound depression she finds herself in. Elizabeth Barrett is a writer (for GQ), and she really knows how to bring you into the story–hook, line, and laughter.
After all this misery the newly single author decides to “find herself” by taking a year off from her job and traveling to three places she’s always wanted to visit: Italy, India, and Indonesia (Bali). Okay, I grant you this is probably not something most of us could easily pull off. But she’s a writer and her editor decides to pay her for this trip if she’ll write a book about it. Whew, what a dream, eh?
Anyway, she eats her way through Italy, practices deep self-discipline in an ashram in India, and learns balance—and falls in love—in Bali. If this type of scenario appeals to you I guarantee you, you will laugh, cry, nod, laugh, and cry some more.
I turned more page corners down in this book than I have in a long time. Here’s is one particularly poignant passage:
“To create a family with a spouse is one of the most fundamental ways a person can find continuity and meaning in American (or any) society. … First you are a child, then you are a teenager, young person, married,parent, retired grandparent. At everry stage you know who you are, you know what your duty is, and you know where to sit at the family reunion” As you sit in the shade watching your progeny, the question “who are you?” is clearly answered–You’re the person who created all this. The satisfaction of this knowledge is immediate, and moreover, it’s universally recognized. “But what if, either by choice or by reluctant necessity, you end up not participating in this comforting cycle…? …You need to find another purpose, another measure by which to judge whether or not you’ve been a successfull human being.”
She says Viriginia Woolf noted that women’s lives have the shadow of a sword across them. On one side is conventionality, on the other confusion. Woolf argues that crossing over to the other side may bring a far more interesting existence to a woman, but it will certainly be a more perilous journey.
What a perfect description for many a single working woman’s life–not easy, definitely not conventional, and often not very comfortable. Remember the line from the movie When Harry Met Sally, when Sally’s best friend lays her head on her fiance’s chest after witnessing Harry and Sally fighting and says, “Promise I’ll never have to be ‘out there’ again.”
Congratulations to all of us single working women for our courage and creativity in passionately living life on the other side of the sword.