her true center
Many of my last posts at Exponent before I took a sabbatical from writing, were about being alone (see this one and this one) It was a time of my life where I was re-imagining so many parts of myself and trying not to be too afraid of the long dark nights that I new were ahead.
Six years later, and I am used to the alone-ness now. But perhaps what has changed the most is that I rarely feel lonely, and I believe that’s because I enjoy my own company so very much. While I am very much an extrovert still (I love hosting parties and co-working with colleagues), I can spend days at a time by myself and be totally content.
A book that I read in college and have re-read many times since, is Anne Morrow Lindbergh‘s Gift From the Sea. This is a book of essays that compares the seasons of a woman’s life to shells from her long walks on the beach. She says, for example, of life in the midst of the busy years of child-rearing (speaking to the “moon-shell” that she found while staying on an island by herself for a few days):
You will say to me ‘solitude.’ You will remind me that I must try to be along for a part of each year, even a week or a few days, and for part of each day, even for an hour or a few minutes in order to keep my core, my center, my island-quality. You will remind me that unless I keep the island-quality intact somewhere within me, I will have little to give to my husband, my children, my friends or the world at large. You will remind me that woman must be still as the axis of a wheel in the midst of her activities, that she must be the pioneer in achieving this stillness, not only for her own salvation, but the the salvation of family life, of society, perhaps even of our civilization.
And then at a later stage of her life when her children have left home and her husband has passed away, she writes:
All the inner and outer exploration that I woman has done earlier in life pays off when she reaches the abandoned shell. One has to come to terms with onself not only in a new stage of life, but in a new role. Life without children, living for oneself–the words at first ring with a hollow sound…[But] to quote my own words, “woman must come of age by herself–she must find her true center alone.”
It seems to me that Anne summarizes the most important lesson that I’ve learned from the past few years where I found myself divorced and an empty-nester in a short span of time, a lesson that I’d wished I’d understood earlier in life, but didn’t given that I went straight from natal home to college roommates to married to mother.
So my question to you, readers, is how do you maintain that “true center” at your current stage of life? Is it something that comes naturally to you, or something that you have had to work hard to gain/maintain?