Sunday, September 12, 2010

une femme de genie ayant l'existence d'une femme ordinaire.

That is what Proust believes makes a real-life heroine: a woman of genius leading an ordinary existence.

When I read this for the first time I felt stunned and slightly sick. Because Proust did not say this is what makes a woman fulfilled. He did not say this is what makes a woman happy. He did not say this is what makes a woman powerful. He said that this is what makes a woman heroic.

The women that I love--and there are many--are all women of genius. They look at the world in ways that would break its heart if it knew. They have ideas I cannot wrap my mind around. They create beauty as if it were a reflex. Given time, and space, and financial backing, I have no doubt that these women could create entire worlds of their own, peopled with rich ideas, unusual music, new thoughts and traditions, provocative poetry...

...and some already do. But most of us do this in the snatches of time found between all of the other wearing daily obligations that don't seem to get us anywhere. The floor that always has to be swept, for all the good it will do you. The clothes that still need to be hemmed and washed and folded, though they'll be back in the hamper almost instantaneously, ready for another go at your lifeblood. The food to buy and cook and stow away and wipe up. Toilets to scrub. None of this is news. But---somehow---there are women who submit to all of this, these all-consuming claims upon their time, and still manage to write heartrending poetry. Paint. Coin philosophies. Run for congress. Dream up new ways of being in this world. LIVE.

These things are heroic precisely because they demand everything of us. Maintaining a life that requires routine, drudgery, paperwork, scheduling and yet finding the space somehow for thoughts that are untethered, amorphous, shifting---finding space for the new and brave and bold and unorthodox---finding space to love new people, change, alter, bend---this is the ultimate tightrope act. This is where the revelatory art is, the most fraught poetry, the deepest experience. Everyone can relate to it, that search for meaning amidst the dross of day-to-day dulness. WE ARE IT. We are the heroines of this time when nothing seems important enough to be heroic.

I don't know if there is a way to hold onto those moments when I can FEEL life, when there is intimacy on every level, when the world makes sense even as its incessant complexity forces me to struggle along, keep up. They don't happen so often. I don't know if such a state is even sustainable; it could get exhausting. But I don't want to fall into the dulness either, to accept a routine that replaces my curiosity and craftiness and potential with an easy schedule.

But we are equal to it, aren't we? We are heroic. We have to be. Even when it is perplexing and it hurts.

True thing of the day:
I am more myself when I am with friends than when I am with my children.

C'mon, now, you lily-livered blogreaders. If you're out there--tell me something true.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I don't have further profound or revealing truths at the moment. So I'll take a dare! Although...I'm aware of the difficulties of the everyday heroine, and I'm not often "happy" about it. I can't say that I don't enjoy life. Last week I spent some time researching the lives of women gone ahead on the path, contemplating the gravity of their lives and mortality, and the difficulty (sabotage, even) of creating or passing on "life's work" - a relatively newly-embraced objective for the fairer sex. Maybe it IS enough to complete the mundane tasks and simple pleasures of life, and if you are able, to find the easy way out at any opportunity. Things get wonky for half of the cycle for many of us, and this is yet another cross that most men are unwilling to help bear. I've been reading a bunch of nutrition mumbo jumbo and PMS and depression forums posts lately, since I always seem to realize too late that I'm getting my period. (It's amazing how many varieties of PMS there are these days!) Too late as in, maybe everyone I know isn't just tolerating my existence and maybe I don't really HATE everything about my life and have such solid proof that the universal plan was to smite me from the day of my birth & the stars aligned in preparation to ensure my sorry fate...Perhaps not?! My hopes right now are in MAGNESIUM, being more vigilant about taking my many bottles of oils: fish, borage, vit D, vit E, CLA. Etc. Ladies - I never believed it before but I bought some epsom salt to put in my tomato plants, and so I tried a bath with it and I'm now a convert in the church of Magnesium. Those of you who may not be privy to a bathtub are welcome to come over and partake. I'm going to costco soon to buy a large bag of epsom salt.