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.