I’m writing this post in response to a dialogue I was having with Holistic Wayfarer about building community through blogging, in the second part of her series How to Succeed as a Blogger.
I feel a resonance with her on many levels, and the dialogue over the past week or so has been lively, enlightening, and quite enriching, I think.
Something in the dialogue today reminded me of my thoughts surrounding motherhood and in particular, those that have been rattling around in my brain about intelligent, talented women who are also moms.
In the past few years, I ‘discovered’ Sylvia Plath. A little late in my life, but I’m grateful nonetheless. I’m not just talking about her fiction or poetry, either, which are fascinating, intense, and quite radical, but her journals and her Letters Home, which for me, offer a more comprehensive view of the woman who wrote those powerfully dark words. I can understand more of the woman she was than by trying to make a feeble attempt to interpret her poetry or listen to others try to interpret her psyche.
Before I read her journals and letters, stories and poems, I only knew that she was a woman who was at the forefront of the feminist movement, she wrote strange poetry, was frequently depressed and she killed herself. That was the extent of my knowledge.
I had little idea of who she really was, but I’ve recently been studying her life for a while now. I take it slow because some of her writings stir some things up in me that challenge me. Some of the things she’s written really tug at my heart.
That this phenomenally intelligent woman, a gifted storyteller and (controversial) poet, was also a wife and a mother and strove to honor her inner drive to express herself and remain true to herself, is something I relate to on a deeply personal level. Throughout her journals, she rebelled against being merely an extension of a man. I found it interesting that she did end up getting married and having children, given that she found most men in her time to be looking for simply someone to take care of their physical and emotional needs. I sometimes wonder why she did.
In my educational history, the only piece of feminist literature I read consisted of one book: The Awakening, by Kate Chopin. That book DID haunt me, so maybe this was a good thing. I am pretty sure that most everything else I read for school was written, for the most part, by men, which was fine by me. I enjoyed writings by men as they covered many things I was personally interested in (history, philosophy, social commentary, science, human nature) and not so much interested in what the feminists had to say at that time. No reason other than it didn’t really register on my radar.
The dilemmas women faced simply weren’t something that interested me, even though I am a woman. I didn’t really identify with my feminine side in my girlhood and young adulthood. I was not girly and didn’t get interested in girly things. I was always a tomboy, more at home catching lizards with the boy next door, climbing our cinderblock wall in the backyard, camping in the mountains, or digging in the dirt. I didn’t care about clothes, my hair, makeup, or boys (well, until MUCH later). All I longed for (and never got) were science kits. Incidentally, now that I’m a mother of girls, I have bought a number of science kits to explore with my daughters. I’m not sure who’s more interested in them sometimes – me, or them.
I was not interested in much of anything but school, Nature and learning all that I could about the things that fascinated me. I loved to read adventure stories, or stories about mysteries (Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie) or paranormal things (ESP and telekinesis and the like). In school, I was lucky in that I had really supportive male teachers who supported my scientific interests.
I didn’t care about feminism as I just went ahead and went after my aspirations quietly and easily. No one seemed to object and I didn’t realize at the time what a gift that was to me. I wonder if Plath was born later, what kind of opportunities she would have pursued?
While my mother certainly objected to the location of my college studies (she wanted me to commute from home to keep an eye on me), I was never impeded from going to college and never discouraged from pursuing my degree in biotechnology.
In my professional life, I was fortunate that my gender made zero difference. I was treated as an equal in all the labs I worked in. My work spoke for itself, and I obtained the positions I went after, and for that, I’m count myself lucky and grateful.
I’m sure the transition to motherhood had been needlessly complicated by my lack of experience in the nurturing department. My mother – a feminist in her own right, I suppose – was not the epitome of feminine nurturing, grace and wisdom either. My mother always had this attitude of being better than men, as if she had something to prove, and maybe her own internal and external obstacles in her life made it harder for her to get in touch with her nurturing instincts. Having birthed me in 1970, and having had a bit of a wild side to her (despite her foggy recollections of having grown a marijuana plant in our atrium and the book The Happy Hooker by Xaviera Hollander and other questionable reading material residing on her bookshelf), she must have been confused herself by all the conflicting inner and outer messages of her time. This avenue of thinking warrants further investigation, but that’s an excavation for another day.
Despite Plath’s early misgivings about boys and marriage, Plath did became wife to British poet Ted Hughes and had two children. She expressed her bleak views about the existing patriarchy and her own complicity in the social expectations of the day, quite radically in the book of poems Ariel, written just before her death.
Ariel is fascinating because it
“strikes a deadly blow at the justifications of commercialized post-war American domesticity in the same way that Guillaume Apollinaire’s Alcools (1913) encapsulated the ennui immediately preceding three decades of European warfare.”
I can’t help but wonder, as she strove to create a life of her own making, apart from that of her poet husband (and philanderer) Ted Hughes and her role as a mother, if she couldn’t have changed her fate if she had the kind of support and encouragement that we have available to us now, and in particular, because of access to a wider world through the internet.
I have felt similarly to Plath in quite a few ways, including the bouts of melancholia which had increased after I left my career and in particular, since the birth of my third child.
I have a hugely curious intellect and creative drive I have a high need to ‘feed the tiger’ so to speak. Early on in my mothering journey I found this exceptionally difficult while raising my daughters. The isolation and loneliness of being a stay-at-home mother was – and sometimes still is – unbearable at times.
I wrote a post a while back called The intellectual mother meets the artistic mother which addresses an interesting article about the special challenges of highly intelligent and talented women who are moms and a few of my thoughts about my own challenges. This post was written before I started working part-time as a substitute teacher and just before I started art journaling and making mixed media art pieces. It was also before I started connecting with other individuals on a spiritual path through blogging and allowing them to influence my journey.
I wonder what Plath would have done had she access to other women who were highly intelligent, talented and mothers themselves (and what would she think about intelligent, talented men who are stay-at-home fathers?!?!). What could she have learned? What if she could have created a world-wide community of her own and stepped outside her own experiences and peeked into the minds of other contemplative and creative minds? Would she have learned any holistic means of self-care so that she would ameliorate the depressive cycles she fell into? Would she incorporate spirituality into her life, so that she might find a salve for her soul?
Depression is an abyss. I get that. I write very differently when I’m depressed and sometimes I find it gratifying to not rush to fix my depression but create through it. But it’s also a thing of beauty to explore sometimes. How can something so dark be so wonderful to explore? It’s kind of hard to explain unless you’ve been there yourself.
And perhaps it’s not so much the darkness itself, but maybe those moments when I come out of it that I find so beautiful.
I wrote this in one of my handwritten journals:
whatever dark night of the soul comes over me…forever how long it lasts….it then passes through me, without warning.i feel, for the moment, a blissful peace. my whole being, for this moment, feels blessedly, unequivocably, full of love and joy. there is no pain, physical, mental, spiritual or emotional. i feel the oppressive weight dissolved. i feel an openness in my belly…i know that sounds odd…but i feel lighter there…a beautiful feeling I thought surely would never come to me again.*
One day I noticed a bit of blue sky peeking from behind gray clouds, and snapped a photo of it, because it feels just like that.
The blue sky is always there, behind the clouds. My spiritual journey has taught me something: My loving consciousness is always there, hiding behind the deceptive and sometimes gloomy veil that is my ego.
So I wonder about Plath.
Could her life story have been written differently had she been shown how to make peace with all the facets within her and make room for all that she was: mother, wife, writer, poet, dreamer, activist, artist and on and on?
If Slyvia had access to the internet, which would bring her into connections with people all across the globe, how might that have helped her develop as a human being? How might have the worldwide community help support and encourage her in her mothering journey and in her creative life and simply as a human? If she had access to mentors and thoughtful and spiritual contemporaries to help her understand and gratify her intense needs for individual expression, independence and maybe bring peace to her life without the dualistic thinking that creates havoc for many of us, would she have chosen Life?
What if, through her connections to others, she learned how to meditate, do yoga, increase her spiritual connection to Nature and God? Would she have managed to tap into a deep, loving energy source within and yet beyond herself?
What if Plath had been able to build a community like we are trying to do here on WordPress? How would her life been different?
As the day winds down, I’m realizing how grateful I AM for the community of bloggers who are helping me to move out of dualistic thinking and help me expand my perspective and help me to feel connected to others in ways I haven’t been able to before.
I wrote this as a comment to Diana’s post:
For me, I wasn’t planning on building a readership, though if people do like what I have to say and stay reading, that’s nice. I just like to talk about things that I find important to me, and that seems to draw people in because of the common threads in our humanity. I keep writing because of the people I keep meeting, who help influence my growth in subtle, but important ways.
I find my heart opening more and more as I’m becoming connected to other deeply spiritual people. It’s been a very wonderful experience and unlike anything I’d encountered in my real life with people. I wonder if it’s because those I do connect with through blogging are more contemplative to begin with. It seems to me that the things revealed through writing start touching that 90 percent of the iceberg we don’t get to witness in our everyday interactions with another.
I’m truly grateful for the small community I’m building through blogging. I have to thank my more recent connections I’ve made, as they are impacting my life in very positive ways. I think about Debra, and Michael, and Reverend Roxie, and Monika, and Pawan and Diana, especially, for the opportunity to get to know them a little better. I really do appreciate the time they’ve taken to blog and share with us their journeys and thoughts and especially the time they’ve taken to dialogue with me. It means so much to me.
You’ve blessed me so much already and I appreciate you. I hope, in time I can find ways to bless your lives too.
Well, that’s about it. Over 22oo words that originally started as comment. For those of you who have stayed this long to read it, thanks a bunch. I hope I didn’t put you all to sleep…