“What is the answer? There is no easy answer, no complete answer. I have only clues, shells from the sea. The bare beauty of the channelled whelk tells me that one answer, and perhaps a first step, is in simplification of life, in cutting out some of the distractions. But how? Total retirement is not possible, I cannot shed my responsibilities. I cannot permanently inhabit a desert island. I cannot be a nun in the midst of family life. I would not want to be. The solution for me, surely, is neither in total renunciation of the world, nor in total acceptance of it. I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes; a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return.”
~A Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Finding balance between the needs of others and ourselves – this has been a key factor in the lives of women for generations. I had forgotten how perfectly Lindbergh expressed this concern in her little book, written just about the time I was born, a time when women’s lives were definitely less complicated, a time when society proscribed a woman’s role in such a way that any swing of the pendulum, any deviation from the norm was considered peculiar.
I first read Gift From the Sea in the early 80’s, when I was a young mother trying to adjust her expectations and find a balance between total immersion in family life and still maintain some “life of the mind.” Her words echoed in my heart, and I was comforted by the realization that I was in a company of women seeking the same sense of equilibrium for their lives.
Coming across this excerpt today, I realize how timeless this quest truly is. My circumstances today are quite different from those of 25 years ago. My nest is empty, I have fulfilling work and recreation, I have gained a sense of confidence I didn’t have upon my first reading.
Yet I continue to struggle with that question of balance, continue always to ache for more time to explore my inner life, to immerse myself in books and music, to be able to study everything about this wide world in greater detail.
“And yet I cannot shed my responsibilities. I cannot be a nun in the midst of family life. And I would not want to be.”
For better or worse, this is life ~ the marriage, the home, the family that needs you, the workplace, the church ~ these are the true things, the things that filter our experience of the world and make it real.
But I am most definitely a seeker of balance, and I covet that resting state where the pendulum stops naturally, where my body, mind, and heart will feel at ease.