Wednesday, August 09, 2006

What I've been reading, and the apex of my career

Well, lately I’ve been reading a few things. I got on a sort of Amish kick and read a few books about the Amish. One is a diary kept by an Amish woman in 1976. I love the dailiness of it. It’s good for me to read journals regularly—my own journal always benefits.

For classics bookgroup I have been reading Don Quixote. This is probably my fourth time starting it but I’m determined to get through at least part one this time. I admit that it is somewhat entertaining, but the joke is getting old. Is there anything more to it than the making fun of the romantic conventions of Cervantes’s time? (Do you like that apostrophe-s? I can’t figure out this new rule from AML. Someone help me with it.) It reminds me of Northanger Abbey, which also makes fun of the romantic conventions of its time. I’m hoping something new happens at some point, and that the next 300 pages are not just more of the same.

BTW, here's an excerpt from my favorite new website, "Book-A-Minute Classics." At this site, you can find classics abridged down to a couple of lines. Here's the shrunk version of Don Quixote:

Don Quixote:
Chivalry demands I destroy that evil thing.

Sancho Panza:
No, master. It is something ordinary and harmless.

Don Quixote (falls down)

The website is Way cool! Check out the Austen one!

For ward bookgroup I have been reading These is My Words by Nancy Turner (my second time). I’m enjoying it even more this time, although the same things that bugged me the first time are bugging me again. Sarah and Jack are such Scarlet/Rhett characters, and Savannah is Melanie, the acknowledged spiritual superior to Sarah but obviously lacking in sparkle and personality. Jack is the rugged man archetype—fiery, passionate, a little bit mysterious, older. I would like to see a combination of Jack and the best friend Jimmy type (well, what Jimmy seems to be, anyway). I’m not sure that, in real life, that sense of mystery can continue through years and years of marriage. There’s something to be said for the best friend-spouse.

I sure sympathize with Sarah’s yearning for education. That is also reminiscent to me of another book—Betty Green’s Joy in the Morning. What an eternal theme that is, the young housewife who loves books and dreams of going to college.

Which brings me to the other thing I’ve been thinking about lately. I’ve been watching the news about the conjoined twins who have been separated this week. I’ve been fascinated with the surgeons who facilitated this miracle. Here are men and women in their 50’s, at the pinnacle of their careers. Years of practice have made them into people capable of amazing, amazing things.

I am burning with jealousy.

What happens to a housewife at the “pinnacle of her career”? What will I have spent years practicing? What great contribution to the world will I make as a result of a lifetime of study and practice?

Well, yes, you’re going to say, “Your children are your contribution to the world.” Blah, blah. Of course they are. But, darn it, most of what my children become is up to them, isn’t it? I’m doing my best. But right about the time when people in other careers are starting to really be at the top of things, I’ll be struggling with teenagers that hate me, and then dealing with an empty nest. (Not that I’m not looking forward to an empty nest. Heaven knows I have plans for that time in my life—but that will be a time of beginnings for me, not achievement.)

This is my problem with the Thomas Jefferson Education theory. It all sounds great—for a person who plans on having a career outside the home. I love the idea of dedicating myself to deep scholarly study, then moving on to the application and impact phase, and then finally discovering and pursuing my mission. Sounds great. But what happens when right after college you abandon study (at least at a deep level) and raise babies? Where’s my impact? Where’s my mission? What’s the point?

So, I will join the large group of women who jumped off the track to personal greatness in order to spend time changing diapers and reading picture books, and then, once the kids are in school, start blundering around looking for something to sort of dedicate myself to sort of part time, hoping that some day I’ll find some sense of mission.

Yeah, yeah. Motherhood is a noble calling. But, please, I can spend all my time making a science out of using my food storage, etc., and try to get some sense of mission about that, but to tell you the truth, the actual making an impact on the kids occurs in an awfully small percentage of the time. The rest of the time is really just being there and marking time. You can talk all you want about how important it is for me to be here (and I really do believe it) but you can’t convince me that scrubbing the toilet every day vs. once a week makes a difference in the eternal scheme of things. Sorry—no sense of mission here. And as far as having a sense of mission about the spiritual, etc., development of the kids—yeah, I’ll go for that one, but, really, a lot of it depends on them.

ANYWAY, I’m jealous of the surgeons. I hope that I can find my little personal mission in my later years and find a way to make an impact on the world even though I won’t have had time to become really good at anything.

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