Wednesday, February 25, 2009

One word

I attended my first book club meeting tonight. One of my friends here invited me to join and told me the first book was Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I had read the book about a year ago and enjoyed it but decided to reread it so it would be fresh in my head. Now, I liked Elizabeth well enough and I think her writing is well thought out and occasionally absolutely hilarious, but I don't think I'd want to be on her speed dial. I think I'd find her a little overwhelming in real life (Now, Richard from Texas could come hang out at my house any time).

There were many things I loved in the book and there were some things that really made me stop and think. I got different things out of it this reading after this last year that I have had. As I read it, I thought, "Wouldn't I love to go, by myself, and do these things?" Ground myself again. I feel like I could use some time where no one else needed anything from me, for just a little while. The idea of going to the Ashram seemed infinitely more appealing this time around. And who doesn't want to go to Rome and eat? One of my favorite things about the Italy section is when she and her friend talk about how every person and place has word. Rome was Sex, the Vatican is Power (much like DC), New York is Achieve, her friend Sofie says Stockholm is Conform (much like Japan). It takes her a while to figure out her own word (something in Sanskrit).

It was odd when I got to this part because I had been thinking along these lines myself recently. My sister had put something up on Facebook recently saying she thought everyone should write a 12 word or less description of themselves. It brought to mind those games or "group process exercises" where they have you describe yourself, or someone else, or how other would describe you in five words. And I thought, "What word describes me now?" When I think about how others view me, I always assume they think of words like "responsible" "organized" "reliable" "reasonable". Nothing sexy, nothing surprising. We all always knew I'd grow up to be responsible and sensible. But this thinking combined with the book made me think about what my word is. What is the one word that describes me, right now?

And, oddly enough, that was the last question the host asked at the book club tonight. "What is your word?" She asked if anyone knew and I volunteered that I did.


(And part of me loves that it is hyphenated, because I am too.)

They all asked me if I could explain why. I told them I didn't think that it was necessarily a good thing, or a bad thing either, but the truth. I am capable, organized, self-sustaining. My husband deploys, he returns-I keep the home fires burning. We move-I pick up, get us settled, make new friends, establish a new routine. When crisis hits, I keep everything organized and make sure everyone has what they need. But. I also just keep all of my stuff to myself and sort it out in the free moments I have late at night. Unlike Elizabeth, I don't think the world will stop spinning if I take my hand off the top. And I have stopped taking on more people who need things from me. But it's all I can do to keep up with what is on my plate now.

All through the crisis with my Dad, I felt like many people were relying on me. My Dad, my Mom, sisters, extended family, friends. My folks needed my help in day to day surviving and buffering. The extended network needed information and comforting. My husband needed me not to loose it while he was gone on his worst deployment ever with no way to get home. My son needed me to be a constant and stabilizing force for him. And I couldn't let any of them down. I never felt like it was my turn. I still don't. I'm afraid to say anything to anyone else who was close to my Dad because if they get upset, I can't. And I don't want to upset anyone. I was never alone, but I was also somehow always alone. After the funeral, my Mother-in-Law (who came for the entire week, may God bless her and keep her) said to me, "You looked so alone and strong and fragile." which may be the most accurate assessment.

It sucks being strong all the time. But the rational part of my brain wants to know what would be achieved by falling to pieces. Nothing. But I would really like to go away somewhere, alone, just for a little while, to sort out my head. Even if I just sleep and cry. In an awful sort of way, that seems marvelous to me.


What's your word?


Brenda said...

We are carbon copies of each other. I'm the oldest. I think your word is perfect. I noticed during while in Mexico, how much the family 'thinks' I know. OH. Brenda knows that date.. she knows when that happened...Brenda... when did Grandpa die? How old was he...? I seem to be the keeper of the family history. Or the person who knows how to spell a word... or the person who knows the best grammer for a sentence... ARE they NUTS?

Anyway.... I haven't read the book. I did see her on Oprah a year ago and like you, I wished I could have taken those single trips to find myself... but I guess I wasn't ever really lost...but I would love to .. JUST GO! And have an adventure.

I love that you've found a book club. Wish there was one here.. I'm sure the is one... somewhere...around here..I just don't know about it. :-(

Anything is Possible said...

First, let me just say this post is awesome. I've been thinking about it for a few days. What is my word? Brenda is right. I'm also a carbon copy. I'm the 'hard' one in the family. My family thinks I never cry - even when I moved to Asia for three years. I'm just not one to lose it in front of people. I hang on to it until I can run a hot bath and let it all out. I think I'm strong. Maybe that's my word. I can hold it all together, multi-task if needed when the poo hits the fan, and move forward even when I want to break down and cry. What would I accomplish if I broke down and cried? Nothing. I'd still have to take care of the kids, the dogs, the house, the family and keep moving forward. I'd love to take time off to find myself like Elizabeth Gilbert. I'd love the frivolity of focusing on me and no one else. Someday I am going to do it. First, I've got to raise a family.

shrmgal said...

Wow Annie, what a wonderful and articulate post. It was a blessing to read. I contended that yours and the two other post describe me too! It is a funny thing to think of ones self in one word. So I too have pondered this one word challenge and believe that God put me on Earth to be a keeper. I keep my small family together, organize my bigger extended one so we all stay in contact. Friends and even acquaintances tell me very personal thoughts and issues. Unfortunately I don't let a lot out emotional, only in the shower or when I am alone. I love my task of being a keeper it makes me feel whole and special.