by Erin Weist
I recently read a book written in 1955 by a woman who visited a quiet beach for a vacation alone for several weeks. She observed the world around her and recorded her thoughts as they related to her life, subsequently publishing them as Gift from the Sea.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh was a wife and mother of 5 children whose remarkable insight is relevant to my own experiences in a similar undertaking. She spoke of the many roles women fill as a type of “multiplicity,” as being “open to all points of the compass; husband, children, friends, home, community; stretched out, exposed, sensitive like a spider’s web to each breeze that blows, to each call that comes.” I can only speak to my experience as a woman and I know this description is remarkable accurate. Each role spreads out from me and demands my attention, sometimes equally, though more often one more dominant than the others.
Mrs. Lindbergh continues: “The bearing, rearing, feeding and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationships with their myriad pulls– woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life.” And she continues with what I think is the crux of the matter, “The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Independence. It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel.”
And how does the author suggest women accomplish this? In a word: simplify. As we simplify our physical needs, we simplify our mental needs. As we simplify our possessions, we simplify our “Martha-like anxiety about many things.” As we remove unnecessary activities or things from our lives, we’ll also see vanity, pride, hypocrisy and other undesirable qualities fade away as well. I have found her reflections to be true in my own life. The obsession with collecting more and more things generally leads to more concern over things, rather than people and relationships. The desire to have my kids be involved in many sports, music lessons or clubs is a balancing act between useful pursuits and the vain effort to appear busy, as though “busy-ness” is an admirable trait to develop.
I would instead encourage a simplifying, as much as possible, to remove distractions and bring back moments of contemplation, bouts of creativity, and especially time for Godly communion. As we work to bring these things back into our lives we shed gratuitous activities and needs, once again able to center ourselves on noble, fruitful endeavors. We are all becoming something, it is only a matter of determination, focus, and faith that decides whether that something is worth our while.