SoYa - I heard it.
If you’ve read ‘Songs Without Words’ – my thoughts may have some meaning – if not – you’re missing out. Big time. Not on my thoughts – but on an excellent read by a truly talented author. I usually buy books on eBay – not sure I can wait that long for another book by Ann Packer though. For the media mail delivery, that is.
Since I was a little girl, I have read voraciously – sometimes devouring 5-10 books a week – and sometimes going through odd dry spells – the longest for a couple of years when my children were very young – when I read very little. But ALWAYS when I read – it is as though I am inhaling the story. And ALWAYS when I read – I find commonality and kinship with some character in the story. Whether it’s the fiction of John Grisham or the memoirs of Jen Lancaster – or the fantasy of Frank L.Baum – I find a character to relate to. Always have. Figured I always would. Until I heard the Songs Without Words.
I feel as though I have come through an emotional tornado now – but one that has somehow taken everything in my life through the whirling winds and gusts and set it down as gently as a baby in a tree making it through an awful storm after being ripped from her cozy bed. It always seems unbelievable how much damage a tornado can do – and yet that same storm that can drive a straw through a tree trunk – can deposit a baby carefully into a tree with the gentleness of its own mother. Powerful – earth and spirit-cleansing – yet controlled.
Snort. This is beginning to sound like a poorly written book review. Who cares. I simply must get my emotions and the thoughts this book brought on written down despite the overcrowded hyperbole!
So I didn’t identify with a single character in Ann’s book. Instead – I found myself flipping – floating – flying through my usual identification process. First I was Sarabeth – then Lauren – then Liz – then Lauren – now Sarabeth again? Back and forth all the way through – I couldn’t settle in and say ‘okay – THIS is me’. Sometimes that process is a bad thing when I’m reading. I can identify with a rape victim in a novel and sink deep into the despair of both the character’s story and my own memories – and be unable to pull out of that despair until I finish reading and leave the character behind. I can find myself moody – or angry – in love or happy with no reason – until I remember the book that I am in the midst of experiencing and realize that I am still stuck ‘in character’. I’ve never wanted to be an actress – to live a character – even in moments of wanting to escape my own life’s experiences – it was a desire to be ME – without the problems – never to escape ME. So it’s somewhat jarring when I find myself stuck ‘in character’ from reading. To find myself unable to settle on my character though and to find myself slamming between characters like an out of control pinball is even more jarring. So how did I come through the experience feeling a new sense of calm and contentment? Ah – there is the question.
Lauren. Out of place – never quite fitting in – though recognizing how others didn’t fit in and what they might need to do if THEY wanted to fit in better – while sliding into her deep dark place of no options. Yes – I identify with Lauren. The pressure to be right – to be good – to feel like part of something – even my own family – yes I identify. The fear/knowledge that this is not something you get to deal with once in your life like a rape – like a loved one dying from cancer – like an acceptance that a relationship is over – but instead will get to deal with (most likely) over and over for the rest of your life – yes I identify.
Sarabeth. Conflicting emotions of anger and reversed parent/child relationship – first at one parent – then the other – then back again. Yes – I identify. Mourning the loss of childhood – the loss of parents who were gone long before they were actually gone – yes – I identify. Needing a sister – a best friend – a ‘somebody’ who understands me – or at least tries to and doesn’t give up on me – yes – I identify. Searching instead, mistakenly, for a mother – or for the childhood I gave up – yes – I identify. Even in her searching tomes for sister relationships – her labels applied to everybody ‘the smart one’, ‘the pretty one’, ‘the shy one’, ‘the horny one’ through her own voracious inhaling of books – I see myself trying to find that spot that I fit. And there is Lauren trying to fit too. The fear that mental illness is indeed hereditary – yes – I identify. Not for myself. But for my children who have shown no signs. Will they be writing their own tortured memoirs someday and asking the same questions? God – I hope not.
Liz. Doing it all right and things still go wrong – yes – I identify. Doing even better and still things go wrong – yes – I identify. Guilt – shame – being a mother to those who are old enough to not need one – and not being available to those whom I brought into this world depending on me – yes – I identify. Helplessness – yes – I identify. Trying to find herself as wife – as mother – as friend – as unexpected sister – trying to find that spot she fits in – joining Lauren and Sarabeth in that constant search – yes – I identify. Seeing greener grass beyond every fricken’ fence – yes – I identify.
Maybe we all do? Maybe we all search for that spot? Maybe the search is so all encompassing that even when we have found the spot that we fit in – we still don’t recognize it. Maybe we continue our frantic search even as we have settled into our spot and our lack of contentment is not a lack of having – but not knowing how to let go of the search.
Sad – with toys. Sad – with great bed sheets. Stuck. Deep in my brain. I’m not sad – and while I realize that sad may come again some day – I’m thankful that despite circumstances in my life that would normally bring sad – that I am ‘swimming with the current’. I need more hyperbole – don’t you think? But those phrases still resonate. Because though I’m ‘fine’…though I’m ‘good’...though I’m ‘content’ in many ways – I am all of those things….with too much stuff. Too much clothing. Too much doodads. Too much weight. Too much of whatever becomes my current thing. And I bring this on my family too with too many toys – too many things – too many wishes and desires. I was becoming aware of this – and in fact beginning to purge (wow. There’s more in there. I always thought I knew what I ‘was’ – that I could binge but never purged – but that’s another day…). I’ve been stripping ‘things’ out of my life. Recognizing that my hunt was just that. A hunt. But the spoils of the hunt – the trophies – some of it is just disgusting. As the spoils of most hunts are. I find trophy hunters to be disgusting. I find the hunt of the Native American Indian to be admirable. Take what you need – use every bit of it – do not upset the balance. Instead – I have been a trophy hunter. It’s time to give up my unusable, worthless trophies.
Hearing ‘Songs without Words’ was a view deep into my soul – from more than one of the sides that make up ‘me’. That’s what caused the tornado. I’ve felt the scrutiny of the magnifying glass before into my soul – but never from more than one side at a time. The idea that my best friend saw me in this book when she read it is both disturbing and exhilarating. She’s only known me for a couple years – how can this be?? The disturbing is a duh. A tornado is expected to cause damage – to scour the earth and soul. It’s always disturbing to have somebody peer into the dark parts of our soul. The exhilaration though is the one I wish to hang onto. The exhilaration of survival – and not just ‘barely’ – but exhilaratingly – screaming – ALIVE survival. The exhilaration of having somebody see me so clearly in reality – both the good and the bad – and to not only accept the good and the bad - but love all of me in a way that I have only ever expected from my mother…that when I am somehow featured in three very different characters in a single book – she sees me. And I see her. I see her in the spaces where I don’t see me – and I even see her in some of the same spaces I recognize that I occupy. And I see that labels don’t always fit – that one character is not always enough – that sometimes we are more than one character – more than one label. I’ve known for a long time that I’m not the ‘smart one’ or the ‘pretty one’ in this friendship. In fact it’s something I embrace – the equalness that I feel – the balance of good – and bad. I also know that I don’t want to be the depressed one. I don’t want to be the sad one. Even though I have been depressed – even though I have been sad – I have also been NOT depressed and NOT sad. I will, however, happily share – SHARE – the label ‘the content one’.
Now to find the list of Ann Packer books and get on with the next one...it’s a trophy I’d love to share – pick up the book! Hmm – I guess it was a book review after all.