Friday, January 24, 2014

When picking up a book, I usually read the author's Acknowledgement to see who is being thanked and if any of the names are familiar to me. This time, in the book I'm currently reading, I do not recognize any names. Well, I haven't read anything by this author before so maybe that's it.

This author has traveled near and far. Her essays traipse all over the world. No, it's not Elizabeth Gilbert. Someone just as famous but not in that Gilbert sort of way, you know. This author talks about her life but not in a self-absorbed way. I sense her deep connection to issues, events, places, history, politics, ecology. This is why I picked up her book.

What is transparent in some of her essays is her inner angst about the mother-daughter relationship. When I was reading about this, all I could think of is how 'white' this experience seems to be. Maybe that's the only way I could describe something that I couldn't relate to. Her mother was someone who grew up privileged and yet was never happy. Raising a daughter only made her competitive and their unhappiness spread over many decades, nowhere to settle into peace until after her death.

[Normative dissociation. This is what academics call the modern dis-ease of disconnection to everything that matters. The author's mother's inability to connect with her daughter is rooted deeply in the history of the modern western psyche's attempts at self-mastery all of which which come up short because it had uprooted itself from what matters most. I imagine the uprooting of this family's European ancestors and what they had to discard on their way to settle a new continent. Masterful and boundaried self...yet what became of these American Dreamers]. 

I find myself admiring this writer's ability to put into beautiful words what is miserable and painful. I appreciate the distance she creates in her writing between herself and her own experiences. To be able to write about one's mother (who is monstrous in so many ways) and still find a way to make her seem human is admirable;  perhaps a reflection of a writer's ability to bracket parts of one's life and hold them to the light.

It makes me believe that in the deepest core of our selves, we can never be truly damaged. That there is always something whole inside of us capable of containing all the shredded pieces of our personal histories and put us back together again.

It takes time, this putting-back-together process.

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