about bliss

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

daily bliss: books, identity, possibility

My Women and Popular Culture class is currently reading one of my favorite books, Stealing Buddha's Dinner, a memoir by Bich Minh Nguyen, and today we discussed identity. Specifically, we talked about the struggle to claim your identity as an adolescent, torn between being yourself, and competing visions of what's cool or right or comfortable. One of the many aspects I love about the memoir is that Bich reads voraciously, piling up library books, delighting in the free books on Reading Is Fundamental Days, and ogling the Scholastic Book Catalogue. I should note that she's my age, so her examples resonate in that deep "you're of my moment" way.

But I digress. Bich finds herself in books. As the class discussed her identity struggle, I shared some of my story—how being the bookish girl, more comfortable and happier in books than real life, made me a target for some of the "cooler," jockier girls in middle school. I mused to my class that it's a wonder we make it through those times, and bragged that despite, nay, because of my bookish past, here I am, with a whole room of people, who are listening to me...talk about books! Take that, J-- (I named the most obnoxious middle school girl I could remember). My students laughed.

This evening, as I sit here feeling a bit blue, a bit overwhelmed with all the non-reading bits of my job, I realize a few things. One, I'm fairly certain that J- had issues of her own. We all did. Two, I don't think I've entirely made it through that struggle yet.

I am confident with who I am, knowing all too well my flaws and strengths. I know my quirks, and I realize elements that might still change and grow, and elements that are likely fixed (insert detailed list of your own here, dear reader). But as I age, I realize the identity issues remain. They simply take another form, and I don't turn to books as often as I used to for solace, comfort, or understanding (something I need to fix).

My mind keeps circling around motherhood, as that window inches more closed everyday. My fingers ache to trace out gorgeous, achingly true poems and stories, but my mind-heart-soul holds them close out of fear that they will not, ever, be good enough. My soul longs to reconnect with so many friends who've been my saving grace and delight through the years, and who now seem just out of reach. I long to spend as much time as possible with my family. I dream of ways to make my already strong marriage even stronger.

I think about the years I've spent and the years I have left. What do I want to do? Who do I want to be? How much time do I have? I'm at turns urgent and contemplative, anxious and laissez faire.

When the questions and longings seem too much, I cull one of my favorite lines of poetry out of my memory (or flip over my iPad, on which it is engraved):

I dwell in Possibility

And I try to transform the struggle into a wide, free expanse where the future is open before me...sublimely.

1 comment:

  1. This post resonates with my own life on so many levels, your words feel like they could have been formulated with my fingertips.

    I ran across a new favorite passage yesterday, something that Buddha said, "Your WORK is to discover your work and then with all your HEART to give yourself to it." When you mention the notion of reflecting on life & wondering how much time you have left - what you'd like to accomplish, who you'd like to be, I consider this quote & wonder how far from my dreams I might be living.

    I could type all day in response to this piece. Thanks for sharing it. I so appreciate your words & perspective.

    I wish you a beautiful year ahead, and days & days filled with the fulfillment of every last dream you've ever imagined.