Narrowing

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I loved Shauna Niequist’s post, Narrowing.  I read it several times, and relate to so much of what she says.  Well, other than the fact that she’s clearly a spring chicken still in her thirties!  But, seriously:

There’s a narrowing that takes place as you grow up, I think—you leave more and more behind: things other people want you to be, things you thought you might want to be, ways of living that never did actually fit, like shoes that are a little too tight.

Yes. Oh, yes. The letting go of what others wanted me to be resonates, but so, frankly, does the notion of letting go of who I thought I wanted to be.  I’ve had an on-and-off dialog with a dear friend from college about the concept of a Big Life, and of how, ultimately, that doesn’t really sound appealing to me.  What I want, I know now, is a small life, but one rich and deep and full of love.  A narrow life, I think is what I mean.

Not narrow as in narrow-minded.  Not at all.  More like a narrow passage I squeeze through and then, on the other side, I see a yawning chasm full of a beauty so sparkling it almost takes my breath away.  I’m reminded of something I wrote many years ago, about how I kept seeing glitter on the insides of my eyelids, about how when I narrowed my life I actually opened up passageways to a joy so expansive I could never have imagined it.

I wrote that I had glimpsed a planetarium sky that I want to study, to watch, to learn by heart almost four years ago and it’s only getting more true.  Now that I’ve crossed the bright line into my forties, I find the narrowing continues.  My oft-ferocious attachment to those things I love most can come across sometimes as rigid, I’ve been made aware of that and I can honestly see why.  That’s not my intention, at all, but I agree I can be nearly maniacal about protecting the things that matter the most to me.  I don’t want Grace and Whit to ever doubt that they and their father are the most important people in my life.  I want them to know that for me, time spent the four of us is nothing short of holy.  I need to sleep enough and get fresh air and I want to do a little bit of writing around the edges of my very full time job.  There’ s not a lot of me left after those things have been taken care of.  In fact there’s often not enough of me simply to give what I want to to those few (but large, and deep) buckets!

But there’s another reason that I can’t back away from the narrowing of my life, and it is something else Niequist refers to.  She mentions that she’s particularly permeable during writing times.  Candidly, that’s how I feel all of the time, and increasingly strongly.  I have written many times about my porous nature. What I let into the space around me – the sounds, books, feelings, and people – has a huge impact on me.

Now that I have seen the vast chasm that opens up once I narrowed my life – the geode lined with hidden glittering that Catherine Newman refers to – I can’t look away.


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6 Comments

  1. Posted April 27, 2015 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Just lovely. I love the idea of seeking a small life…of sinking in, digging deep with the people and things you love most. That said, I think you lead a ‘bigger’ life than you even let yourself realize ;). xo

  2. Posted April 27, 2015 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    These ideas of narrowing and big/small lives are really interesting. There is a lot to think about here! And I just saw on FB that you have vertigo. So, so sorry! I had it last summer and it was terrible. I hope it passes quickly!

  3. Posted April 27, 2015 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Oh yes. I was just thinking about this the other day- I so wanted a “Big Life” when I was a young, dreaming girl. I was so determined to live a big, glamorous life. But when I grew up I found I didn’t want that at all. I wasn’t sure what I wanted, but you describe it very well. I have come late to this understanding, to this acceptance of how powerful and complete my “small” world can be. And it’s true, when I “narrow” it, when I resist things that interfere and make things busier, but messier, our narrow world has so much more to show me. Lovely thoughts on this Monday morning.

  4. Posted April 27, 2015 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Yes to all of this. And what I now struggle with, at least for me in this moment of raising a young daughter and having this particular kind of hindsight, is how to strike that balance of showing M that the world is her oyster, yet she could be just as much satisfied (like I am now) with a far smaller pearl found somewhere along the way. I feel so cognizant of the dangers of the upsell of “going big”, like I think I was (sub)consciously hearing as a child, and the line between that and suggesting something more humble (but quite possibly more fulfilling) feels obscured at times.

  5. Posted April 27, 2015 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I really love this concept and want to swirl it around in my head and heart for a bit. Lately I have been surprising myself, much like I did when Briar learned to read. I’ve had a kind of restraint, an endless patience with each girl making her own choice about clothing or music, competition or sidelines. I want them to sprint and stop, launch and retreat as makes sense to them, unencumbered by my hurts or fears. I am moving ahead finding some dreams, letting others go, and with this idea of narrowing, I might just be able to do it with ever so slightly a milder melancholy. Thank you.

  6. Posted April 27, 2015 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    Your feelings resonate with mine. A beautiful and wise post. I love it. Xox