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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