I’m reading a book titled Women Rowing North by Mary Pipher. It’s partly memoir and partly a series of case studies taken from the author’s psychotherapy practice. Pipher is a psychologist specializing in women and trauma who’s written several New York Times bestselling books. This one is about women and aging. I am both, so I jumped in eagerly to see what wisdom I could glean from its pages.
Quite a lot as it turned out, despite what I considered perhaps a little too much positivity. But maybe that’s just me. I identified a lot with the author, a self-confessed “good girl” like yours truly.
Overall, though, it reinforced the fact that the glass is half empty and half full at the same time. Or sometimes more full; sometimes more empty. Don’t expect it to be full all the time, she warns. A good lesson for us idealists.
The following excerpt is one of my favorites, a scene from a vacation in the Bahamas.
At night, I lay on a recliner in the yard and looked at the stars. These stars were liquid and hung low in an unpolluted sky. I could hear the soft cadence of the ocean waves and the breeze in a big coconut palm nearby. One night I peered at the heavens with what I realized was a question. I expected the stars to tell me some great truth. I didn’t even know my question, but I trusted the sky would have an answer.
First I experienced the memory of my relatives who had left the world. When I remembered specific moments with most of them, I felt loved and happy. When I recalled the few family members who had caused me great pain, a mask of sorrow swept over my face. My heart hurt as I realized that we never get over things; they stay inside us ready to be remembered and felt.
I looked for a sign–a falling star to tell me that my grandmother was greeting me. I wanted to be recognized in some way by my ancestors or by the stars themselves. After that thought, I had an answer to the question I had not known how to ask.
My answer was simply this: “Let the stars be the stars. That is enough.” I felt a wave of peace wash over my body. For that moment, I could simply let things be.