“Women are made to be loved, not understood.”
In the movie, Grand Hotel, Greta Garbo famously said, “I vant to be alone.” I don’t look like Garbo or sound like Garbo, but there are many, many, times that I “vant to be alone” too. And, as my husband knows, giving me space to do just that is one of the most significant ways to love me. I would venture to say it’s one of the most elegant ways to love a woman, period.
The other day I was listening to Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ audio CD set titled, How To Love A Woman: On Intimacy and the Erotic Life of Women.
(To my husband’s credit, he asked if he could listen to the series after I finished. This example is just one reason why I love that man! He desperately tries to understand me, and failing that, does what he can to love me. As is.)
Dr. Estes is a phenomenal storyteller. She is also brilliant and funny and capable of helping me reach greater personal insights. She has been with me on many a white-knuckle commute, and I feel happy when her soothing voice fills my car.
Anyway, the other day she was talking about why women need time to be alone. I hadn’t given the “why” a lot of thought before because I’m a hardcore introvert. I assumed my need for solitude was just one of the many quirks associated with my character*.
To my surprise, according to Dr. Estes, most women need to “return home,” on occasion to survive. Home, in this case, is unknown and unique to each woman. We need to be isolated from the rolls we’ve taken on to serve others. We need time to remember who we were, who we are, beyond the titles of wife, mother, daughter, and worker…
In retrospect, I believe my mom often escaped. I was too little and naive to understand at the time, and now that she’s gone I can no longer ask.
Mom had youthful dreams that were interrupted when she found herself pregnant slightly shy of her 18th birthday. Dad promptly asked her to marry him before the secret came out, and they then moved to Kansas. My brother arrived about six months later. If anyone was doing a finger count, it wasn’t mentioned.
Five years later they moved back to Minnesota. Mom took on the daunting task of building a dairy farm from raw land while Dad worked construction. At this point, there were three of us kids…aged 5, 1, and baby me. Four years later my younger brother arrived.
I can’t imagine the energy it took for Mom to raise/feed/dress four young kids, milk cows, build barns and fences, nurture a garden and can the produce, and so on. Dad was gone Monday through Friday, so in many ways, she was doing it all on her own.
As I grew older, I would often find Mom in the basement. It was dark down there, with more than a hint of dankness. She’d smoke cigarettes and soak in the quiet. Although she never said, “I vant to be alone,” it was an unspoken rule that if she was in the basement, she preferred not to be disturbed.
There were other times, many other times, which I’d find her staring out the kitchen window. If I asked a question, she’d be slow to come back from her trance. Mom was there, but she wasn’t. She was going home as best she could.
Now that I’m in the second half of life, I find I’m coming back to more inward contemplations. There are days I need to drive—anywhere—to find myself. I’ll bring my camera and look at the world with youthful eyes and an old soul.
My husband usually understands. “Take a day for yourself,” he’ll say, although he knows he’s not permitting me. It’s not his permission to give.
When I return home from those drives, I feel peaceful. Calm. My being is ready to give and receive love. I take joy in my husband and reconnect in fresh ways.
Dr. Estes is right. I need to leave home to find it once again.
*(This would be a great place to have my husband interject some thoughts on my character. How unfortunate that I forgot to ask him. ☺).