Some days I wake up and there are so many things that I want to write about and then there are others where I am worried that I can think of nothing to say. Then there are days like today when I wake up and don’t feel well and am kind of afraid of writing anything. Somehow my physical well being puts a negative slant on my mental state.
I went to see Little Women last night with my girlfriend, her daughter and my daughter. It was wonderful. Very well done. And, of course, the story is lovely. Seems that my life is replete with this theme of love, marriage and authenticity. I keep revisiting the place where I evaluate my life and my decisions and my autonomy. This movie exemplified my struggle.
While the four of us were grabbing a slice of pizza after the movie, we discussed it briefly. I asked the girls which sister they most identified with...both said Amy. My friend and I both identifying most with Jo of course. I thought about being 12 again and wondering if my answer would change....no. At 12, I would have picked Jo too.
The movie caused me to look at my life and the central question it asked...can a woman be a woman without a man? Can a woman have a life of her own with a man? Without a man?
Seems as though the times have changed so much but have they really?
Jo was a writer but she had to write about women either marrying or dying to be published. Today, women write about many things but isn’t this still true? A book with a woman not finding love or fulfillment would hardly be a best seller. Today there is more room for women and girls to find their own path for sure but don’t most of those stories still end with the looming question of marriage or commitment? Today women can marry other women or chose not to at all. But aren’t most stories about women still revolving around our traditional roles as wife and mother.
What I came away from this movie with was that it is hard to be a Jo woman in our world. It was harder then but it still hard now. Easier to be an Amy or Meg. Finding love and marrying him and building that life. Willing to make the sacrifices those choices entail. Fitting into those roles not without struggle but having those roles befit us.
The Jo woman is harder. She wants love and passion and comfort but she is so self possessed that it is hard for her to find. Seemingly there is always the either or question - you can either have autonomy or you can have a relationship. But not both. Something chemical and physical changing the moment “love” takes over. She cannot commit to that traditional role because her relationship with herself too important to subsume under any man. Even the appearance of that is revolting to her. Yet, she is lonely and on the outside a lot.
I feel that way. I felt that way growing up. I feel that way now. That somehow committing to a man means a betrayal of self, no matter how wonderful or progressive the man. Why do I feel this way? Why have I pitted myself against the seemingly natural course of life? Why is my inner life so important to me? Why couldn’t I just be happy being a Meg or Amy?
I have spent my life reviewing this question and I have no answer still. I do not know why. I think the answer has changed over the years. I think I allowed my need to fit in to be too important when I was younger. I just wanted to fit in and that became more important than being true to me. I got lost. I thought that I would find redemption in love but I only seemed to find a place to hide from the more defining truth that love is nowhere to hide. Love is a place to be seen and see. Hiding there was wholly unsatisfying and ultimately a place I would have to leave over and over and over again. It begs the question, why did I keep trying?
I think that I really wanted to be a Meg or Amy. Everyone I knew seemed content to be a Meg or an Amy. I tried to be them but I couldn’t deny those parts of me that weren’t those women. I was Jo - fiercely independent, self possessed, self assured to make my own way in this world. I can see now that my real mistake was not owning this immutable fact earlier. I could have saved myself so much time and heartbreak by just accepting who I was back then. How different my life would have been. So grateful today to have the choices that women back then did not have.
Today I grapple with whether or not being me can ever allow me to be the other half of a union. I remain unconvinced at this point in time. Still feeling that settling down with anyone equates with selling myself out. I love the life I have today and really wish that I could find someone to share my life with while being able to maintain myself. I am not sure I am that strong. I am not sure that I am able to maintain my edges when pressed against a man. Somehow the friction of the union, blending my exteriority and changing my interiority. Today I am not sure whether to call that growth or complicity.
The movie did provide me comfort that the struggle I feel is not only my own. Many woman have walked this path and felt these feelings. Many have struggled. Many have made decisions they later regretted on both sides of the equation: man or no man.
Today, I am grateful for my choices. That I have the privilege of living autonomously. My fate not tied to who I can marry. My fate more tied to who I want to be and what I am willing to share. The gift of my struggle a deeper understanding and compassion for women and all that we take on and also for the men that try to love us. The men often being caught within the wide cast of the nets of our lives...getting reeled in only to be cast aside upon further examination. Today I feel compassion for us all as we strive to attach meaning to post-married life. Who are we now that we have tried and failed? What is there to do but try again? How to manage the disappointment and fear of what another failure will bring to our lives?
What I do know today is that I have always been a Jo woman. And there is nothing little about her. She is large in her living of life. Her loves. Her passions. Her joys. There will not be many men large enough to hold her without possession but there may be one. My only edict to be myself without apology or accommodation but with compassion for myself as I move through life not quite fitting into the world about me. Seeing that perhaps I have been given this vantage point for a reason, finally seeing that I am not to squander the gift of seeing things from a different perspective. Instead, being not a little woman in the living of my life. Instead, living the ups and downs, the pain and joy in the only way I know how, by being true to me.