Friday, October 2, 2009

A mother-daughter story

My New Year's resolution for 2009 was to read more- and for the first time in my life I have actually kept a New Year's resolution and I am hooked. I just finished reading the book Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor - and I started it less than 24 hours ago... I originally started this blog as a means of documenting my travels (because as Sue brilliantly states at the end, "We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection"), but it has also become a blog about my retrospection of the amazing books I have been reading. Amazon recommended this novel to me saying, "In this intimate dual memoir, Sue and her daughter Ann, offer distinct perspectives as a fifty-something and a twenty-something each on a quest to redefine herself and to rediscover each other as they travel through Greece and France." I was immediately intrigued. First- I love reading about people who have also been places I have been. Having just returned from Greece myself, I was curious. Second - I am a twenty- something, my mother is a fifty- something - my life seemed oddly paralleled with the contents of this book so I ordered it and decided to give it a try.

Oddly paralleled is putting it mildly- I feel as though I am living this book. Ann travels to Greece multiple times (3 times by the book's end) because she is so completely captivated by it. In the last 4 years, I have made it to Greece TWICE and would never turn down a chance to go again - like Ann - I feel a strong connection to Greece's history, mythology, and breath taking beauty. It is impossible to be in Greece and not feel like you are right with everything in the world. Ann and I also did many similar things on our trips. I too hiked to the oracle at Delphi- the navel of the world - and reflected on those infamous lines from Oedipus Rex where he too made the trek. I too ran a race in the stadium of Olympia - breathing the same air and inhabiting the same space as the athletes of ancient times. I too traveled through the Plaka market enjoying lunch outside at a beautiful Taverna. I too marveled at the beauty of the Greek Orthodox church near Syntagma Square and watched the changing of the guard in front of the Parliament Building. I have enjoyed the sunset over Athens from a hotel rooftop while admiring the Acropolis, and I have joined a handsome Greek gentleman, at a lively dinner, after being asked to dance with him in his foustanella with 400 pleats. I have hiked in the winds of Mykonos and stood breath taken in front of Ephesus in Turkey - one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world. I love reading about someone who has shared these experiences.

Sue, the mother, is in her fifties and trying to relate to her now grown daughter. She struggles with her feelings of herself as a mother- comparing herself to her own mother. She fears she has been too involved in her writing career and not enough of a home maker. I wonder if my own mother ever has these fears. If she does- I would tell her she is the perfect combination of both. She managed to stay up all night sewing my old ice skating dresses while also getting her PhD and continually proving to me she is the most intelligent woman I know. She has been a brilliant role model and a system of constant support. Sue also is trying to resolve her feelings of getting older, fearing death, and maintaining her health as she ages (having to take a blood pressure machine with her on travels for her hypertension). These are feelings I know my own mother has because we have talked about them. My mom is at this moment trying to find a time to visit her doctors in Utah (and me) to have her most recent round of MRI's, EEG's, endless doctors visits, and an ambulatory blood pressure test. Sue eventually recovers from her hypertension, and I can only hope that my mother recovers from her own ailments SOON!!! I miss having an active mother that will go on Grecian adventures with me and I want her to feel better - I don't feel like I am old enough to have a mother with severe health issues and I know my mom doesn't feel old enough to be bothered by severe health issues... Sue also wonders how her work has a place in the world and how it will make the world better. I think my mom is probably too preoccupied with her health to be too concerned by that issue at the moment- but I know, after traveling to Ghana, that this is an issue that I hope to address in my own life.

Ann, the daughter, has recently graduated from college and is struggling with what to do with her life. She is torn between her more creative side (writing) and a life's work that will also pay the bills. In her post college life she begins to doubt all that she is capable of, even though she is clearly a girl of many talents. She is a shy introvert who is smart, but not brilliant, who is known for her kindness and occasionally quotes the modern dance great Isadora Duncan. (Um yeah, hi! Ann - Sara, Sara- Ann... we are pretty much the same person!)

The only difference between me and Ann is that I have never struggled with telling my mother anything about my life. In fact- she is usually the first person I will tell. My own mother and I have always been very close, but I feel like we have become even closer over the last year. I have been struggling with the "what will I do with my life?" question for a good long while now, and it occasionally gets me down- my mother is always the perfect person to share my worries with. I know my mother has also been having a very difficult year ever since her brain surgery almost 10 months ago (jeez- time flies!). I hope that she feels she can turn to me in the same ways I know I can turn to her. We have both had a year of worries. I worry about my life, but I also worry so so so much about my mom- and I know that she spends a lot of her time worrying about me. We have really been there for each other this year - from late night phone calls about senior concert, to hand holding at doctors visits, graduation from college, getting all of her hair chopped off, my bad breakups, and a Christmas occupied with movie marathon sleep overs and watching the snow fall from the windows of University Hospital - I know I wouldn't have made it through this year without her and I hope she feels the same way about me.

Ann recounts a story from when they were in France saying, "I glance over at my mother. Her eyes are closed, her fingers interlocked. I wonder what her prayers are about. Her novel? Her blood pressure? Peace on earth?... I'm filled with a love for my mother. The best gift she has given me is the constancy of her belief. Whatever I become, she loves me. To her, I am enough... Then after a few moments of wondering, I come out and ask her, 'What did you pray for back there on the kneeler?' 'You,' she answers." ... Sue later tells Ann in a bit of advice, "You deserve to love yourself." I can picture this situation, with these exact words coming out of my own mother's mouth. I have so realized, this year especially, how lucky I am to have her in my life.

The book ends well - they both find happiness and self acceptance and acceptance of one another and all that love and greatness... It is good to see that light at the end of the tunnel, because right now as I study endlessly for physiology while missing dance and my mother keeps feeling worse and worse... it is good to know that that light will one day be reached. Sue and Ann learn so much about one another while in Greece... when my mother's health returns - we are going. No doubt in my mind!

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