As she adjusts to the rhythm of life in her beach cabin, Lindbergh embraces its simplicity. The world she lived in was already characterized by choice, by freedom, by the opportunity to expand in any or all directions. This can make life quite stressful and complicated. She points out that women in large parts of the world have been forced back by war and poverty and the struggle to survive into lives with fewer choices; necessarily, simpler lives. The typical American is relatively free to choose a wider existence. While that’s a tremendous privilege, it often leads us away from a sustainable life of simplicity into a fragmented multiplicity.
At the beach, in her bare seashell of a house, things were different. Not only was she able to leave behind her husband and five children for a time, but also the round of chores, errands, and appointments, of what to wear and what to say and what to do. To sit, and rest, and listen, and think, and write.
What extraordinary freedom and peace a simpler life can bring. Surely we should all seek some days, at least that are simple, and not crowded with the many choices and privileges with which we fill our lives.
“I remember, again, ironically, that today more of us in
than anywhere else in the world have the luxury of choice between simplicity and complication of life. And for the most part, we, who could choose simplicity, choose complication.” Gifts from the Sea, p. 33 America
As she reflects on it, Lindbergh realizes that this has been a struggle for mankind all along, but maybe more so in our day, and maybe especially for women.
“For to be a woman is to have interests and duties, raying out in all directions from the mother-core, like spokes from the hub of a wheel. The pattern of our lives is essentially circular. We must be open to all points of the compass; husband, children, friends, home, community; stretched out, exposed, sensitive like a spider’s web to each breeze that blows, to each call that comes. How difficult for us, then, to achieve a balance in the midst of these contradictory tensions, and yet how necessary for the proper functioning of our lives.” p. 28
What do you think? She was writing in a time when to be a woman was to be a wife, mother, and housekeeper. And you who are housewives may recognize and identify with this description more readily. But perhaps it describes many other lives as well. As a single person I find my life is a bit different yet in my work it does tend to ray out in different directions. People know they can come to me for help, or connections, or resources, and I’ll help them get what they need. Is it just my personality, or is it in some sense because I am a woman?
Would such words ring true for some men, as well?