what have i done with my life

Behind me climbs a tower of papers, each one containing a thought or a quote or an article that I want to write about here. A few minutes ago, I started shuffling through the stack. About midway down, I stopped on a piece of graph paper on which I had scrawled these thoughts from the character Glory in Marilynne Robinson’s Home:

“But oh, the evenings were long.  I am thirty-eight years old, she would say to herself, as she tidied up after supper.  I have a master’s degree.  I taught high school English for thirteen years.  I was a good teacher.  What have I done with my life?  What has become of it?  It’s as if I had a dream of adult life and woke up from it, still here in my parents’ house.”

I knew I had written about other characters expressing this same feeling and I wanted to connect them with Glory. In the search rectangle on the blog, I typed in “life.”

I found two posts: one titled “something more,” in which I wrote about Mrs. Dalloway in Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and Clara in Black & White by Dani Shapiro; the other entitled “more than this,” in which I wrote about Ursula in Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence.

Here’s the weird thing: one was written on December 9th and the other on December 11th, 2008.

The end of the year pulls me toward reflection. But where’s the time?

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more than this

img_1104This morning, as I found myself wishing for an ordinary day without any of the extra tasks brought on by the holidays, I came across this passage from D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love:

“Ursula often wondered what else she waited for, besides the beginning and end of the school-week, and the beginning and end of the holidays.  This was a whole life!  Sometimes she had periods of tight horror, when it seemed to her that her life would pass away, and be gone, without having been more than this.”

What makes a life more than this?

There’s a Zen saying, “Magical power, marvelous action!  Chopping wood, carrying water.”  Is it the state of mind we bring to clearing away the furniture, putting the tree in the stand, wrapping the lights around the branches, retrieving the boxes of ornaments, hanging the sparkly ones, remembering Christmases past?  Is it being in the moment, whatever moment you’re in, rather than wishing it away? 

Despite appreciating how the sun falls across a vacant lot, how the wind floats a branch high above my car, how fresh it feels to be outside, at the end of a day spent moving from gas station to bank to grocery store to gym without any time to wrestle the inside out, to put words on the page, or to connect to someone else’s words, I feel unsatisfied.  As if I have “done nothing.” 

I want something more–echos from Virginia Woolf’s Clarissa and Dani Shapiro‘s Clara.  What is it we want? 

We want our lives to catch on something…

David Herbert Richards Lawrence died in France in 1930 at the age of forty-four.  He wrote Women in Love in 1916, at the age of thirty-one.  It was rejected by publishers.  He revised it, and it was published four years later, in 1920.