I’ve been struggling a bit for the last few days. Nothing major, just feeling a little scattered. Not as on top of things as I would like. The thing is, and this is hardly news, sometimes it’s hard being an adult. More so for some than for others, and I’m actually in a relatively fortunate position, because I have a job, a house, and enough money that I am never faced with really difficult decisions, like whether to buy food or medicine. I’m fortunate. Comfortable, relatively speaking.
But I still have my challenges. Being an adult, having a family and a house and a job and all that, means that you never really run out of things that need doing. Some of those things, lets face it, you may never actually get to. And if you want to do extra stuff, like writing or learning another language, then there’s even more stuff that may never get done.
My yard? Kinda shameful. Dust bunnies? Breeding. Those books that have been piling up on my nightstand? Probably won’t be reading them this week. Or next.
And then there’s family. Friends. It’s a bad idea to neglect the people that matter to you.
And, to be honest, I also really like to sleep. Nothing extravagant, just seven or so hours a night. You’d be amazed (or maybe you wouldn’t) how much that can cut into your productive time.
It’s hard letting things go, though. Especially the things that feel like proper grown up responsibilities and obligations. And, sometimes, too, there’s the things that used to matter more. It can be hard.
So I’ve been struggling a bit with my priorities. Trying to balance things out. Trying to come up with a plan. Trying find useful words for the experience of being, lets face it, a fairly ordinary person with fairly ordinary problems. Because here’s the thing: Knowing that none of this is unusual, or extreme, doesn’t make it any less real. Just because we all have ordinary, boring challenges doesn’t make the challenges any less challenging.
Sometimes, when I am struggling like this, I realize that what I really need is perspective*. And for these moments, I have a list of names of accomplished women, mostly historic but some contemporary. When I really need to get outside my own head, I select one at random and read up on her.
Today it was Christine de Pizan. This woman, who was born in Venice and lived from 1364 to about 1430, was married at 15 and widowed at 25. She had two children, plus her mother and her niece to take care of, at a time when the options available to women in her circumstances were extremely limited. So what did she do? She became a court writer for several French dukes and for the French royal court. At the time of her death she had written at least 41 works of prose and poetry, including two influential books. Some have called her a (very) early feminist writer, and while she was definitely a crusader against negative representations of women in literature, it may be a bit of a tough sell to call her a feminist. After all, she did also advise wives to “be cheerful to [their husbands] all the time.”
But. To be a self-supporting writer, arguing for the humanity of women, working in the royal court and writing prolifically in your second language – and all this waaaay back in the early 1400s – certainly qualifies her for role model status. Possibly even proto-feminist role model.
And without a doubt, her circumstances and accomplishments can also help put the ordinary problems of an ordinary 21st century person in perspective.
In other news, I have decided to let my garden go to seed, at least for this summer
(Image from The W. Martin Johnson school of art. Elementary instruction in color, perspective, lights and shadows, pen drawing and composition (1909) via The Library of Congress [Internet Archive Book Images collection] via Flickr.)
* An extra few hours every day would be nice, too, but I’m not counting on them showing up any time soon.