Sunday, February 27, 2011

a quote from George Eliot

I came upon this quote from an 1970 letter by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) to a woman friend. It is quoted in A.S. Byatt's Passions of the Mind:Selected Essays (NY, Random, 1992)

"We women are always in danger of living too exclusively in the affections, and although our affections are perhaps the best gift we have, we ought also to have our share of the more independent life - some joy in things for their own sake. It is piteous to see the helplessness of sweet women when their affections have been disappointed, because all their teaching has been that they can only delight in study of any kind for the sake of personal love. They have never contemplated an independent delight in ideas as an experience which they could confess without being laughed at. Yet surely women need this sort of defence against passionate affectation even more than men."

Eliot then quoted Margaret Fuller on the "petty power" of the "ignorance and childish vanity" of uneducated women.

Friday, February 18, 2011

What not to say.

Here we are more than halfway through February and I haven't had time to blog. Work (writing projects of my own and for others) have kept me busy. As well, a dear friend and mentor is receiving palliative care. Naturally I feel very sad. Emotion is tiring. Also, I like to visit her as often as possible.

Evidently in our society we're not supposed to say that we feel sad at the prospect of parting from someone, even a person who has played a huge role for good in our lives. Apparently we are expected to get on with things and to maintain a cheerful exterior.

Recently when I was extricating myself from a commitment, and mentioned this friend's situation, someone informed me that "Death is a part of life." This isn't the first time I've heard that pearl of wisdom. Hearing it made me feel the way I did when my mother died and someone told me that I "had to let her go."

What do these cliches mean? That I am not supposed to grieve? That I shouldn't take any time out for myself to come to terms with what's happening, but should keep busy dancing to someone else's tune?

Of course death is a part of life. Someone my age knows that. It doesn't make it any easier.

I have other good friends, and hope to make more in years to come, but none of them will every take the place of this one. She is unique.

"Death is a part of life" and "You have to let her go" are unhelpful remarks. They should go on the list of "things not to say" at a time of death.