Update since yesterday: I dealt with it, and in a spectacular way. Not only did I complete my task, despite minor obstacles that made me question the viability of our economic and political system, I vanquished the mood that it stirred up in my soul.
Actually… I didn’t vanquish it at all. I let it consume me for a while. BUT I didn’t search for someone to blame and ultimately destroy with my venomous wrath. Instead, I decided to invite that nasty feeling in and sit with it awhile. It was a crappy day, for sure, and I did cry a bit and pout, but it was much better than my old ways and for that I was rewarded.
And now I’m back to share with you a few of my favorite (out of context) quotes from The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline. You remember, right? I had just finished reading it and sat with my heavy heart feeling so sad in the best ways.
Women’s convict ships sent from England to an Australian penal colony in the late 1800’s was something I knew absolutely nothing about. I know little about Australia at all, other than the amazing speech my son wrote awarding Koala’s the “Most Useless Animal” award for a writing class (trust me, it was hilarious) and what I’ve seen in movies like Crocodile Dundee.
I’ll tell you right now that this was a painful book to read. My husband caught me bawling on the couch, tissues in hand, the book closed and tossed across the couch. “I can’t go on. It’s just too horrible.” He smiled and walked away. He knows the drill.
I did go on and started to wonder how humans could have treated each other this badly. And before you start into how badly we treat each other today… the past was worse, far worse. We’re freakin’ saints today comparatively. Humanity is evolving, we are getting better. Even though things look very bleak in many parts of the world, they are very bright in others. We’ll continue to grow and evolve. I know it.
The following quotes are some of my favorites, but the story was so much more than these. I hope you’ll read it.
“She’d never felt sorry for these men. They had it coming after all, didn’t they?”
Poor girl is being shuffled off to prison and sees other miserably shackled convicts. This line struck me because I also harbored these feelings… until I was falsely accused myself and hauled before court. That’s another story I’m working on telling, but I’ll say right now that I know that my eventual release was more due to my social status and contacts, than evidence and justice.
“She remembered something her father had told her as he knelt at the hearth one evening, building a fire. Holding up the cut end of a log, he showed her the rings inside, explaining that each one marked a year. Some were wider than others, depending on the weather, he said; they were lighter in winter and darker in summer. All of them fused together to give the tree its solid core.
Maybe humans are like that, she thought. Maybe the moments that meant something to you and the people you’ve loved over the years are the rings. Maybe what you thought you’d lost is still there, inside of you, giving you strength.”
Compare that quote to this one:
“Running a finger along the shells of her necklace, Mathinna remembered her mother placing it in her hands. ‘Every person you’ve ever cared about, and every place you’ve ever loved, is one of these shells. You’re the thread that ties them together,’ she’d said, touching Mathinna’s cheek. ‘You carry the people and places you cherish with you. Remember that and you will never be lonely, child.’”
Every culture, no matter how different, carries with it similar stories of human connection with the tribe or community. Maybe some day we’ll all see the connections that bind all of humanity.
“This child would be birthed in captivity, in disgrace and uncertainty; it faced a future of strife and toil. But what had at first seemed like a cruel joke now felt like a reason to live. She was responsible not only for herself, but for another human being. How fiercely she hoped it would have a chance to overcome its unhappy beginnings.”
That sense of responsibility and hope for our children runs through every mother as she waits for her child to come into the world. I can’t even begin to imagine her specific struggle, though. What hope was there? And still she found some to cling to.
“Hazel could see him fighting to overcome his skepticism. All those years of training – of being told to disregard the natural world, to dismiss the unwritten remedies of women as folk superstition – weren’t easy to overcome.”
This one reminded me of the book I read about plant medicine recently, The Plant Hunter by Cassandra Leah Quave. It’s strange to me that we pushed away the advice and healing done by women of the past, especially when the women are advising about women and childbirth. A man’s study and opinion trumps thousands of years of women helping each other through menstruation, childbirth, and menopause? Yeah… what?
And my final thought…
“Over time, she grew deeply angry. It was the only emotion she allowed herself to feel. Her anger was a carapace; it protected her soft insides like the shell of a snail.”
This is why I meet anger and aggression with quiet compassion and love as much as I can. I know the feeling and meeting your hard shell with more hardness will only crack us both open and destroy us. Love is the answer, kind and gentle love and patience.
Which leads me to the end of the book. Do we meet past grievances with anger and spite? Will that cure us and lead us into a healthy future? I don’t think so. I think we should acknowledge and learn from our past and try to do better next time, not hide all the ugliness away or continually punish each other for things our ancestors did to each other.