The Sunday Salon- Emerging

Because I’m up early and the house is motionless and still…because the sun is still busy burning off the mist which hangs like sheer nylon draperies across the blue summer sky…because I feel the stirring of energy with which to write, after many days of sheltered silence…

Welcome to Sunday Salon.

“A human being can only hold so much, and grief occupies a large piece of real estate. When it arrives, grief abides by the laws of manifest destiny. Uninvited, but entitled, it takes up residence in every seen and unseen part of a person. Reading comprehension is only one of the many countries that grief defeats, oppresses, and occupies.”  (Sing Them Home, Stephanie Kallos)

There is a bit of a joke in my family, a long standing wry comment, which goes something like this…”If Becca’s not reading, then she must be really sick.”

True, that.

I might hold the book open before me, my eyes might suck up words like a powerful vacuum, but the meaning of those words, the import of them, becomes just so much detritus in my mind. At such times, my only comfort from books is the tactile sensation of holding them close to my breast, knowing they are at least near enough to fall into should I need a moment of escape from the real world, that one which is “too much with me.” 

 And the world has indeed been a force too much to be reckoned with these past weeks.  For just as I was coming to terms with the sadness of my uncle’s death, along came another grief, one of a different nature, but a loss just the same.  My husband lost his job last week – became a statistic in the ever increasing numbers of unemployed people in the great state of Michigan, the state which holds the dubious honor of the highest percentage of unemployed workers in the nation.

But, little by little, as with any grief, the human spirit tends to rise phoenix-like from the ashes, and plod forward.  There are numerous literary hero’s and heroines reminding us of this truth…personally, I always call to mind the spirit of Scarlett O’Hara, that paragon of  GRITS (Girls Raised in the South) strength.  Who could imagine that the spoiled, immature young woman the reader meets in the first pages of Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel (Gone With the Wind) would emerge from the trials of war as a strong, defiant woman, hellbent on reshaping to her advantage whatever disaster the world throws her way.

So it is fitting that the  reading I’ve been able to do during the past week concerned itself with emerging from grief, with re-making one’s life in the face of sorrow and change.  Joanna Scott’s  Follow Me, about a woman who continually re-invents herself following one personal disaster after another; and Beth Kephart’s  Nothing But Ghosts, about a very young woman who emerges from the sorrow of her mother’s death to find new hope  in life.  It was good to meet these women, to have their experience in the back of my mind as I travel the days ahead looking for clues as to what my life will look like. 

And it is good to feel the call of books once again, as I wend my way through the lives of the Jones family in Sing Them Home, a novel about (what else?) emerging from grief.

Certainly, my choice of reading matter begs a question….are we somehow magically, inevitably drawn to the books we need to read at certain times in our lives?  Or do we “read into” whatever book we happen to take up a message that fits our circumstance?  What do you think?

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35 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon- Emerging

  1. I’m sorry about your sad news, but I’m glad that books are helping you through!

    I know when I’m really down, I turn to old favourites to help pick me up. Beyond that, I’m not sure, but it’s delightful to think that the universe sends books our way when we need them. 🙂

  2. So sorry for this news. I do believe that books do appear as we need them. I’ve had the experience of having a book that for some unknown reason I bought a year ago, fall off a shelf at the time it is needed. Please know you are in my thoughts.

  3. Sorry about the difficult time you have been having of late. I hope things look up very soon!

    In the meantime, I think that reading is a wonder during difficult times because we recognize that their are emotions that tie us all together irrespective of place or time or circumstance of your life.

    Today I am reading all over the place looking for a little closure on too many unfinished books. Please visit me to enter my Buy a Friend a Book week giveaway? Happy reading!

    • Frances, thank you for visiting Bookstack and for your kind words. I like the idea of “reading all over the place!” I’ve done that a time or two 🙂

  4. Oh, Becca. I don’t know what book you’re holding close this very moment, but I suspect it is exactly what you need, because yes, I believe that books come to us (and vice versa) for reasons, to fulfill needs even though we may be completely unsuspecting.

    I am sending you a virtual cup of coffee, and a hug and the wish that books keep arriving on your table and in your hand that will surprise you.

  5. Greetings. I am new to your thoughtful blog.

    I’m sorry about the sadness in your life. Hopefully, things will get better soon.

    You asked something I’ve also pondered, “are we somehow magically, inevitably drawn to the books we need to read at certain times in our lives? Or do we “read into” whatever book we happen to take up a message that fits our circumstance? What do you think?”. Terrific questions. I think the answer is that both possibilities exist. Sometimes the right book arrives at the right time, and other times we find relevant meaning in whatever book we happen to be reading. Reading really is miraculous in this way, as well as in other ways.

    • Suko, hello, and thanks for visiting Bookstack. Reading is miraculous, isn’t it? For those of us who are open to the power of words, it’s amazing how they appear when we need them.

  6. Becca, I have missed you and wondered how you are. I had been worried about the possibility of the first loss you describe. I didn’t suspect the coming of this second one. Oh, Becca. Oh.

    We do rise.

    But we need each other.

    We’re here for you.

  7. I am so sorry to hear of your losses. It is good that you can find some comfort in the books- when I am stressed or grieving I tend to be too distracted to read, and them am doubly at a loss… May you find strength and ways to come above your troubles. Best wishes.

    • I sometimes can’t concentrate either, when I’m too stressed. I’ve calmed down enough now that I can forget the real world for a little bit inside the story. Thank you for your kind words of support.

  8. Becca–you have my complete sympathy regarding the loss of your uncle, and my total empathy and understanding regarding your husband’s current situation. It is not easy. Books are a great help when, as you say “the world is too much with us” and I do believe that the “right” ones come along in their proper time, even if we aren’t immediately aware of it, helping us to “forget/These matters that with
    [ourselves] [we] too much discuss…”* if only for a moment.
    Best to you.

    *T.S. Eliot, “Ash Wednesday”

  9. I’m so sorry about the loss of your uncle and your h losing his job, another blow.

    I do think often that the right book just serendipitously falls into hands at the right time.

    I am thinking of you and sending you light and strength.

  10. I’d say both, Becca. I’m sorry to hear about your sad news, will be thinking of you. My husband lost his job the end of last year, too, because the company had to close down. We had to leave the comfort of our home and move out because of that. I’m still struggling to accept our current place and situation, but it’s amazing sometimes how resilient we truly are.

    • Claire, I’m sorry you’ve been through this trouble, and had to leave your home. We are resilient, but it isn’t always an easy process. Thank you for your kind words of support.

  11. I think we’re both drawn to the books we think we need at the moment, and also ‘read into’ the books we choose. Books can certainly lend comfort. I’m so sorry to learn of both your losses…you’re in my thoughts this week

  12. I’m so sorry to hear the news – my husband had had two long stretches of unemployment, a year each time, because he’s chosen to work in unstable new start-up companies. The first stretch of unemployment we made a mess of – we worried and fretted and I woke in the night making sums in my head. The second time we got it right. We knew we could live on very little, and we concentrated on enjoying the unexpected treat of spending time together. It was one of the nicest years we’ve had in a long time.

    Lately I’ve been reading Buddhist teachings. I can strongly recommend to you Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart. She reminds us that we never know what the import of an event will be. We can’t judge whether things are blessings or curses, and quite often, they turn out to be neither, just more complex, unfathomable life. The very best of luck to you, Becca. If anyone can find a way to make the best of this situation, I have every faith it’s you.

    • Litlove, I can certainly relate to “waking in the night and doing sums in my head.” I’ve lost plenty of sleep to number crunching the last few days. I’m trying to get past the fretting stage and into the practical possibility stage. Wish me luck.

      And thank you for the book recommendation. I will certainly look for that.

  13. I hope you manage to stay strong through all that’s happening around you. Everything will soon be better.

    And your question is so interesting! I wonder and I think it probably works both ways. See, people are already sending your way the books that you need. And I am certain than in any books we read, we interpret parts from them from our own perspective and circumstances.

  14. I’m so sorry to hear of these losses in your life, Becca, and I hope your husband’s period of unemployment is blessedly brief. You are absolutely right, though, about the solace of books during difficult times; that’s part of their magic, the way just the right words find their way to you just when you need them. Sending hugs and soft breezes your way.

  15. Becca, sorry to hear about the double dose of bad news. Sadly, you can never get your uncle back, but I’m hoping that your husband’s situation will turn around quickly.

    Your question is a good one. I think folks generally tend to read books that match their mood — or those that are 180 degrees in opposition. When I’m down, I like to pick up something humorous to help relieve the pressure. It usually helps, to some degree.

  16. Becca, for some laughs, it’s always safe to run to P.G. Wodehouse, especially the golf stories. Another personal favorite is A Confederacy of Dunces, which has been out for a long time, but is worth re-reading.
    And the New Yorker recently released a great compilation of its humor essays, called Disquiet, please! Hope they help to disperse the clouds.

  17. Oh Becca, I’m so sorry. This seems to have been a challenging year for so many people I know, both personally and in the blogging community. Here’s a hug, and a prayer that you and your husband find your way together through this.

    As to books – I truly believe that we do find the books we need, at precisely the time we need them, sometimes in our darkest hour. The books you have been reading certainly sound resilient and forward-looking, and what you need, even if you hadn’t planned on reading them yet.

    I also find that poetry helps me during times of great emotion, whether grief or joy.

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