But not for 24 hours a day . . .
It took me a long time to understand and respect things Gram would casually (? ) say, but so many of her thoughts have stayed with me, and I wish I could tell her how much her words, like those I write of today, have helped me.
“Ethel”, she said, “for a woman (and I came to know it’s also true for men) to be happy, she must find something, in addition to her family, that will bring joy into her life. And the more “hobbies” she has, the better off she’ll be.”
I listened, but really didn’t ‘hear’ her, for I was still in that euphoric stage when I thought that after marriage you automatically lived happily ever after. Impossible to think she could really mean that I might someday need anything besides my husband, her son, to bring me happiness.
But I also knew Gram didn’t waste words and so I filed her thoughts away into my mental computer, and, when the day did come, when ‘family’ wasn’t enough, her words re-surfaced and I began to follow her advice. See, she had ‘been there’ and was doing her best to pass the wisdom on to one she loved. Me.
Others have said it, too. “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is the old peasant way of saying it. Pearl Buck, and I paraphrase, said that if a women tries to confine all her energies, attention and love, into the sole outlet of husband and family, she will put a burden on the relationship that it was never meant to bear. Oh.
The husband (or wife) will retreat (escape) in self-defense to TV, behind a magazine or newspaper, golf, the neighborhood bar, or other activity. And children, if outspoken, will tell you to ‘get off their back’, will stay in their room, ‘live’ at friend’s homes, retreat into silence or rebel in any of the thousand ways a teen can devise.
When I first did something that my husband had no interest in, I felt guilty, but I went ahead and was startled to find that he liked those times when his presence or participation wasn’t needed. And slowly I saw that he had his interests. And it was good.
What Gram had learned, as we all must if we are to gain any measure of happiness, is that not one of us can (or wants) to spend 24 hours a day, with just one person. No matter how loved that one might be.
Gram knew that kids grow up and leave home. Death does come, and that jobs, life and sickness, both mental and physical, can separate people. So, for our own balance we must find outlets that absorb and bring delight to us. In addition to our families.
Women’s lives were limited at Gram’s time, but I think ‘Cooking’ was her first, (or second), and it shattered her when she could no longer be mistress of her own kitchen. Gardening was her second (or first) and I never greet Spring without recalling her delight in ‘getting outside to plant and dig’.
I have mine, and if you haven’t found yours, get busy. For there are times in everyone’s life when spouse, children, job and even life seem to fail us. Yes, these are the times when some hobby or avocation can actually be a life line to your peace and sanity.
And one of the most succinct phrases of all, as true today as when she passed it along to me, with a wry smile on her face. “We marry for life, but not for twenty-four hours a day.” Wise, wise woman, and I hope you and you and you read and remember. Might save your sanity one of these days, too. Or his.