Book of the Month – Dear Life

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Alice Munro is not exactly a well-kept secret. A Canadian author who has published more than fourteen collections of short stories, last year she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. The vast majority of her stories take place in Canada, and are from the perspective of women. She has been publishing since 1968, and yet it took me until now to read anything of hers. Which has turned out to be an incredible oversight on my part, because oh my God, this woman deserves every ounce of the immense praise that has been heaped on her.

A few weeks ago, while leisurely browsing at the library, I came across Munro’s latest book, Dear Life, sitting on a display shelf. I was attracted to the bright cover, and immediately put it into my bag. Bryan had come along to do some work since our internet had yet to be set up in our new place, and so I sat on the floor while he worked, and cracked that strangely enticing book. I was immediately hooked. Munro writes in rich prose, with incredible depth of feeling and understanding. Her characters all seem like real people, and on every page she vividly draws their surroundings, which I sometimes thrilled to recognize from my own experiences, or at least to have a concrete idea of what they would be like more so than I do of somewhere more far flung.

There was not a single story in Dear Life that made me think, “Oh, well, that one wasn’t quite as good as the others.” She is not afraid to tackle hard topics, or disturbing ones, either, and draw them with just as much detail and authenticity. Her work rings with honesty and a crackling appreciation for the vastness of human experience.

If you, like me, have never read a Munro, if you have ever thought that short stories weren’t your thing, or you’ve somehow never heard of her, forget all of that, go out and get one of her books, and prepare yourself to be amazed. To fall head over heels in love.

Book of the Month – Dear Life

Babies, But Not Yet

As any of you who have read this blog before know, I struggle a lot with finding “purpose”; that career or lifestyle that will fulfill me and make all my wildest dreams come true. But while I have flopped back and forth in that arena almost constantly for the past, oh, decade or so, there is one thing in my life that I have always been 100% certain about: motherhood. I love kids. I even love other people’s kids (it is why I choose to work with them). I have never wavered on my desire to have children of my own.

Since I got married, my desire to have children has intensified exponentially (who knew my biological clock was so sensitive to socially acceptable context for procreation?). My ache to have children has gotten to the point where it is a constant companion, but intense enough that it is a struggle to handle it every day. My cousin, who is one of my best friends, is the same age as me and has two children, and there are days when I burn with jealousy over that. When I am driven to distraction by the need to have a baby of my own in my arms.

But then again…there, too, are days when I am driven to distraction by my need to travel the world, to write many novels, to start my own business. To live in Melbourne, Australia, to laze on the beaches of Thailand, to work on an organic farm in Hawaii.

For a long time, I felt like life plateaued after the age of 30. When making decisions, I would often think, “But will I be done and established by the time I am 30?” Like there was no way for me to change my mind or start anything new after that age. Like 30 was the magical number whereby I would have had to make all of my decisions and forever live with the consequences.

I have since changed my mindset on that. I am fairly certain that I will be changing my mind and trying new things for the rest of my life, and so I am not quite so obsessed with the threshold of 30. With that shift has also come the shift in thinking about kids. I used to believe that my desire for children at a relatively young age (I want to start having kids before – ha – 30), meant that I would have to opt out of a lot of things. Of course, having kids changes things. It changes your priorities, your time commitments, your whole life. But it does not mean that you have to give up on everything else that you have ever desired. There are plenty of people who travel the world with their children, or pursue high-powered careers, or launch their own businesses. Just as life does not plateau after 30, it does not plateau after children either.

I know that we are not ready for children yet. Financially, that would be disastrous. Emotionally and mentally, we just aren’t there. I would like to enjoy a few years of marriage just the two of us. I would like to do some hardcore traveling without a child strapped to my back. I would like to selfishly explore my own wants and needs. I’d like to sleep in on the weekends and go out with friends until the wee hours and pick up and head to the mountains at the last minute just because we feel like it. I would like to get to know myself – and Bryan – a little bit better outside the context of parenthood.

The torch of my longing for children is the brightest and longest burning of all the torches that I carry. It will burn for a little while longer, while I pursue the other ones that flicker in the background, begging, too, for my attention.

 

Babies, But Not Yet