Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Extraordinary Life (I feel restless)

"Well, of course Aunt March prefers Amy over me. Why shouldn't she? I'm ugly and awkward and I always say the wrong things. I fly around throwing away perfectly good marriage proposals. I love our home, but I'm just so fitful and I can't stand being here! I'm sorry, I'm sorry Marmee. There's just something really wrong with me. I want to change, but I - I can't. And I just know I'll never fit in anywhere."

"Oh, Jo. Jo, you have so many extraordinary gifts; how can you expect to lead an ordinary life? You're ready to go out and - and find a good use for your talent. Tho' I don't know what I shall do without my Jo. Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it." - Jo and Mrs March, Little Women (the film) 

I've been having a Jo weekend. My heart feels like it's battering at the walls of this space, wondering if it's time to go, tired of rerunning the same questions and fears and conversations, wanting to spread wings towards the future and step into the unknown. I was eating lunch with a good friend today and suddenly I heard Jo March in my own voice. "I'm just so fitful that I can't stand being here!" I yelled to the bright sun and crisp October wind as we walked back to the artist studio where we were having our Saturday class. 
(photo: mandie sodoma, sindisiwe photography)
I wonder sometimes what to do with these strange feelings of restlessness. I've always been a homebody; homesick for days my first time away from my family in France, always ready to settle in by the fire at my house rather than go out dancing in Boston. I've always thought of myself as a rooted, grounded person. 

So this Jo March restlessness has me running around in circles. I want to plunge into some new space, learn its nooks and crannies, meet its beautiful and extraordinary people. Yet I'm afraid of that gut wrenching moment of yes, of being alone, of never finding answers to my questions, or not finding the answers I expect. I think of the way that Jo paces up and down in her mother's room, tossing her hands in the air the same way that I do when I'm frustrated. I feel her question to her mother more deeply than ever before. What if I don't fit in anywhere? What am I doing here? How will I find the life I'm craving?

And there is something miraculous about Marmee's answer to her daughter, because I hear in it the answers I'm desperate for. "Jo, Jo, you have so many extraordinary gifts; how can you expect to lead an ordinary life? Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it." 

I don't know what is around the next bend. I don't know where my wings ache to take me. I don't know how to set my heart free to dream the widest dreams without tripping and stumbling over fear and expectation and my own disappointment with how difficult it is. 

But, like Jo, and Anne of Green Gables, and all my literary counterparts, I suspect the answers lie in just this: believe with your whole heart in the extraordinary life, and trust that wonderful things will come of living it. 

Hilary (and her Jo March heart)


  1. This greatly resonates with me, Hilary, and reminds me that it's time to reread Little Women and perhaps a few of my other favorite literary heroines.

  2. Really beautiful Hilary

  3. I'm very much an Anne and a Jo :) And I need to re-read Little Women too!

  4. do you think God might be calling you to "an extraordinary life"?


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