I’ve been thinking lately about my most recent book choices. I know I already mentioned in a previous post that I was on a “self-help kick.” But I never mentioned why. My birthday is fast approaching; the summertime to be fairly precise but vague enough not to get too personal. With the last year of my thirties looming in the uncertain yet near horizon, I have been thinking quite a bit about my mid-life. In three and a half short and undoubtedly to be expected, fast-paced years, my little person will be going off to college. And I…have no idea what my next move will be. Hence the reason, why I have been fervently reading up on embracing change, manifesting one’s thoughts and desires, finding that “thing” that defines you (whatever the heck that may be) and rediscovering the person within me that was pushed by the wayside while I was busy bagging bologna sandwiches, creating pointless presentations on office ethics, picking up dirty socks from the living room, brushing unruly hair into ponytails and paying bills.
A Year By The Sea by Joan Anderson is another one of those true stories that made me think “Huh…maybe. I can see myself doing that.” The book is about a middle-aged woman that embarks on an adventure to redefine herself. Her two sons were already adults. One was married and the other engaged. Her marriage to her husband had grown stale. Somewhere along the way, Joan lost herself in her family and everyday life. When her husband came home one day to inform her that he had accepted a position in a different state without having even previously discussed it with her and that “they were moving”, she decided it was time to make some drastic changes. Joan finally took matters into her own hands. She made an unexpected announcement of her own. She too was moving…just not with him.
Joan knew she had to go back to the only place where she ever truly felt at home; Cape Cod where she used to spend summers with her family as a little girl. As she puts it, she ran away! I found myself cheering her on almost every step of the way with the exception of a couple of times where I wanted to violently shake her to force her to get out of her own way. This book was so good! I will definitely read it several times in my lifetime now that I’ve found it. There were so many similarities between us with the exception of the whole husband thing. I divorced when I was twenty-four and I’ve never remarried. It’s simply not my thing. I did not enjoy being tied to anyone. I never did. My ex-husband was the longest relationship I ever had. We were only together for three years. I always thought I’d grow out of it at some point but alas, I still can’t imagine being tied to someone.
One of her very first life-changing experiences while out on the Cape was that she encounters seals. She swims amongst them. She throws herself on the sand and basks in the sun next to them. She even converses with them. That must have been incredibly healing! Not going to lie, at this point in the book I was seething with jealousy. Ha! I too wanted to drop everything and spend a day alone with just seals. What a blessing!
Not everything in the story was peachy. She did have to face the harsh realities of her failing marriage, a business partner that bailed on her without so much as a “see ya later” after years of collaborating together and learning to cope with empty-nesting. She had to get a job at a local fish market to make ends meet. A few months later she became a licensed clam digger to pay for a new water heater since the old one gave out after a harsh winter.
But my absolute favorite part of the book, which I read at least ten times, was:
“What to do next? With no one around and no need to take a consensus, the sky’s the limit. I hop back on my bike and head for the bike path, which takes me away from the touristic traffic and deeper into the interior of the Cape. Nostalgia works as a magnet and draws me five miles north to my reward – a general store that has been around as long as I can remember. Shoving my bike into a crowded bike stand, I hobble toward the front porch, where the same men who sit around the store’s potbellied stove in the winter now sit on the church pews outside, drinking from the bottomless cups of coffee, watching the world go by, and catching up on each other’s business.
Once inside, I sit on a milk carton beside the newspapers, which are directly under the revolving ceiling fan. The breeze and the distraction of two little kids eyeing the penny candy and jars full of affordable toys makes me forget that I am hot and sweaty. You can get your mail here, buy postage stamps, read the notices of upcoming events, pick up fruits, vegetables, freshly ground peanut butter, spices sold by the ounce, canned jelly made by a local housewife, homemade breads and muffins made by another, and general supplies such a lantern oil, sturdy pottery, and other staples necessary for a household. They carry one brand of most of everything, not twenty, making it simple to choose. Nothing is complicated or fancy here, just practical and friendly. This is a place to linger, a microcosm of a small town; in fact, the general store is the town, that and several churches on nearby corners. I’m thinking, as I sit here and drink in the scene, how little it takes to get by, how simple life really can be, how pleasant to think of necessities, eliminating luxuries. Just now I recognize that this is everything I want – this is home. The Cape is where I belong, where I must stay. The kids may go far and wide and my husband may have other ideas, but as for me, this is contentment. After buying my lemonade I’m ready for the return trip home, pedaling easily this time, in no particular hurry.”
I want that. I’ll have that. But I’m not going to tell a soul until I reach my destination. Then I’ll write all about it. Until then…
I gave this book a five (5) on Goodreads! You MUST read it and let me know what you think!!
P.S. – I watched the movie a couple of weeks ago. It was rather different from the book but it was still so good. Worth watching! I walked out of the theater feeling reenergized. Enjoy!