The popularity of memoirs convinces many writers and non-writers alike to park themselves in front of a computer and tell their life stories, claiming that they want to help other breast cancer survivors, child abuse victims, etc., by revealing their own tragedies. Realizing that we are not alone in any difficult aspect of our lives helps tremendously, although relating the writer's experiences to our own can often prove difficult.
Kathleen Hirsch, author of A Sabbath Life, grew up in a middle-class family that encouraged her
intellectual and creative tendencies. In the mid-'70s, she attended Mount Holyoke and was very much influenced by the feminist movement. After graduation she embarked on a successful career as a journalist. She married an equally successful man, relished in the companionship of good friends, and at the age of 40, became pregnant just when she reached a point in her life when she decided she wanted a child.
It would seem to many that Hirsch led a perfect life. Yet by the age of 40, she realized that something was missing. She began a search for a new wholeness through journal writing, reflective solitude, a backyard garden, the companionship of creative and socially attuned women, and the birth of her child. As we accompany her on this journey to the Self, some may not relate to all that she says. For example, earlier in her life, Hirsch dismissed stay-at-home mothers as "sacrificing," reflecting on her own mother's "life of suppressed talent and compromised dreams." She comes to know the benefits of a domestic life after the birth of her son. Surprisingly, before adulthood, no one ever spoke to her about her future as a mother.
Today, when it is just as important for women to have a career as it is for men, motherhood is still a part of life. Mothers prepare their daughters, girls talk with their friends and couples plan. For some women, motherhood and a domestic life is a career, just as it had been for so many mothers in the '50s and '60s. The difference is nowadays, women are more free to choose when. Hirsch chose to wait, and throughout her pregnancy and the birth of her son, we see the benefits of a successful and settled woman having her first child at mid-life.
To recreate Hirschıs journey depends on many things. One is having a
supportive and patient partner. Hirsch spends a tremendous amount of time in reflective solitude, whether at home or on short trips without her husband. Another is the money to take time off from work, to hire baby-sitters and domestic help, and to embark on physical journeys. We would also need the courage to disassociate ourselves from the nonessentials and to seek out new friends, women who have achieved "a satisfying rapport between public and private parts of themselves." While the continued support of a partner and available finances may not be a reality to many on the path to wholeness, the courage is available to us all.
Hirschıs beautifully written memoir leads us through her awakening and the changes she makes in her life. At the time when many of us reach mid-life and start to wonder what happens next, Hirsch describes a process in which we can determine that for ourselves, if not externally then definitely internally. As with all memoirs and spiritual journeys, we take from A Sabbath Life what we need.