Monday, April 06, 2009

Good for the soul

Call me naïve. No, really -- go ahead and call me naïve.

But I think our society's unique maladies and general loneliness are closely linked to our departure from the back-breaking acts of growing and making food, raising children, and making the things we need with our own hands. Yes, of course I realize that the industrial revolution has made life a lot more livable for everybody, especially the poor. And this is the point at which you might want to call me naïve, reminding me that if I had to make my own bread and my own cheese, and if I had to grow all my own food and live at the mercy of droughts and floods, I would feel very differently about such things.

I don't doubt it, and I probably am being naïve. It's awfully cheeky of me as an affluent Westerner to idealize subsistence farming -- of course "getting back to the land" sounds wonderful when you have all the options in the world.

Nevertheless, I believe that gardening, baking bread, attending to children, washing diapers, making cheese, building furniture -- the things we used to do with our hands but now delegate to other people and companies and machines -- I believe that these activities feed us in ways our society never realized. And now that all our stock is in efficiency, ease, and quantity, it's nearly impossible for us to return to a lifestyle that asks so much of us, body and soul.

We're lazy now. We've separated ourselves so much from the back-breaking toil that our great-great grandparents knew. And really, you can't blame them for trying to make life easier, can you? It was hard. But there are a few things that they didn't count on. Like that the hard work of making a life was good for the soul. There are lots of studies out there these days about how therapeutic these activities can be, and more and more people are "discovering" the joy of getting their hands dirty.

I'm one of them, I guess. And it may be naïve -- or even arrogant -- of me, but I think that hard work does a body (and a soul) good.

Friday, April 03, 2009


Someone told me yesterday that motherhood is pretty much just a series of adjustments and readjustments. Parents experience a progression of their children's stages -- from newborn to college graduation and everything in between -- and just when you get used to one phase, it's time for the next one to begin.

Actually, it seems like much of life is like this. Seasons come and go. We adults go through stages, too, even if they're not as dramatic as the developmental leaps our kids are making. This is perfectly natural.

But it does take time to adjust to each new stage in our lives, and I wonder how many people really give themselves the space to make healthy transitions; to fully enjoy each season and prepare themselves for the next one.

There's one thing that gives me comfort as I make space for healthy change. Adjusting is normal, and I should just expect that I'll spend the rest of my life doing it.