Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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***Pitching My Tent

On Marriage, Motherhood, Friendship, and Other Leaps of Faith

by Anita Diamant

Reviewed December 17, 2006.
Scribner, New York, 2003.  223 pages.

This is one of those delightful books of musings—calling them personal essays is correct but seems too academic for these thoughtful insights.  I love reading these books slowly, a little bit at a time, and absorbing and thinking about the wisdom contained.  She’s Jewish, but her thoughts about faith speak to people of any religion.  Here are a few passages I marked:

“Some people find refuge from the contemporary fray in received authority.  I relish my freedom to wrestle with my faith, respectful of the sustaining traditions of the past and grateful for the insights and wisdom of the present.  I agree that nothing is simple anymore.  And for that, I thank God.”

This part especially means a lot to me now that I've moved near two dear friends I've known since childhood:

“Women’s friendships are, I think, one of the great secrets of the social universe.  When you see pairs of women, sometimes threesomes or foursomes, from the outside, it might seem they are ‘just’ having lunch, or drinking coffee, or walking around the neighborhood, or even shopping.  But all this activity is, in fact, the methodology of friendship, the ways women connect and keep each other sane.  It goes on by phone and e-mail and Hallmark, too.

“This is not trivial activity.  From the outside, it might appear casual, but these relationships are, in fact, the bedrock of contentment.  We witness and we cheer, we commiserate and we prod.  We lean on each other and we prop each other up.  We tell each other the truth.  We sustain one another.

“My women friends—some of whom I’ve known for thirty years, some of whom I’ve known for three months—sustain me in ways I couldn’t begin to enumerate.  At least not publicly.

“We all love our families, but the truth is, they drive us nuts.  Without friends, a lot of us would run screaming out of our homes at all hours of the day and night, ready to hand our children over to passing motorists, to flee spouses who snore or are laundry-challenged, to avoid the well-meaning ‘corrections’ of siblings and parents.

“Our friends listen to us complain about our families.  They validate and sympathize with the problems that are genuine, and help us see when we’re overreacting.  Friends don’t nag.  I think that may be the definition of a friend.”

“Friends will show up when it matters, and when it doesn’t, we trust the foundation will remain firm.”

On midlife:  “The prelude to these changes isn’t always pretty.  Midlife review can feel like existential indigestion.  ‘Is this it?’ you ask yourself.  ‘I hate my job,’ you say, but quietly so no one will fire you.  The prechange mode may even seem like adolescence revisited, except now you have a couple of people depending on you for groceries.

“The need for a midlife jump-start may be part of the human condition.  At least that’s what developmental psychologist Erik Erikson theorized.  According to Erikson, adults face a fundamental choice between ‘generativity’ and ‘stagnation.’  Either you start playing the piano, tutor a child in math, or learn a new vocabulary (city planning, perennials, French), or you risk feeling trapped, squashed, finished.”

“Music speaks to the spirit unmediated.  Its magic is undeniable, which was why the ancient priests harnessed it to the service of God.  The Temple in Jerusalem echoed with the sounds of horns, drums, bells, and voices singing ‘Hallelujah.’  Psalm 150 is unequivocal:  Let everything that has breath praise God.  With the blast of the horn, with psaltery and with harp, with the timbrel and with dance, with strings and pipes and clanging cymbals.  Talk about your joyful noise.”

You can see that Anita Diamant covers a wide range of topics.  She’s a talented writer, and speaks with insight on so many different things.

Copyright © 2006 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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