Monday, January 31, 2011

Edith Wharton on Intimacy, Self Knowledge and Passion

I've been doing a lot of reading lately, and have had that singular pleasure of finding connections between each and every book I'm delving into-each one leading to the next like an illuminated path. These passages from Edith Wharton in a recent Writer's Almanac relate beautifully to an excellent book I am immersed in called Passionate Marriage. I especially loved the feminine perspective she offers. I wonder how many women feel just this way but are unable to articulate it.

"Do you know what I was thinking last night, when you asked me, &; I couldn't tell you? — Only that the way you've spent your emotional life while I've ... hoarded mine, is what puts the great gulf between us, & sets us not only on opposite shores, but at hopelessly distant points of our respective shores. Do you see what I mean?

"And I'm so afraid that the treasures I long to unpack for you, that have come to me in magic ships from enchanted islands, are only, to you, the old familiar red calico & beads of the clever trader, who has had dealing with every latitude, & knows just what to carry in the hold to please the simple native — I'm so afraid of this, that often & often I stuff my shining treasures back into their box, lest I should see you smiling at them!

"Well! And what if you do? It's your loss, after all! And if you can't come into the room without my feeling all over me a ripple of flame, & if, wherever you touch me, a heart beats under your touch, & if, when you hold me, & I don't speak, it's because all the words in me seem to have become throbbing pulses, & all my thoughts are a great golden blur — why should I be afraid of your smiling at me, when I can turn the beads & calico back into such beauty —?"

In her short story "The Fullness of Life" she famously wrote:

"You have hit upon the exact word; I was fond of him, yes, just as I was fond of my grandmother, and the house that I was born in, and my old nurse. Oh, I was fond of him, and we were counted a very happy couple. But I have sometimes thought that a woman's nature is like a great house full of rooms: there is the hall, through which everyone passes in going in and out; the drawing room, where one receives formal visits; the sitting-room, where the members of the family come and go as they list; but beyond that, far beyond, are other rooms, the handles of whose doors perhaps are never turned; no one knows the way to them, no one knows whither they lead; and in the innermost room, the holy of holies, the soul sits alone and waits for a footstep that never comes."
"And your husband," asked the Spirit, after a pause, "never got beyond the family sitting-room?"
"Never," she returned, impatiently; "and the worst of it was that he was quite content to remain there. He thought it perfectly beautiful, and sometimes, when he was admiring its commonplace furniture, insignificant as the chairs and tables of a hotel parlor, I felt like crying out to him: 'Fool, will you never guess that close at hand are rooms full of treasures and wonders, such as the eye of man hath not seen, rooms that no step has crossed, but that might be yours to live in, could you but find the handle of the door?'"

Adding Ms. Wharton to the book que immediately! These thoughts intertwine exactly with Dr. Snarch's ideas on how to create and nurture intimacy in a marriage, not through co-dependency but by using your marriage to strengthen your own brilliant light and that of the person you love at the same moment. He calls it "healing the past in the present".

With Valentine's Day looming, I wish each of you the courage and bravery to share the most gorgeous rooms of yourself with the person you love and to be dazzled by their treasures in turn.

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