Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I watched Jane Eyre today

Okay, so I admit that I bought it for Fassbender, who broods appropriately as Rochester and also bears a resemblance to my own beautiful husband, which makes him even more compelling on the screen. But in the end I was won over again by Mia Wasikowska’s Jane, who is the best Jane I have ever seen, and is the closest in spirit to the Jane that you read when you read the real novel. Jane in the book feels something for Rochester and yet fights it, gives herself sort of “anti-pep talks” in which she teaches herself not to hope, not to be attached, not to expect anything. It is the way she has lived her whole life, and she keeps herself in check even in a very compromising situation.
So why, sitting back at naptime and enjoying the lovely Blu-Ray version of this great film, did I find myself 


as Jane runs back to Thornfield from the tiny church, ripping off her wedding dress, buttoning up in her greys again and putting her impassive face back on?

Rome has been tugging at my heart lately, in that same old siren-ish way that she has, the little mental land mines she has planted in the past 30 years exploding like tiny fireworks in my head at key moments, keeping me tied to her no matter how far I run over the windblown moors, my name echoing across the hills as she calls out for me from her burned out castle.

I still love her, but it’s the muted love of old love, the way you care for someone who you never see anymore. As I climb out of the pit of illness and exhaustion brought on by clinging closely to her, as I see how much healthier I am each day since the last day that I saw her, how being far away makes me healthier, I feel a new wave of grief for the woman that I wanted to be, and more than that, the woman that I vowed to be, on my knees, kneeling in front of the altar as the blessing was pronounced over me:

Father, by your plan man and woman are united,
and married life has been established
as the one blessing that was not forfeited by original sin
or washed away in the flood.
Look with love upon this woman, your daughter,
now joined to her husband in marriage.
She asks your blessing.
Give her the grace of love and peace.
May she always follow the example of the holy women
whose praises are sung in the scriptures.

It is a strange blessing because it was only for me, not for Ben; the priest explained it in his tiny office full of fish tanks as he said it was an anachronism; a prayer left over from the times when a married woman’s life was hard, when she could very well die, when she would have a child every year and become old and tired quickly from scrubbing floors and nursing ten or twelve children, half of whom would live and half of whom would die. Looking at my own decline in health as I answered the call of my vocation I cannot help but think the prayer was not only appropriate but desperately needed.

I was crying on the wingback chair in front of this film because this blessing which very well may have sustained me through two bouts of postpartum darkness, a premature child, and the gaining and losing of fifty pounds over and over again, this is a blessing that I have to turn my back on as I walk away from the church. She helped to cause my illness but she gave me the salve to smooth over it as well; is that not love? It is not.

My love for my husband is deeper now than it was on that day when we married. It is true when they say that love deepens over time; it is not a separate thing anymore, it is part of my body. It’s in my bones. It is my bones. I dare to see it as a thing separate from the priest’s hands held over us, Rome’s hard-won benediction.

I look back over my shoulder like Lot’s wife and it confounds me, this thing I left behind. It is a beautiful angel and a monster all at once. It tried to kill me, and it tried to save me. I wanted to be that wife, the one that knelt down and took the blessing that would make me invincible through life’s danger. I wanted to be her with all my heart. But Ben never wanted me to be her; he only wants me, happy, healthy, and together with him for the rest of our lives. Unlike Jane I have this to lean into as I walk away.

When I decided to save myself and cut the cord, to decide that I had individual worth, that my health mattered to me not just because I was needed by others but because I was needed by myself, the first wire popped like a violin string wound too tight, and the rest rose and fell and broke as well, like the old grainy movie of a suspension bridge collapsing. The water rushes over it but the wreckage is still there. My heart is at the bottom of the river.

No comments:

Post a Comment