Summer Greetings from Joan Anderson

Joan on bridge


Hollyhock Retreat


The Second Journey:

Embracing Your Unlived Life



 Hollyhock Retreat
August 17-21
Vancouver, Canada


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Book Clubs with Joan

Second Journey Cover

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Drink to the Power of Women- of Getting Together- of Discussing Issues


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Books By Joan Anderson


A Year By the Sea

A Walk on the Beach

An Unfinished Marriage

The Second Journey

A Weekend to Change Your Life

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Unfinished Thoughts  

Over Achiever Syndrome


 Last week I was having lunch with some friends, all of us happily gathered on my neighbor's screened-in porch. I noted that our get together was most unusual given that it was the end of June and we were all getting our houses and our lives ready for the onslaught of summer visitors, mainly adult children and their progeny.

 As we commiserated about various family dynamics such as sibling rivalry, in-law competition, impending divorces, old and new tensions, I wondered why we didn't stop trying so hard to plan events and smooth out the edges. Why did we think it was always our responsibility to make magic and have these reunions work? "Do we always have to go over the top?" I wondered out loud.

 "Well, I don't know if that applies to me," the hostess said, "but for sure, I would say that you are a huge over achiever."

 There was great laughter all around while I felt momentarily stung by her remark and embarrassed to be labeled an "OA." Yet if I am truly honest with myself I am just that, which unfortunately means being a Type A, perfectionist, control freak. I recall my son telling his boys just a few months ago that Grammy is never satisfied how things turn out--her expectations are always too high!

 I got a hold of myself a few moments later as I looked around at the others and realized that everyone there was a certified "OA." Mary had just set a color coordinated table complete with fine china and fresh flowers for this supposed casual lunch; Helen was bragging about the Welcome to Cape Cod care package she had left in her step children's cottage full of beach toys and the makings for S'mores; Nancy was planning a baby shower for her best friend's daughter and had just made several casseroles to deliver to a family who had had a recent death--all random acts of kindness that are probably appreciated and  in some cases expected, but in the end can take an already frazzled woman and make her bitchy. We are bred to be caretakers but I wonder if we think that by giving more we get more?

 I left my friends and their "wake-up call message" without any answers but with much to ponder. I wasn't home for more than ten minutes when the phone rang and I would face my first test. It was a documentary film maker, inquiring as to whether I had the time to be interviewed for his film on the environmentalist, Henry Beston.  "We are shooting at the National Seashore next Monday," he said.

 I glanced at my calendar, saw that I was free, and Cottagewithout thinking about how this would upset everything else I had on tap for next week said, yes. Beston had written The Outer Most House, a book based on his year living in a simple shack on a solitary dune on Cape Cod's Eastham Beach. It was a classic, a story that so captivated me I would make the boys hike the two miles out and two miles back every summer as a sort of pilgrimage to a man who truly cared about nature.

 Sneaking away from my house last Monday before the world fully awakened felt delicious. I arrived at the seashore headquarters with enough time to walk around the Salt Pond serenaded by a cacophony of bird calls and the distant sound of the Atlantic Surf. The interview consisted of questions about why I loved Henry Beston's work, how being in the wild helped me as a writer and a person, and what contribution Beston made to the green movement of today.

 As I answered the questions, I remembered what I was all about before my overachieving life of book writing, pleasing family, and community activity. My shoulders softened and I let the momentary solitude work for me and within me. "The world is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things," Beston wrote. Once again, I had stopped taking the time to truly be in nature-to feel the white sand on my feet and breathe deeply of the salt air and not be in such a hurry.

 Joan and Film Crew2Saying yes to this interview was saying yes to a much needed pause-a promise I had made to myself years ago-to not only take daily one hour pauses but to designate four days a year-one in each season when I would stop all mundane activities, be off duty, loll about, and not feel the need to respond to those around me.

 It happens to be the Summer Solstice-a time that brings us more daylight than any other.  How will you pause and refresh yourself?  It only takes a walk in the woods, a stroll along the shore, or retiring from the madding crowd to a natural habitat to find nourishment for a weary soul.