After more than 20 yeas of being a devoted wife and mother of four children, I witnessed my energetic brood going to college. When this happened, I asked myself, “Who will I be when they are gone? What will I want?” For decades, I had happily subsumed my own personality, dreams, and desires to raise kids to be self-sufficient young adults. Although I loved every minute of it, by the time the fourth child entered college, I decided it was time for me to explore who I was and what I wanted in life.
With this in mind, I related to Joan Anderson’s 2000 memoir A Year by the Sea. Maybe I could have even written it. As an author Anderson has a lyrical way of describing her experiences, making her decisions and observations seem personal and poignant. Her heartfelt writing comes across onscreen and in occasional voiceovers in the new film adaptation of her memoir, titled Year by the Sea.
Karen Allen plays the main character (the author). Joan has been in a tired marriage. After she sees her two grown sons off to their new lives, she opts to rent a home on Cape Cod rather than follow her husband to his new job in Kansas. Joan has no plan, she just wants time to be by herself; she is yearning for an adventure. It’s a desire to which her husband Robin responds, “Why can’t you ever be satisfied with what we have? Needs are a roof over your head and food on the table. Period.”
In response, Joan pursues her need to discover herself and heads out to the Cape. Her rental home is a ramshackle beauty accessible only by rowboat. It’s a rustic life. For example, in order to have running water in the sink, she has to pump it herself.
Through many endearing missteps, Joan gradually becomes comfortable in her rugged new surroundings on the Cape. She even forges a number of close friendships with neighbors. Over time, she thrives in her new environment. People notice. When Robin comes to visit for Christmas, he bemoans, “You’re all technicolor; I’m all black and white.”
Year by the Sea is full of aphorisms about self-discovery as well as the essence of desire and love. Throughout, you root for Joan’s on-screen transformation, while off-screen her husband quietly undergoes his own growth with the help of a therapist. The two rediscover their love after a year of separation.
My parallel story of discovering my own life takes me full circle to this writing. In my own life, my journey brought me to LA. Here I fell in love with the SoCal lifestyle. Now, nine years after my youngest left for college, I am a contributor to LA YOGA Magazine.
Karen Henry is an Associate Editor at LA YOGA who volunteers in a variety of capacities for nonprofit organizations and artists around Los Angeles. She practices yoga as a counterbalance to her daily impact sports and is a mother of four grown children who also practice yoga . Now, she’s working on teaching yoga and joy of life to the grandkids!