The spirit of Anaïs Nin lives through me
Okay, I know that's a big claim, which is not even possible given the fact that I was three when she died at the age of 70. But, every time I read her diaries or transcriptions of her talks, I feel like her words are flowing out of my own mind and heart.
Here are some of my favorite excerpts from her not very well known (not as well as it should be known) book A Woman Speaks: The Lectures, Seminars and Interviews of Anaïs Nin from 1975.
"Woman has been driven the other way—not to compete and not to win because winning would mean that she was stronger than her children or stronger than her brothers. And often she doesn’t want to overshadow or outdistance her husband—or she doesn’t want to overshadow her boss.
There is always that feeling which keeps her from growing. The feeling that if she grows she is going to impede someone else’ growth and that her concern should be not to take too much space and not expand… So woman carries many, many burdens. One is this going backward instead of forward into self-expansion and also erroneously considering this self-expansion to be aggressiveness. This word has always been used to discourage and disparage women who had a thrust toward growing.
It is made very clear to woman that her first and primary duty is to her personal life—whether it be to the husband, or children, or family, or parents. That is the primary thing. This is supposed to be her role in life. Now if a woman has really accepted that, then if she transgresses she has more guilt than man. …. Yet woman gains something from this great emphasis on the personal life. She gains a very great humanism, which is the consideration of human beings as persons. Man. Woman never lost sight of that personal life, and now something which started as a handicap, today I consider a quality which woman can then carry into her wider interests. But she has to retain this sense of the personal, because from that comes her sense of humanity.
The women who transgressed and managed to overcome these taboos were not really exceptional women at all. They were stubborn. And I can testify to that because I too started with all the handicaps, incapabilities, and helplessness. I was not trying to earn my living, I was afraid of the world, I didn’t talk when I was twenty. I taught myself (I know you won’t believe that): I taught myself to talk by the actual act of writing. I learned to communicate with others, and it was the fact of the diaries coming out which made me able to communicate with you.
…. So I find these lives inspiring, and they’ve always led me on and on to what I can call stubborn sense of adventure against difficulties, to consider difficulties only as a challenge to your wits and to your strength. What I am trying to say is that we are not exceptional in our beginnings, we are only exceptional in our stubbornness, in this thrust towards growth which is almost a natural state. There are obstacles, but our intelligence and our awareness enable us to recognize and confront them.
I’m talking about liberation in inner terms. I’m not talking about this freedom that you can get by going out and challenging the abortion laws. I’m not talking about the things that you can do to protest wars. I’m talking about the necessity for inner change, the necessity of considering that sometimes the obstacle is not necessarily the man but an obstacle in ourselves created by the childhood, sometimes an obstacle created by the family, sometimes by our own lack of faith in ourselves."