Wednesday, August 24, 2011

And I Shall Have Some Peace There, Roach

And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road
Margaret Roach

“One must really pay the very strictest attention to all life’s goings-on; there could be clues, and messengers come in many guises.”

Reading this memoir was a somewhat unusual experience for me for several reasons, but first and foremost because I know the author, as well as many of the folks she mentions in the book, either directly or indirectly. I was her assistant for one year (before being promoted to a different department and subsequently “dropping out” myself, as she terms her decision to quit the world of corporate publishing and move upstate). What was surprising to me about this memoir was not what the author, my former boss, thought, felt, and did after leaving Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, but how very similar so many of her feelings were to my own when I left. I only worked in the world of corporate magazines for two years, while she had put in 30 plus, yet excerpts like those on pg. 154 could have been ripped from my own journal: “There are other triumphs and trophies in my marathon solo event, like the end to that vague dread of Sunday night that pervades the working wounded, who if they were like I was all those years also want to stay up and eke out some sense of ‘mine-ness’ when they get home from work each weekday evening, despite being all in from the events of the day; the constant tension between the desires of the I and the other – pushing, pulling, pushing, pulling.” Boy, do I know what she means! Having had, for the first time ever, my own apartment to decorate, love, and live in, I too was discovering how very much time I had to devote to someone else’s work, interests, and projects in order to afford it.

Perhaps ironically, I ventured to a bigger city (Bangkok, Thailand) when I left New York to find my inner “peace,” while Margaret fled to her secluded country farmhouse. Though our experiences were different, the amount of similarities I found in reading her book surprised me. The most important aspect of both of our journies was becoming more grounded in the Buddhist practice of mindfulness - constant, vigilant attention to not only what is going on around us, but within us as well. For both of us mindfulness was rooted, at first, in yoga. Margaret talks in her book about losing her yoga when she went to live on her own in the country, while it was precisely her support of my own yoga practice that jump-started my interest in alternatives to the work/money centric lifestyle I was leading in NYC. For me, the way her journey and my own overlapped, intertwined, and were affected by each other was fascinating, and what I took away from reading the book was the idea that everyone’s journey to self-discovery is different, even when they touch and connect and in many ways inspire each other.

In real-life I was motivated by my boss’s obvious unhappiness to leave my job and avoid becoming as stressed out as she was. Perhaps if she’d been better able to fake it, I would have seen things differently, and stayed put longer. I’m inspired now, after reading this moving and entertaining memoir by an intelligent and brave woman (in spite or because of the myriad fears she mentions in the book), who proves with her life and her words that it is never too late to change. And I Shall Have Some Peace There is not a quick, easy read, and it shouldn’t be; it is reflective of its author, a gardener living through the seasons with her land, while trying to calm the snake-like, squirming nature of an active, thinking mind. As with facing life’s difficulties head on, sticking with this book sometimes takes work, but it is effort that is rewarded in ways both immediate and, one suspects, lasting as well.


  1. This sounds like an interesting book. It must be a very strange experience reading about people you know. Your own journey is intriguing as well! I've actually just started investigating the concept of 'mindfulness'and am keen to find out more about it - is there any other reading you'd recommend?

  2. While I was in Thailand I read The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation by Thich Nhat Hanh. Hanh is erudite and eloquent but also down-to-earth and accessible to beginners in Buddhist studies. Some of his other books are more popular in tone but I like this one particularly because it has a bit more of a philosophical nature to it, while still maintaining his restrained yet playful style. Highly recommended! I'm looking for more books on Buddhism and mindfulness myself - anybody have more suggestions?