Bobbe Tyler, author, nonfiction writer and retired communications coordinator for Lucasfilm Ltd, has written a book of the type, and in the style, that has kept her alive all these years. Her book, Searching for Soul – A Survivor’s Guide is an intricate, exquisite and deeply moving account looking backward and examining all the slings and arrows of her life. It is positive, healing, upbeat and uplifting—but with a deep, melancholic twist—for a life lived well, but sometimes not well enough, due to the outrageous fortunes of mental illness, alcoholism, two divorces, financial and emotional despair and not being in charge of her life at the time.
She pokes and probes into the essence and meaning of her main relationships, scrutinizing her actions and motives in a philosophically analytical manner at what she did, what she could have done and what she might have done better. Her book revolves around a series of questions which form the Harvesting Wisdom interviews, by Roberta Forem:
- What gives meaning to your life?
- How would you describe wisdom?
- What do you believe you have control over in your life?
- How important is God to you?
Tyler answers these questions thoughtfully, focusing on what her life has meant to her so far. She has much insight into the unhappiness, the acquiescence and the compliance, but also the wonderment and joy that is the human condition. Her tone is stoic, somewhat resigned and unflappable and, for me, her writing comes from the viewpoint of an observing ego reflecting on the past. There is no excessive breast-beating or penchant for gory stories; its inherent tendency toward understatement makes the story much more powerful. This is no “misery memoir” in a competition to extort and exploit the readers’ sympathy; this is a genuine and personal account which more than adequately gives rise to the Socrates quote: The unexamined life is not worth living.
Like the famous philosopher, Bobbe Tyler examines her life and provides important and insightful information. She helps those who are struggling to determine the important issues of their lives, both past and present; where and why it never goes as planned; and how to adjust their thinking and change the many negatives into positives. But she also acknowledges how waiting for this change to happen can be daunting and frustrating.
It was too soon for me to know that an interior process was already under way, pacing itself and needing nothing from me – yet. I could only wait. I floundered around for a while ‘practicing’ waiting – something so new it was often painful to endure.
It’s my belief that women of a certain age, affluence and status, usually after the children have left home, have to “practice waiting” after they suddenly gain awareness into the frighteningly large amount of time and energy now available to them. They generally have to endure pain before they start to ask themselves, ‘what do I do now?’
In the beginning of the twilight years, post-children and pre-retirement, when most people are seriously considering a mid-life crisis, Tyler taps expertly into her own crisis with intelligence and wisdom, creates a meaningful space for herself and gets in touch with what it means to be rather than just being.
Her creativity and well-chosen literary references from Carl Jung, Doris Lessing and others, gave me pause and consideration of the contents of my own life, which at times seemed to run a parallel course to Tyler’s. That she gets in touch with my own searing anxiety, grief and fears, but manages to assuage them at the same time with continuity, mindfulness and a sense of balance is the sign of someone not only attuned to her readership but in harmony with her own karma.
I do have a couple of small quibbles about her style of writing. I would have preferred more stories and anecdotes backing up her personal theories of life. Providing those would have clarified her thoughts and perspective and held her ideas within a tighter context. I felt at times her sentence structure was crowded and rambling on, rather than flowing fluently and coherently down a specific course; going from one random thought to another without a connection or a specific reference point. Other than that, when she did have something wise to say, I felt as though she was speaking directly to me and I would take a deep breath and put the book down in order to think more sonorously. I ended up internalizing some of her profound wisdom.
I enjoy and relate to well-written books that delve into the psyche and portray the human race as deeply inventive, strikingly intuitive, striving and sometimes failing for authenticity, but knowing that we are also somewhat flawed – some more than others. In this respect Tyler has achieved a genuine connection with her reader.
There were connections and correlations with her book which reminded me of two other excellent books I had enjoyed reading: Thomas Moore’s Care of the Soul provides a new way of thinking about creative opportunities life can offer if we are willing to search them out. Stephen Levine’s A Year to Live teaches us to live mindfully in the hour and the day, as if that was all that was left for us. Make each day count. And that is what Tyler is astutely teaching us as well.
She makes each day count with her children. She says that “I loved my children more than I could measure, but I never confused my love for them with a belief that they were the central meaning of my life.” I applaud her for this statement because much of society feels giving birth and raising children should give sole meaning of life to women. It doesn’t. However, she also says, “Certainly not until I understood that prerequisite to developing an ability to love is having been loved – as a child – deeply and profoundly.”
Tyler explains that having children is an important part of life but not the entire meaning. There is so much more to explore, and part of thie exploration process is where we came from and where we are going. She ponders spirituality, synchronicity and creation in a search for answers to the never-ending question of just what or who is our creator is. She explains by saying that “Creation is the only ‘whodunit’ in the entire Universe in which the chief suspect is never caught out.”
While she hasn’t found the answer to that particular question, Tyler has found solace in learning “that life didn’t have to be hugely different from my parents’ lives to be different enough, nor did it have to be hugely successful – as long as I was defining and achieving success that satisfied my soul.” Her relationship with her parents is explored. Most wretched and lamentable and a very telling point in her upbringing, which had a major effect on her, is the story of her older sister constantly getting harassed by her father at the dinner table for overeating and how the sister copes by pulling her hair out one strand at a time until her grandmother eventually knits her a beanie to cover the bald patch.
I too am on the beginning of my twilight years and have taken up writing and psychology. I too have questioned God’s existence, have regrets to reflect on and pleasures to revel in. For someone who wants to understand what it’s like to look back and see your life in hindsight, to finally understand what it means to be a child, a mother, a wife and finally a free soul, this is a book that examines and debriefs that mysterious and complex process. With her views on mental health, the inner search for peace, the coming to terms with relationship, divorce, financial failure and emotional despair, she comes across as having survived life and has come to terms with all its ups and downs to find her special place in the Universe.
Searching for Soul: A Survivor’s Guide
By Bobbe Tyler
July 2009: Swallow Press
Paperback, 248 pages