“The rock that she was battered against”

While Listening to Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston, I came upon this phrase: “The rock that she was battered against.”  After reading these words, I cried.

In the story, the main character has been asked to run a store by her “husband.” She’s fine as long as the calculations are simple and the social part outweighs the business part. She likes talking to people.  But she’s taxed by the nitty-gritty of figuring out how much is $.10 worth of cheese or what’s a half a pound cost. These transactions feel trivial to Janie. Her spouse doesn’t get that she sees these petty details as draining.  He insists that she should learn and use her privileged status as mayor and store owner’s wife.

The rock she’s battered against is the “should” and the “could” of life.   She wants to be part of the beauty of life, not at all like some prima donna who might not want to get her hands dirty, not someone who is told who to be, not someone she should become, but rather recognized for who she is and what she brings to their partnership.

How is it that a novel written in a different time, about someone different can ring so true to me? I feel overwhelmed by the details that focus on pennies. Mostly, the passage made me think of how my husband reminds me I’m not living up to my potential.  He says I should make more money because I’m so smart.  That’s the rock that my head beats against.  Rather then help me find the things that nurture me deep within my soul, I’m worrying about whether or not I’m paid enough.  It is not because we’re starving or can’t pay our mortgage. It isn’t because he doesn’t earn a good living. Is he like Jody in Hurston’s novel thinking my actions are a reflection on him?  Or are my decisions a hindrance to the good things he wants to buy–like an RV or a trip to Greece?
I can’t help but wonder what rock I beat my loved ones’ head against. What expectations of mine are mine and not theirs?

I wonder, what is the rock that your head seems battered against?

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