The Traveling Cure

Author Sue Monk Kidd heals her midlife woes on a trip through Greece, Turkey and France.

By Dawn Raffel

In their powerful joint memoir, Traveling with Pomegranates (Viking), Sue Monk Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees) and her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor, recall the crisis each faced a decade ago—Kidd, on the cusp of 50, was creatively lost, and Taylor, fresh out of college, felt direction-less. On trips through Greece, Turkey and France, the two reconnected. We spoke with Kidd:
Q: You don’t sugarcoat the losses of midlife. You weren’t traveling to run away from yourself but to go deeper in.
A: Yes. My body and my face were changing. I became men-opausal. Both my children had left home, and my writing had gone to seed. I didn’t want to pretend it wasn’t so. Instead, I found a renaissance in the older woman I would become.
Q: You write about how hard it was to see Ann grown up. Do you still feel that way?
A: There’s an aspect of nostalgia for how it was when she was a little girl. I realized that daughters can return, but they return differently. I finally found a way to relate to her, woman to woman.
Q: Your trip changed your relationship with Christianity too.
A: I was already convinced that our images of God matter a great deal. But I didn’t have a particular feminine image that could reflect the divine. During my travels, the icon of Mary became really powerful for me, and that was a surprise. She’s very suited for twenty-first-century fem-inist interpretation.
Q: Right before leaving for Greece, you and your husband moved.
A: We had been in the same small town in upstate South Carolina for 20 years. Suddenly, all I could think about was that I wanted to live by the water. I could picture it: this place with tides and marshes, in Charleston. Mostly what was going on was my need to move to some new place inside myself.
Q: But your husband agreed to this.
A: He was very open to the idea. It was a lot harder for him—he was a counselor with a private practice, and he had to start a whole new one. In the end we leapt, and I give him a lot of credit for that.
Q: Any advice for someone turning 50?
A: Listen to what’s inside you, because the soul starts to talk to us. It speaks through our yearnings, fears, questions and lost passions. Most of the discussion for [aging] women has been about health and beauty, but we also have a deepening spiritual-ity. We become most truly ourselves. And that’s enough, you know?      

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