Thursday, January 19, 2017

Books, Aging and "White House feet" According to Eleanor Roosevelt

I've just finished reading THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF ELEANOR ROOSEVELT. This was the December 2016 pick for Bas Bleu's Life Stories Book a Month club. (Now I can move on to THE SIX: THE LIVES OF THE MITFORD SISTERS by Laura Thompson... but first,
here are some words from Eleanor:

I was a shy, solemn child even at the age of two, and I am sure that even when I danced I never smiled. My earliest recollections are of being dressed up and allowed to come down to dance for a group of gentlemen who applauded and laughed as I pirouetted before them. Finally my father would pick me up and hold me high in the air. He dominated my life as long as he lived, and was the love of my life for many years after he died.

I don't supposed that kind of shyness ever really leaves one and to this day it sweeps over me occasionally when I face a crowd, and I wish the ground would open and swallow me. Habit has a great deal to do with what one actually does on these occasions, and the next years were going to give me a very intensive education along many lines.

Once, I talking to him [FDR] about some spiritualist conversations which had been sent in to me (people were always sending e their conversations with the dead), I expressed a somewhat cynical disbelief in them. He said simply: “I think it is unwise to say you do not believe in anything when you can't prove that it si either true or untrue. There is so much in the world which is always new in the way of discoveries that it is wiser to say that there may be spiritual things which we are simply unable to fathom. Therefore, I am interested and have respect for whatever people, believe, even if I cannot understand their beliefs or share their experiences."

[after FDR's death] I had few definitely plans but there were certain things I did not want to do. I did not want to run an elaborate household again. I did not want to cease trying to be useful in some way. I did not want to feel old- I seldom have. In the years since 1945 I have known the various phases of loneliness that are bound to occur when people no longer have a busy family life. But, without particularly planning it, I have made the necessary adjustments to a different way of living, and I have enjoyed almost every minute of it and almost everything about it.

As time when on, the fact that I kept myself well occupied made my loneliness less acute. I am not sure whether this was due to my own planning or simply to circumstances. But my philosophy has been that if you have work to do and do it to the best of your ability you will not have much time to think about yourself.

Readjustments in one's inner life have to go on forever, I think...

I do not grow weary of travel and I do not tire easily – not so easily as some younger people I know. Sometimes, it is true, my feet hurt. What I call my “White House feet” hurt largely because of a change in the bones of my instep caused by years of standing at receptions in the White House. I generally find pleasure in travel because it give me an opportunity to catch up on my reading. In fact, I do must of my reading for pleasure on airplanes since at home there seldom seems to be time to puck up the many books that interest me. Incidentally, if I have a complaint about the kind of life I lead, it is that I simply cannot find time to read as much as I wish.


  1. I adore this post. I have been reading about the time period of the thirties and ER in particular. I haven't read her autobiography...but it's about time I did. You are the spark of inspiration to act on that today...or super soon.

  2. That does sound like a must read! Thanks, Irene xo


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