I’ve come to believe that part of lovesickness comes from this conflict between control and desire. In love we have no control. Our hearts and minds are tormented, teased, enticed and delighted by the overwhelming strength of emotions that make us try to forget the real world.
If it is perfectly acceptable for a widow to disfigure herself or commit suicide to save face for her husband’s family, why should a mother not be moved to extreme action by the loss of a child or children? We are their caretakers. We love them. We nurse them when they are sick. . . But no woman should live longer than her children. It is against the law of nature. If she does, why wouldn’t she wish to leap from a cliff, hang from a branch, or swallow lye?
Everyone knows that part of the spirit descends to the afterworld, while part of it remains with the family, but we have a special belief about the spirit of a young woman who has died before her marriage that goes contrary to this. She comes back to prey upon other unmarried girls–not to scare them but to take them to the afterworld with her so she might have company.
When I knew I couldn’t suffer another moment of pain, and tears fell on my bloody bindings, my mother spoke softly into my ear, encouraging me to go one more hour, one more day, one more week, reminding me of the rewards I would have if I carried on a little longer. In this way, she taught me how to endure — not just the physical trials of footbinding and childbearing but the more torturous pain of the heart, mind, and soul.
Then it dawned on me that men throughout the country had to know about nu shu (women’s written word). How could they not? They wore it on their embroidered shoes. They saw us weaving our messages into cloth. They heard us singing our songs and showing off our third-day wedding books. Men just considered our writing beneath them.It is said men have the hearts of iron, while women are made of water. This comes through men’s writing and women’s writing. Men’s writing has more than 50,000 characters, each uniquely different, each with deep meanings and nuances. Our women’s writing has 600 characters, which we use phonetically, like babies to create about 10,000 words. Men’s writing takes a lifetime to learn and understand. Women’s writing is something we pick up as girls, and we rely on the context to coax meaning. Men write about the outer realm of literature, accounts, and crop yields; women write about the inner realm of children, daily chores, and emotions. The men in the Lu household were proud of their wives’ fluency in nu shu and dexterity in embroidery, though these things had as much importance to survival as a pig’s fart.