It's rather fitting that this post comes at the close of the year, as most of us ponder resolutions to carry us through the next twelvemonth and help us improve. My meditations on this subject have been brewing for quite awhile and have finally percolated in time for tonight's countdown.
For the past few months, I have been grappling with a slow, angry bout of Depression. What finally alerted me to my current situation was one little thing: I like leaving the house even less than usual. I'm an introvert, I like being home, but lately, I avoid leaving. I make excuses to the point where it's really not healthy. (I know, I'm starting to sound like somebody from Hoarders...) Knowing that something is wrong helps, but figuring out a solution sometimes takes some serious time and effort.
A few weeks ago, Mr. F and I managed to get out on a Saturday morning. We went running and wandering through a local park for a long time. Not only was it my first encounter with honest to goodness exercise in who knows how long, it was the first time I was really out in nature. The sun soaked in through my skin and the darkness that had been clouding my mind disappeared for a few minutes. All at once I remembered my favorite books, the heroines who have inspired my life and...I was ashamed. What would they think of me if they could see me now? I thought. This is not how Anne or Lizzy would be living their lives. They would want me to be happy. And all at once a mantra was born.
What would Elizabeth Bennet do?
I thought of my favorite books, mainly anything Austen or from the Anne of Green Gables series. The characters in these novels, which I have read, re-read, then read again, have seeped into me, becoming old friends and a part of who I am. Over the years, I have turned to them to sort out my love life, figure out how to handle school, how to handle marriage, and coping with loss. It only seemed fitting, therefore, that the lifeline I was seeking for a healthy lifestyle should come from them. Pondering over their fictional experiences, I honed five simple guidelines that I have been trying to impart into my daily life.
1. Read. Not watch a movie or listen to NPR, READ! As a lover of the written word, it is dumbfounding how often I substitute a book for a blog. Reading a good book is so rejuvenating, enlightening, and very often feeds my creativity. Books have a way of challenging me to be better, by broadening my understanding or filling my imagination to such an extent that all I want to do is create. Very often after finishing a thoroughly engaging read, all I will want to do is paint, write, or make something. If I can do it outside, all the better!
2. Visit. All of the Austen novels are based on neighbors interacting. Without this simple action, there would never be a Mr. Darcy or Captain Wentworth. Without visiting, Anne Shirley would never have met Diana Barry, heaven forbid! As an introvert, this one is unbelievably hard for me. I would so often like to stay at home because I feel awkward and clumsy around others. But it is so good to do, and how on earth will I ever find more kindred spirits by staying on my sofa?
3. Go for a walk. I regularly have the phrase, "What are men to rocks and mountains," echo through my mind. How can one experience life if they never leave their front door? (If Bilbo could go on an adventure, so can I.) I have gleaned from these novels a sincere love of nature. Getting out of doors rejuvenates the senses, blows out the cobwebs of worry, and stimulates the body. Very often, a quick Coke run to get me out of the house will change my mood drastically. I can only imagine what a daily, thorough walk taking in the wonders of this island would do!
4. Faith. A constant throughout my favorite books is faith and hope. Whether it be faith in people, like Anne Shirley's hopeless optimism, faith in God, or faith in self, like the Goose Girl had to find. Faith is essential and so closely connected to hope. But it is also something that requires constant diligence, through study, observance, perseverance, and a joyful attitude.
5. Write. My second favorite of the Anne books is while she and Gilbert are engaged. The entire book is her letters to Gil, full of her adventures, triumphs, and failures. Not only did she probably keep a personal journal, but she was an avid correspondent. She wrote, and she wrote a lot.
To me, the writing element is more "hone and exercise your talents" than "sit down and write." I need to sing more, sketch more, take up a pen in my hand and feel it glide across a blank page. Is there anything more delicious than the feeling of a good pen? I love that feeling and haven't been searching it out enough. It also means developing these talents, stretching them and molding them to their fullest capacities.
So, friends, this is my New Year's resolution. It's not trendy. It's probably a little hard to understand that it's stemmed from my battle with Depression. But so it is. My goal is to be healthy, but in a way I can understand; by tying back together the pieces of me that I love most. The pieces I recognize best in my favorite heroines, who are also my oldest friends. Sure, I have plans to organize the house and shed a few pounds, but those somehow all fit into these five guidelines in my mind. By digging deep into the nooks of me that have been hiding these past few months and thinking, What would Elizabeth Bennet do? I'm really thinking, How does Engquist want to live?