There are all sorts of pills and elixirs in this modern world that we can buy to cure what ails us, but I have found that for me, a woman who is seldom sick, but who suffers occasionally from some mental or physical ills, that the best medicine is a strong dose of Jane Austen. I read her work when I was young, and loved the language, but frankly often found the stories hard to follow because OF the language…fast forward to my adult life and the PBS version of Pride and Prejudice and the Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility are my panaceas of choice. The words are generally still the same and the language in particular still excites me, but because I am watching the story unfold, rather than re-reading paragraphs that confused me, I find I GET more out of them than when I read them. I could watch both of these films once a week for the rest of my life and not ever grow tired of them.
S&S gets me thinking deep thoughts, mostly because I see myself a complex and confused mix of Elinor and Marianne; I think about being, or trying to be, sensible and clever and practical, and knowing that I ought not be so bold to so openly and frequently share my thoughts and emotions and wishes… and yet often I am so painfully aware of how those more “practical” demeanors often conflict, deeply, with my hopeless romanticism and carefree expressions of affection, desire, elation or melancholy.
P&P gets me thinking about what it means to me to be independent; how lucky I am to live in this modern world where women can own property, earn money, and make choices and decisions without having to answer to anyone. Self sufficiency is a gift we contemporary women have received through time and changing social norms, and to be sure, there are many many times I depend on my father, but I take great joy in how often I depend on no one but myself.
I needed some regrouping of my thoughts last week, and I was, well, there is no other term for it, blue, and so one cold afternoon when I should have been doing many things on my to-do list, opted instead to get out my yarn basket and I sat on my bed and crocheted and watched these films. I replayed some of my favorite scenes, I paused the films at times to rethink the words I had just heard, I watched with anticipation for what would come next, despite knowing exactly what was coming next…I spent many nights over a week thinking about my life, my choices, my regrets and remorse, as well as my contentments and joys. I thought a lot about my failures and my successes, the times when I have been so “up” and the times I’ve been so “down.” Both films have gloriously happy endings but so many hardships and upsets are suffered on the paths along the way. Jane Austen’s works reminded me that living life was not easy then and is not easy now, but that we press on, we move forward, we strive to do better next time with each time we miss, and hopefully we learn a lesson with every stumble, and that is good medicine to me.