Thursday, January 03, 2013

Happy New Year

Christmas was good, but quiet - I think this was the first year ever my brother (and, in more recent years, my sister-in-law) wasn't present for either the day of Christmas or a day or two after. (They elected to stay back in their home, which, given that they live kind of in the foothills near Harper's Ferry, and that it's been snowing off and on, makes sense).

New Year's Eve was likewise quiet, but then again, we've never been party people. (And two of us in the household are not supposed to consume alcohol, given the medications we're on). No one asked me if I was making any resolutions but my plan was to laugh and say, "I made them back in October" (eating less sodium and more vegetables). I do think I am also going to try harder to continue to treat people with good grace - I admit there are times I get overwhelmed and may be more prone to snap at people, or respond out of proportion  to an offhand remark or suggestion.

I don't know. As I've said before, I'm not so fond of the idea of resolutions in the Be More Better Now sense that they often seem to be promoted in our culture. (Didn't someone a few years back leave a comment about young women 100 years ago, and how one of their resolutions was to "pray more."? Which I suppose could be seen as a Be More Better Now resolution, but it's one that's more attractive to me than the typical  cutting back on food you like, or adding more activity you don't already do, or restricting spending, or something. I suppose a lot of those kind don't appeal to me because I already strive to eat a healthful diet (even moreso, now) and I exercise an hour most days and I already stick fairly tightly to a budget, and even more restriction feels unnecessary and punitive to me - the idea of restricting for the sake of restriction, of making a resolution to change something because it's traditional and expected.)

What I would really like would be to see more "fun" resolutions - I know a few years ago I thought of trying new recipes periodically, and I've not kept up with that as much, but that was a fun one. Or reading Shakespeare, which I still slowly pick at. I'd like to resolve to go antiquing more, but I am not sure how my schedule will work with that. (And also - it seems some of the antique shops have closed up over the past few years. I suppose selling on eBay carries less overhead and is easier. But shopping on eBay is not fun in the way going to an antique shop is)

I might resolve to read more, or at least make the effort to do so. I found a Penguin paperback edition of "Hard Times" on one of my shelves of left-behind books at my parents' house, and opened it up, and sounds strange, but I just liked the font it was printed in and decided to take it with me to read. (Never mind that I have an old hardback copy at home). And I read a story in the new Piecework about Mrs. Gaskell's "Cranford" and now I want to pull my copy off the shelf (well, once I get home) and read it; it sounds really good.

I'm almost done reading "Mrs. Miniver," it is quite different from the movie. I'll write more on it later; it's a wonderful book and is much more about the inner life of Mrs. Miniver and how she tries to find the small pleasures in life than it is about the War. (The novel was written in '39, so it's more about the so-called phoney war, the real bombardments came later). There's a scene of going to pick up gas masks and its attendant horror, but that is quickly put aside in favor of happier thoughts. And while some might dismiss Mrs. Miniver's attitude as escapism or unseriousness - I do think there's something healthy about looking at the nicer parts of life rather than always focusing on the bad, serious things. And I don't think in a world where horrors are taking place (there is also a brief scene that implies that Mrs. Miniver and her family know of the horrors being visited on the Jews of Europe, but there is nothing concrete they can do to help) it is necessarily wrong to try to find small pleasures - going around sad and miserable all the time does not alleviate the suffering of others.

Or maybe resolve for "more escapism." I go back and forth on this idea; part of me says, "No, you must pay attention to what is going on in the world, that is what grownups do" and then I wind up reading newsmagazines and essays about the state of the world online, and it kind of depresses me (if only, if only, I could never hear the words "fiscal cliff" again, I would be happy). And then I sit down and watch something like "Topper" on TCM (it was on the other day) and it makes me so happy (And I find myself thinking, "If we're headed for, or are already in, another 1930s like financial situation, where are the clever witty stylish movies? We should at least have decent movies if we're going to weather another Depression"). But yes - movies from the 30s and 40s, especially the screwball comedy ones, make me happy and make me forget the problems that I see around me. And stories like Mrs. Miniver's, where there is loving attention paid to the joy that something like "big, mop-headed" burgundy carnations can bring, or the pleasure of watching her children (even her nearly-grown oldest son) enjoy the gifts that show up in their Christmas stockings, or the satisfaction of removing bramble from a disused orchard. Or even stories like Lark Rise to Candleford, where the people are clearly not in the comfortable position the Minivers enjoy (it's even clearer in the novel that the Minivers are solidly upper-middle-class; they have a home in London and a country home ("Starlings") in Kent), but who still find joy in honest work, in having "enough" (when there IS "enough"), and in the small pleasures of life.

So maybe that's it. Making a continued effort to recognize and enjoy the small pleasures that come in life - and in sometimes creating those small pleasures, whether by making them yourself (taking the time to brew a really good cup of tea, rather than using a teabag and paying sort of half-attention to its steeping) or buying them (maybe, once in a while, getting cut flowers for the table).

1 comment:

purlewe said...

Oh I bought myself a copy of Gaskell's Cranford last yr. It is a delight. You will probably really enjoy it!