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Thursday, June 10, 2010

On Having the Blues... and Finding Band-Aids

I am a creature of habit. Kind of. (Okay, not exactly, but for the purpose of this piece, let’s just go with that.) As a “for instance”, there are certain crack-o’-dawn rituals which -- once His Royal Furry Highness has finally succeeded in herding me downstairs to pour breakfast kibble into his empty, waiting bowl, of course -- I typically follow, such as making my morning vitamin-drink, then assuming a comfortable position on the sofa to either nap a bit or read for a spell. (The latter is a toss-up, depending in part on what time I finally fell asleep the previous “night”, whether my inevitable headache is at a level of “tolerable for now” or “explosion imminent”, and how much excitement there is for whatever I’m currently reading.)

Another ritual involves feeding His Fuzziness right before starting my daily late-afternoon/early-evening workout. There’s no getting around it; it’s just something we both expect to happen, at more or less the same time each day. (By now, you’re thinking that every so-called ritual involves food and the four-pawed shedding machine, right? Hmph. Keep reading...)

In similar fashion, there are things I tend to do when I’m (more) depressed (than usual). I eat more bad-for-me stuff (including chocolate, which a close friend insists is actually good for me and is thus “self-medicating”, so, um... yay, me). I get distracted (more) easily. (But hey, as a Pisces, daydreaming is hard-wired into me. Look it up, if you don’t believe it.) Time spent engaged in online-shopping increases sharply. (Yes, buying a pretty dress or a cool ring or a ridiculously frivolous-but-smokin’-hot pair of high heels helps. Absolutely.) And, sooner or later I find myself turning, yet again, to the classics (meaning, pre-20th-century books in this case), and more particularly, those with romantic themes. It’s the one little indulgence that doesn’t go straight to my hips, but does give those daydreams of mine a little more focus, and has no deleterious effect on my wallet. (See? Reading is GOOD.)

So, what exactly do I reach for when I’m down? Well, Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters have long been my go-to picks during the worst of these Bouts of The Blues. And honestly, what’s not to love? Jane provides the delightfully witty banter (complete with giggles) that I crave, as well as offering a sense of decorum and a veritable bonanza of pretty manners--which are SO lacking today--plus a nice amount of swoon-inducing declarations. Emily, Anne, and Charlotte, on the other hand, each brings to life those grand, deliciously-melodramatic scenes full of all-consuming passions, and sets them against luscious, vivid backdrops of craggy ocean cliffs and wild, windswept moors (visions of which go a long ways toward making my overactive Piscean imagination considerably happier).

Really, you just can’t go wrong with those authors when you’re running at less than 100% (at least, according to me you can’t). My faves among Austen’s titles will always be Persuasion (the most “adult”, mature, and thoughtful of her works, revolving around a real slow-burn of a love) and Pride and Prejudice (in all its amusing, bright, and charming splendor, as it follows the course of true love which is being hindered by an abundance of pride and a passel of misunderstandings).

From Anne Bronte, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is always a pleasure to revisit (the tale of a wife’s dogged attempts to escape a marriage that had quickly devolved into violence and neglect on the part of her drunken louse-of-a-spouse, and then to make a new life for herself and her son). Her sister Emily wrote the brilliantly-overwrought (with vaguely supernatural overtones) and tragic Wuthering Heights (the decades-spanning story of the ill-fated love between a poor, unhappy, orphaned boy and the beautiful, willful girl of the house, which leads eventually to the death of one and misery and insanity for the other). My favorite Bronte story comes from the hand of their sister Charlotte, though--Jane Eyre (depicting the life of a lonely, ill-used orphan girl who later finds, loses, and once more recaptures love with her employer--a man grown cold and somewhat harsh by his efforts to keep a grim and most unhappy secret).

With the exception of Wuthering Heights, all the above feature some sort of happy ending... so I’m gonna stick with the working theory that it’s a clear case of my brain seeking out that which might jumpstart its happy cells. (And yes, “jumpstart happy cells” is terribly scientific, no? I try; really, I do.)

So, how effective are such stories as a cure for depression, you might ask? Well, I don’t really have a clear-cut answer for that. (Sorry. More of me being unscientific.) Most of these stories feature some weepy parts, so they allow for a cathartic cry, I suppose. Some of them (especially Pride and Prejudice) have humorous scenes, and giggles are certainly good for momentarily chasing away sadness. And even when there’s a not-traditionally-happy-ending (as in the case of Wuthering Heights), I guess there’s a sense that things could always be worse (because think of poor tortured Heathcliff, for pete’s sake!).

But just so you know, what you’re not gonna see me do here is liken my beloved feel-better books to chicken soup. Gack! (Not chicken soup, of course, but comparing non-food things to it. Hate that.) To me, they’re more like band-aids. Pretty, happy, rainbows-and-sunshine, Hello Kitty band-aids (which Sad Kitties totally need :)).

[Next up, I’ll be introducing you to my NEW favorite. You don’t want to miss it... but if you do, you probably won’t tell me about it, so... yeah. I can still live with that.]


GlamKitty Catnip Mousie Ratings:

Persuasion: 5 out of 5 mousies
Pride and Prejudice: 5 out of 5 mousies
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: 4.5 out of 5 mousies
Wuthering Heights: 4.5 out of 5 mousies
Jane Eyre: 5 out of 5 mousies


4 comments:

  1. Persuasion is so, so wonderful. Oh MY how I love it. I didn't really "get" it in high school - color me Marianne Dashwood - but when I finally put off yet another reread of P&P when I got to my Jane Austen urge (it comes around periodically)... boy oh boycat, was I glad I sat down to reread Persuasion. Uh! There's just really nothing better. Honestly. It's difficult for me to discuss how much I adore it without sounding like an overly effusive twit.

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  2. I must reread Persuasion. It's been years. I started to a few months back and was sidetracked.

    On the pure diversion front, you can't beat The Woman in White. I still fall into it each and every time.

    Meanwhile, for photo accompaniment for a Jane Eyre theme, I cannot hesitate to recommend Abigail0709b's http://www.flickr.com/photos/33140817@N06/3929954906/in/pool-1128449@N24 is is so very Jane returning to Thornfield Manor after the fire, is it not?

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  3. Sorry for the total non-sequitur on the Wilkie Collins! I've no idea what happened to the sentences that preceded that one. It's evidently been excised with surgical precision. Please insert at the beginning of paragraph 2:

    What about something rather more gothic or sensational? I love Wilkie Collins.

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  4. CN- *Persuasion* is absolutely, bar none, my very favorite Austen (and it became so, the first time I read it)! The picture it paints of a real and enduring love--persisting despite the pain of absence, distance, time, & circumstance--is simply exquisite. Just the most perfect love story, ever. :)

    Marzie- That Jane Eyre-ish image is lovely! It truly does evoke Jane as she nears the ruined Thornfield...

    Also, interesting that you mentioned Wilkie Collins. I've never actually read her (believe it or not!), but I recently purchased a DVD boxed set containing *The Woman in White* and *The Moonstone*. I need to push them to the front of my must-watch list, huh? :)

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