The other night after the girls were finally asleep, Philip and I were unwinding to a little Pride and Prejudice. We have been on a bit of a period drama kick as of late, and this Jane Austen classic is always a hit.
We have remarked to each other in the past how it feels sometimes like we were both born into the wrong era, but this feeling hit me especially strongly as we watched the scene where Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet are dancing together at the ball thrown by Mr. Bingley.
I gazed in admiration at the enormous, ornate house; the beautiful dresses and tailored suits of the guests; the fine china they all dined upon... I noticed the beautiful, classical music being played, the lovely real dancing that was going on.... everything was so purposeful. There was a proper way of doing things, and people took pride in doing them correctly, well, and beautifully. There was a specific way of interacting with others, one that seems to have almost been an art form.
Don't get me wrong, some of these apparently common and acceptable forms of interaction (such as blatantly insulting each other in front of everyone...yikes!) freak me out and I would be sooo uncomfortable having to deal with.
But honestly, I covet a lot of the culture of the early 19th century. For one, I definitely wish balls were still the standard form of socialization! Can you imagine, instead of getting invited out to the bar or club for drinks with your friends, you receive a beautifully written invitation to a ball at your wealthy neighbor's house, and you get to get all fancied up, dance real dances to beautiful music (not the incredibly horrific shaking, jumping, and writhing to beats that make your brain want to explode that qualifies as "dancing" today)... I would love it.
As I thought about it, I realized one of the driving factors behind my pining to be BFFs with Lizzie Bennet (no, not getting to know Mr. Darcy - I've already got my own!) was not the fanciness, nor the formality of her time, but rather the meaningfulness in their lives.
There was no TV to watch, no Netflix to binge on; no Facebook for dwelling on the number of "likes" you got or didn't get, no Instagram for taking pictures of your food instead of just eating it; no smartphones to stare at blankly instead of engaging with the person standing next to you in line...their lives were real, they were their own - they were not owned by technology.
They had real, meaningful relationships with the people around them. They learned piano, voice, drawing, languages, reading, writing, poetry...they were filled with witty remarks, because they exercised their brains. They walked to town, and visited friends out of town for weeks at a time, and went to call on each other. They sat around the parlor and knitted, or read, or sewed, or just existed...!
In this age of social media, I find I crave meaning and simplicity so much. I'm sure you have heard before that the insane amount of "connectedness" that social media has brought has actually made us more disconnected than ever, and I have certainly felt that in my life. Especially as a stay-at-home mom with two little ones under the age of reason, at times I have been frantic just to be assured there were still other people in the world. That I was still an actual person whom people saw, and cared about, and knew about, and not just a lonesome poop-wiping, dish-cleaning, food-cooking machine.
So, I turn to Facebook, because it's the easiest thing. The thing about social media, though, is that not only do others see you, but you see others...all the others. And all the things they are doing, and who they are doing them with, and how much fun they are having. And how many people are not BFFs with you, or didn't invite you to this or that, and soon you are measuring your worth based on the number of "likes" you get.
This, friends, is not cool. And I've had it up to here.
In this new year, I want to live my life. My real life. I want to be fully present in every moment, fully experience the joy behind every baby smile, soak in the hugs, the laughter, the tears. Read more books, do more crafts, build my pottery wheel, start drawing again. Get back into practice on the piano, start singing again, catch up with dear friends more often.
I know this will be a challenge, because social media is pretty much the only way people stay in touch these days, and it is everywhere. But I want to change that. I want to take the time to call a friend and really see how she's doing; to hear the excitement in her voice as she tells me about her wonderful new boyfriend, the sorrow as she tells me her grandmother likely won't make it through the week. True emotion. Real life. Will you join me on this quest?
Many people argue that our times are the greatest yet, because, look at all the technological and medical advances we have! We are more connected than ever, information is at our fingertips, we are living longer than ever! But our connectedness is virtual, I think we own and value information much more when we have to work for it, and we may be living longer than ever, but do we really have more life than ever?
I say no, we don't. Despite the number of years we are living, I think we truly experience far less life than the Bennet sisters did. Sure, it may have been more likely that one of them suddenly come down with cholera and keel over, but I bet they would have lived a fuller life than we when we die at 70, 80, 90 years old - overstimulated, over-worked, sick from eating fake food all our lives, even sicker from all the drugs we were put on to help with the other sicknesses, tired of all our fake relationships, our fake Instagram photos and Facebook posts...
I vote for going back to the simplicity and meaningfulness of Jane Austen's time, where people truly lived, rather than putting on the appearance of living.
What do you think?