Happy Birthday, Jane!

Since I first discovered the works of Jane Austen, I have felt a kinship with her, as all Janeites do. I had just returned from a trip abroad, where I had felt that sensation of going home when I saw England for the first time, and the film Sense and Sensibility was coming to theaters. I am not being dramatic when I say it changed my life.

I empathized most with Eleanor, the elder sister, who like me, had to keep the family together after a dramatic event. The Dashwood girls lose their father, leaving them, and their mother, fairly destitute. Our family returned home from the trip to learn my stepfather had been having an affair, and when things fell apart, I took care of my younger siblings.

While I have great love for Pride and Prejudice, it is Sense and Sensibility that still resonates with me most. I, of course, have lost count of how many times I’ve watched it at this point. I used to watch it whenever I felt the least bit sad, or was hormonal, or just needed my Austen fix. Goodness. That could mean it’s upwards of a few hundred viewings. ((insert surprised face emoji))

From that point on, I watched every film based on her work I could get my hands on. I bought her books. I researched the time period, which in turn began to filter into my own writing. I have a screenplay set in her time period in Bath, where she spent a great deal of time.

While writing that screenplay I made an intriguing discovery. The time periods I am most fascinated by are all separated by 200 years, roughly – the Victorian era, the time of Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, Medieval times – and Jane and I were born 200 years apart. I was born in 1975, she in 1775. It was a strange sort of mind bending feeling when I realized this, so the protagonist in that script has a connection to a certain number, which I explore.

When people jokingly ask, “Who is your spirit animal?”, my answer is Jane Austen. I just get her. I mean read some of her quotes:

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.

The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it.

I do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them.

Jane Austen

It’s like she’s reading my mind.

So Happy Birthday, Jane! Your life may have been short, but you made a big impact. Not only have you given me something to strive for, delighting and entertaining readers/viewers for centuries, you also remind us to take advantage of the time given to us, to not settle, and to follow our dreams.

The 5 Things I Learned About Myself by Journaling (nearly) Everyday in Just a Month

JounalI joined the site Medium last year after coming across a number of articles linked to it.  It’s free to use if you only read about 3 articles a month.  I was finding so many that I had a back log of nearly 75 saved articles.  Knowing I would never have a chance to read them all at that rate, I joined.

Feeling at a crossroads with a big-number-impending-birthday (yes, it’s that time of year again), I was looking at articles related to self-help, following your passion, goal setting, keeping momentum and focus, etc. and I read a number of articles about journaling.  Growing up, I had friends who kept diaries.  I was not one of them.  It’s just never worked for me to remain consistent, but after seeing how people were discovering things about themselves through this process, I decided to give it a try.

A real try.

I started mid-December and wrote everyday, almost, for a month.  I decided not to review anything I had written during that time, to see what would repeat.  I wanted to learn if there were areas in my life that were seeking attention and needed it.  Then we took a mini break to California, so nothing happened for about a week.  When we returned home, I decided to look back on what I had written to look for patterns.  Here’s what I discovered about myself.

  1. My writing is important to me and I have a lot of things I want to accomplish.  When I quit my job at the end of November, a panic set in about our next steps.  Were we ready to move overseas?  How could we do it?  Where would we live?  What about our pups?  What about all our stuff?  I created an Etsy store after weeks of research and narrowed down our possible move, but all of it was so consuming I couldn’t write.  But being away from it for a couple of months gives me anxiety as well, so it was enlightening to learn how important it is to my life.
  2. This lead to a new idea.  I want to obtain my Master’s Degree.  In my research for the move, a student visa was one easy way in.  I started looking at schools with film and screenwriting programs, and I got excited at the prospect.  I wasn’t a great student the first time around but I enjoy learning new things now, so I’m interested in pursuing this further.
  3. But one thing that did keep coming up was my lack of focus or motivation.  I go on binges and then lose steam.  I know this has been an issue, but finding it written down, repeatedly, made it more relevant.  At this point in my life, I either need to do it or move on.  This half-assing nonsense must come to an end.
  4. I need therapy.  I had a turbulent childhood – an alcoholic abusive step-father, for one.  While on our mini break, we watched old home movies and I realized that my faulty memory is most likely due to self-preservation.  There are enormous chunks of my childhood and even teen years that are complete blanks.  Watching myself on the videos was like watching someone else.  There is nearly no connection to anything we watched.  That was a startling discovery.
  5. I want to buy a home.  The Sis and I have been renting for about 13 years now and I’m tired of it.  For a couple of years now, maybe it’s because I’m in my 40s, I’ve wanted to “settle down”.  I want to paint my walls and grow a garden.  I want to pull up the crappy carpet and put in a farmhouse sink.  I want to stop hoarding Amazon boxes like a doomsday-prepper and not feel like we’re always in limbo.  It’s hard to start things if you’re always thinking about the next move.  I haven’t bought things, like a dining room table because I don’t want to move it.  Kitchen appliances are on hold because I don’t want to move it.  A new dresser…because I don’t want to move it.  This has been our life for a long time and I’m over it.  Such a simple thing, and yet the tendrils associated with it are long reaching.

This is just in one month.

I’ve continued on in the same vein, I’m not reading what I’ve written this past month.  With my 45th birthday just having passed, I felt like these weighty issues were becoming amplified at my own displeasure for not making more out of my life at this point.  I was feeling a writer’s mid-life crisis looming, but because I’ve articulated so many things that have been bothering me through journaling, I have a better path laid out before me to make some changes.

A random discovery from such a simple act.  Thank you to all those writers who shared the positive impact journaling can have on your life!

Do you journal?  How has it helped you?