Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lady Susan (Betcha Thought I Forgot About JA)

A few days ago I polished off Lady Susan, a short and rather strange little Jane Austen gem.

Observations:
  • Lady Susan herself is SCAAAAARY!
  • Excellent work, Ms. Janie, on the storytelling via narrative letters. I remember trying that technique in several different writing classes, and always falling in love with how much exposition you could cram into this form. Playing with voice and tone is so fun this way, and Jane Austen is, once again, the master of characterization.
  • One thing I really like about Jane Austen is that it's impossible to completely hate any of her characters, because they are just too real. She's so compassionate. Lady Susan is a complete witch with a capital B. I wanted to hate her, but I kept having uncomfortable flashes of recognition...and I don't mean recognizing my neighbor or my sister or best friend. Sadly, I suspect I've had my own Lady Susan moments. Gotta love writing like that.
  • Not to state the obvious, but holy cow--I'm so glad that I live in an era when women aren't defined by the men in their lives! Yeesh! No wonder some women (ahem) went to outrageous lengths to secure the man they idealized. That makes me sad.

Which brings me to my conclusion:

This was a pretty depressing book.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Why Marry, Part Two

From a friend who shall remain nameless:

"We marry in order to validate our lives."

The friend thought this was a quote from a movie with Susan Sarandon. Maybe I should google the actual quote, but I'm lazy.

I've had this thought jotted down next to my bed, underneath my scriptures, where I can see it every morning and every night, and the repetition hasn't helped--it still sounds like a load of crap.

Several of my YOUNGER siblings married before I did, and when I finally married I was appallingly old for a Mormon girl, so I had plenty of time to think about whether I wanted to be married, and WHY I would marry. One important conclusion I reached was that I could have a meaningful, happy life regardless. And that's been true--I loved my life as a single woman, I loved my life as a married woman (a deluded married woman, as it turned out, but innocence/delusion is generally a happy state), I love my life as a single mom, and I trust that if I ever feel motivated enough, I will love being happily married--genuine happiness, not the delusional kind--again.

Everything about my life is real and valid and matters to me. Marriage wouldn't make it any more or less real and valid and meaningful.

I'm assuming the quote has more to do with the strength of shared experience, and I can see that. There is something to be said for the power of going through the heaven times and the hell times, and knowing that someone else is right there with you--not in a "I'll-be-your-friend-and-your-sympathetic-ear" way, but in a "this-is-MY-hell-too" way. Of course, marriage isn't a guarantee of that kind of relationship, although it does up the odds. You can be married and be more alone that you ever thought possible, and in a special brand of hell invoked by your spouse. It happens. But I agree that the ideal is that marriage means you share the good & bad stuff, and the shared experience somehow makes it all MORE real and more meaningful.

I just can't buy that marriage is an essential act of self-validation. Doesn't work for me.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Is Marriage Worth It? Part One: Exponential Impact

This is going to be a multi-post treatise, as you nice people deserve lots of thoughtful responses to your plentiful and varied and splendiferous ideas on marriage.

Today's thought comes from Jessica, who used the 1 + 1= 3 analogy to express that marriage should make each partner more, in fact, should create something new that is greater than simply the sum of the two people.

I like this thought. Here's one tiny reason why:

The ultimate aim and purpose of my life is to serve God and do His work. It seems reasonable to me that marriage should only be worth entering into if it furthers that aim. Let's face it--I have plenty of cynical, pessimistic evidence that marriage can hinder one in accomplishing that task; faith suggests that ideally, marriage enables both partners to rise higher than they would otherwise. It reminds me of the old Quaker saying, "You lift me, and I'll lift thee, and we'll both ascend together." Becky's smart MIL, Camille-The-Goddess-of-Wisdom, addressed something of this a few weeks ago in a comment that has stuck with me, about the concept of 'supporting and sustaining' one's spouse. She pointed out that alternate definitions of the terms refer to broadening and enlarging--which has "broadened" and "enlarged" my understanding of our roles within marriage (sorry--that was shamefully bad).

Here's a question, though. In what ways do you feel/think that marriage allows you to be/do more than you could singly? I have some ideas, but I want to hear from Ye Wise Ones.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reasons to Believe (why yes, I am a child of the 80s--what gave it away?)

I've been a slacker about posting on the JA blog lately, mostly because I moved, and one week later ended up with daughter no. 2 in the hospital, then back in the hospital shortly thereafter, then daughter no. 3 decided to join the fun and develop a scary case of pneumonia. In between all of this, daughter no. 1 was diagnosed with gastritis, the precursor to ulcers, and the one and only son decided it was perfect timing to claim his share of maternal attention by acting like the beastie boy from h$&%.

Needless to say, Jane Austen, romance--or lack thereof--, heck, even reading, period, has been the last thing on my mind.

BUT, I've also had a hard time feeling motivated to care. 99.9% of the time I find myself feeling pretty apathetic toward marriage and relationships. As in, who needs 'em? As in, life is pretty good the way it is. As in, me & God have a good thing going--He's pretty awesome at providing everything we (kids and Mommy) need, so what else is there?

And I feel guilty about feeling this way, because I belong to a church that holds forth that marriage is ordained of God, and I believe that (in a generic, good-for-other-people kind of way), and I want to have a little more conviction when I say it.

So help me out here! Why is marriage worth it? Post a comment, email me, or grab my elbow the next time you see me. Give me your best sell.

Bonus points if you make me laugh out loud. Bigger bonus points if you actually get this cold, cold heart to crack a smitch and say "awwwwww."