What draws you to what you read? I found myself pondering this with my nose stuck in Alexander McCall Smith’s latest 44 Scotland Street novel. The books are quiet, winding stories around 10-12 characters who all live in Edinborough, Scotland. They offer escape by allowing the reader to lose him or herself in the small-scale dramas of a “stolen” teacup or lying little girls in the schoolyard. Problems and complications abound, but so do growth, restoration, and eventually solutions.
The book creates a calm and warm space, allowing a respite from the many true evils and tragedies in our world. This is increasingly necessary due to the barrage of information our world daily places in front of us. Even social media, which once revolved around sharing photos and connecting with friends, has become a highly efficient way to spread information about causes, issues, and seemingly unsolvable problems. I would guess that for many, this barrage leads to anxiety and sadness over an overwhelmingly complicated world.
At times when anxious and depressive thoughts begin to well up beyond what is manageable, it is helpful to remember that the world is always full of pain and anger and you can choose how to engage. Taking a time-out from the things that breed those thoughts does not mean that you don’t care or won’t do something in the future. Be free to shut down facebook/twitter/Pinterest, etc. for a day or two and do something renewing. Read a book with a happy plot, journal, go for a walk in nature, play with a pet, watch a funny movie. Find what gives you encouragement and strength in order to re-engage with the realities of a broken world.
For me, engaging in a story that I know will eventually lead to (most) all being right with the world helps me build a space for quiet and renewal–what will your space look like?
I’ve been trying to finish this blog post for over a week now and I keep struggling to bring it to life. This is ironic because I’m writing on the topic of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and book about, ahem, the undead. In order to not bury what I want to say too deep in this post, this book presents a stirring picture of the dangers of avoiding our problems and assuming that when an overarching goal is reached, the problems will disappear.
Here’s a quick recap: In the tale, the main characters become deeply acquainted with the work of Dracula when they see their friend Lucy transformed into a hardened creature of the undead. These men then become so focused on destroying Dracula himself, that they ignore the small signs of his preying on the other woman of their party. She (Mina) ignores the signs as well even though she watched Lucy’s demise. We see how the group’s knowledge from observing Lucy leads them to feel safe, but their focus on pursuing Dracula blinds them to what is in front of their eyes (Mina being targeted). They almost lose Mina to the same fate as Lucy from their tunnel vision.
Going back to my original point, the character’s assume Mina’s fatigue is due to stress and will be resolved when their task is over. We walk around saying, “well, when I get promoted I won’t have to spend so much time at the office and my marriage/relationship with kids/money problems will improve.” Sure, sometimes changes in jobs do help with these problems, but if you are focused on the wrong issue (a better job will solve this) rather than the real issue (I need to tend to my relationships) then by the time the goal is reached the other problems have created deep damage that is difficult to repair. In the story above, the difference between Mina’s survival and Lucy’s was understanding and intervention. Once they acknowledged that the problem was more than Mina’s tiredness and intervened, they had the possibility to prevent her transformation as well. The lesson we can take away is to acknowledge the problems in your life that seem small and deal with them. You can work on relationships, debt, personal emotional health, etc. while pursuing other goals. You may find that your goals are easier to reach with out the small problems weighing you down!
Take-out Version: Don’t assume solving the big problem will resolve the smaller ones–take time to resolve issues as they arise!