Anne Shirley, Literary Life Coach

“It’s all very well to read about sorrows and imagine yourself living through them heroically, but it’s not so nice when you really come to have them, is it?” So says my dear fictional friend and kindred spirit, the incomparable Anne Shirley. As I’ve been rereading this favorite from my childhood, Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, it has become clear to me how much I learned from Anne as a child, and how much I’m continuing to learn from her as I navigate this most tragical time, as I’m certain Anne would put it. I’m hard pressed to find in literature a “bosom friend” whose wit and charm captivate me in quite the same way. Her demonstrated grit and loveliness offer a sweet picture of what it looks like to approach each challenge in life with conviction, passion, and excellent diction. Her words have been a solace to me, her precocious outlook on life a primer; I hope they may be for you as well.  

Find the Good

There are many things that are out of our control at this time. Things we once counted on as certain are upside down, like meeting with friends, access to groceries, work environments, kids going to school. Even still, the upside downness of it all doesn’t mean we can’t find pieces to enjoy. “It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.” So let’s make up our minds to find something in each day that is good; blossoms on the apple tree, a long bike ride, time to read (or better yet, write) that book. Each morning cry out, “Dear old world, you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.” The way you carry your mind is more important than what is actually going on around you.

Feel your Feelings

Of course, there will be days when you just “can’t cheer up—when you don’t want to cheer up, when you decided it’s nicer to be miserable!” Yes, we can find enjoyment if we make up our minds to, but that doesn’t change the fact that some days will be dreary, and we’ll be “rumpled up in spirit.” We are on a roller coaster of emotions as we ride through this dreadful trial of uncertainty, and it isn’t any wonder. Allow yourself to feel every bit of your feelings, the highs and the lows. You’re sure to be better off if you allow your emotions the space to expand to their full height; then you can acknowledge them, process them, then let them go when appropriate. If you choose to ignore them, they will demand to be heard one way or another.

Link Arms

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.” So, let’s remember that we are not in this alone. For the first time in modern history, the entirety of the world is experiencing the same trial, the same fears, the same unknowns. The way it affects us each is different, but we are all feeling some weight of this pandemic. Don’t lock yourself away in misery; reach out to neighbors and friends. Find ways to help others and ask for the help you need. Tragical things are so much better borne with friends.

Be Ambitious

This world is so very big and wonderful. Don’t make yourself small in it. “Oh, it’s delightful to have ambitions… And there never seems to be any end to them—that’s the best of it. Just as soon as you attain to one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting.” What is it that you are attaining toward? What ambition is alight within your heart? Let your imagination run free as you play in the meadow of new ideas. Don’t be afraid to try new things, and don’t be afraid to fail. “Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing.” No matter what happens, remember “tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it… yet.”

Imagine Life After

What a perfect time to take stock of our lives and find what we really want to keep; a time to analyze what’s normal and worth returning to, and what’s just habitual and old. There is so much scope for imagination during this time. Let’s make a plan to find the way back to our true selves, now that so much has been stripped away. When we start to reemerge from this unprecedented time of isolation, we can decide what we allow again. We don’t have to have a life of overwhelm and busy, of overextension and waste. We get to choose. May we find ourselves “not a bit changed—not really… only just pruned down and branched out.”

Look Ahead

Remember that all the things we love but can’t have today are waiting for us. We may experience sorrow now, but it is not a lifelong sorrow. Make two lists: one of all the beautiful things you’re grateful for today, and one of the lovely things that you’re most looking forward to having and doing again as soon as it is safe to do so. “You mayn’t get the things themselves; but nothing can prevent you from having the fun of looking forward to them.”

Always Have Hope

And finally, hope, always. “I don’t know what lies around the bend, but I’m going to believe that the best does.” Some may say we shouldn’t get our hopes up, but that seems an awfully sad way to live. Even when things don’t turn out the way we thought they would, there is always something to be grateful for. And that’s the perfect reason to have hope.

Photo by Lê Tân on Unsplash