“for her, life was as cold as an attic with a window looking to the north, and ennui, like a spider, was silently spinning its shadowy web in every cranny of her heart.”
Madame Bovary was the first intelligent book I read at school, under the stern eye of Mr. Gunn, my English teacher to whom I owe much (another time for this tale).
I will admit, I chose the book for its lovely cover art, a Victorian painting of a woman in yellow, if memory serves me right. Once I opened the pages, I was swept away in Emma and Charles’s marriage. Her addiction to love and fashion. Her selfishness, her ennui, all resonated in me deeply, even that young age.
The older I get the more I see Emma Bovary in people around me and yes, in myself. In the midst of child-rearing, I remembered thinking, is that all there is. Insert Peggy Lee singing it and you have the gist of my mindset at the time. But things improve and soon you are onto the next phase of your life. The one thing that you need to combat your inner Emma Bovary is something for yourself.
Now I am the last person who should hand out life advice but I have learned the hard way. As my doctor said to me when I was recovering from a debilitating illness, you need to find something you lose yourself in. When I probed and asked what she suggested painting, mosaic, crochet? She said, “I am being deliberately vague.” So I shall be as vague with you.
Find your something, anything in which you lose time. For me it is writing. For my Dad, it’s gardening. For my mother, reading. One friend sews, another cooks. Find your thang’ people. Look high, look low but find your bliss anywhere you can.
All you have is yourself. You come into the world alone and leave the world alone. Carry that something in your head and heart at all times. So when you have those days when you hear Peggy singing Is that all there is? You can remind yourself, “No there is something else. There is something more.”
And if you don’t find your thing then in the words of the immortal song “If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball.”
Either option works.