While youth is naturally more resilient, resilience is not just for the young. When young, time seems to go
forever and chances to make amends or change direction abound. However, once over the hump of middle age, it
might not seem so easy. Jane Austen’s characters reflect this. A small, and one might say inconsequential character, is Mrs Smith in Persuasion. Remarkably resilient, Mrs Smith is a widow whose departed husband has left her little money. Her and her husband had enjoyed the high life without looking to the future and now in straightened circumstances, she is ill. Laughed at by Sir Elliot as a “nobody” she is actually enlightening. When Anne Elliot visits, she comes away impressed admiring her spirits and her disposition:
“here was that elasticity of mind, that disposition to be comforted, that power of turning readily from evil to good, and of finding employment which carried her out of herself, which was from nature alone. It was the choicest gift from heaven.”
Mrs Smith had been dealt a cruel blow. She was confined to her room, confined to her chair; she could dwell on all the hurts and the unfairness of the fall of the dice. But instead, she befriends her nurse and is entertained by the scandals of society. A keen observer, she saw much to keep her amused. And perhaps here is one key to that resilient life, that Austen reveals, dwelling on oneself and one’s own difficulties keeps you right there, while looking outwards, having perspective, can take you away from your own problems and ultimately set you free. Is Austen foreshadowing what scientists have recently discovered that our minds are indeed elastic?
And as we all know, a cup of coffee from a favourite cafe with a friend can make all the difference. It does indeed make the mind elastic. Vale Mrs Smith!
2 responses to “What are the keys to a resilient life?”
I love Austen’s description of Mrs. Smith. “Elasticity of mind” is such a good phrase — she’s physically an invalid, but that doesn’t stop her from exercising her mind. And “disposition to be comforted” is great, too, isn’t it? What a contrast with Mary Musgrove!
I love Mrs. Smith’s character. She was young and foolish, but didn’t deserve the cruel neglect she suffered. Her continued good humor through it all is so admirable. Anne had a good friend in her.