One of the reviews says, “the book radiates happiness and optimism”. When I think of the conditions of worry and gloom and care under which it was written I wonder at this. Thank God, I can keep the shadows of my life out of my work. I would not wish to darken any other life – I want instead to be a messenger of optimism and sunshine.
~LM Mongomery, on her book Anne of Green Gables
I wish I could tell LM Montgomery that she was exactly that for me.
I used to disappear into her books, and when I emerged the world was washed with that optimism. She helped me see God in nature. She made difficult people seem more harmless, kindred spirits something to be treasured though “not as rare” as we might think. She shaped my love for fashion, books, poetry, and education.
It’s been so strange to read her journals the last few months – Volume I – and find that she was often lonely, anxious, and depressed. She struggled to find true love and maybe never did. Her father may have been the only person in her life who loved her deeply, unconditionally, and kindly.
When Anne of Green Gables sold to a publisher and arrived on her doorstep one day bound and published, she was elated. But a year or so later when the sequel came, she didn’t care. She “went for a walk in the woods and thought no more about it.” It was this entry that made me realize like I never realized before even though I’d said it to myself: Success really can’t make you happy if you haven’t found a way to happiness before.
I don’t blame her for not being happy. Her winters were miserable, shut up in two tiny rooms with a grouchy old woman and barely enough heat to be comfortable. Instead I admire the way she could still find that belief deep inside that happiness was possible. I don’t think she wrote pretend happiness but possible happiness. And that’s what I responded to when I read it.
The last several years I haven’t read her books again and again like I used to. (I used to be able to look back at my journals and tell which entries were written while I was reading Anne – they affected me that much). But now I can’t wait to read them again. Because I’ll know how hard she worked to put her belief in the goodness of life into her stories even though it continued to fail her a bit in reality.
I think if we’d admit it, our beliefs fail us sometimes too. I believe God performs miracles, but I don’t see them very often. I believe he hates cancer as much as we do, but it continues to find us and our loved ones all the time. I believe he made us in his image, but some people are really difficult to love. I believe love and companionship are for everyone, but I still have friends who haven’t found it.
People think they tell the truth, or write it, when they only show the ugly parts. But I think the possibility of happiness is just as real as the fact that often we misplace it. LM Montgomery inspired me to look for the happy, all the time, no matter what. And I love her for it.
There is so much in the world for us all, if we only have the eyes to see it and the heart to love it and the hand to gather it to ourselves – so much in men and women, so much in art and literature, so much everywhere in even the narrowest, most circumscribed life – so much to enjoy and delight in and be thankful for.
~LM Montgomery, 1900…. spring