Are Standards Stuffy?

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Raise your hand if you thought Ma was uptight for keeping to a cleaning schedule in The Long Winter.

I was thinking about that this morning as I forced myself out of bed, even though I have no appointments. I got up, did my usual Saturday stuff, made coffee and breakfast for Peter and I, then sat down with my Bullet Journal and thought about how to lay out a schedule for next week.

As I was doing it, I thought about another novel of Hard Times set in the Victorian era. A favorite book of mine as a teenager was Zemindar. It’s about the Indian Rebellion of 1857 where the main character (who narrates the story) is snarking one of her Sisters in Suffering because the good lady is trying to keep to the same timetable she did while at her station rather than sheltered at a compound in Lucknow.

At the time I first read that, I was fifteen and I cheered for the main character for not being so hidebound and stuck in propriety.

It ain’t about propriety. It’s about living while surviving. That’s quite a trick, really. Survival mode can and does take all of one’s energy sometimes, and that’s real. But deciding who and what you are in the face of bad times?

That’s living.

The little ceremony of tea in a shelter, the dressing for dinner at war — they seem such weird things when you take them out of context. They seem as if you’re clinging to a fantasy and ignoring reality. It’s not that they’re “necessary” to survival. Of course, they’re not.

But thinking about who you are and who you want to be? That’s more crucial than ever. You can’t control what goes on around you all that much, but you have some control over what you do with it.

In many ways, I am very, very Victorian.

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