Pride & Prejudice, Books & Balance

Late year, I was invited to speak to the First Saturday group in Peoria, a gathering of mostly younger women who meet monthly for talks and fun fellowship. To get a feel for this group, you might want to read my article for The Catholic Post covering a bigger gathering they had last year to gather women for talks by Lisa Schmidt and Sister Helena Burns. That was a terrific evening!

My talk to First Saturday was slated for January 4, but since a snowstorm was on its way, the meeting was rescheduled until February 1. Back in January, I had a bare-bones post, mostly to include each of the books I quoted, slated to go, so women wouldn’t have to take notes.  When the talk was canceled I put it back into draft.

My talk was entitled,The Anti-List for the New Year: Books, Balance and Self-Care”. Here’s the blurb about it from First Saturday Facebook page:

Have you made new year’s resolutions? Any for just you?  Join Nancy Piccione at the “first” First Saturday of 2014 as she shares some ideas (through books, naturally) about finding balance in the new year for busy women and moms.  Nancy is the book page editor of The Catholic Post, mom of three, and inveterate reader of Jane Austen.

Clearly, it was meant to be a new year’s talk, but I didn’t want it to be a “to-do” type of talk. I can find those 10 ways to be a better mom in 2014” kind of talks interesting and sometimes helpful.  At the same time,  knowing how busy my own life is, I don’t want to load women up with any more “to-dos.”

What I did was pick a book and a theme for each month, and offer a quote from the book and some ideas about it. I’m not challenging women to read all the books, but to encourage them (and myself)! to do things that bring them joy and energy.

Here at Reading Catholic, I plan to share the idea, quote and book for each month, during that month this year. When I give the talk in February, I’ll have a post with the entire list of books. At the same time, I thought a monthly post about the month’s topic, book and quote was in order.

My goal for the talk is to keep it light, fun and encouraging, and these posts, too, will definitely be impressions rather than fully formed essays. I hope they are enjoyable to you and give you a few new book ideas, or inspire you to re-read an old favorite.

Thanks to Marie, and the rest of the First Saturday team for inviting me. I’d love your feedback here, and I welcome you to the talk, at 7 p.m. on Saturday, February 1, at the Sacred Heart Room of St. Philomena Parish in Peoria.

January:  “Be Yourself”

A much earlier Norton edition was the first P&P I read ( in college).

Pride & Prejudice

Elizabeth Bennet is surely a heroine who is “herself,” and that is what leads Fitzwilliam Darcy to grow in love and pursue her. Because she is not trying to “catch” Darcy, he is able to see her in a natural way, and grow to love her effervescent, smart personality.
That’s also true of our happiness and wholeness. If we pursue the things we love, especially related to our faith, happiness and wholeness is often the result.

Setting up the quote from P&P: This exchange takes place at Netherfield Park, the home of Charles Bingley, a young wealthy man who is pursuing Elizabeth Bennet’s sister Jane. Elizabeth is a guest while her sister Jane is recovering from illness. She prefers to read, and is teased about it by Caroline Bingley, Charles’ sister and certainly a woman who is molding herself to what she thinks Darcy wants in a wife. Caroline teases Elizabeth for reading instead of playing cards with the rest of the party:

“Miss Eliza Bennet,” said Miss Bingley, “despises cards. She is a great reader, and has no pleasure in anything else.”

“I deserve neither such praise nor such censure,” cried Elizabeth; “I am not a great reader, and I have pleasure in many things.”

Soon after there is a discussion about what makes “an accomplished woman,” and Caroline again strives in vain to insinuate herself into Darcy’s good graces by over-agreeing with him.

“Oh! certainly,” cried his faithful assistant, “no one can be really esteemed accomplished who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half-deserved.”

“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

I would argue that it is important to “improve your mind by reading,” since that’s what I love. There’s a quote by Susan Wise Bauer (I can’t find , even after some searching) that younger moms should definitely let the kitchen floor get sticky so you can read the classics, slowly over time. As one who loves reading, and doesn’t have the cleanest kitchen floor on the block, I’m all for this.

For me, reading seems as natural, and as necessary as breathing. I always have multiple books around, and I always have a Jane Austen book going (it’s currently Persuasion, one of my favorites).

But maybe it’s different for you, and reading isn’t a passion, and you learn better other ways. Still, you have talents and health passions that are yours. You don’t have to be an accomplished woman via the Caroline Bingley “checklist” (or mine)—you get to make your own list.

How can you resolve this month to spend more time on what gives you joy and pleasure, so you can be happier and more effective in all the areas of your life?

Scripture take-away:

“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” —Romans 12:2.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Can you think of another fictional character, or person you know, who exemplifies a strong sense of self?

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