Scarlett O’Hara, Philosopher.

My husband and I watched Gone with the Wind over the weekend. We have always tried to fit in this classic once a year and now it has a reserved slot on our viewing calendar on the weekend nearest to my late father-in-law’s birthday. A fitting tribute to this Civil War history buff.

Whenever I watch Gone With the Wind – yes, watch, reading Margaret Mitchell’s epic novel is on my bucket list – I am reminded of the subtle complexities of characters she crafted and wonder if they are portrayed the same way in the book. Just from watching the film I can understand Mitchell’s assessment that the story is about Scarlett, but the heroine of Gone with the Wind is Melanie Wilkes. Personally, I would vote for Belle Watling as the heroine but that’s a topic for another day. While not the heroine of the film and novel, Scarlett O’Hara is more than the flighty, selfish Southern Belle of the glorified Old South she is often dismissed as nowadays. Scarlett is a stereotype but a maverick, an archetype but a trailblazer, and to me, a philosopher.

Letting Go with Scarlett

We’ve all had days that just didn’t turn out as planned, and not in the Happy Accident or beautifully serendipitous way. When those doozies of days end, like many of us I often find myself quoting one of Scarlett O’Hara’s most famous lines while kicking off my shoes and pouring a glass of wine. “Tomorrow is another day” is less the forward-looking affirmation as Scarlett meant it and more confirmation that the day is coming to an end.

To bring this famous quotation back to its more positive purposes, try instead to use it when your day does finally come to a close, when you can quietly reflect or meditate on the day and pray about it. The day is done, it cannot be changed – it was what it was – but do not lose the lesson of it. Be thankful for the day. Strive to find some area of gratitude. Look for the positive no matter how small. Finally, move on. Easier said than done for the anxiety-prone like myself, but stop fretting and regretting and instead quote Ms. O’Hara: “After all, tomorrow is another day.” Repeat as necessary.

Slowing Down with Scarlett

I hate multitasking. I hate how frazzled it makes me and I hate the unnecessary stress it creates. I hate how distracted, disjointed, and disrespectful it makes those around me who multitask. I could blame the advent of the smartphone and Millennials for the rampant multitasking in our society –we blame them for everything else – but my generation shares in the blame, too. I remember studying in college while listening to music with headphones on with the television on and muted in the background. Apparently, this was training for life in the real world where women especially are expected to do everything for everyone and do it all at once.

Much has been written showing multitasking actually makes you less productive and more prone to errors. Scarlett seemingly knew this when she uttered, “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.” In a brazen act of self-care, I have been on a mission to eliminate multitasking from my life both at home and in the office. My clients pay me a lot of money for my time and they deserve 100% of my attention without distraction. I have been holding myself to dedicated daily times for email responses and for returning, making or receiving phone calls. Most importantly, I have been fiercer about protecting my focus time each day.

Not every day goes as planned (see above). Emergencies and urgencies must be dealt with as they come but not all distractions are created equal. Decide what is truly important and what cannot be delayed. Do not be afraid to push off until the next day what is not so urgent so you can stay focused on what really matters. Tackle one thing at a time. Be firm with your boundaries and if you need reinforcement, repeat our mantra from Scarlett: “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

Scarlett as Voice of Moderation

Scarlett O’Hara had a fiery temper and was not known for having the best judgment. Rhett Butler reminded her often that she was no lady and some of the imprudent words she uttered proved him right. Despite her shortcomings, Scarlett does offer us a more ladylike retort when what you are really thinking should never be said aloud: “Fiddle-Deedee.” I think that’s a much better F-word, don’t you?

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