How Reading 'Anne Of Green Gables' Helped Me Cope With My Anxiety

by Kerri Jarema

My love affair with Anne Shirley started when I was a little girl. I was a huge fan of the Anne of Green Gables mini-series that played on PBS. These were the mid-to-late 90s, before there was a TV guide built directly into your television set, so it was always a great surprise when we would flip past the station and the movie would be on. The three-hour experience of Anne was so much fun that I could have watched in back to back. Fast forward many years and I was firmly entrenched in my twenties when I picked up the book version of Anne of Green Gables for the very first time.

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And while I was expecting to enjoy the experience, I didn't see it affecting me in such a way that it would quickly become one of my favorite books of all-time; and one that I turn to any time I'm in desperate need one of my ultimate comforting reads.

Anne's story was just as charming and lovely as I remembered from my childhood, but as an adult I've gained so much more from the world Montgomery created.

I think that is in large part because the world of Green Gables felt more familiar as a kid; cozy and comforting, sweet and funny. But at 23, when I first read Anne, the realities of adult life were already far different. And now, as we all know in our modern age of resistance, there are so many reasons to be stressed, angry and anxious on a daily basis. And it might seem silly, but Anne has been an especially inspirational childhood heroine for me during these past few months; not because she was organizing political resistance groups, but because she was, very simply, just so damn resilient.

It turns out that Anne Shirley is a paragon of all the things I most want to hold on to and embrace as I get older — allowing myself time to daydream despite the demands of reality, being a loving and faithful friend, not allowing fears to keep me from doing precisely what I want to do, speaking my mind with intelligence and wit, learning to let go of unnecessary grudges, learning from my many mistakes, believing in the innate good of people no matter how many times I've seen otherwise... and being eternally optimistic, no matter how many hardships life throws my way.

You might be thinking, "Easier said than done." And... that's definitely true. But just try to dive into Anne of Green Gables without feeling particularly warm toward the world by the end. There's a reason why this book, and the series in general, is one of the most quoted around. Just check out a few of these gems:

“Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world."

“It's been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”

“Dear old world', she murmured, 'you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.”

The best part of all this optimism, though, is that it's tempered with tons of Anne's hilarious mishaps, her fiery temper, and her tendency toward dramatics. Anne is the kind of gal we can all relate to; she screws up a lot, she has a healthy handful of frenemies, she talks back a lot and sometimes wishes she had a different life, a different name, and definitely different hair.

But that's what makes this book so perfect for when your real-world anxiety is off the charts. No matter what happens, Anne always finds the beauty in the world.

And that beauty is always so simple and so easy to notice. Thinking about my own kindred spirits, the striking scenes of the changing seasons, the simple pleasure of waking up in my own room, with its own window... Anne rhapsodizes on all of the above in a way that always makes me feel grateful. Even if you feel like all of this sweetness just doesn't gel with your current mindset, being reminded about what it is we're all fighting for (our friends, our fellow humans, our Earth...whatever) can only help you recommit to your resistance with less fear and more resiliency.

Add in Montgomery's intricately described Green Gables scenery, from the green fields, to the light gleaming off The Lake of Shining Waters, to the blooming Cherry Blossoms perfuming the air behind the orange-pink of the sky, and it's almost impossible to feel anything but calm while spending time at Green Gables. And luckily, if you look around hard enough, you'll find that Anne's world is more similar to our own than you might think.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, $12, Amazon