Another season of Downton Abbey is about to end, and I’m already suffering withdrawal. How I will miss that slow, hypnotic camera pan around the estate or up the grand staircase…the exquisite costumes and intoxicating music…Mary’s bitchy remarks…
So I’ve been trying to find a way to keep the Crawley’s around for more than just a couple of months out of the year. A way to bring a little of the Downton lifestyle into my own life. The more I thought about it, I realized I don’t need a Yorkshire County estate with a staff of servants to live like a Crawley. Here are just a few ways anyone can live that way…no corsets necessary.
Get Fancy: Those “good dishes” you got for your wedding? Why make them wait for a special occasion? Dinnertime is a special occasion for the Crawleys. Every day you’re alive on God’s great earth should be a special occasion. Pull out the good stuff—even if you’re serving meatloaf—and enjoy a little opulence. No fancy china? No worries. Use whatever you have, light some candles, add some fresh flowers or hand-drawn place cards. Make it as special as you can. The important thing is to gather your loved ones for a family dinner. Remember those? And once you’ve captured your busy family’s attention, engage in conversation. Linger. Laugh. Reconnect. Just remember to avoid tinderbox topics such as the Anglo-Irish War or the Russian Revolution.
Keep Good Posture: Crawleys never slouch. NEVER. Yes, good posture helps to avoid health complications such as back pain, slipped discs, and poor blood circulation, but it also facilitates breathing, which leads to more oxygen to the brain, which means more energy, creativity, and concentration. That air of Crawley confidence doesn’t just come from their good name and inventory of priceless artwork. People with good posture—no matter what their social hierarchy—exude assuredness and strength and self-esteem. So stand tall and keep your head up. You ARE royalty!
Polish Those Shoes: Okay, so we can’t all afford luxurious clothes that require a lady’s maid to get in and out of, but like good posture, how we dress affects our confidence and our moods. Watch one episode of What Not to Wear and you’ll see proof that outward appearance affects inner well-being. I’m not saying you should eschew pajama pants and fuzzy socks. They are an important source of comfort. But worn too often they just encourage sluggish, sleepy, and slouchy behavior. A nice, well-fitting outfit can do wonders for our self-esteem. And it doesn’t have to be expensive or haute couture. Just throw on a nice scarf. Accessorize. Polish those shoes. Take a shower! Sometimes looking good really does equal feeling good. Oh, and don’t wear polyester. Just don’t.
Disconnect: Much like Lord Grantham can’t fathom the idea of a “wireless” radio at Downton in 1924, we 21st century beings can’t imagine a life without our gadgets. TVs, computers, tablets…our ever-present smart phones. Take a step out of the cyber world and into the real world and you might be amazed by what you find. There is beauty equal to that sweeping English countryside closer than you think. Find a park, a beach, a country lane. Go for a walk or a bike ride. Marvel at the clouds, the birdsong, the breeze that touches your cheek. Yes, we are fortunate to live in the Information Age, having the world at our fingertips, but too much of a good thing is never good. Try, just try, to pry that phone out of your palm, use a crowbar if necessary, and pay attention to your own world. Don’t just snap a photo of that glorious sunset and rush to Facebook to post it. Take a moment to enjoy it. BE with it. Nature is forgiving and restorative and waiting with God-like patience for your company.
Open Your Home: Ever notice how Lord Grantham’s casa is everyone’s casa? Often it is by Cora’s gracious invitation, but there seems to be a revolving door of dinner or overnight guests at Downton. What better way to feel like the lord of the manor than by opening your home? This doesn’t mean you have to throw elaborate dinner parties or become a bed and breakfast. Host a potluck game night. Invite a friend over for coffee. Be a welcoming, warm, and hospitable host. Because sometimes the best way to help yourself feel better is by serving others.
Be True to Yourself: Upstairs and down, the happiest, strongest, most well-adjusted residents of Downton are the ones who know and accept who they are. Isobel Crawley, for instance. She has certain principles and she stands by them and bends to no one—not even the formidable Dowager Countess. AND she encourages others, like Branson, to speak their minds, and to stand up for what they believe in. Daisy knows deep down that she’s more than just a kitchen maid. She’s intelligent and ambitious and as she starts to spread her wings her happiness and confidence is rising. On the contrary, Thomas Barrow has been stomping around the corridors of Downton for years, miserable and seething, trapped in an era that won’t allow him to be himself. We have seen glimpses of his heart; we know he can be heroic. I think there is a little Barrow in all of us—afraid to be ourselves, afraid we will be judged or rejected. But if we believe in ourselves, be true to ourselves, and love ourselves first, we can all be heroes.