Thursday, September 26, 2013

Old Habits

When I was a little girl, I always thought it was so funny that my father had a neat stack of reading material on the dresser just outside the master bath.  As a careless eight-year-old, I could curl up in a chair whenever I wanted and devour books at my leisure.  It seemed quite unnecessary to take something to read into the bathroom. 

Then I got into high school at the comparatively intense institution where I received my education.  Suddenly I had far less time to myself.  It was then that I first sympathized with my Dad.  Ever since those days, I’ve practiced his technique of taking a book with me when I’ll be in the bath for a while.  I read while brushing my teeth and cleaning my contacts; I shower; then I read again while applying lotion, while dressing and styling my hair.  Since I’m a fast reader, I get through a good 30-40 pages every shower.

I’ve even learned to spread this pleasant multi-tasking to other areas.

My current reading list!
My various occupations have always been very reading-centered.  The problem, though, is that when one is assigned reading for classes or work, time for pleasure reading is eaten up.  If you want to try a new novel or read some light non-fiction, you have to squeeze it in during odd moments of the day.  When I was in college, for example, I read the (600 page!) entirety of The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie while cooking all my meals for a week.  While things simmered on the stove, I’d lean against the refrigerator opposite and read. 

I will note here, though, that making gumbo and trying to read Heart of Darkness does not work.  Who knows why, but I only read about one page of the latter while making the former, even though it was a long slow process and should have given me plenty of time to forge through such a short book. 

Anyway, anecdotes aside, normally I don’t feel that multi-tasking is that effective, since the two undertakings can each distract from the other. When it comes to reading, however, I give everyone my blessing to multi-task.  (You were all waiting for it, I’m sure.)  Reading is one of those intensely enriching, relaxing, restorative things which nonetheless is almost always lowest on our priorities list.  We need any excuse to fit it into our days that we can find.

Unfortunately, while I was teaching, I read almost nothing new – maybe two books a year at most.

My habits of finding spare moments to read while completing some other low-intensity task had almost faded into nothing.  Even late in the evening when all my daily tasks were done, I’d just collapse into bed and watch a TV show rather than pull out a book.  I incurred everlasting shame by racking up library fees – I who had always returned books a few days after checking them out! 

Lately I mentioned in a blog post how pleasant it has been to discover that my new job offers the chance to do a little writing work at lunchtime – thus fulfilling a hope of mine from my pre-employment days.  In fact I’ve been returning to more than one of my old hopes and interests.  Reading is my first hobby (if reading can be a hobby!) and libraries have been my favorite haunts from the moment I learned to read, maybe before.  I’ve missed it.  It has been wonderful to return to it with my old enthusiasm.

So many books, waiting to be read...
What’s more enjoyable, after all, than plunging into a new story, a new style, and soaking it in? 

Life often twists and turns in surprising ways and takes us away from the things we loved when we were young.  In some ways, though, your childish self was your purest self – not the best you could be, of course, but the clearest picture of your natural tendencies and passions.  Growing up and then progressing through the various stages of adulthood can distract you from the things which you once loved easily and simply.  Exacerbating this situation, perhaps we tend to look back on our childhood and think, ‘Oh well, I couldn’t possibly be that interested in what I did then.  I’m so different now!’ 

My current experience, though, is that I’m not so different from my 12-year-old self, after all.  In fact, I feel enormously refreshed and rejuvenated to discover that I haven’t moved beyond a passion for reading.  It was just lying dormant while I dealt with a constantly busy schedule.  Now that I’ve awoken again, I feel more joyful, more like myself. 

Perhaps we can feel this way more often by recalling the things we loved as children and indulging in them upon occasion.  To recall our childhood loves surely will have the effect of keeping our minds young and open to inspiration, much as they were when we were small.


  1. My first foray into the net world was a site called
    - I think I read close to a book a week that year. Then with work, grandchildren... life. I made a choice, less TV. It hit home last year when I could even remember finishing one book. Now I make the time to read at least a chapter a day.

    I finished several Evanovich books and perhaps some other 'easy' reads. I'm now working on 'The Secret Rooms' - a real life mystery.

    Once the kitchen is puzzle out and finished I also hope to 'attack' some other rooms in my home so I can get back to other artistic endeavors. Writing is just one passion ;)

    Best to you, and thanks for your visit.

  2. When it comes to finding time for reading it's all about quality not quantity. Better to know a few books intimately than many books superficially in my opinion. But yes, I'm glad you're finding more time to read again - without good reading time, there can be no good writing time!