About four months ago, I started reading again.
I was always a big reader as a kid. As I got into high school and college, though, I had less time for pleasure-reading. Required books and articles took up all my time. When I graduated, I was excited to start reading again (something I’d attempted several times during my senior year). My burst of reading continued for a few months and I finished a couple of books. My grandparents died a few months later, and after, I couldn’t seem to pick a book up. I didn’t seem to have the mental energy. I kept trying though. Almost three years later, I’m reading again. Ferociously.
I can’t stop thinking about books. In a where-have-you-been-all-my-life kind of way. And how-did-I-live-without-you-so-long. And I’m-sorry-we-ever-parted.
I’m sure grad school contributed. I lost myself. I lost myself to the revolving “to do” list. The never-ending demands. The guilt when I spent free time doing fun things. There was no time for a fling with a fun book. Or any hobby, for that matter. And I tried. But four months ago, after realizing that several areas of my life were unhappy and deciding I wanted to be happy again, it all came back. I started journaling. And reading. And drawing. And watching movies. I woke up one day on a beautiful sunny day and spent the morning in bed, surrounded by my journal, and my sketchpad, pencils, erasers, and several books.
It’s become a habit. Not just the reading, but the being surrounded by books. On winter break, I’d wake up, read a bit, and bring the books into the living room. I didn’t always read all of them. Sometimes, they just sat next to me on the couch as I worked. There are books constantly in my bed. They overflow onto my night table. There are art supplies there too. Tonight, I cut my hand on the metal edge of a ruler I forgot I’d shoved into the cubby of the night table… which makes me think it might be time for some of the art supplies to migrate back to my desk, across the room… but they probably won’t.
I couldn’t help but think of Lauren F. Winner’s memoir Girl meets God. Her description of her relationship with books goes something like this:
When she’s challenged to give up books for Lent:
On Sunday, Milind looks at me, radiating concern. ‘How are you handling the temptation?’ he asks. You might think I have been suddenly stripped bare of my chastity belt and moved in with Tom Cruise. ‘Maybe you need to clear your books out of your apartment, just for Lent. So that you’re not constantly tempted.’
‘Milind,’ I say, ‘I have three thousand books in my apartment. I can’t just clear them out for Lent.’
‘Three thousand? You must have a huge apartment.’
‘No,’ I say, ‘I have a tiny, almost-affordable graduate-student apartment.’
‘But three thousand books? Where do you sleep?’ he asks.
‘On books,’ I say.
And then, there’s this:
In the middle of college, when my relationship with Judaism began falling apart, I rearranged my books. I put all my Judaism books in the corner by the desk. American history books were piled up alongside my bed.
I have learned by now that the first sign of my waning passion for something is my losing interest in the books. It’s like being about to break up with someone… I’d rather have him stuck over in the corner by the desk than anywhere near my bed.
With Valentine’s around the corner, I’m quite proud to announce that books and I are back together. And it’s looking quite serious…