I love to read. I taught myself to read before kindergarten so I could read the Sunday comics (I still read them). As a kid, I read everything I could get my hands on–books, magazines, even my mother’s childhood encyclopedias. They stopped at Ike, and Carter was then President, but I didn’t care. I even found two books by the same author in my small high school library which would impact my life in a profoundly unexpected way 30 years later. The Enchanted Loom and Red Giants, White Dwarves by the astronomer Robert Jastrow covered the incredibly complex subjects of how our brains and the universe work, but in such a way that a layman (or a 15-year old small town Kansas girl) could easily understand. I was awed at his gift of effectively conveying information in written form, planting a seed that lay dormant for decades.
Two years ago, I stopped reading. Megan was critically ill, and I switched into survival mode. It wasn’t that I didn’t have time for it…I didn’t have the “head space” for it. When you’re under extreme stress, you strip out everything in life that’s not absolutely necessary. Looking back, I now realize that I stripped out things that actually were necessary, either to my mental health or my relationships, but you don’t think clearly at those times. As Megan recovered, I’ve gradually added everything back to my life except reading. I’m not sure why – I do miss it. I miss it, but I’m still not ready somehow. I can’t explain it.
Maybe I’ve changed with Megan’s illness…I know my perspective has. I have a different view of what’s important, of how I want to spend my time, which is actually how we spend our lives. But it still doesn’t make sense, because what I’ve added back in its place is mostly “do nothing” time. One of the reasons I’ve always loved reading is that I love to learn, reading mostly non-fiction books. I still love to learn, but it feels like my brain gets “full” more quickly now, like the enormous stress of that time permanently destroyed a portion of my mental capacity. That makes no sense, but it’s how I feel. Otherwise, I feel healed.
Maybe I just need to force myself, like forcing yourself to get back on your bicycle when you fall off. I don’t want to give it up – I have too much of my life left, and I’m heading into an age range where I know I will need to constantly push my boundaries out, or they will gradually close in around me. Maybe all of you can help me: if you have a great non-fiction book to recommend, I’d be grateful. I feel like I no longer even know where to start. But I do know that I don’t want to be finished yet.
“I get sad every time I hear a person say ‘I don’t read.’ It’s like saying ‘I don’t learn,’ or ‘I don’t laugh,’ or ‘I don’t live.'” –Alafair Burke