My reading distances me; it takes me away from people I love. It sometimes forms a barrier. I need to read like I need to breathe to read. It’s in my top five favorite things to do. My reading has erected lot of barriers over the years. It comes down to a choice of whether to talk and engage with folks I really know or rejoin the characters in the book whose stories I’ve been drawn into. The stories are generally more compelling, sad to say.
“You’ve always got your head buried in some book.” “You read more than anyone I know.” These comments have been repeated throughout my life – sometimes simply as an observation, sometimes with admiration, and other times with derision. “I don’t understand how you can read so much.” (And I don’t understand how you don’t read at all, I think but I don’t say. It’s not my business whether you read or not. Leave me to my reading.)
Reading has often been a sanctuary:
- I read to mute arguments and to avoid disagreements
- I read to maintain emotional distance
- I read to get away to new places and situations
- I read to understand how other people live and how I might live
- I read to learn stuff and things and things and stuff
Reading took me away from the mother, the daughter, the son, the lovers, the friends and the commuters. (Although it did connect me to a few people along the way.)
I read to devour more of the lives of others while trying to find my own (I treasure memoirs). Inhabiting read experiences rather than having actual experiences happened too often, I can see now. I read for the music of the words – prose and poetry – often forgetting, especially about prose, that the stories were made up even when they felt real.
It wasn’t merely my head buried in a book, but also my heart, my emotions, my focus, and my energy. My own words were stifled by the words of others because I allowed them to be. My own words didn’t compare to those of others in my mind and so I let go of respecting and nurturing my own words for years.
I apologize if I chose a reading a book/newspaper/cellphone/the-back-of-a-cereal-box instead of listening/talking/engaging with you.*
I will always enjoy reading, book after book, story after story, and fact after fact, but I am trying not to let it serve as such an escape that I read more than I live my remaining days. Now that the Covid-19 quarantine has given me more time, I am unleashing my own stories and writing.
(*Except for those times it kept the peace.)
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