Despite the fact that I love books, it has taken me years to get back into the habit of reading. I found myself so busy that I just never picked up a book and I missed it deeply.
The first step of the return was discovering the joy of audiobooks. Suddenly, I could read while I was folding laundry or out on an errand. That was a gamechanger. The evidence is in my Studio Yearbook. I could see all the titles I had read in a season. In three months of listening, I read more books than I had in three years! It felt so good.
Once I was back in the world of books, there was still something missing. I longed for a deep dive. I love listening but I also wanted to get out my journal and take notes. I wanted to grab my highlighter or pencil and (gasp!) underline and make notes in the margins. I wanted to follow the author’s thoughts to my own conclusions. I wanted to engage!
Here’s where I found a new level of weariness.
Though I longed for that deeper connection with the material, it was also exhausting. Sometimes I would make a start and get flooded with so many ideas, feelings and reactions that I would be overwhelmed. It was like plugging into something with a higher voltage than I was currently able to handle. My off switch would immediately flip.
What life am I living that I can’t read a book?
What life am I living that I can’t engage in reflection and thought?
I remembered some wisdom from my sister Shannon who is an avid reader. Citing her own experience of moving from YA novels to Shakespeare and Tolstoy, she reminded me that reading is a muscle and it strengthens with practice.
So now I am welcoming back not only reading but also engaged reading. If I read a single paragraph and am sent into a whole new world of thoughts, feelings and ideas, I close the book and follow that path. I give myself time to take in all the richness and let it become a part of me. It’s like learning to take the right-sized bites and then letting my system digest fully. I feel richer for giving myself and the author’s work this time and attention.
Of course this deep dive isn’t required at all times. It’s not a ‘better’ way of reading. It’s a way of reading that my creative spirit needed and now I include it in my days. Figuring all of this out has led me to being able to bring you a new episode of Creative Living Bookshelf. I hope you enjoy the return of the show as much as I have enjoyed my return to books!